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A-12 Avenger II – Son Of The Flying Wing

A concept drawing of the A-12 Avenger II. Credit: U.S. Navy Naval Aviation News.
A concept drawing of the A-12 Avenger II. Credit: U.S. Navy Naval Aviation News.

Week Of Unusual Planes, Continued: The A-12 Avenger II never got off the drawing board but its ancestor was definitely the Flying Wing.

Avgeekery.com continues this week’s theme of “Unusual Planes” with a look at the A-12 Avenger II. There are obvious similarities with Monday’s Flying Wing as the A-12 was a modern-day replica. The difference is that the Avenger II never made it past the drawing board.

McDonnell Douglas and General Dynamics were involved with developing this attack aircraft that would be used by both the Navy and the Marines. It was designed to replace Grumman’s A-6 Intruder. The plane’s nickname was adopted from Grumman’s TBF Avenger, a carrier-based torpedo/bomber used in World War II.

The original plan was hatched in 1983 with delivery planned for 1994. As with many other military aircraft plans based on the latest technology, the A-12 experienced delays and cost overruns. The Avenger II was planned as an all-weather, carrier-based stealth bomber.

The main advantage for the A-12 ATA (Advanced Technology Aircraft) would have been stealth. The plans indicated that it would be able to fly within 10 miles of a target before being detected by radar.

The delays and extra cost came about because the plane’s design wound up being 30 percent heavier than originally conceived – a problem for a carrier-based fighter/bomber. There was also development problems with the plane’s radar equipment.

In November of 1990, a government report indicated there were serious problems with A-12 program. Estimates indicated the A-12 would cost 70 percent of the Navy’s aircraft budget.

After that, secretary of Defense Dick Cheney ordered the Navy to explain why the program shouldn’t be scrapped. The arguments failed to dissuade the future vice-president, who canceled the program early in 1991. He cited breach of contract and the government sought restitution of $2 billion. The resulting legal dispute wasn’t settled until 2014.

Written by Wendell Barnhouse

Wendell Barnhouse is a veteran journalist with over 40 years of experience as a writer and an editor. For the last 30 years, he wrote about college sports but he has had an interest and curiosity about aviation since he was in grade school.