Curtiss SO3C “Seamew” (Sword)

TYPE: Scouting and observation seaplane

ACCOMMODATION: Pilot and observer

POWER PLANT: One Ranger XV-770-8-8 inline air-cooled engine, rated at 600 hp

PERFORMANCE: 172 mph at 8,100 ft

COMMENT: The Curtiss SO3C “Seamew” was developed by the Curtiss-Wright Corporation as a replacement for the Curtiss SOC “Seagull” as the US Navy’s’s standard floatplane scout. Curtiss named the SO3C the “Seamew” but in 1941 the US Navy began calling it by the name “Seagull”, the same name as the aircraft it replaced (the Curtiss SOC a biplane type), causing some confusion. The British Royal Navy kept the Curtiss name “Seamew” for the SO3C that they ordered. One of the US Navy’s main design requirements was that the SOC “Seagull’s” replacement had to be able to operate both from ocean vessels with a single center float and from land bases with the float replaced by a wheeled landing gear.
From the time it entered service the SO3C suffered two serious flaws: inflight stability problems and problems with the unique Ranger air-cooled, inverted V-shaped inline engine. The stability problem was mostly resolved with the introduction of upturned wingtips and a larger rear tail surface that extended over the rear observer’s cockpit. The additional tail surface was attached to the rear observer’s sliding canopy and pilots claimed there were still stability problems when the canopy was open. The canopy was often open because the aircraft’s main role was spotting. While the inflight stability problem was eventually addressed (although not fully solved), the Ranger XV-770 engine proved a dismal failure even after many attempted modifications. Poor flight performance and a poor maintenance record led to the SO3C being withdrawn from US Navy first line units by 1944. The older biplane Curtiss SOC “Seagull” was taken from stateside training units and restored to first-line service on many US Navy warships until the end of World War II. In total 795 Curtiss SO3C “Seamew’s”have been built (Ref.: 24).

Arado Ar 234R-1B (Dragon, Parts from Unicraft, Parts scratch-built

TYPE: High-speed, high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft. Project


POWER PLANT: One Walter HWK 509C liquid-fuel rocket engine, rated at 2,400 kp thrust (main chamber: 2,000 kp thrust, auxiliary chamber 400 kp thrust)

PERFORMANCE: 569 mph (estimated)

COMMENT: In 1944 the Arado design team proposed two liquid-rocket engines powered reconnaissance versions of the Arado Ar 234 “Blitz” (Lightning) high-speed bomber. The Arado Ar 234R, as it was designated, would consist of a regular Ar 234C frame but without turbojet engines. Instead two pods were installed under the wing, each containing a Walter HWK 109-509A bi-fuel rocket engine (project Ar 234R-1A). The second project Ar 234R-1B was to be powered by a Walter HWK 109-509C two chamber liquid-fuel rocket engine mounted in the rear section. Therefore a cowling would have been installed in the rear fuselage underneath the rudder. The upper rocket engine called “Steigofen” (Accelerate chamber) delivered 2,000 kp and was to be used for climbing to altitude while the lower rocket engine, “Marschofen” (Cruising chamber) delivered 400 kp thrust and was used to power the aircraft during horizontal flight. During return flight – over a distance of more than 155 miles ­– the aircraft flew as a glider without power. The wing had a laminar profile with its maximal thickness at 50 to 60% chord. The glide ratio was calculated to 1:14.
Because of the limited fuel capacity and short endurance of the rocket engines the Ar 234R-1b was to be towed by a Heinkel He 177 “Greif” heavy bomber. A possible reconnaissance mission in the London area was calculated as follows: After take-off from a Luftwaffe base near Paris the aircraft was towed to the operational altitude of app. 26,247 ft, reached near Calais. After release of towline with “Steigofen” at full throttle the aircraft was powered at a speed of app. 506 mph to an altitude of app. 55,775 ft. This height was reached in a few minutes app. near the coast of Dover. During horizontal flight intermittent ignition of the “Marschofen” accelerated the aircraft with 569 mph to the target (i. e. London). After photo mission the aircraft flew back to the coast of England at a speed of 541mph and the descent back to the home base was flown as a glider. The mission was estimated for 21 minutes.
Although the Arado Ar 234R-1B project was promising it was abandoned in favor of the DFS 228 reconnaissance rocket-driven glider giving even better ceiling of 75,460 ft (Ref: 16).

