by Tommy H. Thomason

Friday, March 22, 2013

The Emerson Fighter Turret

Once again, something completely different. Jet fighters could more easily intercept a bomber but shooting one down using guns or cannon from any position other than behind it was hard. (It's a geometry problem related to pulling lead.) And being behind it meant dueling with the bomber's tail gunner. A smart warrior avoids a fair fight.

One solution was to put a turret on the nose of the airplane so the cannon could be aimed in a different direction than the airplane was pointed. Radar-aimed turrets were being developed for bombers so this was an extension of that effort. In the late 1940s, the Navy contracted with Emerson for the AERO X17A system that replaced the nose on the Grumman F9F Panther, in this case F9F-3 BuNo 122562.

The nose rotated 360 degrees on the plane's longitudinal axis and the four .50 caliber machine guns pivoted within the nose.

The guns could therefore be pointed just about anywhere.

So the pilot didn't have to fly toward and lead the bomber, he could actually just fly over, under, or by it:

He was provided with a sight that enable him to lock the radar in the nose onto the bomber. The fire control system would then aim the guns so they would hit it if the pilot pulled the trigger.

Unfortunately, the volume required for the fire control system avionics, not to mention its weight and that of the turret, made it impractical for a single-seat fighter and the program was cancelled after some aerodynamic flight testing had been accomplished. Missiles, and to a lesser extent rockets, proved to be the solution.

If you'd like to have a model of this innovative but ultimately unsuccessful concept, Sharkit has developed a conversion for the Hobbyboss 1/72nd F9F Panther kit. See

Philippe Martin, who created the master for the conversion, sent me pictures of the parts.

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