This Day in History

May 17, 1916 – A parasite fighter experiment is successful when a Bristol Scout (C3028) launches off a huge Felixstowe Porte Baby (No.9800) floatplane.

The concept of parasite fighters continued to be toyed with for decades. Below, a Curtiss F9C Sparrowhawk attached by a “skyhook” to USS Macon (rigid airship).

During the early years of the Cold War, the United States Air Force experimented with a variety of parasite fighters to protect its Convair B-36 bombers, including the dedicated XF-85 Goblin, and methods of either carrying a Republic F-84 Thunderjet in the bomber’s bomb bay (the FICON project), or attached to the bomber’s wingtips (Project Tom-Tom). One configuration studied for the XF-85/B-36 combination was for a B-36 to drop the XF-85 for a dash across enemy territory for bombing or reconnaissance and for the pilot to hook onto a different B-36 on the other side of the enemy territory. These projects were all soon abandoned, partly because aerial refueling appeared as a much safer solution to extend the range of fighters.

DARPA is working on a similar project today, wherein cruise missile-style drones are launched and recovered from modified C-130’s. So the concept isn’t dead.


  1. The concept of air-carriers isn’t a bad one. The only thing that holds it back from happening has always been technology.

    The airship-fighter/scout was a good idea. What killed it was the airships got too large. Too much difference in weather from one end of the airship to another. Now, if they had gone wider (like a Typhoon sub) and shorter, the modern airship might have survived a tad bit longer.

    During WWII, several countries tried parasite air vehicles, from a fighter controlling a bomber loaded with explosives to, well, two bombers – one a controller and one a flying bomb. Again, great idea, failure of the technology of the time.

    Now? In the world of drones and micro-aircraft and such, the air-carrier is a viable thing. Just look at the F-15 EX, the missile carrier version of the F-15, designed to carry huge numbers of missiles and guided weapons to be controlled by either the carrier or by other aircraft.

    It all makes sense. Just takes good tech and good application.

  2. The Little Goblin below the B-29 had been deployed in war time and it’s parent ship destroyed. How would the parasite fighter be recovered? By another B-29 or B-36 if available, but no other bomber, could it land conveniently? I don’t see any landing gear.

    • It had skids instead of wheels, take up less space, made it ground landable and potentially takeoffable with a rocket assist off a trailer (which was later used for F-84s.)

  3. Beans is correct. The issue was pilots smooth enough to get it on/off the hook without banging into the mothership. Same problem with the parasite fighters on the airships. Turbulence put paid to more than one of them.

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