Top 5: The World’s Weirdest Military Aircraft

Notable for their unique looks and design concepts.

When we think of prominent military aircraft, we might think of an Air Force or Navy fighter jet, a particular bomber, or perhaps one of the many impressive transporters that have made significant contributions to government forces worldwide. But, along the way, many strange flying machines have been produced in the name of research and progress. There are plenty to choose from as the “most” ridiculous, so this is undoubtedly a complex and subjective topic (as such, you may not wholly agree with this list); nonetheless, here’s Simple Flying’s top five weirdest military aircraft.

5F-117 Nighthawk

Lockheed is well-known for many reasons, one being its Skunk Works division, which assumes that an idea can come to fruition, no matter the mission. This rather secretive part of the company is responsible for producing multiple incredible works of engineering, but coming in at Number 5 for the strangest military aircraft is their F-117 Nighthawk.

Proudly boasting its status as the first operational stealth aircraft, it also features a unique shape compared to other planes made for the same role. Where the F-35 Lightning II and F-22 Raptor look like relatively standard fighter jets, and the B-2 and B-21 are essentially flat flying wings, the F-117 stands out with high jagged edges and a V-shaped silhouette. However, this does not downplay its importance; it was Lockheed’s response to the need for a fighter jet that could operate undetected. It flew approximately two and a half years after the contract was awarded in cooperation between the Skunk Works team and the USAF.

4M2-F1

In stark contrast to a flying wing with an obscure or no fuselage, flying bodies are, as they sound, a fuselage with little “wing.” One such example is NASA’s prototype “flying bathtub,” the M2-F1, to test and research a wingless aircraft concept.

Following production of the one built, test flights were facilitated by a Pontiac convertible moving at 120 mph (193 km/h) across Rogers Dry Lake, near Edwards AFB north of Los Angeles. It was retired and is now owned by the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, though it currently is on loan to NASA, where it is in airworthy condition, should the need arise.

3F2Y Sea Dart

Convair once married the ideas of a supersonic fighter jet and a seaplane to produce the F2Y Sea Dart in an attempt at problem-solving. The thought process was fairly reasonable during the 1950s; without the challenges of using an aircraft carrier to land and take off, a delta-winged fighter with retractable jet skis would be comparatively versatile.

Unfortunately, the program suffered extensive development and testing issues, ultimately proving that such an idea would be extremely difficult to bring to fruition. On the good side, however, it is an incredibly unique aircraft, of which a couple are on display, landing on this list right in the middle at Number 3.

2VZ-2

VTOL (Vertical Take-Off and Landing) ability can be beneficial, and in more recent years, is in industry news for potential small-capacity air taxi use. Multiple VTOL military aircraft were considered for this list, such as the Lockheed XFV, Convair XFY-1 Pogo, and the Ryan X-13 VertiJet. But those closely resemble typical single-seater aircraft.

A Vertol VZ-2 about to take off.

At Number 2 is the Vertol (eventually Boeing Vertol) VZ-2, a research aircraft initially built for NASA to further investigate vertical takeoff and landing technologies between 1957 and 1965. Only one was produced featuring a tilting wing with propellers to facilitate lift-off and underwent 450 test flights in its years of service.

1XFV-12

Combining the above concepts from numbers 2 and 3 on our list would imply a supersonic VTOL fighter for use at sea, precisely what the US Navy requested Rockwell to attempt in the 1970s. As such, coming in first place is Rockwell’s XFV-12, a very futuristic-looking aircraft. It features the nose of a Douglas A-4 Skyhawk, the intake work of the McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II, and a characteristic wing design that was utilized for the thrust augmentation concept.

A Rockwell XFV-12 about to takeoff from Columbus, Ohio.

While the XFV-12 seemed promising, the program suffered from complexity and increasing costs. As a result, the US Navy canceled the project. Notably, the US Marine Corps had already adopted a foreign V/STOL fighter, the British-made Hawker Siddeley Harrier. If Rockwell’s design thrived, seeing them together in a fleet would have been a sight.

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