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