POWER PLANT: One Heinkel-Hirth HeS 011 turbojet engine, rated at 1.300 kp thrust
PERFORMANCE: No data available
COMMENT: The Messerschmitt Me P.1106 was a proposed German fighter aircraft project near the end of WW II. It was intended as an improvement to the Messerschmitt Me P. 1101.
On December 15, 1944 Messerschmitt design team decided to submit another design alongside the Me P.1101 – the Messerschmitt Me P. 1106. This was an advanced update on the final version of the Me P.1092/5 which had been drafted in July 1943 but also bore some similarities to the Me P.1101.
The Messerschmitt Me P. 1106 was redesigned several times. It had a nose air intake and fuselage mounted turbojet-engine. The wings of each design were swept back at 40 degrees. The planned powerplant was a Heinkel-Hirth HeS 011 turbojet engine, and armament was to be two 30 mm MK 108 cannons
The first version (Me P. 1106/I) had a short fuselage and a T-tail with the cockpit faired into the vertical stabilizer, similar to the Lippisch Li P.13a.
The redesigned version shown here (Me P. 1106/II), had a very short fuselage, too, the vertical stabilizer was changed to a tail plane of butterfly style and the cockpit was housed far aft. This odd shape apparently gave the best aerodynamic performance Messerschmitt and his team had yet achieved but the disadvantage was a poor visibility for the pilot.
A third and final design (Me P. 1106/III) had a longer and slim fuselage with a V-tail plane and the cockpit moved slightly forward.
All projects of the Messerschmitt Me P. 1106 were abandoned since the performance of the Me P.1101 had not been improved on (Ref.: 17, 22, 24).
ACCOMMODATION: Crew of two (Pilot and navigator/flight test observer
POWER PLANT: Two Rolls-Royce Nene centrifugal-flow turbojets, rated at 2.240 kp thrust each
PERFORMANCE: 500 mph at sea level
COMMENT: The Armstrong Whitworth A.W.52 was a British flying wing aircraft design of the late 1940s for research into a proposed flying wing bomber and/or jet liner. Three aircraft, the A.W.52G glider and two turbojet-powered research aircraft, were built for the programme. The airliner was cancelled but research flying continued until 1954.
Armstrong-Witworth Aircraft proposed a turbojet-powered six or four-engine flying wing bomber/airliner design, using a laminar flow wing, during the Second World War. This had to be a large aircraft in order to provide bomb bay resp. passenger head-room within the wing. The low-speed characteristics of the design were tested on a 16.41 m span wooden glider known as the A.W. 52G; the glider was designed to be roughly half the size of the powered A.W.52, which in turn would be about half the size of the airliner. Construction of the AW.52G began in March 1943, with the glider making its maiden flight, towed by an Armstrong Whitworth Whitley bomber, on 2 March 1945. Flight testing, with tug releases from 20,000 ft giving flights of around 30 min continued, mostly satisfactorily until 1947. In 1944, Armstrong Whitworth received a contract that would allow them to produce two A.W.52 prototypes for evaluation, nominally asmail carrying aircraft.
The A.W.52 was intended for high speeds and was an all-metal turbojet-powered aircraft, with a retractable undercarriage; aerodynamically it had much in common with the glider. Both aircraft were moderately-swept flying wings with a centre section having a straight trailing edge. The wing tips carried small (not full chord) end-plate fin and rudders, which operated differentially, with a greater angle on the outer one. Roll and pitch were controlled with evelons that extended inward from the wing tips over most (in the case of the A.W.52 about three-quarters) of the outer, swept part of the trailing edge. The elevons moved together as elevators and differentially as ailerons. They were quite complicated surfaces – which included trim tabs – and hinged not from the wing but from “correctors”, which were wing-mounted; the correctors provided pitch trim. To delay tip stall, air was sucked out of a slot just in front of the elevons, by pumps powered by undercarriage-mounted fans on the glider and directly from the engine in the A.W.52. The inner centre section wing carried Fowler flaps and the upper surface of the outer section carried spoilers.
Maintenance of laminar flow over the wings was vital to the design and so they were built with great attention to surface flatness. Rather than the usual approach, where skinning is added to a structure defined by ribs, the A.W.52’s wings were built in two halves (upper and lower) from the outside in, starting from pre-formed surfaces, adding stringers and ribs then joining the two halves together. The result was a surface smooth to better than 2/1000 of an inch.
