Some war machines are instantly recognizable, even to the most passive of pacifists. That's because history has told us that these weapons have essentially won entire wars, sometimes almost single-handedly. But if you take a closer look at some of the machines we've been fervently drawing on our Trapper Keepers during study hall, you might find them hiding a ludicrous Achilles heel, such as ...
6The F-14 Tomcat Really Could Stall Out Like In Top Gun
It really takes only two words to describe the Grumman F-14 Tomcat: Top Gun. Who could possibly forget this iconic scene?
Oh! Whoops. How did that get there? We certainly didn't mean to imply that the shirtless Tom Cruise volleyball scene was the one thing from Top Gun that is permanently, tenderly etched into our memories. Haha.
Etched like those abs ...
Anyway! The hot F-14 swing-wing action displayed in Top Gun inspired an entire generation of adolescent boys to pursue a career intercepting Russkies in pitched air-to-air battles, or at the very least run around making whooshing noises with their arms stuck out like wings until such behavior began resulting in really uncomfortable looks from everyone at the office.
The Ridiculous Flaw:
As it turns out, what is arguably history's single most iconic fighter jet was likely to leave you stranded alongside the highway, embarrassingly thumbing your way to the Danger Zone. Remember that scene in Top Gun in which Maverick flies through Iceman's jetwash, causing his own engines to stall out?
Well, that scene wasn't just a bunch of Hollywood balderdash hyped up for dramatic effect -- it was a fairly accurate representation of a major design flaw of the F-14. An interruption in the air flow coming into the engines caused the fan blades to stop pushing air through them, which in turn caused a "flameout." Jetwash could certainly cause such an interruption, so if a Soviet pilot was aware of this vulnerability and wanted to take down an F-14 pilot, he could conceivably do so by pulling the aerial equivalent of cutting him off in traffic.
Sadly, Goose from Top Gun wasn't the only casualty resulting from this: Here in the real world, Kara S. Hultgreen, the Navy's first female combat pilot cleared for carrier operations, was killed when her F-14 experienced a flameout and crashed into the ocean in 1994.
Damn. We'll understand if you need to scroll up and watch that volleyball scene again before we continue.
5The Corsair, Designed To Land On Aircraft Carriers, Couldn't Land On Aircraft Carriers
Quick, imagine a World War II American fighter plane. You might not know the name, but you probably pictured the Chance Vought F4U Corsair, one of the meanest, toughest planes ever to rip through wartime skies. Instantly recognizable from its iconic gull wings and able to take a vicious beating and outmaneuver anything the Japanese could toss into the air, the Corsair was one of the best carrier-borne airplanes ever built ...
The Ridiculous Flaw:
... except that, once it took off from an aircraft carrier, landing back onto one was nigh on impossible. If the aircraft didn't stall out and plop into the ocean before making contact with the carrier, any attempt to land would send it bouncing around like a Super Ball, careening across the deck or flipping over entirely.
Ronald Dixon/U.S. Navy
No amount of "I meant to do that" is convincing in this situation.
So, just to reiterate: The Corsair, a plane conceived with the specific intention of operating from U.S. aircraft carriers, was unable to operate from U.S. aircraft carriers.
U.S. Navy Naval Aviation News
The resulting cost in new flight deck crew uniforms alone was astronomical.
But if the Corsair was so crappy at its original purpose, how did it even survive long enough to be remembered as the WWII plane? The answer to that is likely the fliers of VMA-214, better remembered as the Black Sheep Squadron. The Black Sheep were Marine aviators famous for delivering whistling death to scores of Japanese fighters. Oh, and they operated from land bases. With long runways, no arresting wires, and the close proximity of Navy nurses, the Corsair was free to bounce and buck as much as it damn well pleased. Still, the Corsair fully embodied the phrase "You had ONE job ..."