Category Archives: Fighter

Fighter

General Motors FM-2 “Wildcat” (Airfix, Parts scratch-built)

TYPE: Carrier-borne fighter and fighter-bomber

 ACCOMMODATION: Pilot only

 POWER PLANT: One Pratt & Whitney R-1830-56 radial engine, rated at 1,350 hp

PERFORMANCE: 320 mph

COMMENT: Grumman’s F4F “Wildcat” production ceased in early 1943 to make way for the newer F6F “Hellcat”, but General Motors/Eastern Aircraft continued producing “Wildcats” for both U.S. Navy and (British) Fleet Air Arm use. At first, General Motors produced the FM-1 (identical to the F4F-4, but with four guns). Production later switched to the improved FM-2 (based on Grumman’s XF4F-8 prototype, informally known as the “Wilder Wildcat”) optimized for small-carrier operations, with a more powerful engine, and a taller tail to cope with the increased torque.
From 1943 onward, “Wildcats” equipped with bomb racks were primarily assigned to escort carriers for use against submarines and attacking ground targets, though they would also continue to score kills against Japanese fighters, bombers and kamikaze aircraft. Larger fighters such as the “Hellcat” and the Vought F4U “Corsair” and dedicated dive bombers were needed aboard fleet carriers, and the “Wildcat’s” slower landing speed and its size made it more suitable for shorter flight decks of escort carriers.
General Motors / Eastern Aircraft produced 5,280 FM-1 and FM-2 variants out of total production of 7,860 “Wildcats” (Ref.: 24).

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

TYPE: Carrier-borne interceptor fighter

ACCOMMODATION: Pilot only

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).

Grumman G.71 (Unicraft, Resin)

TYPE: Carrier-based fighter. Project

ACCOMMODATION: Pilot only

POWER PLANT: One Westinghouse 24C turbojet engine, rated at 1,360 kp

PERFORMANCE: 535 mph

COMMENT: The design for a fast carrier-based jet fighter was put forward by Grumman Company in November 1944. This small and aerodynamic clean cantilever-winged fighter was to be armed with either four 20mm cannon or six 0.5 in machine guns across the nose. The wings were not of folding type. The aircraft was to be powered by a single Westinghouse 24C turbojet engine delivering app. 1,300 kp thrust, but was still under development. It was the first jet fighter project of Grumman and it is not clear why this promising project was not pursued. However, after WW II the general design influenced the development of the Grumman F9F “Panther”, the Company’s first turbojet engine powered fighter showing better performance compared to the McDonnell FD-1 “ Phantom”, the US Navy’s first “pure” turbojet fighter.

McDonnell FD-1 “Phantom” (Frank-Airmodel, Vacu-formed)

TYPE: Carrier-borne fighter

ACCOMMODATION: Pilot only

POWER PLANT:  Two Westinghouse J30-WE-20 turbojet engines, rated at 725 kp each

PERFORMANCE: 479 mph at sea level

COMMENT: In early 1943, aviation officials at the United States Navy were impressed with McDonnell’s audacious XP-67 “Bat” project. McDonnell was invited by the Navy to cooperate in the development of a shipboard jet fighter, using an engine from the turbojets under development by Westinghouse Electric Corporation. Three prototypes were ordered on August 1943 and the designation XFD-1 was assigned. Under the 1922 United States Navy aircraft designation system, the letter “D” before the dash designated the aircraft’s manufacturer. The Douglas Aircraft Company had previously been assigned this letter, but the USN elected to reassign it to McDonnell because Douglas had not provided any fighters for Navy service in years.
McDonnell engineers evaluated a number of engine combinations, varying from eight 24 cm diameter engines down to two engines of 48 cm diameter. The final design used the two 48 cm engines after it was found to be the lightest and simplest configuration. The engines were buried in the wing root to keep intake and exhaust ducts short, offering greater aerodynamic efficiency than underwing nacelles and the engines were angled slightly outwards to protect the fuselage from the hot exhaust blast. Placement of the engines in the middle of the airframe allowed the cockpit with its bubble-style canopy to be placed ahead of the wing, granting the pilot excellent visibility in all directions. This engine location also freed up space under the nose, allowing designers to use tricycle gear, thereby elevating the engine exhaust path and reducing the risk that the hot blast would damage the aircraft carrier deck. The construction methods and aerodynamic design of the “Phantom”, as the aircraft was assigned, were fairly conventional for the time; the aircraft had unswept folding wings.  Adapting a jet to carrier use was a much greater challenge than producing a land-based fighter because of slower landing and takeoff speeds required on a small carrier deck. When the first XFD-1was completed in January 1945, only one Westinghouse was available for installation. Ground runs and taxi tests were conducted with the single engine, and such was the confidence in the aircraft that the first flight on 26 January 1945 was made with only the one turbojet engine. During flight tests, the “Phantom” became the first naval aircraft to exceed 500 mph. With successful completion of tests, a production contract was awarded on March 1945 for 100 FD-1 aircraft. With the end of the war, the “Phantom” production contract was reduced to 30 aircraft, but was soon increased back to 60.
The first prototype was lost in a fatal crash on November 1945, but the second and final “Phantom” prototype was completed early the next year and became the first purely jet-powered aircraft to operate from an American aircraft carrier, completing four successful takeoffs and landings on 21 July 1946, from USS CV-42 “Franklin D. Roosevelt”.  At the time, she was the largest carrier serving with the U.S. Navy, allowing the aircraft to take off without assistance from  a catapult (Ref. 24).

