Curtiss XP-42
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Curtiss XP-42

The Curtiss XP-42, a conversion of a P-36A Mohawk airframe, was employed as a testbed at Wright Field, Ohio, beginning in March 1939 to determine whether stream-lining could reduce drag in a radial-powered fighter and make it competitive with more advanced fighters employing inline engines. This concept was seen as an alternative to adapting the P-36A airframe to an inline powerplant, as had been done with the prototype P-40 Warhawk. Delivered to the Army in March 1939, the XP-42 was powered by a 783kW Pratt & Whitney R-1830-31 Twin Wasp radial enclosed by a bullet-shaped, sheet-metal cowling extended forward to culminate in a large, pointed spinner. An airscoop below the spinner provided cooling air, while smaller intakes above the engine provided air to the carburettor. It was immediately clear that this sleek, long-nosed configuration offered none of the advantages of the inline engine employed not only by the P-40 but also by such types as the Messerschmitt Bf 109 and North American Mustang. The aerodynamic nose shape provided almost no reduction in drag, and cooling problems proved almost insurmountable. While the XP-42 was marginally faster than the open-cowl P-36A, its performance did not compare favourably with the P-40 or with other, newer fighters of the immediate pre-war period.

A variety of nose configurations was tried on the XP-42, altering its fuselage length with each change, but none vindicated the enclosed radial engine and Curtiss's production facilities, in the event, were taken up with the inline-powered P-40. When hostilities began, the XP-42 had been ruled out as a possible production aircraft but continued to aid in research. In 1942, the XP-42 tested an all-flying stabilizer, similar to the stabilator found on modern jets. The XP-42 had begun flying in natural metal finish and was camouflaged during one of its minor rebuilds. The airframe, which contributed knowledge to designers and engineers, was eventually taken out of service as other wartime priorities beckoned. Curtiss would continue to explore new fighter ideas with XP-46, XP-60 and XF-87, but the company's predominant role in the fighter field was fast becoming history.

    Take-off weight2839 kg6259 lb
    Empty weight2185 kg4817 lb
    Wingspan11.38 m37 ft 4 in
    Length9.32 m31 ft 7 in
    Height3.66 m12 ft 0 in
    Wing area21.83 m2234.98 sq ft
    Max. speed506 km/h314 mph
    Ceiling9450 m31000 ft
    Range966 km600 miles

Sturm, 04.06.2010

I couldn't really say. U.S. military has historically stuck to conservative designs (of course there are exceptions). I wouldn't doubt there were some political reasons behind backing some manufacturers over others (I'm not saying this is the case here) such as Nazi Germany's Messerschmitt bias and the USSR's MiG bias.

leo rudnicki,, 08.04.2009

like the Vought p66 and FW190, the ducted spinner proved inefficient, but like the final FW190 layout, a properly designed close-cowled engine/spinner combination proved effective, raising the speed to 340mph, fast enough to run away from a Zero. What did the U.S. military have against aerodynamicists?

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