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U.S. Experimental & Prototype Aircraft Projects

Fighters 1939 – 1945

By Bill Norton

Specialty Press


S u m m a r y

Title and Author:

Speciality Press
U.S. Experimental & Prototype Aircraft Projects
Fighters 1939 – 1945

By Bill Norton

Media: 10” x 10", comprises 264 pages and contains 390 black and white and 30 color images.
Price: USD$44.95 plus postage available online from Specialty Press
Review Type: First Read
Advantages: A very good book detailing U.S. Experimental & Prototype Aircraft Projects
Conclusion: This book will appeal to both the armchair enthusiast as well as the modeler.  The enthusiast will enjoy reading the easy to follow text and the modeler will be impressed with the sharp, clear images of the experimental and prototype machines.


Reviewed by Rodger Kelly

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This title is the latest addition to the Military Aircraft series from the people at Specialty Press.  And what a beauty it is!

As the title suggests, the book provides a comprehensive record of the experimental aircraft developed for the United States military between 1939 and 1945.

The book is hard bound, beautifully printed and is presented on good quality glossy paper.  The chapter presentation has been well thought out too as it is laid out in a chronological order, dived into aircraft types by their intended employment.

Following the acknowledgements, an introduction, a glossary and an acronym list you are treated to 13 full chapters:

