F-30 Arana
Light Day Fighter / Aggressor

F-30 Series Photogallery


Filling the role for a light day fighter in the US inventory (a slot that was supposed to be filled by the F-16, before it was realized it could fill a much broader role as Multi-Role Fighter.), the F-30A was designed from the outset as a single seat, single engine fighter that would be smaller than anything the US had right now. The first version, quite unusually, was made as an unarmed aggressor craft, the first aircraft to be made that was primarily designed for the role of "war-gaming." So far a total of two production versions have been designed and three sub-prototype development versions. In this report I will establish the growth and development of one hot aircraft.

YF-30: Prototype Arana

Arana, in Spanish, means "spider." In designing the spider a list of simple criteria were given that had to be met. Among these was the adaptation of the RJ-84 Turbofan, already in use with the prototype F-48A Owl, into a reliable, conventional afterburning turbojet. The engine was already quite famous for its astounding power for its small size and weight. Rated at 23,000 pounds, DRY, the engine was powerful enough to push a small, lightweight fighter vertical without use of afterburner. The prototype Arana has a thrust to weight ratio of almost 1.2/1 without afterburner. Initial trials were made with the RJ-84-100 engine, augmented by the lack of the large rotating nozzle and afterburner segment. The engine proved extremely reliable and satisfactory until time to climb trial were commenced. As the vertical speed accelerated past 300 knots, the engine suddenly flamed out. Pushing 39,000ft, the aircraft was easily recovered and the engine re-lit, but it was a disturbing prospect. Immediately it was found that the engine's fuel pump was not "beafy" enough for high speed vertical flight. This was quickly fixed, with a larger, and therefor heavier pump being installed in all four of the prototype vehicles. It was worried that the week fuel pump currently being used on the F-48A as well as the four-engined B-129 would cause problems in said aircraft, but studies showed that neither of the aircraft would be able to match the performance that would cause the pump problems.

The four prototypes went through extensive testing regarding sustained-turning ability and max speed. Initial trials showed that the sustained turning wasn't as wonderful as previously estimated. The aircraft would turn at 9g's, but only at a small portion of the envelope, and only for a few seconds, as the aircraft would decellerate quickly. This was attributed by a lack of lift being created by the thin wings. Top speed was anything but dissapointing. The aircraft was able to push itself past Mach 2.1 with full afterburner, and was capable of a respectable supercruise of Mach 1.4. Pitted against a standard F/A-18C Hornet (which the F-30 is sometimes criticized to have copied) it outmaneuvered it in all respects, especially in the vertical axis. The Hornet could not keep up with the YF-30's superior detatchment from the fight. Still, designers were unhappy with turn performance.

F-30A And the dawn of "Variable Camber Wings"

When considering a production version, Ryan Aircraft decided to tackle the low-speed maneuverability problem in a radical fashion. Going way beyond standard leading edge deployment flaps, the Arana adopted an extreme version of the system by creating a wing that would contort itself almost completely to provide the best compromise between lift and drag. Though the actual movement in extremely slight (only around two inches to play with), the change is dramatic. Also, wing area was increased considerably, along with the drag that comes with it. To counter the drag, a much more powerful afterburner was installed in the RJ-84-100, now designated the RJ-84-300. At full augmentation, the FJ-84-300 is rated at 31,000lbs. Weight was also reduced throughout the aircraft, as more extensive use of exotic alloys and plastics were used. With the addition of the variable camber wing and more expensive fuselage make-up, it was becoming apparent that the F-30A would not attract many export customers as the price tag was becoming a bit heavier then comfortable. This and the fact that the F-30A was designed solely as an Aggressor aircraft. Although the F-16N simulates anything enemy countries possess quite accurately, it was decided that an aircraft that could actually OUTFLY the F-16N was needed to train pilots on dealing with aircraft that are superior in performance.

Another noteworthy feature of the F-30A is the elongated nose and enlarge LERX on the Vertical Stabilizer. The LERX is used to store extra avionics, such as real-time camera transmitters for better debriefings after wargames. The longer nose stores a much more advanced tracking radar, as well as an updated flight control system to accommodate for the variable camber wings.

Slight developement of the F-30A is the F-30B, a two-seater which sacrifices fuel capacity and weight. It is used primarily for training and for giving "tours," only three have been built.

YF-30VT Vector Thrust

The third YF-30 was fitted with the RJ-84-700 engine, which retains the -100's thrust and adds a one-dimensional paddle system. Not terribly more expensive then the -100, the -700 proved a very feasible addition to future models. The YF-30VT has excellent short-field performance, rotating easily at 110knots and is controllable to AOA's higher than 60degrees.

YF-30S Streak Arana

In the competitive nature of aviation, the fourth Arana prototype was stripped of all its paint, most unnecessary avionics (GPS, Radar, Navigation systems), four of its six fuel tanks, and was given a less efficient but more powerful RJ-84-900 turbofan. Same in military thrust, the afterburner dumps a third more fuel into the pump, increasing high-altitude performance. So far no official figures have been given, but it is reportedly capable of climbing to 35,000 feet "well under a minute," surpassing the F-15's previous time of 56 seconds. The aircraft in level flight (which it rarely finds itself) is extremely maneuverable, surpassing even the F-30A, without the camber wings! This is attributed to the extremely light weight, and there is no way the YF-30S could ever become a production aircraft. Its a fun toy though.

YF-30Z Canard Arana

In aproach to bettering the low-speed handling, a prototype canard retrofit was designed. Low speed performance is exceptionally improved, but it has been described as "muddy" at lower speeds, with controls being unresponsive. The wing layout produces much more drag then conventional Aranas, so acceleration is not as impressive nor sustained turning. Its niche has been found, though, in high-altitude agility. In the thin air, traveling at a true airspeed of around 400knots, its turn radius and agility surpasses that of most aircraft. There is not much future for production, but the one aircraft designed has been given to Fallon NAS in Nevada, as a "surprise" aggressor. So far it has been reported that pilots that have flown against it hate it.

Export Arana

Although no formal plans have been drawn out for an export Arana, it is almost certain that the aircraft will resemble the YF-30 more than the F-30A. Wing area will be increased, yet the nose design will probably be retained as well as the fixed camber wing. Engine will probably be the RJ-84-300, same as the F-30A. Some talk has been made over the proposal to make a small number of exports with the -700 vector thrusting engine for a select number of countries, but that is still waiting government aproval.

Back to front page