Consolidated P-30 / PB-2
1934
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Consolidated P-30 / PB-2

The P-30 appellation was another signpost on the route toward operational service for the two-seat fighter concept which had begun with the Lockheed YP-24 and continued with the Consolidated Y1P-25. By 1933, the YP-24's builder was out of the fighter business, the Y1P-25 and Y1A-11 had crashed, and the Y1P-27 and Y1P-28 were soon to be cancelled. Still, the Army had confidence in the cantilever low-wing monoplane design with all-metal construction (except for control surfaces), controllable-pitch propellers, retractable landing gear, enclosed heated cockpit (for pilot) and exhaust-driven supercharger. Turning to the 503kW supercharged Curtiss V-1710-57 Conqueror inline engine, the USAAC ordered four Consolidated airframes under the designation P-30.

By 1934, flight tests of the P-30 were under way, the aeroplane carrying an officer/pilot and enlisted man/gunner. Pilots bred on the romance and appeal of the single-seat pursuit ship were not readily won-over by a two-seat machine. Gunners found their semi-open perch aboard the P-30 distinctly uncomfortable and, at high altitude, very cold. Reports that rear gunners sometimes 'blacked out' during high-g manoeuvres appear erroneous, but the heavy clothing, required to keep the gunner from freezing, seriously impaired his effectiveness. For this and other reasons, the P-30 was never effective at high altitude, the very regime where USAAC doctrine called for it to fly and fight. Development of the parallel A-11 attack aircraft was suspended after delivery of four airframes and some airmen argued that the P-30, too, had reached the limit of its usefulness. But on 6 December 1934, the Army placed a firm contract for a production batch of 50 P-30As and made plans for the 1st Pursuit Group at Selfridge Field, Michigan, to operate the type. The operational machines received the 522kW Curtiss V-1570-61 powerplant. They became a familiar sight in war games at USAAC aerodromes during the 1930s.

A single P-30A was built as a single-seater and competed without success in the 1936 fighter competition which produced the Curtiss P-36 Mohawk. Shortly after the P-30A entered service, the 'pursuit bi-place' category was closed, surviving P-30 airframes becoming PB-2s and the single-seat P-30A becoming the PB-2A. This heavy and heavily-armed fighter was to take in one further designation in an unbuilt variant, XP-33, before passing into history. A few PB-2As (former P-30As) are thought to have remained in service as late as the eve of Pearl Harbor.

Consolidated P-30 / PB-2


Specification 
 MODELP-30A
 WEIGHTS
    Take-off weight2560 kg5644 lb
    Empty weight1953 kg4306 lb
 DIMENSIONS
    Wingspan13.39 m44 ft 11 in
    Length9.14 m30 ft 0 in
    Height2.51 m8 ft 3 in
    Wing area27.59 m2296.98 sq ft
 PERFORMANCE
    Max. speed442 km/h275 mph
    Cruise speed346 km/h215 mph
    Ceiling8530 m28000 ft
    Range820 km510 miles
 ARMAMENT2 x 7.62mm fixed machine-guns + 1 x 7.62mm machine-gun in the rear

Comments
Stachwick, 10.02.2016

What kind of machine gun was mounted in the back? I'm assuming a Lewis?

Thomas Rupp, 24.02.2015

I am looking for details of the rear gunner's station in this aircraft. I have not been able to find any photos of this area as there are for the pilot's cockpit online. Can anyone shed any light? Was it have been similar to the Vultee V11? Or the SBD Dauntless?

g hall, 23.07.2013

The exhaust driven supercharger was adjusted on the ground for 30" mercury and not contoled in the cockpit. the last one i saw flying was delivered to Keesler Field late 1940, from Wright-Pat

Klaatu83, 23.09.2012

The single-engine,two-seat fighter concept became popular between the wars due to the success of the Bristol F2B during World War I. Many aviation pundits of the time considered it a good idea. However, by 1939 the concept had lost much of it's appeal because, despite the supposed advantage of the rear gunner, a good two-seater simply couldn't equal the performance of a good single-seater. It was just as well that the concept was discontinued because, generally speaking, single-engine two-seaters did not fare particularly well in air-to-air combat during World War II.

The text specifically mentions the difficulty and discomfort involved with operating the rear gun position in this fighter. The British attempted to address that fault by placing the rear gunner in a fully enclosed, power-operated gun turret. Unfortunately, at the same time they chose to entirely eliminate the pilot's forward-firing armament, and make the turret the fighters' sole armament. The result, embodied in the Boulton-Paul Defiant and Blackburn Skua two-seat fighters, was a failure.

Steven Kouzoujian, 03.08.2008

Toward the end of the first paragraph, you have referred to the Curtiss V-1710-57 Conqueror engine. I believe this to be a typographical error, as the V-1710 is an Allison engine. You may have meant the Curtiss V-1570-57.

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