Was the Convair KINGFISH tested at Area 51?

Message posted by George on January 22, 2007 at 6:26:26 PST:

Hi I thought I'd repost something here that I originally posted on ATS. Thought that with the collected knowledge here you might be able to tell me more!

Although the design for the Convair KINGFISH is almost 50 years old it is still largely shrouded in mystery and is hardly known at all.

The KINGFISH was the only competitor to Lockheeds ARCHANGEL design for the CIAs new spyplane. As we all know the ARCHANGEL project ended with the A-12 design which, after further development, went on to become the Blackbird. Although the A-12 had the edge over the KINGFISH on predicted altitude cost and range (not by much) the KINGFISH was just as fast and more importantly had a smaller RCS than the A-12. This was largely because the Convair design was smaller than Lockheeds and the engines were encorporated within the fuselage unlike the A-12, the convair also adopted pyro-ceram RAM on the leading edges, fibreglass exhausts and other stealth technology.

Here are several photos of a KINGFISH mock-up apparently undergoing RCS evaluation:

Here is an image of a KINGFISH mockup in construction, note the sawtooth leading edges of the wings and flat belly:

Does anyone know where these photos were taken? As far as I can see Convair didn't have an RCS facility of their own. I believe that its possible that these photos were taken at Groom Lake and I shall explain why.

Lockheeds project was selected to be the better by the CIA, who were still wary of the higher RCS of the A-12 than the KINGFISH. To put these worries to bed, on 14th September 1959 the CIA gave Lockheed a contract to further their aerodynamic, engineering and radar tests.

When Lockheed were awarded the contract in September 1959 and built a mockup of the A-12 design they refused for it to be tested by EG&G at the Grey Butte RCS facility (owned by McDonell-Douglas and in full view of the near-by highway), so later that month EG&G decided to build a new RCS facility on the west shore of Groom Dry Lake at Area 51. This RCS facility can be seen on Google Earth as a small loop of road.

After the CIA awarded the contract for further tests to Lockheed, Convair were still recieving funding to continue their research should the Lockheed design not live up to its expectations. It is useful to remember that at this point the A-12 design hadn't been finalised and did not yet have its characteristic curved chines or inward canted vertical stabilisers.

Bearing this in mind, would it not have been a logical step for the KINGFISH mock-up to have been crated up and taken to Area 51 as well as the ARCHANGEL? Surely since the CIA were still funding the project they were still curious about its actual RCS. I think this is a possibility, especially with the mystery that surrounds the plane, inconsistencies within official unclassified CIA project timelines and the undeniable resemblance between the KINGFISH and HAVE BLUE (and later F-117a) aircraft.

Is it even possible that the design was refined further and even flew? Maybe, noting that the design was once again in vogue at Convair in the mid-60s when a very similar design was proposed as a 100,000 ft, Mach 5 reconaissance plane, even less is known about this proposal.

Let me know you guys think...




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