'Percival' company designs fighter for the RAF in late 1930s?

tomo pauk

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Percival company produced, among other, a handful of racing monoplanes, that snatched many accolades for their achievements. So let's say Percival gets into the fighter business from 1937-ish on, concentrating on making streamlined A/C that can use 'yesterday's' engines and still perform. For starters, a fighter that looks like the Mew Gull, but it is bigger. Wing is double the area (175-180 sq ft), still with fixed U/C, engine is the Kestrel of 745 HP at 14500 ft (same as installed in late Furies for Yugoslavia). Six .303s in the wings. We can expect it to perform better than the Ki-27 due to less drag and better power at altitude, the Ki-27 being good for 290 mph.
Later, have other and/or better engines installed, while a pair of cannons replaces two pairs of .303s. Licence production in Canada and/or Australia?
Any other ideas?
 

Opportunistic Minnow

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My impression is that such a lightweight fighter is going to be left behind quite drastically in the European theatre. Quite frankly, the Hurricane is pushing it's luck after 1940. Anything of lesser performance is hopelessly outclassed. I can't see it becoming anything other than an early Provost.

Sure you can re-write history so that it could have a Ki-27-style niche somewhere but it is going to be very fleeting and when it passes, it won't be pretty for the unfortunates involved!
 

tomo pauk

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Let's not rate the Hurricane as a yardstick when it is about fighters with performance vs. power available. Even with the best engine of the world in 1940 (= Merlin XX), the Hurricane II was slower than the Bf 109E or the Spitfire I.
History as-is noted that RAF was using biplanes, Buffaloes and P-36s away from Europe, so the niche was certainly there - no need to re-write history. For European service: emulate the Bf 109, that went from mediocre Jumo 210 in the nose into the useful DB 601A and further; meaning in this case that new engine can be Merlin III for 1940-41, and Merlin 45 for 1941-43.
 

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The projected fighter Percival P.33 AB, based on the aerodynamic configuration of the Mew Gull racer that competed for the Merlin XX engine, was also cancelled. It would have been a 556 kph fighter armed with four Brownings, with 12.24 m wingspan, 9.2 m overall length and 2,848 kg maximum weight.

During the critical days of 1940 the 'Panic Effect' boosted numerous interim solutions to increase the number of fighters available: A.A. Bage, the Percival chief designer, proposed to build a version of the Mew Gull armed with two 0.303 in Vickers Mk.II machine guns. The projected light fighter, called Percival P.32 AA, would have 7.62 m wingspan, 6.57 m overall length and 1,087 kg maximum weight. But it was rejected in favour of the Miles M.24, the single-seat version of the Miles Master, armed with eight Browning, capable of flying at 370 kph and with handling characteristics similar to those of the Hurricane.
 

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Opportunistic Minnow

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Let's not rate the Hurricane as a yardstick
Let's do. My point was, if the Hurricane cannot cope in 1940 (which you seem to agree with), how can a design with less power, armament and a far less resilient structure hope to be of any use?

History as-is noted that RAF was using biplanes, Buffaloes and P-36s away from Europe, so the niche was certainly there
The niche was certainly there, already quite crowded. Why spend £ on further sub-optimal types? There are plentiful existing sub-optimal types.

Percival P.32 AA ........ rejected in favour of the Miles M.24, the single-seat version of the Miles Master....... with handling characteristics similar to those of the Hurricane.
The niche was there, for a prototype with no substantial subsequent production and no significant (any?) combat history. Percival's design was even less capable than that.

I suppose I am doctrinally opposed to these panic fighters. You can speculate on more substantial numbers of lightweight fighters in WW2 but in a world where heavier fighters continue to exist, their main achievement will be to waste materiel and far more importantly personnel uselessly. In the land of the minnow, the pike is King! The Air Ministry and I would seem to be in accord for once. Huh...
 

tomo pauk

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The projected fighter Percival P.33 AB, based on the aerodynamic configuration of the Mew Gull racer that competed for the Merlin XX engine, was also cancelled. It would have been a 556 kph fighter armed with four Brownings, with 12.24 m wingspan, 9.2 m overall length and 2,848 kg maximum weight.

