While researching some of the latest models coming to market, we thought it fascinating to see the multitude of other “what-if” aircraft that either entered service with all the world’s air forces or were left languishing on the drawing board in favor of other designs. For instance, while most collectors and historians are eminently familiar with the iconic shape of the North American P-51 Mustang fighter, we are willing to bet that many never heard of the A-36 Apache. The North American A-36 Apache (listed in some sources as “Invader”, but also called Mustang) was the ground-attack/dive bomber version of the North American P-51 Mustang, from which it could be distinguished by the presence of rectangular, slatted dive brakes above and below the wings. A total of 500 A-36 dive bombers served in North Africa, the Mediterranean, Italy and the China-Burma-India theater during World War II before being withdrawn from operational use in 1944.
Fast forward to the late 60s, and Grumman even contemplated a single fin F-14 Tomcat as its entrant in a new naval fleet defense fighter fly-off, as opposed to the twin fin version settled upon by the designers. Apparently, during the design process, some 9,000 hours of wind-tunnel testing were performed on some 2,000 different configurations and nearly 400 combinations of air inlets and exhaust nozzles. In 1968, the design studies of the Grumman engineers concentrated on 8 layouts before the E version became the winning design (See table below). Thoughts during the design process incorporated the behavior during high speed (supersonic) flight, supersonic combat ceiling performance, trouble-free engine performance, engine growth potential and subsonic longitudinal stability. The fixed-wing version was rejected because of its weight, carrier suitability and because of its low-altitude performance. Some of the basic design background for the F-14 (and also for the F-111) was gathered using a German x-plane which was built during 1944.
In summation, it would be nice to see the model makers take a long and hard look at some of the other aircraft designs that saw combat, requiring, in some instances, minor modifications to their existing tooling to properly pull off. When every one else is producing loads of standard fare F-14s to go against one another, perhaps the answer lies in living life on the edge and doing something a bit out of the ordinary.