 

Grumman XF5F-1 “Skyrocket” (Resin)

TYPE: Carrier-borne twin-engine fighter

ACCOMMODATION: Pilot only

POWER PLANT: Two Wright XR-1820-40/41 “Cyclone” radial engines, rated at 1,200 hp each

PERFORMANCE: 380 mph at 16,500 ft

COMMENT: In 1938 Grumman presented a proposal to the U. S. Navy for a twin engine carrier based aircraft, unlike any other fighter aircraft that had ever been considered. The design was for a light weight fighter powered by two 1,200 hp Wright R-1820 engines, with propellers geared to rotate in opposite directions to cancel out the effects of each engine’s torque, promising high-speed, and an outstanding rate of climb. Designated XF5F-1 “Skyrocket” it was a low wing monoplane with a short fuselage that began aft of the wing’s leading edge with a twin tail assembly that featured a pronounced dihedral to the horizontal stabilizer. The main landing gear and tail wheel were fully retractable. The aircraft flew for the first time on 1 April 1940.  Engine cooling problems arose in the initial flights, resulting in modification to the oil cooling ducts. Further modifications were made to the prototype including reduction in the height of the cockpit canopy, redesign of the engine nacelles, and extending the fuselage forward of the wing. Flight tests indicated good flying qualities for the XF5F-1. The counter-rotating props were a nice feature, virtually eliminating the torque effect on take-off the single-engine performance was good, rudder forces tended to be high in single engine configuration. Nevertheless, additional changes were needed after further flight tests that were not completed until 15 January 1942. In the meantime, Grumman began work on a more advanced twin-engine shipboard fighter, the XF7F-1 “Tigercat”, and further testing with the XF5F-1 supported the development of the newer design. The prototype continued to be used in various tests, although plagued by various landing gear problems, until it was struck from the list of active aircraft after it made a belly landing on 11 December 1944.
A land-based development of the Grumman XF5F-1 “Skyrocket” was the Grumman XP-50 “Skyrocket”. It entered into a USAAC contest for a twin-engine heavy interceptor aircraft. A prototype was ordered on November, but the aircraft lost the competition to the Lockheed XP-49 (Ref.: 24).

Curtiss XF-14C-2 (Unicraft, Resin)

TYPE: Carrier-borne heavy fighter

ACCOMMODATION: Pilot only

POWER PLANT: One Wright XR-3350-16 ‘Cyclone’ radial engine, rated at 2,300 hp

PERFORMANCE: 398 mph at 32,000 ft

COMMENT: In early 1941, the Curtiss Aircraft Company proposed the development of a high-performance, heavily-armed fighter designed around a liquid-cooled engine. At that time the US Navy was dedicated to using air-cooled engines, but Curtiss experience with the Curtiss P-40 gave the company good grounds for its faith in the liquid-cooled unit, and on June 1941 it received a Navy contract for two prototypes of such an aircraft, to be designated XF14C-1. The chosen power plant was the still experimental Lycoming XH-2470-4 which was expected to deliver 2,200 hp at sea level, with a normal rating of 2,000 hp at 4,500 ft.  With an armament four 20-mm cannon in the wings, the XF14C-1 was expected to have a maximum speed of 374 mph at 17,000 ft and a service ceiling of 30,500 ft. However, wind tunnel testing by Navy engineers during 1942 cast some doubts on the validity of these figures  and with development of the XH-2470 engine lagging, the Navy eventually concluded that the performance of the XF14C-1 would be inadequate by the time it was ready to enter service, and the programme was cancelled in December 1943.
As the first airframe was then virtually complete, the Navy suggested it be flown with the air-cooled Wright R-3350 ‘Cyclone’ engine, driving six-blade contra props. In this guise, the Curtiss fighter was redesignated XF14C-2, and the first flight was made in July 1944. Performance again fell below expectation, a speed of 398 mph being reached at 32,000 ft compared with the estimated of 424 mph, and the R-3350 was still suffering from a number of teething problems. Meantime the progress of the Pacific war made further development of the XF14C-2 unnecessary, the programme being cancelled in the early month of 1945 (Ref.: 10).