The crew sat in tandem in a nacelle so that the pilot was just forward of the wing leading edge, providing a better view than in the glider. The pressurised cockpit was slightly off-set to port. The engines were mounted in the wing centre section, close to the centre line and so not disturbing the upper wing surface.
The first prototype flew on 13 November 1947 powered by two Rolls-Royce Nene turbojet engines of 2.240 kp thrust each. This was followed by the second prototype on 1 September 1948 with the lower-powered Rolls-Royce Dervent engines, rated at 1.580 kp each. Trials were disappointing: laminar flow could not be maintained, so maximum speeds, though respectable, were less than expected. As in any tail-less aircraft, take-off and landing runs were longer than for a conventional aircraft (at similar wing loadings) because at high angles of attack, downward elevon forces were much greater than those of elevators with their large moment.
The first prototype crashed without loss of life on 30 May 1949, making it the first occasion of an emergency ejection by a British pilot. Despite the termination of development, the second prototype remained flying with the Royal Aircraft Establishment until 1954 (Ref.: 27).
POWER PLANT: Two BMW 003 turbojet engines, rated at 850 kp each
PERFORMANCE: No data available
COMMENT: The Blohm & Voss P 202 was an unusual design study for a variable-geometry turbojet fighter during World War II. It was the first design to incorporate a slewed wing (also known as an oblique or scissor wing) in which one side swept forward and the other back.
During WW II in Germany intensive work has been done in concern of influence back-swept wings on high-speed aircraft. Calculations as well as wind-tunnel tests showed that swept wings could minimize the effects of compressibility as the speed of sound was approached. But sweeping the wings causes problems of its own, especially at the low speeds used for takeoff and landing. A variable-sweep mechanism was one possible solution but it would be complex, heavy and expensive. It also has problems with movement of the centre of lift. Both backwards and forwards sweep were investigated and they proved to have opposite disadvantages. Sweeping one wing forwards and the other back would balance out the aerodynamic problems and a one-piece slewed wing approach would not need such a complex sweep mechanism.
In 1944, with their project Bv P.202 the design team of Blohm & Voss tried to compensate the disadvantage of swept-back wings a low speed by turning a single full-span wing in its yaw axis so that one side sweeps back and the other side sweeps forward. The shoulder mounted wing was shaped as a disc in the mid-wing section. During take-off and landing as well as at lower speed the wing was in rectangular position with all buoyancy forces such as airbrakes and spoilers still effective. At high speeds the whole wing was slewed at 35° that the left wing showed forward and the right wing backward. The wing span was 39.4 ft when unswept and 32.8 ft when fully swept. Because the fuselage was filled with wing-rotation machinery, the landing gear extended down from the wing main spar, and was very long, while the nose gear retracted backwards into the fuselage. The Blohm & Voss Bv P.202 was powered by a pair of BMW 003 turbojets, slung underneath the fuselage center section and exhausting behind the wing. Provision for three forward-firing cannon was made in the nose. Due to the war situation in Germany the project never left the drawing board (Ref.: 18, 24).
POWER PLANT: Two Mitsubishi Ha-112-II Army Type 4 radial engines, rated at 1,500 hp each
PERFORMANCE: 404 mph at 19,095 ft
COMMENT: The Mitsubishi Ki-46 was a twin-engine reconnaissance aircraft used by the Imperial Japanese Army in WW II. Its Army designation was Type 100 Command Reconnaissance Aircraft; the Allied nickname was DINAH.
At the beginning of the conflict the newest versionf of the Ki-46-II were able to performe their missions with almost complete freedom from interception as, without the benefit of ground control radar to guide them, the Allied squadron‘ obsolescent fighters failed to reach the elusive Nipponese aircraft in time.
When the USAAF deployed Lockheed P-38F Lightnings to the Pacific and the RAAF received some Spitfire Supermarinere Mk.V for the defence of Darwin, the losses suffered by Ki-46-II units began to mount. Fortunately for the Japanese, the Koku Hombu had anticipated this situation and in May 1942 had instructed Mitsubishi to install their new 1,500 hp Ha-112-II engine in an improved version of the aircraft, the Ki-46-III, to increase maximum speed to 404 mph and endurance by one hour. To meet the requirement for increased flight duration, despite the higher fuel consumption of the new engines, it was necessary to redesign the fuel system and add a fuselage fuel tank in front of the pilot with a resultant increase in total capacity from 1,675 litres to 1,895 litres. Provision was also made for a ventral drop tank containing an additional 460 litres. The engine nacelles were also slightly enlarged to accommodate the Ha-112, a development oft he earlier Ha-101 engine fitted with a direct fuel injection system. The landing gear was strengthened to cope with the increased weight and no provision was made for a single flexible machine gun which, though installed on earlier models at the factory, had often been dispensed with in the field. However, the most significant change in external appearance was the redesign oft he foreward fuselage to provide a new canopy over the pilot’s seat without the step between the nose and the top of the fuselage which had characterized the earlier versions of the aircraft.
