Worst Aircraft in History, then… A little while ago I posted a list showcasing some of the worst military/combat aircraft that were not only placed into production, but entered active service for some reason or another. Some of these were luckily removed from service once their shortcomings were discovered, while others were kept in service for reasons only known to their respective governments/Air Forces.
Now, while those that were previously listed were terrible both in design and execution, they were only a fraction of just how badly humans can fail when it comes to powered flight. So I am going to list 10 more terrible military aircraft that were forced onto unsuspecting pilots/flight crews. Just like before, aircraft featured here must have entered into production and front line service to make it on this list. Therefore prototypes/one-off aiframes will not be featured.
Let’s begin, shall we,
1) Supermarine Scimitar
Probably one of the worst carrier based combat jet ever fielded by the British Royal Navy, the Scimitar was not Supermarine’s proudest creation. Designed with obsolete requirements to be able to take off from a carrier’s deck without the need of a catapult, the Scimitar was fitted with wings that were much bigger than they needed to be.
Not surprisingly, the Scimitar was only able to accomplish such a task with no weapons on board and with half a tank of fuel. Just to prove that it could be done. An inferior fighter compared to the Sea Vixen and an even worse bomber compared to the Buccaneer, the Scimitar was only in service for just 12 years before being removed from service.
In total, 76 Scimitars were built. 39 of which were lost in usually fatal accidents.
2) Heinkel He 177 “Griffin”
If it looks right, it will fly right. And the He 177 certainly did not look right at all. Here was a “heavy bomber” that was so terrible, that Hermann Goering himself, called it a “Misbegotten Monster”
Originally developed as a long-range heavy bomber in the mid 1930s, the He 177 was originally intended to be used against both the allied convoys in the North Atlantic as well as Soviet factories located beyond the Ural mountains. Unfortunately, the aircraft would be plagued with issues from airframe to engines!
It would be re-designed several times during its development to meet the requirements set forth by the Luftwaffe. which included the stipulation that the aircraft be able to dive bomb targets.
Heinkel busted their brains redesigning this heavy bomber and expended a lot of resources and to their credit, they managed to pull it off. Only for Goering to rescind this requirement in 1942.
The engines that were also selected to be used on the Griffin were less than perfect. The DB 606 engines were not exactly the best suited for what was expected from the He 177. Adding to this was the fact they were prone to catching fire due to poor cooling and the “tight” design of the engine nacelles.
Eventually the He 177 did mature into a usable design, but it came too late in the war to make a difference.
3) Tupolev Tu-22 “Blinder”
Blind John, the Man Eater.
Initially entering service in 1962, the Tu-22 (NATO Designation: “Blinder”) was the Soviet Union’s first Supersonic jet powered bomber. Developed as a replacement for the Tu-16, the Blinder had a top speed of 940 Miles Per Hour and could carry up to 26,000 pounds of bombs. (Or one massive FAB-9000 bomb). But the Tu-22 was an absolute death trap with a laundry list of design flaws that made flying this beast a nightmare for pilots.
The twin VD-7M engines were notoriously unreliable and resulted in numerous fatal accidents. Their location high in the tail made mandatory maintenance a royal pain for ground crews and special equipment was required before anyone could think of removing them from the aircraft. The actual cockpit of the aircraft had very poor visibility for the pilots, which earned it the nickname “Blind John” among flight crews. But that’s not all.
If the pilots were forced to eject from the aircraft during an emergency, the ejection seats would actually exit downwards and out of the aircraft. At first this makes sense due to the location of the engines, but when one considers that these aircraft would be flying at low altitudes to evade enemy aircraft, it was not a viable option for said pilots.
The Blinder was also an incredibly difficult aircraft to fly, due to the fact they had no autopilot installed. A pilot would have to keep both hands on the yoke at all times just to keep the aircraft from crashing, a very taxing situation indeed which earned the Tu-22 its second nickname: “The Man Eater.”
But quite possibly the worst thing about the Blinder, was the fact that it had the highest landing speed of any aircraft at the time. While most planes trimmed speed while on approach, crews of the Tu-22 were forbidden from landing under 180 miles per hour. As it was next to impossible to land at any lower speeds.
Now despite its many…. MANY flaws, the Tu-22 does have the distinction of being the only Soviet Bomber to see combat (at the time). As units that were sold to Libya were used against Tanzania and Chad. While Iraq used their bombers against Iran in the 1980s.
