The British Spitfire Fighter


The British Supermarine Spitfire was a single seat fighter during World War II.  The primary user of the “Spit” was the Royal Air Force (RAF) along with many of their allies.  The Spitfire was designed to be a short-ranged interceptor aircraft that was designed by R.J. Mitchell. 

The public perceived that the Spitfire to be the the primary defender of Britain, however the Hawker Hurricane had the higher number of sorties and  more victories than the Spitfire.  The Spitfire had a lower attrition rate and a lower kill-to-loss rate. 

After the Battle of Britain, the Spitfire became the backbone of the RAF Fighter command.  The Spitfire saw action in the European, Mediterranean, Pacific and Southeast Asian theatres of war. 

This aircraft was much loved by it’s pilots serving in roles of intercepter, photo-recon,  fighter-bomber, and training aircraft.  It served in these roles until the 1950s.  There were over 20,300 of the built of all models and variants.

Continue reading “The British Spitfire Fighter”

The British Hawker Hurricane


The British Hawker Hurricane is a single seat, fighter aircraft that was a dominant force in the early days of World War II.  This aircraft became renowned for it’s role in the Battle of Britain.  In spite of it’s more famous brother the Supermarine Spitfire, the Hurricane led all British aircraft with 55% of the victories during the Battle of Britain.  

There were 14,487 Hurricanes built by the Hawker Aircraft company..  The Royal Air Force and Royal Canadian Air Force were the primary users of the fighter.  The Hurricane was relied upon to defend England for the advances of the German Luftwaffe wich sent various aircraft in it’s attempt to conquer by destroying England’s military.  

The legendary dogfights between the Hurricane and the German Messerschmitt Bf-109 could fill volumes of military history books.

Continue reading “The British Hawker Hurricane”

The F6F Grumman Hellcat


The Grumman F6f Hellcat was a carrier based fighter aircraft of World War II.  Built in the United States by the Grumman Corporation for the United States Navy to replace the aging F4F Wildcat.  There was an competition within the aircraft industry that the USN (United States Navy) had to sort out.

The Vought F4U Corsair  was the main competitor with the Hellcat and won out to be the primary carrier-based  fighter for the USN.  Then a problem arose with the Corsair in that the pilots had major troubles landing on aircraft carriers due to visibility issues on final approach.

This problem was due to the long nose of the aircraft and large 4 bladed propeller.  The issue was temporarily solved as the Corsair became a land based with the USMC (United States Marine Corp) which used it to great effect against the Japanese.

The F6F had an Pratt & Whitney R-2800 Double Wasp radial engine which produced 2,000 hp.  This engine was also used for the Vought F4U Corsair and the Republic  P-47 Thunderbolt.  While the F6F Hellcat resembled the older F4F Wildcat and was kiddingly called the “Wildcat’s older brother” it was a tough, rugged and well designed carrier fighter that was superior to the Japanese Zero.

This helped the USN have air superiority in the Pacific.  There were 12,275 F4F Hellcats produced from 1943-45.  The Hellcat had over 5,222 victories over enemy aircraft by USN, USMC and the British RAF pilots.

Continue reading “The F6F Grumman Hellcat”

The Curtiss P-36 Hawk


The Curtiss P-36 Hawk was an American built fighter aircraft that was used in the 1930s and 40s.It was a new generation of combat aircraft.   A sleek monoplane design using metal with aluminum  body and powered by a radial engine.  

The P-36 Hawk was the forerunner of the Curtiss P-40 Warhawk – (used by the Flying Tigers in China,which were  were made up of American volunteer pilots before America’s engagement in World War II).  However once the hostilities started in December of 1941, the Hawk say little action with USAAC  

However other Allied countries did order the Hawk.  This would include (Free) French, Netherlands, Norway, Republic of China, India, and but not least, England.  

When France and Norway fell to Germany, many P-36s were captured by the Germans who turned them into good use against the Soviets.  

During the Franco-Thai war of 1940-41, Hawks were used by both sides.  The South African Air Force saw combat with P-36s against  the Italians in east Africa.  The British RAF fought  in the air over Burma with the Mohawk as they were called by RAF. 

