The aircraft was designated the Model 2000, and was offered in two different versions: the D-188 for the Navy and the D-188A for the Air Force.

The famous F-35B, which offers short take-offs and vertical landings, is the result of much earlier research. Since the 1950s, the concept of VTOL has been considered by many aircraft manufacturers. In 1955, Bell Aircraft was requested by both the US Air Force and the US Navy to develop a VTOL supersonic, all-weather fighter-bomber and defence interceptor. The aircraft was designated the Model 2000, and was offered in two different versions: the D-188 for the Navy and the D-188A for the Air Force.

D-188 was intended to offer the Mach 2 performance seen in the Lockheed F-104 Starfighter. The VTOL design allowed aircraft to operate in complex terrain, and did not require fully prepared runways to operate. This could potentially provide American warplanners with a distinct tactical advantage over anything the Soviet Union held in service at the time.

The D-188 was designed as a single-seat fighter. The pilot seated in a cockpit at the nose of the fuselage behind a sharply-pointed nosecone. The aircraft was unconventional, and consisted of a long, thin, area ruled fuselage with a large fin and all-moving stabilators in the tail.

Bell D-188
Bell D-188

At the ends of each wing were pods that contained two turbojets each. These pods were designed to swivel through an arc of 100° to allow for both horizontal and vertical flight. To take off vertically, the pods were rotated to direct the engine’s thrust downward, while for horizontal flight the pods were rotated back to the horizontal.

In addition to the four wing engines, four engines were also mounted in the fuselage; two in the rear directed out of two separate tail ducts, and two liftjets directly aft of the cockpit and positioned vertically to aid in VTOL operation, exhausting out of two ventral ducts. The D-188 featured an engine bleed system to assist in vertical lift and maneuvering.

Armament would have consisted of two 20mm cannon in the fuselage, an internal weapons bay and eight wing hard points for missiles and other ordnance. By design, it was designed to have a top speed of Mach 2.3, a range of up to 2,300 miles, and a combat radius of 1,350 miles. Its service ceiling was 60,000 feet. Empty weight was listed at 13,800lb against a Maximum Take-Off Weight of 24,000lb.

On Dec. 5, 1960, the design mock-up was shown off in its Air Force configuration for the first time. The Navy had lost interest and quickly removed itself from the equation. In the spring of 1961, the Air Force cancelled their involvement and, just like that, the project in the United States came to an abrupt end.

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