POWER PLANT: One Pratt & Whitney R-2800-6 “Double Wasp” radial engine, rated at 2,000 hp
PERFORMANCE: 306 mph
COMMENT: The original design was not by Consolidated Aircraft, but rather by Vought, who designed the XTBU-1 “Sea Wolf” to a 1939 US Navy requirement. The first prototype flew two weeks after Pearl Harbor. Its performance was deemed superior to the Grumman TBF-1 “Avenger” and the Navy placed an order for 1,000 aircraft.
Several unfortunate incidents intervened; the prototype was damaged in a rough arrested landing trial, and when repaired a month later was again damaged in a collision with a training aircraft. Once repaired again, the prototype was accepted by the Navy. However, by this time Vought was heavily overcommitted to other contracts, especially for the F4U “Corsair” fighter, and had no production capacity. It was arranged that Consolidated Vultee would produce the aircraft as the TBY-1, but this had to wait until the new production facility in Allentown, Pennsylvania was complete, which took until late 1943.
The production TBY-2’s were radar-equipped, with a radome under the right-hand wing. The first aircraft flew on 20 August 1944. By this time though, the Grumman TBF-3 “Avenger” equipped every torpedo squadron in the Navy, and there was no need for the “Sea Wolf”; in addition, numerous small problems delayed entry into service so the aircraft never saw combat. Orders for 1,000 aircraft were cancelled after production started, and the 180 built were used for training only (Ref.: 24).
POWER PLANT: One Walter R I-203 liquid-fuel rocket engine, rated at 500 kp
PERFORMANCE: 343 mph
COMMENT: The DFS 194 was a rocket-powered aircraft designed by Alexander Lippisch at the Deutsche Forschungsanstalt für Segelflug (DFS – “German Institute for Sailplane Flight”).The DFS 194 was based on the Alexander Lippisch “Delta” series of tailless designs. As originally conceived, it would have been a tailless aircraft similar to his DFS 40, powered by a conventional piston engine driving a pusher propeller. The airframe was completed in this configuration in March 1938.
Lippisch’s designs had attracted the attention of the Reichsluftfahrtministerium (RLM, Reich Aviation Ministry) who believed that tailless aircraft were the best basis for a rocket-powered fighter. On January 1939, Lippisch and his team were transferred to the Messerschmitt Company to begin work on such an aircraft, under what was known as “Project X”. The DFS-194 was modified to accept a Walter R I-203 rocket engine designed by Hellmuth Walter, and by October 1939, the aircraft was undergoing engine tests at Peenemünde.
These were followed by glide tests in early 1940 leading to the first powered flight in August with Heini Dittmar at the controls. The flight went well, the DFS 194 reaching 340 mph, bettering the speed of the earlier, Walter rocket powered Heinkel He 176.
The aircraft proved to have excellent flying characteristics and proved safe to fly at nearly twice the anticipated speed. These results paved the way for the next stage of the project, which now received priority status from the RLM. The Messerschmitt Me 163A “Komet”, a considerably refined design along the same basic lines, flew the following year (Ref. 24).
POWER PLANT: One Nakajima NK9H-S “Homare 23” radial engine, rated at 2,000 hp
PERFORMANCE: 369 mph at 18,375 ft
COMMENT: In 1943, while the Kawanishi N1K1-J “Shiden” was being evaluated by the Japanese Navy, preliminary design work on an advanced version of the aircraft had already begun at Kawanishi and the N1K1-J was placed in production only as a stop-gap measure pending availability of a new version designed N1K2-J. The prime reason for designing the N1K2-J was to eliminate the need for a long and complex undercarriage of the earlier version, and consideration was also given to simplifying construction and maintenance. To achieve this goal, the wings were moved to the lower fuselage, conventional main gear legs of reduced length were adopted and the fuselage and tail surfaces were entirely redesigned. The result was a virtually new aircraft retaining only the wings and armament of the N1K1-J.
The prototype of the N1K2-J “Shiden-Kai” (“Violet Lightning-Modified”) was flown for the first time on December, 1943, and successfully completed its manufacture’s trials within fifteen weeks before handed over to the Navy in April 1944. Despite persistent difficulties with the unreliable “Homare 21” engine, the N1K2-J had all the qualities of a successful fighter aircraft and production aircraft began rolling off the assembly lines. Unfortunately for the Japanese, the production fell considerably behind schedule as bombing by Boeing B-29 “Superfortresses” led to shortage of engines and equipment. The companies involved in the “Shiden-Kai” production program delivered only a token number of aircraft.
In operation the N1K2-J revealed itself as a truly outstanding fighter capable of meeting on equal terms of best Allied fighter aircraft. Against the high-flying B-29s the “Shiden-kai” was less successful as its climbing speed was insufficient and the power of the “Homare 21” fell rapidly at high altitudes.
In total 423 N1K2-J “Shiden-Kai” were produced including eight prototypes (Ref.: 1).
POWER PLANT: One Wright R-2600-20 “Twin Cyclone” radial engine, rated at 1,900 hp
PERFORMANCE: 276 mph at 16,500 ft
COMMENT: By 1943, Grumman began to slowly phase out production of the TBF “Avenger” to produce Grumman F6F “Hellcat” fighters, and the Eastern Aircraft Division of General Motors took over production, with these aircraft being designated TBM. The Eastern Aircraft plant was located in Ewing, NJ. Grumman delivered a TBF-1, held together with sheet metal screws, so that the automotive engineers could disassemble it, a part at a time, and redesign the aircraft for automotive style production. This aircraft was known as the “P-K Avenger” (P-K = Parker-Kalon, manufacturer of sheet metal screws). Starting in mid-1944, the TBM-3 began production with a more powerful power plant and wing hard points for drop tanks and rockets. The dash-3 was the most numerous of the “Avengers” with about 4,664 produced. However, most of the “Avengers” in service were dash-1s until near the end of the war in 1945.
Besides the traditional surface role (torpedoing surface ships), “Avengers” claimed about 30 submarine kills. They were one of the most effective sub-killers in the Pacific theatre, as well as in the Atlantic, when escort carriers were finally available to escort Allied convoys. There, the “Avengers” contributed to the warding off of German submarines while providing air cover for the convoys (Ref.: 24).