There 215 P-36s built by Curtiss-Wright Aircraft Company along with 900 variant “model 75” or Mohawk sold to foreign countries.

Design and Development

In the beginning of the life of the Hawk, it was called Model 75 as a private venture and the firs prototype was built 1934.  It was all metal fuselage and wings with fabric control surfaces (rudder, ailerons and trim tabs) 

It was powered by a Wright XR-1670-5 radial engine producing 900hp.  The common armament of the day was one .30 cal machine gun and one .50 cal machine firing through through the propeller.  Also common was no cockpit armor and no self-sealing fuel tanks.  

The prototype flew 06 May 1935 for the first time reaching a speed of 281 mph at 10,000 ft.  The Model 75 prototype then flew to Wright Field in Ohio to participate in a “fly-off”,  but another prototype of another company went down,  enroute to Ohio .  The competition “fly-off” was postponed to a later date.

The delay, allowing the competitor  to submit another aircraft,  allowed Curtiss to replace the engine on the Model 75 with a Wright XR- 1820-39 Cyclone engine producing 950 hp. 

 Some other fuselage work was done to  be done and to replace the rear window for improved visibility.  The new prototype was now called Model 75D with the changes from the delayed “fly-off” 

In  April of 1936, the long delayed “fly-off ” took place, but the new engine failed to perform as required, with a top speed of 285 mph.  

The competing Seversky P-35  also failed to produce the required speed.  Because of its performance, the Seversky P-35 was declared the winner of the “fly-off” and awarded a contract by the United States Army Air Corp (USAAC) for 77 aircraft.  

Because of the political unrest in Europe in 1936, the USAAC wanted a backup aircraft as Seversky had limited manufacturing experience.  The “back-up” aircraft, still a Curtiss Model 75, was revamped with a Pratt & Whitney R-1830-13 Twin Wasp engine, a refined rear window.  

It was now called P-36A.  It had an excellent rate of climb (ROC), tremendous roll rate and a high power to weight ratio.  While there were deficiencies such as a poor supercharger which caused poor high altitude  performance, nonetheless, USAAC ordered 210 of the P-36A.  

Then in 1937, USAAC requested that Curtiss modify the Model 75 for an Allison  V 1710 supercharged, liquid cooled, inline engine.  This newly remodeled Model 75 was called XP-37. 

The cockpit was move way back in the fuselage as it had a new supercharger system with bulky side doors for the engine and supercharger.  It was test flown in April 1937 reaching 340 mph at 20,000ft.  

After much testing,  Curtiss found  the Supercharger was very unreliable and visibility from the cockpit was almost non-existence for take-off and landings. 

Thus the project was cancelled un favor of anther prototype called the XP-40.  Before the Xp-40 was produced, one more attempt was mad to use Model 75.  

The new prototype was  called the XP-42.    It had a long slek nose giving it the impression of having an liquid cooled in-line engine.  Instead it had a radial engine which had unresolvable cooling problems. 

This project was cancelled.  Thus the P-36 Hawk became the standard for combat operations of the Model 75 platform.

Operational History

The first production P-36As were delivered to USAAC in 1938.  But due to “teething” problems it took a long time to correct these problems.  By then the USAAC  considered the P-36A to be obsolete.  

However in February 1941, 39 P-36As were loaded on to the USS Enterprise in  California and when the aircraft carrier got near the coast of Hawaii, the non-carriered built P-36As flew off the Enterprise to Wheeler Field in Oahu.  

This was the first take-offs from an aircraft carrier by a non-carrier type aircraft.  We know later, of the famous Jimmy Doolittle raid of B-25s over Tokyo in 1942 that took off from the USS Hornet.   When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on 07 December 1941, only 5 of the 39  of the P-36A got airborne.  

The 5  Hawks did a fine job as they downed two Japanese Zeros with a loss of one P-36.   This was the only action the P-36A Hawk saw in World War II for the USAAC.

Most of the USAAC P-36As were relegated to advance trainers for the great influx of new pilots coming in the military.  

Argentina  30 Curtiss P-750s were sold the Argentinians and a license to construct 20 more locally.

British-RAF   The Mohawk was tested and compared  against the Famous Spitfire.  It did have a few features that were better than the “Spit” but in over-all analysis the RAF did not order any. 

