This aircraft design was started in 1943 as a convoy fighter, to
protect the bombers going on long-range missions as to Germany or
Japan. Soon it became clear that the Mustang and other types were
capable to do the same, so the requirement was changed into a
long-range photoreconnaissance aircraft. The team led by Alexander
Kartveli designed a very sleek and absolutely aesthetic 7-seat
low-wing monoplane powered by four Pratt & Whitney Wasp Majors
with the engine air-cooling inlets in the wing root between the engines.
The USAAF ordered two XF-12 prototypes in March 1944; the first
(44-91002), acting as a proof of concept airframe, was rolled out in
December 1945 and made its first flight in the hands of Lowry Brabham
on February 7, 1946. A production order for 6 F-12's was placed in 1947.
The second prototype (44-91003) was fully equipped, in the pressurized
cabin it carried, next to the three cameras, all necessary equipment for
film-developing, printing the photographs and interpreting them. The
first flight was also made from Farmingdale, Long Island; Lin Hendrix
flew the aircraft on August 12, 1947.
Redesignated XR-12 in September 1947, disaster struck on November 7, 1948
when number two engine of the second prototype exploded over Eglin
AFB and the crew was forced to bail-out, the aircraft crashed in the
Gulf of Mexico. Subsequently flying of the first prototype was suspended,
the project was shelved and eventually the first prototype ended its life
sadly as a US Army artillery target at the Aberdeen Proving ground.
Parallel to the XF-12 Republic designed the RC-2 to fulfil the
foreseen boom in transport after the war; by 1946 American Airlines
and Pan American were potential buyers. The airliner would have
carried 46 passengers over 4,100 mls (6,598 km) at a comfortable 410 mph