Completed in December 1942, two Ki-46-III prototypes underwent accelerated flight trials leading to a production order under the designation Army Type 100 Command Reconnaissance Plane Model 3. Both, the Ki-46-II, which remained in production until late in 1944, and the Ki-46-III were built at the Nagoya plant. However, when in December 1944 this plant was severely damaged by an earthquake and suffered further from the pounding inflicted by Boeing B-29 Superfortress’s oft he US 20th Air Force, production was transferred to a new plant at Toyama where only about one hundred machines were built. Late production Ki-46-IIIs coming off the Nagoya and Toyama lines were fitted with individual exhaust stacks providing some thrust augmentation and had sightly better speed and range.
Priority in delivery oft he Ki-46-IIIs was given to units operating in areas where Allied forces had achieved air superiority, but often they operated alongside the older Ki-46-IIs which they never completely supplanted. Once maintenance problems with the fuel injection system of the Ha-112-IIs engines had been solved, the Ki-46-IIIs, benefiting from markedly improved performance between 26,250 ft to 32,810 ft, proved to be a thorn in the Allies‘ side and only the faster climbing fighters under radar controll could successfully intercept the fast Nipponese machines which kept constant watch over the well defended bases as the B-29 airfields in the Marianas. However, as the war drew to its end, the Mitsubishi DINAH was no longer free from interception and losses rose alarmingly.
In total 609 Ki-46-III production aircraft, including fighter conversions were delivered between 1942 and 1945.
The aircraft shown here belongs to the Army Special Attack Unit “Sakura”, Kanoya Base, Kagoshima (Ref.: 1).
ACCOMMODATION: Crew of two, pilot and navigator/radar-operator
POWER PLANT: Two Junkers Jumo 004B-3 turbojet engines, rates at 950 kp thrust each
PERFORMANCE: 540 mph at 19,685 ft
COMMENT: The Messerschmitt Me 262, nicknamed Schwalbe (German: “Swallow”) in fighter versions, or Sturmvogel (German: “Storm Bird”) in fighter-bomber versions, was the world’s first operational turbojet-powered fighter aircraft. Design work started before WW II began, but problems with engines, metallurgy and top-level interference kept the aircraft from operational status with the German Luftwaffe until mid-1944. The Me 262 was faster and more heavily armed than any Allied fighter, including the British turbojet-powered Gloster Meteor. One of the most advanced aviation designs in operational use during World War II, the Me 262’s roles included light bomber, reconnaissance and experimenat night fighter versions.
While the Messerschmitt Me 262 was not a difficult aircraft to fly, it possessed its share of idiosyncrasies, and some problems arose in the conversion of inexperienced pilots who had just completed their fighter training on piston-engined types. So it was obvious that traing would be simplified by the availability of a dual-control two-seater, and, accordingly, Messerscmitt evolved a suitable conversion trainer, the Messerschmitt Me 262B-1a.
Only some 15 examples of this trainer were delivered as the importance attached to the introduction of the Me 262 as a nocturnal interceptor resulted in additional trainers on the assemblxy line being converted as night fighters under the designation Messerschmitt Me 262B-1a/U1.
Whereas the Me 2626B1a/U was a hurried adaption of the training model, the Messerschmitt Me 262B-2a was considered as the definitive night-fighting sub-type for service from mid-1945. Structurally, the principal change consisted of the insertion of additional fuselage section fore and aft the tandem cockpits, increasing overall length more than 3.5 ft. This provided the necessary space to restore the 900 ltr resp. 600 ltr fuel tanks.