Kawanishi J6K1 “Jinpu” (“Squall”), RS Models, Resin

TYPE: Interceptor fighter


POWER PLANT: One Nakajima NK9H “Homare” 42 radial engine, rated at 2,000 hp

PERFORMANCE: 426 mph at 32,810 ft

COMMENT: The Kawanishi J6K1 Jinpu was a purpose-built land based interceptor designed for the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Force, but that didn’t enter production because of the success of the same company’s Kawanishi N1K2-J “Shiden” (“Violet lightning”, Allied code “George”).
The J6K1 was developed from the Kawanishi J3K1 of 1942. This was to have been powered by the Mitsubishi MK9A radial engine, and would have been a fairly standard looking radial engined fighter, but it didn’t progress beyond the early design stage.
Work on the J6K1 began in 1943. This time the aircraft was to use the Nakajima “Homare” 42 engine, the design progressed far enough to receive a popular name, the Jinpu (Squall). The new interceptor would have been very heavily armed, with two 30mm cannon and two 13.2mm machine guns, and with a good top speed of 426mph. The J6K1 never entered production. Kawanishi had also produced the N1K1 Kyofu” (“Mighty wind, Allied code “Rex”) float plane fighter, which was followed by a normal landed based version, the N1K1. This was then superseded by the N1K2-J “Shiden, a smaller aircraft than the J6K, armed with four 20mm cannon and with sufficiently impressive performance to meet the Navy’s requirements. The N1K2-J was produced in large numbers, while the J6K1 was cancelled (Ref.: 24).

Grumman F8F-1B “Bearcat” (Novo Models)

TYPE: Carrier-borne interceptor fighter


POWER PLANT:  One Pratt & Whitney R-2800-34W “Double Wasp” radial engine, rated at 2,300 hp

PERFORMANCE: 421 mph at 19,700 ft

COMMENT: The Grumman F8F “Bearcat” concept began during a meeting between Battle of Midway veteran Grumman F4F “Wildcat” pilots and Grumman authorities on June 1942. At the meeting, Lieutenant Commander J. Thatch emphasized one of the most important requirements in a good fighter plane was “climb rate”.
Climb performance is strongly related to the power-to weight ratio, and is maximized by wrapping the smallest and lightest possible airframe around the most powerful available engine. Another goal was that the new fighter ­– Grumman’s design designation for the aircraft was G-58 – should be able to operate from escort carries, which were then limited to the obsolescent F4F “Wildcat” as the Grumman F6F “Hellcat” was too large and heavy. A small, lightweight aircraft would make this possible. After intensively analyzing carrier warfare in the Pacific Theatre of Operation for a year and a half, Grumman began development of the G-58 “Bearcat” in late 1943.
In 1943, Grumman was in the process of introducing the F6F Hellcat, powered by the Pratt & Whitney R-2800 engine which provided 2,000 horsepower. The R-2800 was the most powerful American engine available at that time, so it would be retained for the G-58. This meant that improved performance would have to come from a lighter airframe.
To meet this goal, the Bearcat’s fuselage was about 1.5 m shorter than the Hellcat, and was cut down vertically behind the cockpit area. This allowed the use of a bubble canopy, the first to be fit to a US Navy fighter. The vertical stabilizer was the same height as the Hellcat’s, but increased aspect ratio, giving it a thinner look. Similarly, the main wing had the same span, but having lower thickness, especially at the root. Structurally the fuselage was strengthened and armor protection was provided for the pilot, engine and oil cooler. Compared to the “Hellcat”, the “Bearcat” was 20% lighter, had a 30% better rate of climb and was 50 mph (80 km/h) faster.
The Navy placed a production contract for 2,023 aircraft based on the second prototype on 6 October 1944. On February 1945 they awarded another contract for 1,876 slightly modified aircraft from General Motors, given the designation F3M-1. These differed primarily in having the R-2800-34W engine and a small increase in fuel capacity.
Deliveries from Grumman began on  May 1945. The end of the war led to the Grumman order being reduced to 770 examples, and the GM contract being cancelled outright. An additional order was placed for 126 F8F-1B’s replacing the .50 cal machine guns with the 20 mm M2 cannon, the US version of the widely used Hispano-Suiza HS.404. The F8F prototypes were ordered in November 1943 and first flew on 21 August 1944, a mere nine months later. The first production aircraft was delivered in February 1945 and the first squadron, VF-19, embarked to CV 16 “Lexington”, was operational by  May 1945, but WW II was over before the aircraft saw combat service (Ref.: 24).