However due to the changing tides of war, the RAF inherited 229 Mohawks from the fleeing French pilots during the fall of France to the Germans.  Most of these were sento the Royal Indian Air Force in India.

China  The Hawk 75H which was a simplified version with fixed landing gear were sold to the Chinese Nationalists.

Finland  After the Germans had  taken France, they sold 45 Curtiss Hawks of various models to the Finns in their war against Russia.  The Hawk was well liked by the Finn pilots, scoring 190 victories over the Soviets.

Other countries to use the P-36 of various models were; Norway, Peru Portugal and Thailand.

Where you can see the Curtiss P-36 Hawk

38-001 P-36A  is on static display at the National Museum of the United States Air Force, Dayton, Ohio

Check With Your Local Air Museum for More Information on the Curtiss P-36 Hawk


Wingspan:     37 ft 4 in 

Length:           28 ft 6 in 

Height:            8 ft 5 in 

Weight:           4,567 lbs (empty) 

Max Speed:     313 mph

Cruise Speed:  270 mph

Ceiling:             32,700 ft 

Range:             625mi  (combat)

Engine:           1/Pratt & Whitney R-1830-17 Twin Wasp Air-cooled  radial                                   engine rated at 1,050 hp.

Crew:               1




The Brewster Buffalo Fighter


The Brewster F2A Buffalo a United States Navy and Marine Corp fighter used in the early days of World War II.  Built by the Brewster Aeronautical Corporation it was on of the first monoplanes to have an arresting hook and able to be used on aircraft carriers.

In 1939, the Buffalo won the competition withe the Grumman Corporation  F4F Wildcat to be the USN’s first monoplane fighter aircraft.  Several countries; Finland, Belgium, Britain and Netherlands ordered the Buffalo.

Finland was very successful in in repelling many Soviet aircraft that were a part of USSR’s invasion of Finland.  From 1941-1944 the de-navalized B-239 had  an amazing 32:1 victory over most Soviet aircraft  during that time.

In December 1941, the British and Dutch used Buffalo  B-339D/Es in combat with the Japanese Mitsubishi  A6M Zeros and Japanese Army Nakajima Ki-43 Oscars and were totally overwhelmed by the faster and more agile Japanese fighters in the Far East Asia theater.  The Allies aircraft were lightened by cutting back on fuel and ammunition but that didn’t help much.

The Buffalo was built in 3 variations the F2A-1, F2A-2 and F2A-3 for the USN.  Foreign sales were designed as B-239, B-339 and B-339-23.  These were land based aircraft and could not land on aircraft carriers

The F2A-3 saw action with the USMC (United State Marine Corp) squadrons at the Battle of Midway.  The Buffalo F2A-3 was decidedly obsolete and no match for the Zero.  The term “flying coffin” was adopted by the pilots at Midway.

There were 509 F2As of all variants built between 1938-1941 and the Finland retired the last military owned Buffalo in 1948

Design and Development

In 1935 the USN put out a request to the American aviation manufacturing community for a carrier based monoplane fighter to replace the aging bi-wing Grumman F3F.  The Brewster Aeronautical of Long Island New York initially lost the bid to Seversky P-35.  The P-35 was eliminated when it failed to reach the required maximum speed of 270 mph.

The new F2A-1 had a modern look with all -metal fuselage and wings although the control surfaces were fabric which was the practice at the time.  It was powered by a Wright R-1820-22 single row Cyclone radial engine that could push the Buffalo at a 2,600 climb rate per minute with a top speed of 277.

The aircraft was taken Langley Research Center for wind tunnel test.  Modifications made from the results added nearly 27 mph to it’s speed, now a 304 mph.  The armament consisted one .50 cal M2 Browning machine gun and one .30 cal AN Browning machine gun, both mounted in the nose.

In 1938, the USN awarded the Brewster Aeronautical Corp a contract to build 54 of the F2A-1.  But do to production delays only 11 of the Brewster F2A-1 went to the USN.

