Fake F/A-37 Talon


As an aircraft enthusiast, I couldn't resist the chance to learn about a secret new Navy plane. However, the answer to the question turns out to be rather humorous. These "awesome pictures" you speak of have been floating around the internet since the summer of 2004, often accompanied by messages like one of the following:

Subject: THIS THING IS EXOTIC

The plane in these pictures is still officially the Air Vehicle Number 1, a prototype, onboard the USS George Washington CVN-73 for catapult fit checks. Not exactly still Top Secret but certainly not yet made public.

I believe it will be known as the F/A-37 (Talon). Although specs are classified, it is believed to be a Mach 3.5 (top speed in the Mach 4 range), super-cruise stealth fighter / bomber / interceptor with approximately a 4,000nm range. Awesome!

USS George Washington motto....."Over 90,000 Tons of Diplomacy, Where ever...When ever..."

The supposed F/A-37 Talon
The supposed F/A-37 Talon

Subject: New Plane

Forwarded without comment, except that a woman, Lt. Kara Wade, is apparently the test pilot for the project.

We received the following pictures but have no information about their authenticity.

The plane in these pictures is air vehicle number 1, a prototype on board the USS Washington for catapult fit checks. Not yet made public, the F/A-37 is a Mach 3.5, super cruise stealth fighter/bomber/interceptor with a 4000nm range. Top speed is classified, some where in the Mach 4 plus range. Awesome! Also, there is no phase interval for this plane. It has a 10,000 hour life airframe and engines that require replacement only at failure or signs of trouble. The squadrons are to be out of Whidbey Island, 12 planes to a command.

However, these fanciful pictures are actually photos taken during filming of new movie called Stealth, and the plane shown in these pictures is nothing more than a prop.

Cast members of Stealth
Cast members of Stealth

Produced by Columbia Pictures and Backbreaker Films, the movie is directed by Rob Cohen and stars a rather eclectic cast of Josh Lucas, Jessica Biel, Jamie Foxx, and Sam Shephard. The film appears to be another in a long line of science fiction adventures warning about the dangers of technology. The basic plot concerns an unmanned aerial vehicle designed to go into combat without risking human pilots. However, the machine "develops a mind of its own" and starts killing the very people it was supposed to protect. In order to stop the berserk computer, the US Navy sends three fearless fighter pilots in their ultra-advanced Talon fighters to "save the planet from artificial intelligence." It sounds kind of like Top Gun meets The Terminator.

Filming of a Talon mock-up aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln
Filming of a Talon mock-up aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln

The only element of this story with any truth to it is that the photos were taken aboard a real US Navy aircraft carrier. Though it was not the USS George Washington described above, filming was completed aboard its sister ship the USS Abraham Lincoln. The event occurred while the vessel visited Naval Air Station North Island at San Diego in June 2004. According to the Lincoln's press release, over 80 actors and movie crew came aboard with a 53 ft long mock-up of the Talon fighter to complete a week of filming. The photos you have seen were taken by US Navy Photographer's Mate 3rd Class Tyler J. Clements, a crewman aboard the Lincoln.

Film crew at work on the carrier flight deck
Film crew at work on the carrier flight deck

The fact that the plane is not real becomes obvious in the above photo showing members of the camera crew filming action aboard the ship. Also note the tie-down chains firmly attaching the plane's main landing gear to the deck of the carrier.

Actress Jessica Biel sits in the Talon cockpit during filming
Actress Jessica Biel sits in the Talon cockpit during filming

Furthermore, the above close-up shot reveals several gaps in the body of the aircraft and screw holes that would never exist on a true stealth aircraft. Television fans may also recognize the pilot as actress Jessica Biel, formerly of the hit show Seventh Heaven. Given her new film experience, my male colleagues at Aerospaceweb.org have assured me that "the lovely Miss Biel is more than welcome to pay us a visit to discuss the fine details of piloting at any time."

According to the studio, Stealth completed primary filming in Australia and is now in post-production. The "high octane, glued-to-your-seat, action-packed adventure" is due to be released in theaters during the summer of 2005.
- answer by Molly Swanson, 5 September 2004

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