It undoubtedly took some wangling, but the Veterans Memorial Air Park of Fort Worth has taken possession of the mockup of the McDonnell Douglas A-12 Avenger II and intends to restore it for static display. The plane was to be an all-weather, carrier-based stealth bomber replacement for the Grumman A-6 Intruder for the US Navy and Marine Corps. Its Avenger II name was a homage to the Grumman TBF Avenger of World War II.
The McDonnell Douglas/General Dynamics A-12 Avenger II was given a developmental go-ahead in the second round, after it’s only competitor in the round, Grumman failed to submit a bid. The proposed plane was to be constructed of advanced composites, a true flying wing design with no vertical projections whatsoever. Shaped in an isosceles triangle. It’s unsusal shape earning it the nickname “Flying Dorito.” The cockpit was enclosed by a startlingly conventional (for a stealth aircraft) bubble canopy on its top surface. Theorhetically, a flying wing shape holds a number of advantages over more conventional designs insofar as that it has inherently less surface drag, greater lift and more interior room, which could be utilized for more fuel and/or more bombs internally which is a very important feature for a stealth craft, as hanging bombs externally would defeat the whole radar invisibility concept.
Discussions about the payload and operational capabilities doesn’t seem appropriate as an operational plane never got to leave the ground, and particularly given how far off the mark the plane soon became when practicality and feasibility started to rear their ugly heads. By 1990, the program was heading in a bad direction, with delays delays and significant cost overruns, even by government project standards. The plane’s composite structure was proving to be too difficult to build in practice, so metal was substuted for the internal structure, bumping the weight of the craft to 30% over the navy-specified target, which was a significant issue for a plane intended to be launched and retrieved from an aircraft carrier. Technical difficulties integrating the advanced radar system scheduled for installation within the plane caused delays and skyrocketing costs. The maiden flight, originally scheduled for 1990 was pushed back to 1992. The government, 2 billion into the program, cancelled it in 1991 on the orders of then Secretary of Defense, Dick Cheney. As a result of the project cancelation, lawsuits were exchanged between McDonnell Douglas who claimed the government owed them $1.2 billion for unpaid work, while the government claimed they were owed $1.35 billion for unapproved deliveries. The case went all the way to the Supreme Court who set aside an appeals court ruling and kicked it back down to federal circuit court.
Other than a canopy assembly that popped up in eBay, the Avenger mockup and the ongoing legal battle are all that remain of the ill-fated project. Stored at various locations over the past two-plus decades, spotting the distinctive outline of the plane as it was moved from place to place became something of a sport on the internet once aerial photos became available online. The plane was initially stored at a General Dynamics plant in Fort Worth, then went on to Carswell Air Force Base for several years until the base changed hands and became the Fort Worth Naval Air Station when the plane was moved to a Lockheed Martin field in the Fort Worth area.
Finally the mock-up has been given to the Veterans Memorial Park where it will receive some preservation efforts from entheusiasts who know about restoring aircraft, and where it will be joining a number of already restored craft on static display including a Vought A-7B Corsair II, Convair TF-102, Republic Aviation F-105D Thunderchief, McDonnell Douglas F-4C Phantom II, an engineering mockup of a North American Rockwell OV-10 Bronco as well as over a dozen other warbirds in the process of restoration.