4) Eurocopter/Airbus “Tiger”
Would you buy a base model Toyota Hilux for the price of a fully-loaded BMW M3? Guess what? This is exactly what you would be doing if your country opted to buy the Tiger
A joint project between France and Germany, the Tiger was developed as an “Anti-Tank” platform to be used against Soviet tanks in case sh*t got real. it would then spend well over a decade in development hell, as the budget for the program began to spike and at one point was canceled altogether. Despite holding talks on buying the American Built AH-64 “Apache”, both Germany and France restarted the Eurocopter program in 1999.
Both governments placed an order for 160 helicopters. Now to be fair the Tiger is not a bad aircraft, the problem with it is that Germany and France made a helicopter that was optimized to operate in Europe and only Europe.
Unlike the American Apache or even the Mi-24 Hind, the Tiger is not as versatile. Attempts to export the Tiger outside of Europe failed miserably, as nations have usually opted for the AH-64 and even the AH-1Z “Viper” over the Tiger. The only country to operate the Tiger outside of Europe was Australia and their Tiger program was a fiasco of epic proportions.
In 2001, the Australian DoD selected the Tiger and signed a contract for 22 helicopters. 18 of which would be assembled in Australia. But the program was plagued with numerous issues which resulted in delays in procurement. not to mention that the units that were delivered would actively try to kill the pilots by filling the cockpit with toxic fumes while in flight. Eventually by 2011 the last Tiger was delivered to the Australian army but just 8 years later, the Australian Department of Defence said they would be seeking a replacement for their 22 helos. With the Apache and Viper being looked at.
So far no other country has shown any serious interest in the Tiger and with reports of issues coming from both French and German Aircraft, it is safe to say that the Tiger has been more trouble than it was actually worth.
5) Convair F-102 “Delta Dager”
Designed to be a high altitude interceptor, the Dagger was intended to intercept and smash high flying Soviet bomber formations during an attack. With a delta winged airframe built around the powerful Pratt and Whitney J57-P-25 turbo jet engine, it was believed that the Dagger would have had exceptional performance. But it features on this list so you know how well it really did.
Despite being built around the powerful Pratt and Whitney J57-P-25 jet engine, this “supersonic” jet fighter could not even break Mach 1. As development continued, the Dagger soon encountered what would later be called “Transonic Wave Drag” and as a result, the aircraft would have to be re-designed to deal with this phenomenon. But even with these changes the Dagger would never live up to expectations, especially when they were sent to South East Asia.
In 1962, Delta Daggers were deployed to South-East Asia to take part in operations over Vietnam. During their time there, 14 Daggers would be lost either to engine failure, accidents or enemy fire, including one being shot down by a North Vietnamese MiG-21. However, while falling short of expectations, the Delta Dagger did not actively try to kill its pilots. This leads us to….
6) Vought F-7U “Cutlass”
Looks that killed.
At first glance the F-7U “Cutlass” looked as if it could have been a long lost ancestor of the legendary F-14 Tomcat. But the Cutlass was a killer. Using German designs which had been captured by the Americans at the end of World War 2, the Cutlass had many features that gave it its striking appearance. But this carrier based fighter was a death trap.
Its radical design caused the aircraft to suffer from numerous technical and handling issues throughout its service. Despite test pilots stating it was a very stable weapons platform, the Cutlass was universally seen as a “Widow Maker.” A title it earned as 4 test pilots would die while flying this aircraft.
The engines that were selected for the aircraft ( Allison J35 and Westinghouse J46) were hopelessly underpowered and were as reliable as a politician after winning an election. The hydraulic systems installed on the aircraft were equally as reliable and this is not a good thing seeing that the controls were hydraulically powered.
In the end, the Cutlass was only in service for a scant 8 years. In that time the aircraft lived up to its infamous title as a widow maker. As 21 pilots were killed in accidents involving this radical design. If you can take anything away from this, it could be said that the Vought F-7U was just too advanced for its time.
7) Breda ba.88 Lince
Mama Mia…. This is regarded as the worst aircraft to fly during World War 2, yet it was seen as the pride of Fascist Italy when first developed! Go Figure.
Born out of Italy’s need for a fast heavy fighter-bomber in the late 1930s, the Lince was an all-metal monoplane that managed a few world “Speed over Distance” records when first flown. it had good performance and all in all, it was not a bad aircraft. The problems came when someone thought it would be a good idea to turn this fighter into a dedicated ground attack aircraft and as a result, it’s performance began to suffer.
You see, a number of modifications had to be made to turn this fighter into an attack aircraft. Modifications that increased the weight of the light aircraft significantly, thus dropping it performance to horrid levels. You would think with the added weight, the Italians would have given the Lince more powerful engines to compensate. But they didn’t.
