ACCESS: Top Secret
- Dec 2, 2007
- Reaction score
When Allies decided to counterattack in the Pacific, they had to face the fact that airborne operations depended on the availability of landing strips and that most of them –along with the islands where others might be built- where in Japanese hands. It proved to be very costly in lives and resources to occupy them.
Circumstances demanded the use of any type of floatplanes and flying boats that the Allied had in great numbers. Main problem was the absence of fighters able to protect them.
Americans performed some testing with float equipped F4F-3S Wildcat at the beginning of 1943 but they renounced to use it in combat due to its low performances.
The British updated the old idea of a floatplane Spitfire, developed during the Norwegian campaign, and they modified a Mk. IX (MJ892) that during testing proved to have superior maximum speed and manoeuvrability compared to the enemy floatplane fighters Mitsubishi A6M2-N and Kawanishi N1K1.
Other manufacturers proposed jet fighters with a low-drag flying boat hull.
The Saunders Roe SR.A/1 was an excellent airplane but it did not fly until 1947.
In 1943, the Airspeed firm suggested the transformation of a radio-controlled flying-boat target aircraft AS-37 into a jet fighter, fitting it with a centrifugal turbojet in the forward area of the hull with the air intake positioned in the extreme nose.
In 1942, Blackburn proposed the B-43, a single seat twin-float fighter with a Napier Sabre engine based on the Firebrand.
In 1943 they came with the idea of the B-44, a much more complex design with retractable hydraulically-operated floats.
The idea was not new. German already built the Ursinus Seaplane during World War One The plane was fitted with a retractable twin-float undercarriage and reached a maximum speed equivalent to that of the British Sopwith Snipe.
Bill Barnes adventure stories made popular again the formula of the 30s with two extraordinary fiction models, the Scarlet Stormer in 1934 and the Lancer in 1936.
In 1938 the French aircraft manufacturer Latécoère published three projects (no. 671, 672 and 673) of seaplane fighters fitted with retractable floats.
In March 1940 the Blackburn firm built and fly tested the B-20, a medium-sized general reconnaissance flying boat equipped with hydraulically operated retractable hull bottom.
Testing was satisfactory but the only prototype was destroyed in a crash in April and the RAF preferred to recommend the manufacturing of the Saro Lerwick instead.
The B-44 have benefited from the experience obtained with the B-20, but the unfortunate Firebrand story, the increasing number of available aircraft carriers in the Pacific and the success in building ground airfields after amphibious landing were against its manufacturing and the idea never came to materialise. The Spitfire floatplane was also considered unnecessary and the project was cancelled in 1944.
B-44 technical data
Power plant: One Napier Sabre Mk IV, 24 cylinder ‘H’, liquid cooled engine, rated at 2,300 hp, driving two contra-rotating airscrews, wingspan: 50 ft (15.2 m), length (flight configuration): 39.7 ft (12.1 m), height (water configuration): 13.3 ft (4.06 m), wing surface: 393 sq.ft (35.4 sq.m), maximum speed: 360 mph (579 kph), service ceiling: 38,000 ft (11,582 m), range: 1,000 mls (1,609 km), armament: four wing-mounted 20 mm Hispano Mk.V cannons.