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Brand X: Gullfire from Escape from New York (John Carpenter, 1981)


Future flight – The Gullfire from Escape from New York (John Carpenter, 1981)

“You flew the Gullfire over Leningrad. You know how to get in quiet. You’re all I’ve got.”
– US Police Force Commissioner Bob Hauk

From ‘Jane’s All the World’s Aircraft 1999’, pp346:

The Lockheed G-6 Gullfire stealth sustainer motor glider entered service with the US Air Force in 1993. It was produced to answer a Pentagon requirement for a lightweight, affordable aircraft with extreme reduced-observables characteristics, for use in one- or two-man precision insertion and extraction missions conducted by special forces.

Its non-powered primary flight regime, carbon fibre construction and computer-modelled profile render it extremely hard to detect via radar, infra-red or sonic devices. An entirely passive electro-optical sensor suite with no emissions, inertial navigation and GPS further enhance survivability.

A single micro turbo jet engine, buried in the hull immediately behind the cockpit, is used in ‘boost/coast/boost’ mode in combination with gliding manoeuvres to provide exceptional loiter capability for extended operations in hostile airspace.

A wide range of take-off and landing modes was a specific requirement, reflecting the nature of likely operating conditions. Accordingly the aircraft has the ability to take off by winch, vehicle tug or jettisonable rocket boosters, whilst wing airbrakes and an explosive piton launcher in the tail allow for very short landing run-outs.

Developed as a ‘Black Project’, only some dozen Gullfire airframes are believed to have been completed; a number have been lost. It is known that the aircraft was combat-proven during the so-called ‘Leningrad Emergency’, but its employment in other operations, especially before the cease fire, remains a matter of speculation. Certainly some of the more inventive rumours, such as that alleging deployment in a civil capacity over New York City in 1997, must be regarded as entirely spurious.

Wingspan: 18m
Length: 8m
Weight: 500kg
Speed: 280kph

By Chris Rogers

Chris Rogers writes on architecture and visual culture, including film, television and design. His first book, The Power of Process – the architecture of Michael Pearson, was published in 2010 and he recently wrote the information pack for a new school under construction in the London 2012 Olympic Park for its architects. Chris has contributed to The Architects' Journal and files reviews for Art of England magazine. Chris is trying to find time to start his second book so in the meantime his work, including pieces on John McTiernan, Michael Mann and Joe Ahearne, can be found on his website.

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