Anyway, this “new” version of the Lince was absolutely ghastly in combat. It could not outrun most allied fighters and was an easy target for anti-aircraft crews on the ground. Operations in North Africa were particularly terrible, as the Italian made planes were a total nightmare to maintain due to the sandy conditions.
Engines would regularly overheat and aircraft would struggle to even make it to their targets. That is if they even managed to get off the ground. In the end, the only time this aircraft proved to be useful, was when they were being used as decoys on the ground to divert allied bombers from more valuable aircraft.
8) Messerschmitt Me 210
Yeah…. This one brings into question the myth of High Quality German made goods. It was only in service for one year before being removed. Developed as a Heavy Fighter/Ground Attack Aircraft, the Me-210 was intended to be a replacement for the Bf-110 and said development began well before WWII began.
But Messerschmitt really dropped the ball on this aircraft, as the Me-210 was a total failure. Pilots who flew the first prototypes said that the aircraft was unsafe to fly, as it had serious stability issues and had a nasty habit of oscillating during level flight. Attempts to fix these issues proved to be futile, as the aircraft began to earn a reputation among test pilots as being an accident waiting to happen.
Of course, this did not stop the German government from placing an order for 1,000 (Yes, you read that right) units for the Luftwaffe. But this would seriously bite the Germans in the butt. In 1943, the Luftwaffe took delivery of their first units and almost immediately, the pilots hated this plane.
It was a royal pain to fly and had a nasty habit of stalling while in flight and the instability issues still continued to haunt it. The landing gears also had a habit of not working when it came time to land.
In the end, the Me210 was removed from front line service just one year after it was introduced. With squadrons reverting back to the very same plane the 210 was supposed to replace in the first place, the Bf-110.
Now eventually the designers were able to work out all the issues that plagued the Me210. But the aircraft had developed such a terrible reputation that when it came time to reintroduce the twin-engine fighter, it had to be renamed the Me-410 Hornisse just so that German Pilots would not avoid it like the Plague.
9) Blackburn Botha
Developed as both a Recon aircraft and a Torpedo bomber, there was really no reason for Botha to exist. Built alongside the Bristol Beaufort (Which was a better aircraft) the Botha was under-powered and very unstable in flight. So it was not surprising that it earned a reputation of being a death trap, as there were a number of accidents involving the Botha. Most Notoriously, a mid-air collision involving a Defiant “Turret Fighter” which killed all 5 crewmen and 13 more when the wreckage fell on a train station.
The RAF then proceeded to remove the Botha from front line service…. only to transfer them to Training Squadrons to teach helpless pilots to fly. As you can guess, there were even more accidents in this role.
They were not great, but still did alright….
Bell P-39 Aero Cobra: Was more or less outclassed by Japanese fighters in the Pacific, but were still decent fighter-Bombers. The Soviet Air Force loved them!
Supermarine Swift: There were a lot of accidents involving this Interceptor and was even grounded for a time. It eventually matured into a very capable Reconnaissance aircraft.
HAL HF-24 Marut: First Jet Fighter to be developed by India, it never reached its full potential because HAL could not access the desired Jet Engines to power it. But still proved to be an effective ground attack aircraft for the Indian Air Force for many years.
10) L.W.S.6 “Zubr”
You know…. most people don’t know that Poland has a small aircraft industry and have even exported a few aircraft over the years. But this is one bomber the Poles probably want to forget….
Other than being one of the ugliest aircraft ever designed, the Z.W.S.6 Zubr (Bison) was originally developed as a twin engined passenger aircraft for the national carrier LOT in the mid 1930s. (They are still around, by the way). When LOT decided to acquire American made DC-2s, the Zubr was redeveloped as a Medium Bomber for the Polish Air Force.
In 1936, the first aircraft took to the skies and proceeded to crash killing all on board. But this was not enough to deter the Polish from pressing the aircraft into service, with 20 aircraft delivered by 1939. it was not long before Polish pilots discovered just how difficult the Zubr was to fly and several faults in the design began to pop up. It also did not help that the Zubr was now hopelessly obsolete by 1939 when compared to what was being flown by the British, Americans and of course…. The Germans.
When the Germans finally decided to pay the Poles a visit in September of 1939, the Zubr never got a chance to see action as all aircraft were either destroyed on the ground or captured. Ironically, it would be the Germans who ended up using the Zubr much longer than the Polish. As the Luftwaffe used them for training.