Boeing F4B / P-12
Back to the Virtual Aircraft Museum
  FIGHTERVirtual Aircraft Museum / USA / Boeing  

Boeing F4B / P-12

One of the most famous of Boeing's biplane fighters of the inter-war years, the F4B originated as a private venture to develop a replacement for the US Navy's F2B/F3B carrier-based fighters, which had first entered service in 1928. Although they had only been in service for a very short period, Boeing believed it was possible to refine the design to give improved performance without additional power.

Two very similar prototypes were built: Boeing Models 83 and 89. The former had a spreader-bar axle landing gear and an arrester hook; the latter a split-axle landing gear so that a bomb could be carried beneath the fuselage. In other respects they were virtually identical. Following Navy evaluation in the summer of 1928, 27 were ordered as F4B-1, these combining the split-axle landing gear, bomb carrying provisions and arrester hook. Forty-six F4B-2, delivered in early 1931, had the spreader-bar axle, a tailwheel, Frise ailerons and a neat ring cowling for the engine. They were followed by 21 F4B-3 with a semi-monocoque metal fuselage and 92 F4B-4 which differed by having a larger fin and rudder.

The USAAC ordered ten aircraft similar to the F4B-1 in late 1928, accepting the naval evaluation as being correct. Designated P-12, these differed only by having the arrester hook and other specifically naval equipment deleted. P-12B, of which 90 were built with 317kW Wasp engines, differed very slightly and were followed by 96 P-12C, which were similar to the Navy's F4B-2. P-12D, of which 35 were built, had a more powerful 391kW Wasp engine. Most extensively built of the Army versions was the P-12E. This had a monocoque fuselage, pilot's headrest faired by a turtleback and the more powerful engine of the P-12D. A total of 135 were ordered in 1931, many remaining in service until replaced by P-26A in 1935. The last few of the order were given 447kW Pratt & Whitney R-1340-19 engines and the designation P-12F.

Total production for the Army and Navy amounted to 586 aircraft representing a production record for a basic military design which remained unequalled until the attainment of long production runs during World War II.

F4B-2A three-view drawing of F4B-2 (1653 x 1173)

 ENGINE1 x P+W R-1340-16, 370kW
    Take-off weight1551 kg3419 lb
    Empty weight1017 kg2242 lb
    Wingspan9.1 m30 ft 10 in
    Length6.2 m20 ft 4 in
    Height3.0 m10 ft 10 in
    Wing area21.1 m2227.12 sq ft
    Max. speed301 km/h187 mph
    Cruise speed257 km/h160 mph
    Ceiling8380 m27500 ft
    Range w/max.fuel1335 km830 miles
    Range w/max.payload645 km401 miles
 ARMAMENT2 machine-guns, 210kg of bombs

Arkonbey, 02.04.2011

@John: according to the instructions of the Hasegawa 1/32 kit, the bulge is a fuel tank.

john, 09.11.2010

What is the large bulge under the fuselage?

Jim Rhoades, 05.09.2010

My father (W.E "Dusty" Rhoades) flew these in Hawaii with the Army Air Corps during the 1930's. The aircraft had a nasty habit of losing it's tailplane during high speed dives & pullouts. This happened to dad during a practice dogfight resulting in him bailing out at low altitude over a cane field.

Bob Tufo, 02.08.2010

I always admired the f4b2, and/or the P-12, and since I flew a Stearman with the P&W1340 can imagine myself at the controls; sweet dreams.

Jay, 21.08.2008

I wanted to know the registration number of any F4B that took its first flight on or around 05Nov1929, or was completed on 05Nov1929
Thank you

Frank Hannegan, 25.05.2008

Very informative. My father earned his Navy Wings in '31 and flew the F-4B-4 from the USS LEXINGTON for two years. He said it was a very good aircraft, but when he flew the New Grumman F-3F in the late 30s the new aircraft stole his allegiance.

Do you have any comments about this aircraft ?

Name    E-mail


All the World's Rotorcraft

Virtual Aircraft Museum

All rhe World's Rotorcraft AVIATION TOP 100 -