The first Me 262B-2a possessed similar radar to that of the Me262B-1a/U2, and the aircraft commenced flight trials in March 1945, but the drag of the „Hirschgeweih“ array, with its eight 7-mm-diameter dipoles, was such that it reduced maximum speed by 30 mph. Various attempts had been made to streamline the antennae, resulting in the „Morgenstern“ aerial system in which the short antennae protruded through the pointed nose cone, and it was calculated that this would restore 30 mph of the speed loss. In the event, it was decided to standardize on the centrimetric wavelength FuG 240 „Berlin“ radar with a disc scanner housed in a plastic radome above the nose-mounted cannon, this affording little or no drag. The second example of the Me 262B-2a, which was to have flown with „Berlin“ radar, was in the final stages of assembly at the time of Germany’s collaps. The Me 262B-2a retained the standard forward firing battery of four 30 mm MK 108 cannon, and, in addition, provision was made for two similar weapons in a „Schräge Musik“ arrangement immediately aft of the rear cockpit (Ref.: 7).
ACCOMMODATION: Crew of four plus 11 passengers or equivalent load
POWER PLANT: Two Mitsubishi Ha-l02 radial engines, rated at 1,080 hp each
PERFORMANCE: 292 mph at 19,000 ft
COMMENT: In 1938, when the Mitsubishi Ki-21 heavy bomber began to enter service with the Imperial Japanese Army, its capability attracted the attention of the Imperial Japanese Airways. In consequence a civil version was developed and this, generally similar to the Ki-21-I and retaining its power plant of two 950 hp Nakajima Ha-5 KAI radial engines, differed primarily by having the same wings transferred from a mid to low-wing configuration and the incorporation of a new fuselage to provide accommodation for up to 11 passengers.
Completed in July 1940 the prototype made its first flight in August, and by the end of the year, despite the loss of the fourth aircraft during test flight, quantity production was authorized for both commercial and military use. A total of 101 aircraft of the first production model were built by Mitsubishi between 1940 and 1942 and designated Army Type 100 Transport Model1 (Ki-57-I) by the Army and MC-20-I by civil authorities. A small number of Ki-57-I were transferred to the Japanese Navy and designated Navy Type 0 Transport Model 11 or L4M1 by that service.
Operated by the Army and Navy as a paratroop transport, communication and logistic support aircraft and by Dai Nippon Koku K.K. as a passenger transport on scheduled services as well as on military contract operations, the aircraft, named “Topsy” by the Allies, was met in all theatres of operation. Although most of the time the type performed unspectacular but necessary tasks, it earned its share of fame on February 1942, during a Japanese paratroop attack on the aerodrome and oil refineries around Palembang.
In May 1942 an improved version of the aircraft, powered by two 1,080 hp Mitsubishi Ha-102 radials housed in redesigned nacelles and incorporating minor equipment changes, replaced the Ki-57-I on the assembly lines. A total of 406 aircraft were built for use by Dai Nippon Koku K.K. as MC-20-II and by the Japanese Army as Ki-57-II, Army Type 100 Transport Model 2. Plans to have the aircraft manufactured by Nippon Kokusai Kogyo K.K. failed to materialize and the last Ki-57-II was delivered by Mitsubishi in January 1945.
After seeing active service throughout the war a few MC-20/Ki-57 aircraft survived and were operated under strict Allied control by Dai Nippon Koku K.K. until October 1945, when all Japanese air activities were prohibited (Ref.: 1, 24).
ACCOMMODATION: Crew of two (Pilot and radiooperator/navigator)
POWER PLANT: Two Heinkel-Hirth HeS 011 turbojet engines, rated at 1.300 kp thrust each
PERFORMANCE: 565 mph
COMMENT: This project study of 11. April 1945 (Little note: less than four weeks before the total collaps of the “Third Reich”!!!!) for a two seat “Schnellbomber” (fast bomber) and “Zerstörer” (destroyer) constituted a further development of the Messerschmitt Me P.1099, Me P.1100 and Me P.1101 series of proposals of 1944 on the basis of the original in service Messerschmitt Me 262.
Whereas the basic fuselage, spacious cockpit and tail surfaces of the mentioned follow-up proposals were retained, the two Heinkel-Hirth HeS 011 turbojets were relocated into the wing root to which the new wings having a leading edge sweep of almost 40 degrees were attached. An interesting feature of the design was that the mainwheels were to retract inwards to rest vertically in the fuselage between the fore and aft fuel tanks. Exactly how this was to be accomplished with the turbojets in the way is not clear from the documents. Although the final form of the fuselage nose portion had not been decided, the end of the war brought an early end of the project (Ref.: 16).
