- Black Mamba
- Lightning II
- Spitfire II
As noted at the War Room, most of these names are really, really bad, and sound like something a 12 year old boy would come up with.1 Of interest here is the homage to great fighter planes of yore — the Spitfire and the P-38 Lightning. (At least, I assume that Lightning II refers to that and not the English Electric Lightning, itself one of the great post-war fighters.) Presumably, Spitfire II is on the list because of the British participation in the project (though their US$2 billion is just a drop in the bucket, when compared with the projected total cost of US$244 billion). Cyclone sounds like it would have fitted in well alongside the Hurricane, Tempest, Typhoon and Whirlwind, too. Other than those choices, these are some pretty silly names. Piasa is more likely to evoke feelings of slight puzzlement than dread.
Still, fair's fair: the British have made some aircraft with pretty silly names too. Such as the Fawn. The Flycatcher. The Tabloid. The Iris. It's lucky the next war didn't start in 1931, when the Blackburn Iris (a seaplane) entered service; imagine how dreadfully embarassed the aircrew would have been to have been seen by the enemy flying around in something named after a flower.
Of course, the name of a combat aircraft is irrelevant to its actual performance. I guess the only real purpose is for propaganda, particularly on the home front. In that light, it's interesting that the names given to British fighters2 become more aggressive-sounding over time — think of the difference between the Siskin III (a 'small songbird', according to the OED) of the mid-1920s and the Spitfire of the late 1930s. If you are staring total air war in the face, you might as well put yourself in the mood …
- Of course, the only people, other than 12 year old boys, who will care what the JSF is called are 12 year old boys at heart anyway :)
- Bombers generally were generally named after places — Overstrand, Bombay, Wellington, Manchester.
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