Boeing F4B / P-12


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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

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Arkonbey, e-mail, 02.04.2011 04:51

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


john, e-mail, 09.11.2010 03:14

What is the large bulge under the fuselage?


Bob Tufo, e-mail, 02.08.2010 06:32

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.


Jim Rhoades, e-mail, 05.09.2010 02:36

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.


Jay, e-mail, 21.08.2008 00:01

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, e-mail, 25.05.2008 01:36

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.


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