Project Terminated: Famous Military Aircraft Cancellations of the Cold War and What Might Have Been
by Erik Simonsen, Crécy Publishing, Manchester, UK, 2013, $39.95.
Any aviation devotee will be intrigued by aerospace professional Erik Simonsen’s analysis of why magnificent aircraft such as the North American XB-70, Avro CF-105 Arrow and British Aircraft Company TSR-2 were designed and developed, then canceled. (For the sake of full disclosure, in my own foreword to this volume, I used the term “auteur” to refer to Simonsen’s amazing combination of research, writing, photography and, perhaps above all, artistry.) He also tells us what they might have done had they gone into production, and clearly defines the reasons they were terminated— some sensible, some frivolous and, inevitably, some political. While projects tend to move more slowly nowadays, it doesn’t take much imagination to see how closely the events of the fruitful period that he covers are paralleled today.
Simonsen presents a broad chronology of canceled aircraft, from Northrop’s YB-49A of 1947 through its F-20 Tigershark of 1982. He also manages to include much additional information, such as his treatment of the beautiful North American F-108 Rapier and the less-well-known Republic XF-103. Having demonstrated why the airplanes were born and then rejected, the author is at his best in illustrating what they, and their modified successors, would have looked like in the colors and camouflage of the appropriate periods.
Project Terminated focuses on the intimate details of some of the most fascinating aircraft ever to leave a drawing board. Crécy Publishing deserves a great deal of credit for having the vision to select this book, then lavishing on it glossy paper and filling it with numerous color photos and digital illustrations. The story of the Rockwell International XFV-12A is by far the best I’ve ever read on the subject, and should be studied closely by both friends and foes of the Lockheed Martin F-35.
Originally published in the September 2013 issue of Aviation History. To subscribe, click here.