  • Chapter 1 – Background to Growth.   This chapter basically sets the scene for what became arguably the most frenzied and phenomenal advancement of military aviation the world has ever seen.  The chapter discusses the Lend-Lease act and its expansionist effect on the U.S. aviation industry as well as the setting of standards for armament, gun sights, and engines are amongst the topics as well as a general outline of Army and Navy aviation and its needs and development.
  • Chapter 2 – Navy Fighter Bazaar.   This chapter chronicles (in order) the Brewster F2A, Grumman’s’ F4F and FM Wildcat series, Vought’s F4-U Corsair, Grumman’s F6F Hellcat, F7-F Tigercat, and F8F Bearcat.
  • Chapter 3 – Army Fighter Clan.   The Seversky P-35, XP-41 YP-43 and P-44, Curtiss XP-36, XP-36D, XP-36F, YP-37 and XP-42, P-40 series, Bell’s P-39 Airacobra series (including the P-400), P-63 Kingcobra, Lockheed’s P-322, YP-38 and P-38 series, Republic’s P-47 Series, North American’s NA-73, XP-51 and the P-51 series.  The final section of this chapter is titled Misfits and covers the Supermarine Spitfire, and aircraft that were specifically manufactured for “The Foreign Crowd” as it is so eloquently put!  These types are the Curtis-Wright CW-21 and -22, The North American A-27 and P-64.  Included in the North American paragraphs are the seemingly myriad versions of the T-6/SNJ developed for export – NA-44, -46, -50, -56, -57, -68, -64, -69, -71, -72, and -74.  The Vultee V-48/P-66 series round out the chapter.
  • Chapter 4 – Army Miscreants.   The “missing links” are covered here and they include The Curtiss P-40, YP-40F, P-40H, P-40J, XP-40K, P-40P, P-40Q, XP-46, XP-53, XP-60, and XP-62.  The Bell XP-39E, P-76, XP-63B, P-63D, P-63E,
    P-63F, and XP-63H follow along.  The Lockheed XP-38 and YP-38 are next and Thunder Echoes – the Republic XP-47E, WP-47F, XP-47H, XP-47J, XP-47K and XP-47L.  The Mustang Strays, the XP-51F, G, H, J, L and M round out the chapter.
  • Chapter 5 - Navy Heavy Lifting.   The Scout Bombers - the Curtiss SBC-4 Helldiver, the Vought SB2U Vindicator, Naval Aircraft Factory SBN-1, The Brewster SBA-1, the Douglas SBD series, the Curtiss SBC2 Helldiver series, and their XSB3C-1.  The Torpedo Bomber Saga is next with coverage of the Grumman TBF/Eastern TBM series.  Chance-Vought’s XTBU-1 Sea Wolf series,  Douglas XTBD-2 Sky Pirate, the Grumman XTB2F-1 and XTSF-1 and XTB3F-1 feature as does the Vultee’s TBV-1 Georgia – Yes, Georgia the navy’ nomenclature for the A-31/35 Vengeance!
  • Chapter 6 - Army Aberrations.   Misbegotten – Bomber Destroyers.  The Bell (XFM-1, YFM-1, YFM-1A and YFM-1B are covered in this chapter as is Lockheed’s big XP-58 Chain Lightning.  A Good Try is the title for the section covering the General Motors Eastern Aircraft Division’s attempt at a “parts bin” approach to aircraft production utilizing existing assemblies to produce a heavy escort fighter – the XP-75.  Radical but Practical is the title of the section covering the North American XP-82 “Twin Mustang”.  Missed Goals relates the story of the Single seat twin-engined experimentals which feature the Lockheed XP-49, the Grumman XP-50 (the Army’s version of the Grumman XF5F-1 Skyrocket) and the XP-65 ergo the Grumman XF7F-1 are next and these are followed by the McDonnell XP-67, the still-born Curtiss XP-71 rounds out the chapter.
  • Chapter 7 - Army Experimentals.   Queer Company is the sub title of this chapter as it covers the “might have beens” which were the result of the issue by the Air Corps of Specification XC-622.  The Bell XP-52 and XP-59, the Vultee XP-54, Curtiss-Wright XP-55 CW-24-B, Northrop’s XP-56 NM-1, and XP-61E, Republic Aviation’s  XP-69, XP-72 and Douglas’s XP-48, The Tucker XP-57, and Bell’s XP-77.
  • Chapter 8 - Navy Experimentals.   The Bell XFL-1, Grumman XF5F-1 Skyrocket, Curtiss XF14C-1, 2 and 3, Vought XF5U-1, Boeing XF8B-1, Douglas BTD-1 and XBTD-2, Curtiss XBTDC-1 and -2, Martin XBTM-1 and -2, Kaiser-Fleetwing XBK-1 and XBTK-1, Curtiss XBT2C-1 and -2 and Douglas XBT2D-1 Dauntless II, the forerunner of the long-lived AD-1 Skyraider series are all detailed here.
  • Chapter 9 Army Attack Division.   The chapter starts with a brief synopsis of the Army attack and dive bomber brigade and the aircraft covered include the Northrop A-17 and A-33, the Curtiss A-18, Vultee A-19, Douglas A-24, North American A-36, Vultee A-31 and A-35 Vengeance, Curtiss A-25 Shrike, Brewster A32 and A-34, Kaiser-Fleetwings XA-39, Curtiss XA-40, Vultee XA-41, Hughes Aircraft Corporation XA-37 and XP-73, and the Beech Aircraft Corporation
    XA-38 Grizzly.
  • Chapter 10 Night Fighting.   The initial pages of this chapter detail the early advances in air-borne radar technology and goes on to detail the Douglas P-70, the North American Aviation’s B-25, the Lockheed’s P-38, the Douglas XA-26, Northrop P-61 Black Widow and its many variants.  The Navy’s night fighters feature too with coverage devoted to the Lockheed PV-1, Voughts’ F4U-2N Corsair and –F4U-4Ns, Grumman’s F6F-3N and F6F-5N Hellcat variants.  Coverage is also given for “the latecomers” the F7F-1, F7F-2N, F7F-3N Tigercats, F8F-1E Bearcat and, with the advent of the Airborne Early Warning role, the TBM-3E.  Air-to-Surface assets including the SBD, SB2U, SB2A, SB2C, TBF/M, TBY, F6F-3E, F6F-5E, anti-submarine warfare aircraft are covered next – TBM-3D, TBF/M-1L, TBM-3L and the SBD.  The chapter also includes a rundown on the British radar equipped aircraft operated by t he U.S. Forces in WWII – the De Havilland Mosquito and the Bristol Beaufighter. `
  • Chapter 11 Jets – First Bush.    Following a brief background on the world-wide historical development of the jet engine you are treated to histories of the development of the Army’s initial jets, the Bell P-59A and XP-59B as well as Lockheed’s XP-80 and P-80.  You also get coverage of the British Gloster Meteor and Germany’s Me-262.  Navy jets are next up and the YF2L-1, McDonnell XFD-1 and Ryan XFR-1 feature here.
  • Chapter 12 Jets – Full Bore.   Army Follow-up, the XP-84 and XP-86 and Navy Strides – the McDonnell XFD-1, North American XFJ-1, and the Vought XF6U1 as well as the Curtiss XF15C, the Consolidated-Vultee XP-81, the variants of the Ryan Fireball and Bell’s big XP-83.  The McDonnell XP-85 parasite fighter makes an appearance as do the rocket powered MX-324, -334, XP-79 and XP-79B
  • Chapter 13 Conclusion but Advancement.   This final chapter recounts the transformation of the U.S. aviation industry, the significant influence that the United Kingdom had on the U.S. aviation industry evolution, the revolution of the U.S. fighter and attack aircraft development.

Endnotes, a bibliography and an index round out the book’s text.

I was also particularly impressed by the amount of black and white photographs and reproductions of technical illustrations that liberally pepper the text.  All of these are of excellent quality and have been sharply reproduced.  Colour images are limited but that is understandable given that the status quo of the era was black and white.

This book will appeal to both the armchair enthusiast as well as the modeler.  The enthusiast will enjoy reading the easy to follow text and the modeler will be impressed with the sharp, clear images of the experimental and prototype machines.

The book is hard bound, measures 10” x 10", comprises 264 pages and contains 390 black and white and 30 color images.

The Specialty Press website is listing this book at $44.95 USD which is real value for money considering the depth of coverage of the subject that it provides.

Thanks to Specialty Press for the review sample

Review Copyright 2008 by Rodger Kelly
This Page Created on 6 November, 2008
Last updated 6 November, 2008

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