When things did get rolling in New York, the remainder of the Buffalos were modified to the B-239 verison and sent to Finland.  A newer version came out from Brewster called the F2A-2 with a more powerful engine,  Wright R-1820-40 single row radial , which produced top speeds 323 mph, not too bad at the time.  A new propeller was used, better landing gear, but still no cockpit armor and self-sealing fuel tanks.

However both the F2A-1 and  The F2A-2 were liked by Navy and Marine pilots.  Pappy (Baa-Baa Black Sheep) Boyington recalls “…the early models, before they weighed it all down with cockpit armor, radios and other equipment, were real sweet machines,.   Not too fast, but the little aircraft could turn and roll in a phone booth.”

In January 1941 108 aircraft were ordered this being the last  F2A-3 delivered to USN and USMC.  The F2A-3 now had a new, self-sealing fuel tanks, armor around the cockpit and increased ammunition storage in the aircraft.  The new innovations added weight thus causing a decrease in rate of climb , speed and maneuverability.

The off-set was the bigger engine had s two speed Cyclone supercharger gave it higher altitude performance and was an excellent cruising engine.

The Saratoga and the Lexington used them in the early days of World War II.  By then the USN considered the F2A Buffalo (all variants) to be obsolete.

Many of the newer more advanced fighters were still be built or being tested and the Buffalo had to weather the storm.   When the replacements came the Buffalo was relegated to the training squadrons as an advanced training aircraft.

Operational History

In early December, 1941 the USS Saratoga was sailing toward Wake Island with a 20 Brewster F2A-3 and 7 Grumman F4F Wildcats as part of a relief force, when USCINCPAC diverted the Task Force to Midway.  Earlier in December the VMA-211 F4F Wildcat squadron had be dispatched from the USS Enterprise  to Wake Island.

Then On December 8, 1941 The Japanese attacked Wake Island, but stubborn resistance from the ground USMC troops prevented the Japanese from taking Wake.  The USS Saratoga was the rescue force , but the military leaders apparently didn’t want to engage the Japanese with such a rather lean Tak Force.

Because of  the Pearl Harbor disaster , the Saratoga was sent to Midway Island.  It wasn’t until May of 1942 that VMA- 221 using F2A-3 Buffalo,  engaged the enemy on that fateful day.

There were 30-40 “Val” dive bombers heading for Midway with Major Floyd Parks led the Buffalos into the fray.  The VMA-221 managed to down several Vals and then the Zeros come from on high and 13 of the 20 Buffalos were shot down.  Major Parks was strafed by a Zero after bailing out of his buring Buffalo.  He did not survive.

Lt. Charles Kunz recalled:  “I was at an altitude of about 9,000 and shove over in a dive trying to shake the plane on my tail until I was about 20 feet from the water  I was making radical turns hoping the pilot couldn’t get steadied on me.  I glanced out of the rear and saw that it was a Zero fighter.  I continued flying on a rapid turning course at full throttle when I was hit in the head bu a glancing bullet.

After he fired a few short bursts he left,  as I had been in a general direction 205 degrees away from the island.  My plane was badly shot up.   In my opinion the Zero fighter has far been underestimated.  I think it is probably one of finest fighters in the present war.  As for the F2A-3 it should be in Miami as a training plane, rather than used as  a first line fighter” .

After the Battle of Midway, marked the end of the use of the Brewster F2A (all variants) in front line combat for the United States.  The new Grumman F4F Wildcat was vastly superior to the Buffalo in every way except range.    The Brewster F2A Buffalo became a distant memory.

Where you can see the Brewster Buffalo

Finnish B239 serial BW-372 National Naval Aviation Museum, Pensacola Florida

A full scale replica of B339C was completed by Cradle of Aviation Museum Long Island New York


Wingspan: 35 ft 0 in

Length:       26 ft 42in

Height:       12 ft 0in

Weight:     4,732 lbs (empty); MGTOW* 7,159 lbs *Maximum Gross                                        Takeoff  Weight

Max Speed: 321 mph

Ceiling:         33,200 ft

Range:           966 mi (combat)

Engine:          1/Wright R-1820-40 Cyclone single r0ow radial engine

Crew: 1


P-39 Airacobra Fighter


The Bell P-39 Airacobra was an early American fighter aircraft at the out break of World War II. In the “Lend-Lease” plan with eh Soviet Union, the P-39 was one of their favorite fighters as it had more victories than any other American aircraft that was sold to the USSR.