POWER PLANT: One Mitsubishi “Kinsai 62” radial engine, rated at 1,560 hp
PERFORMANCE: 292 mph
COMMENT: The Yokosuka D3Y “Myojo” (“Venus”) was a Japanese two-seat dive bomber/trainer designed and built by the Yokosuka Naval Air Technical Arsenal derived from the Aichi D3A. It was made nearly entirely of wood in an attempt to conserve valuable resources. Upon Japan’s surrender, the project came to a halt with only a few aircraft delivered.
The D3Y was a two-seat bomber trainer constructed of wood, so as not to use more valuable materials. It was based on the successful Aichi D3A, with design starting in late 1942. Like the D3A, it was a two-seat low-winged monoplane with a fixed tailwheel undercarriage. To allow construction by unskilled workers, the elliptical wing and rounded tail of the D3A were replaced by straight tapered alternatives, while the fuselage was lengthened to improve stability. Two prototypes were built during 1944, but these proved heavier than expected. Three production aircraft, which were redesigned to save weight, were completed for the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Force (IJNAF) before the end of the war, and officially designated the Navy Type 99 Bomber Trainer Myojo Model 22.
In Yokosuka’s design bureau two different variants of the basic design were on the drawing board.
The D3Y1-K “Myojo” (Navy Type 99 Bomber Trainer Myojo Model 22) was a two seat wooden dive-bomber trainer. Powered by a 1,300 hp Mitsubishi Kinsei 54 radial engine, based on the Aichi D3A2-K, the aircraft featured some significant changes to allow production in wood. Two prototypes and three production aircraft were completed before the final collaps.
The second design, a single-seat D3Y2-K Special Attacker Myojo Kai (“Venus Modified”) for suicide missions was initiated early in 1945. Powered by a 1,560 hp Mitsubishi Kinsei 62 and fitted with a jettisonable undercarriage on take-off since the aircraft was not expected to return. This version was to have been armed with two 20mm Type 99 MK1 cannon in the engine cowling was to carry a single bomb up to 800 kg. The prototype had not been completed when the war ended, and the planned monthly production of thirty D5Y-1s, as the aircraft had been redesignated, was never undertaken (Ref.: 1, 24).
POWER PLANT: One Walter HWK 109-509C-3 dual-chamber liquid-propellant rocket engine,main chamber rated up to 2,000 kp thrust, auxiliary chamber 400 kp thrust
PERFORMANCE: 590 mph
COMMENT: The Messerschmitt Me 263 „Scholle“ (Plaice) was a rocket-powered fighter aircraft developed from the Messerschmitt Me 163 „Komet“ (Comet) towards the end of WW II. Three prototypes were built but never flown under their own power as the rapidly deteriorating military situation in Germany prevented the completion of the test program.
Although the Messerschmitt Me 163 had very short endurance, it had originally been even shorter. In the original design, the engine had only one throttle setting, “full on”, and burned through its fuel in a few minutes. Not only did this further limit endurance, in flight testing, pilots found the aircraft quickly exhibited compressibility effects as soon as they levelled off from the climb and speeds picked up. This led the Reichsluftfahrtministerium (RLM) to demand the addition of a throttle, leading to lengthy delays and a dramatic decrease in fuel economy when throttled.
This problem was addressed in the slightly updated Messerschmitt Me 163C. This featured the same Walter HWK 109-509B or C dual chamber rocket engine already trialled on the Me 163B V6 and V18 prototypes; the main upper chamber („Hauptkammer“) was tuned for high thrust while the lower „Marschofen“ auxiliary combustion chamber was designed for a much lower thrust output (about 400 kgf maximum) for economic cruise. In operation, throttling was accomplished by starting or stopping the main engine, which was about four times as powerful as the smaller one. This change greatly simplified the engine, while also retaining much higher efficiency during cruise. Along with slightly increased fuel tankage, the powered endurance rose to about 12 minutes, a 50% improvement. As the aircraft spent only a short time climbing, this meant the time at combat altitude would be more than doubled.
Throughout development the RLM proved unhappy with the progress on the Me 263 project, and eventually decided to transfer development to Heinrich Hertel at Junkers company. Alexander Lippisch remained at Messerschmitt and retained the support of Waldemar Voigt, continuing development of the Me 163C.
