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Imagine this scenario:

A modified military 747 is flying at a constant speed and altitude. On the top of the fuselage there is a device like a helipad but with three holes to accommodate the fighter jet landing gear, when pressure is applied the holes close, locking the landing gear in the holes. The fighter is flying at the same speed and slightly above. With proper training, is it possible for the pilot to land on the plane and then shut off the engines?

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Technically yes. But I am unaware of any attempt to do this with airliners.

But there were several designs in the past which used a big airplane or a Zeppelin as a mother ship, which took fighters with it for air defense. The B-36 was involved in several such designs.

enter image description here

In all cases the docking was made from below, because this gave the fighter pilot the best field of view and reduced the risk of a tail strike.

While the fighter in the picture above is a Republic F-84, McDonnell even designed one specifically for the purpose of being carried around by a bomber, the XF-85 Goblin. It used a rather complicated trapeze for docking and was then pulled up into the fuselage, as the picture with a B-29 below shows.

enter image description here

Your design proposal with the simple platform on top of the fuselage would carry a high risk of a tail strike if anything goes wrong, so it is unlikely that this will ever be tried for real. But when you change the airliner to a AN-225, the idea looks not totally impossible. The Russians tried to dock a fighter with a mothership as early as the 1930s. The picture below shows a TB-3 docking with a I-Z fighter, the first pair of aircraft in history to dock in flight.

enter image description here

The main reason for docking was the much smaller range of fighters. Today, air refuelling takes care of this deficit, so it is unlikely that anyone will see a benefit strong enough to justify the expense of modifying two aircraft and the risk incurred in the docking process.

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    $\begingroup$ This seems like a Darpa-hard problem. Certainly it would have its challenges, but I suspect with computer control of the aircraft it could be done. I would not expect a human to be able to do this safely. $\endgroup$ – theMayer Nov 23 '14 at 17:58
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    $\begingroup$ @rmayer06 70 years ago "how to get fighter support at the end of really long bombing missions" was a Darpa(predecessor)-hard problem. Having fighters capable of docking with and being carried by a bomber was an idea that they tried; but ultimately rejected because aerial refueling turned out to work better with less additional pilot skill required and lower risk of catastrophe. $\endgroup$ – Dan Neely Nov 23 '14 at 23:00
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Parasite jet aircraft have been experimented with, the only purpose built one I know of is the XF-85 Goblin, there was also a modified F-84 Thunderjet which was used as well. These experiments were abandoned because the process of launching and recovery was too hazardous, and air to air refueling made much more sense to extend the range of fighters.

It is possible to join 2 aircraft in the manner you describe, however it's extremely dangerous due to the aerodynamic forces involved, and there are no benefits which would make the risks worthwhile.

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It is not possible to replicate this process safely. The pilot in the smaller aircraft can not see its gear and would have no idea where to "land". And perhaps even more importantly, there's no out if the fighter has an emergency. If the fighter loses control just above the carrier then its likely that both aircrews will die.

As has been pointed out in other posts, aircraft have been recovered underneath carrier airplanes in the past, and while dangerous, this leaves an obvious escape route in the event of an emergency.

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  • $\begingroup$ To enable a landing on top, modern technology can improve the view, see for example the "transparent hood" concept. Also, the carrier aircraft should actively catch the gear and pull the fighter in. But still, a tail strike is a real risk. $\endgroup$ – Peter Kämpf Nov 22 '14 at 19:41
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    $\begingroup$ @PeterKämpf And what happens when those systems fail? Even when they work, there still isn't any depth perception, it would be very hard to judge your height above the carrier, even if you could see through the aircraft. Not to mention, its an insanely bad idea to fly form belly up to another aircraft. And again, emergencies become fatal. There is no benefit to landing above and it could not be done safely. Note: doing it once to prove a concept is not a measure of safety. $\endgroup$ – Rhino Driver Nov 22 '14 at 19:50
  • $\begingroup$ I never said it's a good idea. I agree with your verdict. $\endgroup$ – Peter Kämpf Nov 22 '14 at 19:58
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DARPA just happens to be asking for proposals on how to accomplish this very task:

DARPA invites input on how to enable existing large aircraft to carry, launch and recover multiple unmanned air systems for a variety of missions

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    $\begingroup$ Not quite the same task: a fighter jet, at the moment, is not an "unmanned air system". $\endgroup$ – David Richerby Nov 22 '14 at 23:48
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    $\begingroup$ @DavidRicherby: it is if the pilot isn't male. :-) $\endgroup$ – Bob Jarvis Nov 23 '14 at 1:53
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    $\begingroup$ @BobJarvis: No, not really. "Manned" does not mean "crewed by a male". In fact, "man" doesn't even mean "male". That's a myth spread by feminists who do not understand the genericity of the term "man". The male equivalent to "woman" is "wereman". todayifoundout.com/index.php/2010/08/… et al $\endgroup$ – Lightness Races with Monica Nov 23 '14 at 2:28
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    $\begingroup$ @LightnessRacesinOrbit - really? Wow - and here all these years I thought "wereman" meant "a wolf that turns into a human when the moon is full". Thanks, man! $\endgroup$ – Bob Jarvis Nov 23 '14 at 3:31
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    $\begingroup$ @LightnessRacesinOrbit: right. Little-known fact, there's a prophecy in LoTR, that the Witch King can't be killed by a man. He's killed by a woman. Only feminists are able to understand the plot point, since to everyone else the prophecy unarguably states that he can't be killed by a werman or wifman, whereas feminists subscribe to Tolkien's myth that the word "man" has unclear or ambiguous meaning ;-) In real life, I think you're correct to say that "manned doesn't mean crewed by a male", but incorrect to say "man doesn't even mean male", since often it does. $\endgroup$ – Steve Jessop Nov 24 '14 at 15:48
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As an addition to the projects described by Peter Kämpf, there was the Tip Tow project during the fifties where two fighters were attached to the wingtips of a B-29. The idea was that the additional wingspan would increase the range of the bomber, while at the same time enable it to carry its own fighter escort which could attach and detach in the air as required. While attached the fighters could switch off their engines, thus saving fuel for later.

While attached, the B-29 would control the flight surfaces of the attached F-84 (more specifically EF-84D) so that the pilot wouldn't have to do this manually, but during the first flight with this system enabled one of the fighters rolled on top of the B-29s wing, and the two aircraft crashed with no survivors. The second F-84 survived as it was disconnected from the B-29.

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