It’s my 600th post on Fuldapocalypse. I’ve gotten a lot of books recently on never-were aircraft. Thus it’s fitting to make this post about a pattern I’ve seen in equipment that never was. From least to most interesting, here are the three big categories I’ve seen.
The first is “a different proposal for the same requirements”. This is often the least interesting, because the different proposals are still designed to meet the same goals. Most of the time you get something that just looks different but has similar (theoretical) performance, and sometimes not even then. There can be real and appreciable differences, but they especially aren’t noticeable on the outside.
The second is kind of related to the first, and that’s “a proposal that lost, and whose reasons for losing are obvious”. For instance, it’s very easy to see why the T-8 design won handily for what would become the Su-25 compared to its competitors-and not just from other bureaus. It faced the anachronistic Il-40/102, and some shoved-in kitbashes of existing aircraft (Yakovlev put forward a variant of its not-exactly-ideal existing designs, Mikoyan used something based off the classic Fishbed, and even Sukhoi itself had a derivative of the Su-15 interceptor that looked very little like its “parent.”).
The third is the real fun part, and that’s stuff made with totally different goals. This is where you get all the giant napkinwaffe planes. But you also stuff that’s knowingly lower-performance for the sake of affordability.