At Junkers, the basic plan of the Me 163C was followed to produce an even larger design, the Junkers Ju 248. It retained the new pressurized cockpit and bubble canopy of the Me 163C, with even more fuel tankage, and adding a new retractable landing gear design. On September 1944 a wooden mock-up was shown to officials. The production version was intended to be powered by the more powerful BMW 109-708 rocket engine in place of the Walter power plant.
Prior to the actual building of the Ju 248, two Me 163Bs, prototype V13 and V18, were slated to be rebuilt. V13 had deteriorated due to weather exposure, so only V18 was rebuilt, but had been flown by test pilot Heini Dittmar at a record-setting 702 mph velocity on July , 1944 and suffered near-total destruction of its rudder surface as a result of high-speed induced compressibility. It is this aircraft that is often identified as the Me 163D, but this aircraft was built after the Ju 248 project had started.
Hertel had hoped to install Lorin ramjet engines, but this technology was still far ahead of its time. As a stopgap measure, they decided to build the aircraft with a „Sondergeräte“ (special equipment) in the form of a „Zusatztreibstoffbehälter“ (auxiliary fuel tank): two 160 l external T-Stoff oxidizer tanks were to be installed under the wings. This would lead to a 10% speed decrease but no negative flight characteristics. Although Junkers claimed the Ju 248 used a standard Me 163B wing, they decided to modify the wing to hold more C-Stoff fuel. This modification was carried out by the Puklitsch firm.
In November 1944, the aircraft was again redesignated as the Messerschmitt Me 263 to show its connection with the Me 163. The two projects also got names – the Ju 248 „Flunder“ (Flounder)) and the Me 263 „Scholle“ (Plaice)). In early 1945, Junkers proposed its own project, the EF 127 „Walli“ rocket fighter, as a competitor to the Me 163C and Me 263.
The first unpowered flight of the Messerschmitt Me 263 V1 was in February 1945. Several more unpowered flights took place that month. The biggest problem had to do with the center of gravity which was restored with the addition of counterweights. Eventually, the production aircraft would have repositioned the engine or the landing gear installation to solve this problem. The landing gear was still non-retractable. The results of those first flights were pricipally satisfying.
Test flights were later stopped because of fuel shortages for the Messerschmitt Bf 110 towplanes. As the Me 263 was not a part of the „Jägernotprogramm“ (Emergency Fighter Programm), it was difficult to get the resources it needed. For the time being the plane was not expected to enter production but further development was allowed. The V2 and V3 were not yet ready. The V2 was to get the retractable landing gear and the V3 would have the armament built in. The next month both the V1 and the V2 had the two-chambered HWK 109-509C installed, correcting the center-of-gravity problems. They flew only as gliders.
In April, American troops occupied the Messerschmitt plant and captured the three prototypes and the mock-up. The V2 was destroyed but another prototype ended up in the US. The rest was handed over to the Russians, who then created their own Mikoyan.Gurewitsch I-270 interceptor (Ref.: 24).
POWER PLANT: One Allison J-33-A-35 turbojet engine, rated at 2,100 kp thrust
PERFORMANCE: 492 mph at 40,000 ft
COMMENT: The Lockheed P-80 Shooting Star was the first jet fighter used operationally by the USAAF. Designed and built by Lockheed Aircraft Company in 1943 and delivered just 143 days from the start of the design process, production models were flying but not ready for service by the end of WW II. Designed with straight wings, the type saw extensive combat in Korea with the United States Air Force (USAF) as the Lockeed F-80.
The prototype XP-80 had a conventional all-metal airframe, with a slim low wing and tricycle landing gear. Like most early jets designed during World War II – and before the Allies captured German research data that confirmed the speed advantages of swept-wings – the XP-80 had straight wings, similar to previous propeller-driven fighters. It was the first operational jet fighter to have its engine in the fuselage, a format previously used in the pioneering German Heinkel He 178 V1 of 1939, and the later British Gloster E.28/39 Pioneer demonstrator of 1941. Other early jets generally had two engines because of their limited power, these being mounted in external necelles for easier maintenance. With the advent of more powerful British jet engines, fuselage mounting was more effective, and it was used by nearly all subsequent fighter aircraft.
Concept work on the XP-80 began in 1943 with a design being built around the blueprint dimensions of a British Halford H-1 B turbojet (later called the de Havilland Goblin), a powerplant to which the design team did not have actual access. Lockheed’s team, consisting of 28 engineers, was led by the legendary C. L. „Kelly“ Johnson. This teaming was an early product of Lockheed’s Skunk Works, which surfaced again in the next decade to produce a line of high-performance aircraft.
