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Background

In the early 1980s the German aerospace company Messerschmitt-Bolkow-Blohm (MBB) developed a design for a low-observable medium range missile fighter named Lampyridae (Firefly).  Developed in secret and independently of Lockheed's work on the "Have Blue" prototype and F-117 stealth fighter, the Lampyridae nonetheless utilised a similar approach; the external shape was composed of a number of triangular facets to reduce the radar cross section (RCS), particularly over the frontal arc that would be exposed to the radar of enemy fighters.



A number of articles were constructed during the test programme; a full size mock-up with a faceted canopy, a three-quarter scale piloted wind tunnel model with a conventional canopy, a 1:3.5 scale low speed model and a 1:20 scale transonic model.  The 12m long piloted model was tested in the German-Dutch wind tunnel at Emmeloord.  The design was revealed to the US in 1987 when a group of USAF officers were shown the piloted model, kept in a closed-off section of MBB's plant at Ottobrunn in Bavaria. 
Reputedly, later calculations indicated the Lampyridae would have had a lower RCS than the famous Lockheed aircraft.

References

"Germany Reveals Secret Stealth Fighter Research",
Andrzej Jeziorski, Flight International, 8-14 March 1995

http://www.lowobservable.com/Protos.htm

http://www.fantastic-plastic.com/MMB_Lampyridae_Page.htm

http://www.geocities.com/unicraftmodels/germ/lampyridae/lamp.htm

http://home.xmsnet.nl/hdejong/curious/Lampyridae.htm

Images

Presented below are artists' impressions of the Lampyridae demonstrator.  The in-page images are reduced resolution files.  Clicking on the images will open higher resolution images, typically 1280 by 753 pixels and less than 170kb.



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Lampyridae demonstrator during flight testing.



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Firefly at sunset.



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3 - view of the Lampyridae showing the faceted shape.

© Richard Pawling, 2006
Correspondence to richard@rp-one.net

  lampy - v.2