American Secret Projects 2: US Airlifters 1941-1961

If you are a fan of “what if” aviation, this is a must-have book, spanning some 304 pages, nearly all of which are absolutely packed with drawings, photos, and other illustrations. But more than just an accounting of unbuilt designs, it provides an excellent overall look at how military airlifters evolved. In the two decades that the book covers, the US had to fight a global war that relied heavily on aerial transport, produce a first generation of postwar transports from lessons learned in that conflict, and then develop the first truly modern heavy airlifters and aerial refueling tankers.

There is a great amount of detail on unbuilt “intermediate” designs between aircraft that were actually built – for example laid out are the Douglas Model 400/410/425 designs that owed much to the DC-4, and many features of these smaller aircraft would be carried over to the much larger Model 415, which would be built as the C-74 Globemaster I.

There are some truly bizarre designs covered, such as those intended to meet the USAF’s XC-Heavy competition. This was an extrapolation of the “Pack Plane” concept with cargo being hauled in large external pods, but with alternative payloads including bomb pods, refueling gear, or even Snark, Navaho, or Rascal nuclear-armed missiles.

There are a plethora of aircraft that an ambitious kitbasher could tackle, such as the many alternative C-97 and 707 variations, as well as the Boeing 820-103A, which would have mated an outsized fuselage with the wings, tail and engines of the B-52F.

I heartily recommend this book, and look forward to the follow-on volume covering later aircraft, which is due to be available later this month.


Airlifter Development in the Second World War C-54 diagrams showing interior & exterior cargo carriage, and a photo showing a T-9 light tank being carried externally.

Diagrams showing C-54 derived bombers.

Side view drawing of the XC-116 with turboprops.

Douglas Model 400/410/425 twin-engined transports with “bug eye” canopies.

3-view of a Boeing 367 with a revised fuselage for passenger transport.

There is a lot of coverage of the Douglas C-74 – from the early Model 415 studies through the Model 1008 – a much revised version with coupled V-3420 engines in the nose and tail.

Learning the Lessons of War Lots of coverage of proposals for postwar assault and heavy transport gliders

The first generation of postwar assault transports, including the C-122, C-123, and YC-125.

Super DC-3 derivatives, including unbuilt versions with rear ramps and lift tails.

Boeing 367 outgrowths with B-54 wings and engines.

Intermediate designs between the C-74 and C-124.

Stretching Yesterday’s Technologies Fairchild’s Pack Plane concepts.

The enlarged and improved C-119H prototype.

Improved C-123s, including the much revised Fairchild M-226 and M-231, and the Stroukoff XC-123D/E and YC-134.

Development of Heavy Airlift Capability Extensive coverage of the evolution of the Boeing 367/C97 into the 707 – includes the inverted gull winged 367-60, piston powered models with swept wings, and variants with swept surfaces and turbojets.

Advanced C-124s, including turboprop and tanker variants, as well as intermediate designs between the Globemaster II and C-133.

Sketches of AEW C-133 derivatives.

Lockheed Constitution derivative (or at least, the upper fuselage portion) with swept wings and turboprop power.

Douglas XC-132.

Strategic Air Command’s Tanker-Transport Design for a turboprop tanker from Boeing.

Lockheed L-179 and L-193.

Alternative 367-80 designs, including turboprops.

Douglas swept wing jet designs using the DC-6 fuselage.

The Lockheed CL-291, which actually won the tanker competition over the “interim” KC-135, to no avail.

The emergence of the Modern Airlifter Advanced KC-135 & 707 outgrowths, including swing-tail models.

Military Convair 990s.

DC-8 derivatives, including one with the wing and tail of the XC-132.

Lockheed GL-207-23/25 Super Hercules.

Boeing 820-106, a heavy lift aircraft with B-52 wings and tail.

New Light Airlifters Boeing 815 twin T55-engined design.

Fairchild M-253, and advanced C-123 with four Rolls-Royce Darts.

Military F-27s.

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