The impetus for development of the P-80 was the discovery by Allied intelligence of the Messerschmitt Me 262 ‘Schwalbe’ (‘Swallow’) in spring 1943, which had made only test flights of its own first quartet (the V1 through V4 airframes) of design prototypes at that time, all fitted with retracting tailwheel landing gear. After receiving documents and blueprints comprising years of British jet aircraft research, the commanding General of the Army Air Forces, Henry H. Arnold, believed an airframe could be developed to accept the British-made jet engine, and the Materiel Command’s Wright Field research and development division tasked Lockheed to design the aircraft. With the Germans and British clearly far ahead in development, Lockheed was pressed to develop a comparable jet in as short a time as possible. Kelly Johnson submitted a design proposal in mid-June and promised that the prototype would be ready for testing in 180 days. The Skunk Works team, beginning 26 June 1943, produced the airframe in 143 days, delivering it to Muroc Army Airfield on 16 November.
The project was so secret that only five of the more than 130 people working on it knew that they were developing a jet aircraft, and the British engineer who delivered the Goblin engine was detained by the police because Lockheed officials could not vouch for him. After the engine had been mated to the airframe, foreign object damage during the first run-up destroyed the engine, which delayed the first flight until a second engine (the only other existing) could be delivered from Britain.
The first prototype was nicknamed „Lulu-Belle“ (also known as „the Green Hornet” because of its paint scheme). Powered by the replacement Halford H1 taken from the prototype de Havilland Vampire jet fighter, it first flew on 8 January 1944.The donated British jet program data had no doubt proved invaluable. In test flights, the XP-80 eventually reached a top speed of 502 mph at 20,480 ft, making it the first turbojet-powered USAAF aircraft to exceed 500 mph in level flight, following the August 1944 record flight of 502 mph by a special high-speed variant of the Republic P-47J Thunderbolt. Contemporary pilots, when transitioning to pioneering jets like the Shooting Star, were unused to flying at high speed without a loud reciprocating engine and had to learn to rely on the airspeed indicator.
The second prototype, designated XP-80A, was designed for the larger General Electric I-40 engine (an improved J31, later produced by Allison as the J33). Two aircraft were built. one was nicknamed the Gray Ghost after its “pearl gray” paint scheme, while the second aircraft was left unpainted for comparison of flight characteristics, became known as the Silver Ghost. The XP-80A’s first test flight was unimpressive, but most of the problems with the design were soon addressed and corrected in the test program. Initial opinions of the XP-80A were not positive and the aircraft were primarily testbeds for larger, more powerful engines and air intake design, and consequently were larger and 25% heavier than the XP-80.
The Shooting Star began to enter service in late 1944 with 12 pre-production YP-80As. A 13th YP-80A was modified to the sole F-14 photo reconnaissance model and lost in a December crash.
The initial production order was for 344 P-80As after USAAF acceptance in February 1945. A total of 83 P-80s had been delivered by the end of July 1945 and 45 assigned to the 412th Fighter Group (later redesignated the 1st Fighter Group) at Muroc Arma Air Field. Four were sent to Europe for operational testing (demonstration, familiarization, and possible interception roles), two to England and two to Italy, but after two accidents, one in England and one in Italy, the YP-80A was temporarily grounded. So the Lockheed Shooting Star saw no actual combat during the conflict.
After the war, the USAAF compared the P-80 and Messerschmitt Me 262 concluding, “Despite a difference in gross weight of nearly 900 kg, the Me 262 was superior to the P-80 in acceleration, speed and approximately the same in climb performance. The Me 262 apparently has a higher critical Mach number, from a drag standpoint, than any current Army Air Force fighter”.
Production oft he Shooting Star continued after the war, although wartime plans for 5,000 were quickly reduced to 2,000. A total of 1,714 single-seat F-80A, F-80B, F-80C, and RF-80s were manufactured by the end of production in 1950, of which 927 were F-80Cs (including 129 operational F-80As upgraded to F-80C-11-LO standards). However, the two-seat TF-80C, first flown on 22 March 1948, became the basis for the T-33 trainer, of which 6,557 were produced (Ref.: 24).
Scale 1:72 aircraft models of World War II
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