The British RAF and the Italian Air Force (after the fall of Fascist Italy) were also users of this aircraft. It was the first American Fighter to have tricycle landing gear. The unique feature was the engine was in the center of the fuselage behind the pilot.

Due to a lack of a turbo-supercharger, it was not a good high altitude aircraft. The Soviets liked it because they used it for medium to low altitude combat every effectively. It was a deadly ground attack fighter with a deadly nose cannon.

Continue reading “P-39 Airacobra Fighter”

The Story of the Vought F4U Corsair


The Vought F4U Corsair fighter aircraft is best remembered for its service in World War II and Korean War.  Although Vought Aircraft was the designer and developer, Goodyear Tire and Brewster Aircraft were licensed to build the Corsair.

During the production period from 1940 to 1953 (the French Air Force purchased the last one) 12,571 F4U were built between the 3 plants.  The reason for the other two plants besides Vought was because once the War started, the demand for F4Us was overwhelming beyond, Vought’s capability.

The Corsair was used by the United States Navy (USN) and United States Marines (USMC) during World War II.  It originally designed tso be a carrier-based fighter.

Because of carrier landing problems in the early days of its use, it was redirected to USMC as a land based fighter although it still had the carrier abilities.    The Corsair entered the War in 1944 with USN , after the carrier landing difficulties were straighten out.

Continue reading “The Story of the Vought F4U Corsair”

P-47 Thunderbolt Fighter by Republic



The P-47 Thunderbolt was a World War II fighter built in the United States by Republic Aircraft between 1941-1945. There were 15,636 P-47s built during this time.

It’s roles were fighter-bomber, ground attack, and high altitude escort for the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF). France, Britain, Russia, Mexico and Brazil also used the Thunderbolt during the War. The modern-day Fairchild-Republic A-10 is also called the Thunderbolt.

Design and Development

The P-47 was initially designed by Alexander Kartveli, a Russian immigrant who had escaped the Russian Bolsheviks, along with Alexander P. de Seversky another Russian immigrant went to work for Republic to help in designing the AP-4 demonstrator for United States Army Air Corp (USAAC)

The AP-4 was redesigned the P=43 Lancer to be used for bidding for a contract with USAAC. As with early models, improvement was always being sought and thus the P-44 Rocket came forth. At the same time a lighter version of the P-44 named the AP-10 were brought forth for USAAC.

Both aircraft were powered by the Allison liquid-cooled, in-line V-12 engine and armed with 50 cal M2 Browning machine guns. The USAAC liked both the P-44 and AP-10 and gave them the designation of XP-44 and XP-47. Thus, the start of the P-47 family.

As the war in Europe escalated in the Spring of 1940, both the USAAC and Republic concluded that both of the models were inferior to the Luftwaffe. Republic looked to improving the design of the XP-74A as the lighter model was designated, but Alexander Kartveli designed a much larger and heavier XP-47B.

The XP-47B was all-metal (exception was, the fabric covered tail control surfaces), new elliptical wings that had straight leading edge that was slightly swept back.

Some other features were a roomy, air-conditioned cockpit and self-sealing fuel tanks. The XP-47B was powered by Pratt and Whitney R-2800 Double Wasp two-row 18 cylinder radial engines producing 2,00 hp that turned a Curtis Electric constant-speed 4 bladed propeller, with each blade 146 in diameter.

It was designed for air cooling of the engine oil coolers and the turbocharger intercooler system. It’s armament were 8 Browning An/M2 machine guns with 4 in each wing. In 1942 the newly reorganized USAAC now called the United States Army Air Force (USAAFF) ordered 171

P-47Bs from Republic despite some “teething” problems. The P-47D was the most widely produced of all the P-47 models and versions,  with over 12,500 built at the Long Island, New York and Evansville, Indiana plants. The “D” model looked the same as the “C” model, just some engine and fuselage changes, mostly interior not noticeable at sight except for some drop tank capabilities to increase the range of the aircraft.

