Airborne Awesomosity

Atomic Fission – The Lockheed XF-90 An Arrow to the Heart of the Enemy

Lockheed XF-90


The Lockheed XF-90 was one of the beautiful designs of the Cold War. Although like most fighters of the era it was underpowered and heavy but as with most things in life you can get away with murder when you look this good.


Lockheed XF-90


The XF-90 was part of a penetration fighter competition with the F-88 Voodoo in 1949. It’s role would have been primarily as a bomber escort had it been put into production. Designed around two newer Westinghouse axial flow jet engines the F-90 was also saddled with high weight holding back it’s performance potential.   We were still early in the development of jet engines when the thrust numbers were still low. It wasn’t until the addition of afterburners on the second prototype that the plane could even take off fully loaded.

In the end it lost the competition to the XF-88 Voodoo with neither going into production because of the Korean War. With the beginning of war all production was focused on existing types. The F-88 would later go on to become one of the longest serving aircraft in the US Air Force inventory as the second member of the century club the F-101 Voodoo.

From the US Air Force Museum we get the specifications below:

Engines: Two Westinghouse J34-WE-15 turbojets of 4,100 lbs. thrust each with afterburner
Armament: Designed for six 20 mm cannons, eight 5-inch HVAR rockets and up to 2,000 lbs. of bombs
Maximum speed: 665 mph
Cruising speed: 473 mph
Range: 2,300 miles
Service ceiling: 39,000 ft.
Span: 40 ft. 0 in.
Length: 56 ft. 2 in.
Height: 15 ft. 9 in.
Weight: 27,200 lbs. loaded
Crew: One



F-90 in the comic book world
The F-90 led an odd second life thanks to its use in the comics. The Blackhawk’s originally used another failed navy design because of it’s unusual look called the XF-5 Skyrocket. During the Cold War they moved to jets and naturally an artist will want to find one easy to draw and that as futuristic as possible. For this the XF-90 got called into service.


DAYTON, Ohio (Feb 07) – XF-90 awaiting restoration at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)

[image credit –]

The sole surviving XF-90 prototype currently waits for restoration at the US Air Force museum in Dayton Ohio. As you can see from the photo above it’s not in the best condition but it has survived. Had it gone into production the XF-90 would have likely had a very short service life. It’s performance wasn’t spectacular and it was a bit on the heavy side.  Something to keep in mind with the XF-90 is that it mirrors the same thing with the YB-60. The XF-90 uses a lot of P/F-80 knowledge and parts. Just like how the B-60 carried over mostly B-36 parts. The USAF knew this and wanted something new.  The F-88 was a loaded gun though. There is a lot to be said about what would have been with the XF-90. The F-80 and by proxy F-90 were a known product. The Voodoo ended up being a widow maker. That may not have been as much due to the aircraft as much as the fact that it was the beginning of the second generation of jets were the F-90 was the end of the first. So who knows what the Lockheed would have done.

  • mr. mzs zsm msz esq
    • fodder650

      There were several fighters converted to turboprops. My favorite is still the one that the blades went so fast they went supersonic and caused nausea for the ground crew.

      • mr. mzs zsm msz esq

        Fodder, I don't know much about planes, but often I read one of your posts and there is some reference to some other plane and then I google it and learn it is completely wacky. I like that a lot, thanks. This one was part of testing to see the feasibility of supersonic prop plane with a modified 88!

  • highmileage_v1

    Didn't they pull the bones of this particular XF-90 out of a nuclear test range? There is a potential story out there about irradiated airframes left in the desert.

    • fodder650

      I didnt see that noted anywhere but I will go look

      • highmileage_v1

        Here is a P-51 hauled out of an Australian nuke test site by some enterprising citizens. There is a long backstory involving the shenanigans required to get the bird airborne and out of the "zone", and the resulting shite -storm.

        <img src="; width="600">

        • fodder650

          Thats pretty impressive and scary at the same time

        • I'll bet they were glowing with pride.

          • highmileage_v1

            Yes, they were absolutely radiating with it, weren't they? I'd want lead underpants.

  • I wish that we could take some of these designs and upgrade them with modern technology. I want an Air Force stocked with the sexiest aircraft, that can blow your face off from far away.

    • fodder650

      I think we are in a prime time for aircraft design again. With the small numbers being ordered the aesthetics of the aircraft are becoming important again. The F-22 and F-35 are some of the best looking aircraft we have seen in 35 years.

  • The incredible speed of obsolescence around the early jet era has always fascinated me. Those images of F-84s stacked three or four high at Davis Monthan at the turn of the ‘sixties have become iconic.