General Dynamics/McDonnell Douglas A-12

General Dynamics/McDonnell Douglas A-12 Avenger II Experimental Naval Stealth Bomber

A-12 Avenger II

General Dynamics and McDonnell Douglas appropriated the name of an earlier Grumman product for their proposed stealth replacement for the A-6 Intruder all-weather attack bomber. Sadly, the Avenger II was not destined to be a classic like the wartime TBF. Intended to use more sophisticated stealth techniques than the USAF's F-117A Nighthawk, the A-12 was a trapezoidal shape with smooth, rather than faceted, surfaces for scattering radar beams. It would have carried more weapons than the F-117 and had an air-to-air capability.

Developed largely in secrecy and without proper oversight, the cost rose to a reported $100 million per aircraft. The Avenger II was cancelled by Defense Secretary Dick Cheney in January 1991, just before the Gulf War and a few months before the prototype's expected first flight. Four senior naval officers were forced into retirement over the fiasco. The Navy sued the contractors and the contractors sued back for more. The issue has been in and out of the courts ever since.

Few images of the A-12 other than artists' impressions and mock-up photos ever emerged, and more than $2 billion was spent for little tangible result. One immediate result, however, was that everything to do with the project was destroyed, and the cancellation brought about massive layoffs at both General Dynamics and McDonnell Douglas.

It should be mentioned that a wide range of designs was studied before the trapezoidal shape was chosen, including a small conventional aircraft nicknamed 'Plain Jane', a small inexpensive fighter dubbed 'Bushwhacker', a large fighter called 'Missileer' and a stealth aircraft known as 'Sneaky Pete'.

A-12 Avenger II

A-12 Avenger II Front View

The A-12 Avenger II was an American aircraft program from General Dynamics and McDonnell Douglas intended to be an all-weather, carrier-based stealth bomber replacement for the A-6 Intruder in the United States Navy and Marines. The A-12 project was canceled in 1991 due to high costs.

Artists' conceptions and mockups of the craft revealed a flying wing design in the shape of an isosceles triangle, with the cockpit situated near the apex of the triangle. The aircraft was designed to have two General Electric F412-GE-D5F2 turbofans, each producing about 13,000 lbf thrust, and was equipped to carry up to two AIM-120 AMRAAM missiles, two AGM-88 HARMs and a full complement of air-to-ground ordnance, including Mk 82 bombs, or smart bombs, in an internal weapons bay. The A-12 gained the nickname "Flying Dorito".

The aircraft suffered numerous problems throughout its development, especially with the materials, and when the projected cost of each aircraft ballooned to an estimated US$165 million, the project was canceled by then-Secretary of Defense, Dick Cheney, in January 1991.

The cancellation of the project did not adhere to contract requirements, resulted in years of litigation between General Dynamics/McDonnell Douglas and the Department of Defense for breach of contract. On 1 June 2009, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit ruled that the U.S. Navy had been justified in canceling the contract. Further, the two contractors are now required to repay the U.S. government more than US $1.35 billion, plus interest charges of US$1.45 billion. Boeing, which merged with McDonnell Douglas in 1997, has vowed to appeal the decision, as has General Dynamics.

After the cancellation of the A-12, the Navy elected to buy the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, which replaces the A-7, the A-6, and the F-14.

A-12 Avenger II Side View

A-12 Avenger II
A-12 Avenger II Plastic Model
Though the A-12 Avenger II never flew there are plenty of "In Flight" images :)

Specifications for A-12 Avenger II

2 View of the A-12 Avenger II
Crew: 2
Length: 37 ft 10 in
Unfolded: 70 ft 3 in
Folded: 36 ft 3 in
Height: 11 ft 3 in
Wing area: 1,308 ft²
Empty weight: 39,000 lb
Loaded weight: 80,000 lb
Powerplant: 2× General Electric
F412-GE-D5F2 non-afterburning
turbofans, 13,000 lbf each

Maximum speed: 580 mph
Range: 920 mi
Service ceiling: 40,000 ft
Rate of climb: 5000 ft/min
Wing loading: 61 lb/ft²
Thrust/weight: 0.325


A-12 Avenger II Callout
A: The shape of the A-12 was more akin to that of the B-2 than the F-117. It did lead to the nickname of 'Flying Dorito', however. B: The use of composite materials did not bring the expected weight savings and it is thought the A-12 was 30 per cent over its desired weight by the time it was cancelled. C: The A-12 radar would have been a sophisticated Inverse Synthetic Aperture system, but development problems with this contributed to the huge cost overruns.


A-12 Avenger II Remains
A-12 Avenger II Remains
The discarded remains of the A-12 Avenger II a $2 billion pile of junk.