Later versions received the “Bubble-top” canopy similar to the P-51D-Mustang added dive recovery flaps, modified the vertical stabilizer to counter yawing problems. Other models that were used for various were: XP-47H, XP-47J, P47M, P-47N.

The P-47N was the last model produced and was an escort for the B-29 Superfortress.bombers flying raids on the Japanese Islands in the Pacific. A total of 1,816 P-47N rolled of the assembly line that ended in October 1945.

Operational History

In 1942,the 56th Fighter Group consisting of P-47Cs was sent to England as the first contingency of American P-47s. The first mission wasn’t until 1943 as the first “jugs” had radio problem not being compatible with British communications. Thus the delay.

The term Jug was in reference to the “milk jugs” of the day as the aircraft looked a lot life one. The first air combat involving the Thunderbolt was 15 April 43, as Don Blakeslee scored a victory over a FW-190. Later in 1943, the 12th Air Force was supplied with P-47s.

The 348th Fighter Group in Port Modesty, New Guinea in the Pacific theater also was flying P-47s against the Japanese. Although the P-51 Mustang replaced the P-47 as the long bomber escort in Europe, the P-47 ended the war with 3,752 victories in over 746,00 missions.

When the “Jug” stated with the C model in Europe, the escort range was limited. As the war progressed, differed modifications served to lengthened the range of the P-47.

Then a typical mission with P-47 escort would consist of the Thunderbolts escorting the bombers to target and some P-47s would break away from the bomber group that they had escorted to target and search for ground targets of opportune.

First ejecting drop tanks, than diving towards their target with the “Holy Moses” M8 High Velocity rockets and sometimes 500 lb bombs or just plain strafing with 50 cal machine guns,  the Thunderbolt pilots destroyed an estimated 86,00 rail cars, 9,000 locomotives, 6,000 armed fighting vehicles, and 68,000 trucks The P-47 became the USAAF’s best fighter/bomber of the war.

When World War II ended in 1945, the P-47 continued on with USAAF and than with the USAF (United States Air Force). They were not used in the Korean War as the Jet Age had come about.

The P-51 Mustang was selected by the military leaders to be used for close ground support. Many former Jug pilots felt the P-47 was more rugged and could sustain more damage than the Mustang, but the P-51 was more plentiful int USAF and USAF ANG unites during that time.

The P-47 was used by the British as a Ground Attack Fighter named the Thunderbolt Mark I and Mark II. At the time the British had enough long ranged escort (longer ranged than the P-47) but had a need for ground attack fighter both in Europe but also in the Pacific in the India-China-Burma theater. There they were used to strafe airfields , convoys (usually ground types) and concentrations of enemy troops.

Other P-47 models were purchased by Mexico, France* Italy*, China, Iran, Turkey in small numbers. *(after the war). The Soviets also purchased several hundred Thunderbolts but were used mostly for testing and reverse engineering.

All in all the Thunderbolt was a good performer, better at higher altitudes, had a good roll rate, climb was poor, and maneuverability was poor at low altitudes. It certainly contributed in a positive way to the Allies war effort.

Where you can see the Thunderbolt


Dottie Mae – Carswell Industrial Airport, Caldwell, Idaho

Balls Out – Lewis Air Legends, San Antonio Texas

Tarheel Hal –Lone Star Flight MuseumGalveston, Texas

Wickett Wabbitt Aviation Management ResourcesWilmington Delaware

On Display

Big Stud-Museum of Flight, Seattle, Washington

Five by Five-National Museum of the Air Force at Wright-Patterson,                                          Dayton Ohio

Checky Baby-Cardio of Aviation Museum, Garden City New York

Norma-New England Air Museum, Windsor Locks, Connectiut

There is an abundance of P-47s of all models on display.   Check with your local Air Museum for more details

Tech Specs for the P-47 Thunderbolt

Wing Span:    40 ft 9 in

Length:           36 ft 1 in

Height:            14 ft 8 in

Weight:           10,000 lbs (empty) 12,731 lbs (MTOW)

Max Speed:     433 mph

Ceiling:            43,000 ft

Range:             800sm (combat); 1,800mi (ferry)

Engine:           1/Pratt & Whitney R-2800-59B twin row radial engine

Crew:               1