Grumman F6F-5N Hellcat, USS CV-19 Lexington (Hasegawa)

TYPE: Carrier-based night-fighter,

ACCOMMODATION: Pilot only

POWER PLANT: One Pratt & Whitney R-2800-10W Double Wasp radial engine, rated at 2,000 hp

PERFORMANCE: 360 mph at 23,400 ft

COMMENT: Grumman F6F-3N Hellcat night-fighters entered operation during February 1944, with VF(N)-76 aboard the USS CV-8 Hornet. The Hellcat was adapted to carry the Massachusetts Institute of Technology AN/APS-6 radar with the scanning aerial in a radome pod on the starboard wing. During 1944 deliveries began of a new Hellcat version, the F6F-5 Hellcat, with a number of detail refinements and improvements. Logically, a night-fighter version was F6F-5N was developed, retaining the AN/APS-6 radar in a starboard wing pod. Of the 1,434 F6F-5N Hellcat completed during the war many remained in service for a number of years after the war’s end (Ref.: 1).

Grumman F6F-5 “Hellcat”, VF-12, USS CV-15 “Randolph”, (Hasegawa)

TYPE: Carrier-based fighter, fighter bomber

ACCOMMODATION: Pilot only

POWER PLANT: One Pratt & Whitney R-2800-10W Double Wasp radial engine, rated at 2,000 hp

PERFORMANCE: 380 mph at 23,400 ft

COMMENT: In Mid 1944 an improved and refined version of the famous Grumman F6F-3, the Grumman F6F-5 “Hellcat” rolled out of a brand new factory, especially built for this reason. The Pratt & Whitney engine with water injection was retained, but the cowling was modified and the windshield was improved. Provision was made for 2,000 lb of bombs under the center section and six rockets under the outer wing. Production of this version totalled 6,681 aircraft plus 1,189 F6F-5N’s night fighter with APS-6 radar in the pod of the starboard wing. The aircraft shown here was on board of USS CV-15 “Randolph” in March 1945 (Ref.: 22)

Boeing F8B-1 (Sword)

TYPE: Fighter, Torpedo bomber, Ground attack aircraft

ACCOMMODATION: Pilot only

POWER PLANT: One Pratt & Whitney XR-4360-10, rated at 3,000 hp

PERFORMANCE: 432 mph

COMMENT: From the logistical point of view the US Navy was most interested to have only one type of aircraft on board its carriers for all operational tasks. An excellent design for all these duties was the Boeing XF8B, a new class of “five-in-one fighter” (fighter, interceptor, dive bomber, torpedo bomber, or level bomber). Designed around a new designed “power egg”, the Pratt & Whitney XR-4360 with 3,000hp this aircraft embodied a number of innovative features in order to accomplish the various roles. Three prototypes were ordered, but despite its formidable capabilities, with the end of the hostilities in the Pacific area the XF8B-1 was fated to never enter series production.

Boeing P. 360 Flying Flapjack (Unicraft, Resin)

TYPE: Carrier-based STOL-fighter project

ACCOMMODATION: Pilot only

POWER PLANT: Not available

PERFORMANCE: Not available

COMMENT: There is some evidence that in the mid 1940’s the Boeing Company was working on a fighter project , named Project B.360, with an oval shaped wing, well suited for Short Take-Off/Landing (STOL) operations on carrier decks. The forerunner was the Chance Vought V-173 Flying Pancake demonstrator as well as the two prototypes of the Chance Vought XF5U-1. The B.390 differed from the Vought design in powering with one piston engine driving counter-rotating three-bladed propellers at the airplane‘s nose. No further details are known as well as the designation Boeing XF9B Flying Flapjack remains unclear.