1973 To 1983



  The Era of the Cold War







       R. Kirk




Special Stories

       Transition Years


The days of giant conglomerates were ending. Ling-Temco-Vought and the others had become too large and too diverse to be manageable. As its parent company began to disperse, Vought found itself in a series of reorganizations. But it kept on manufacturing airplanes right through the changes. It also kept designing them, though it now found itself having greater success with missiles and space exploration than with new military airplanes.

The reorganization of Ling-Temco-Vought as LTV in 1972 worked its way down over the next year into a re-structuring of LTV Aerospace. Vought Aeronautics and Vought Missiles and Space were combined into Vought Systems. The new unit took its place alongside the Michigan Division, Ground Transportation, and Agri-Chemical Products.

Vought Systems itself was busy on a wide range of manufacturing contracts. It was still building A-7Ds and A-7Es for the Air Force and Navy, as well as the Scout launch vehicle for NASA. It was manufacturing much of the S-3A Viking anti-submarine plane in partnership with Lockheed. There were also major contracts for civilian aircraft. The employees of Vought Systems were building Boeing 747 tail assemblies, McDonnell Douglas DC-10 tailplanes and elevators, Lockheed C-130 and P-3 control surfaces. The Michigan Division was still producing Lance battlefield missiles for the Army. Ground Transportation was engineering the Airtrans network for DFW airport as it continued development of experimental models of ground transportation systems.

On January 1, 1976, LTV Aerospace became simply Vought Corporation. Its divisions and sub-divisions were simplified as peripheral units were sold off or closed down. The re-emergence of the historic Vought name signaled a new attention to the firm's old strengths.

Vought Systems was well established as a premier airframe manufacturer. Its association with Boeing, for example, kept growing. On February 23, 1979, Vought announced a contract for up to 300 complete tailplane assemblies for the Boeing 767. The following October, the company also began work on tail units for the Boeing 757, including the aft fuselage. There was related, but much more secret work as Vought Systems was responsible for building the intermediate and rear fuselage sections of the Rockwell B1-B bomber. It was also a principal airframe builder for the Northrop-Grumman B-2.

Vought had less success in military aircraft competitions. It was involved in an unfortunate disagreement with the Air Force over the selection of the Fairchild A-10 close support aircraft in 1972. There was a longer and even more public debate when the Navy bypassed Vought and General Dynamics to choose as its new fighter the F-18 offered by Northrop Grumman and McDonnell Douglas. Vought protested the choice to the GAO and there was much political controversy, but Congress settled matters when it voted funds for the F-18. In 1976, the string of bad luck was extended when Vought lost the fly-off for the Tomahawk cruise missile.

Of course, there were significant victories as well. For example, in April of 1980, Vought was chosen as prime contractor for the Multiple Launch Rocket System to be used by the Army and its NATO allies. It also continued development of missiles as part of Navy's supersonic Tactical Missile program. Vought was now emerging as a premier aircraft and missile manufacturer.