Thank you for the details :)
The 12.24m wingspan puts it firmly into Hurricane/Wildcat territory, ie. way too big. My spanking new Percival fighter should've been at ~10.5m, ie. territory of MC.200/202, Bf 109 or Yak-1.
Let's do. My point was, if the Hurricane cannot cope in 1940 (which you seem to agree with), how can a design with less power, armament and a far less resilient structure hope to be of any use?

Okay.
A design with better streamlining and thus lower drag will fare better than Hurricane. Please note that I've suggested Merlin in the nose for 1940, netting the RAF with a fighter better performing than Hurricane with same engine. I didn't suggest that Percival's fighter need to be as thinly built as their racers, either.

The niche was certainly there, already quite crowded. Why spend £ on further sub-optimal types? There are plentiful existing sub-optimal types.

Because we don't want the RAF pilots to fly biplanes in 1940?
 

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Please note that I've suggested Merlin in the nose for 1940
I think we changed tracks somewhere. Thus far, I've been commenting on:

....like the Mew Gull, but it is bigger. Wing is double the area (175-180 sq ft), still with fixed U/C, engine is the Kestrel of 745 HP at 14500 ft. Six .303s in the wings.....
Of the above, I will stand by my comments thereon but we are now talking of a Merlin fighter. If we were talking about an evolution of the above "Mew Gull+", still a lightweight/emergency fighter, it would be a waste of a Merlin IMO. With all due respect to Miles, a Merlin engined aircraft with spats is depressingly off-key.

If a clean sheet fighter design with some Mew Gull notes scrawled on the margins? It is my belief that such an aircraft must be something of a Percival Spitfire and have no pretensions of being a second-tier/lightweight fighter hinted at in the OP or else be quickly regelated to a non-combat (fighter trainer?) role. Rightly or wrongly, 8-gun fighters were the order of the day. Indeed, the Macchis, Me & Yaks mentioned all grew and evolved substantially over the course of the war. The Percival would have to too. Few aircraft lost weight in WW2, the trend was very much upwards.

Because we don't want the RAF pilots to fly biplanes in 1940?
Indeed but even assuming you have the industrial capacity to fashion replacements, not a given, you have to have the transport capacity to get them to their many far-flung theatres as well. Not impossible but an important consideration!
 

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There were alternatives to the Hurricane, the MB-2/3 for example and they got nowhere. Considering the shortage of that other great asset, the trained pilot. this project would have fared (IMHO) just as badly as the 109's with poorly trained pilots in 1944/5. Massacred.
 
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tomo pauk

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I think we changed tracks somewhere. Thus far, I've been commenting on:

....like the Mew Gull, but it is bigger. Wing is double the area (175-180 sq ft), still with fixed U/C, engine is the Kestrel of 745 HP at 14500 ft. Six .303s in the wings.....
Of the above, I will stand by my comments thereon but we are now talking of a Merlin fighter. If we were talking about an evolution of the above "Mew Gull+", still a lightweight/emergency fighter, it would be a waste of a Merlin IMO. With all due respect to Miles, a Merlin engined aircraft with spats is depressingly off-key.

I don't remember saying anything about the Percival's fighter being an emergency fighter.
Perhaps this might be easier to accept:
- Fighter Mk1 - Kestrel, 6 .303s, fixed U/C, in service in early 1939
- Fighter Mk2 - Merlin III, 6 .303s, fixed U/C, in service from mid-1940
- Fighter Mk3 - Merlin 45, 2 cannons, 2 .303s, in service from mid-1941

We can also take a stab with versions with Peregrine in the nose (20% more power than the latest Kestrel) , or perhaps with Dagger VII.
If someone does not like the spats, have the fighter U/C & wing root modified so the U/C is retractable, like the Finnish modified the Fokker D.XXI (link).

Rightly or wrongly, 8-gun fighters were the order of the day. Indeed, the Macchis, Me & Yaks mentioned all grew and evolved substantially over the course of the war. The Percival would have to too. Few aircraft lost weight in WW2, the trend was very much upwards.

Again, I've never said that fighter will remain at same weight, let alone that weight will be going down. Yak-3 was smaller than Yak-1, Bf 109 remained at about the same size through the years, so did the MC between the 200 and early 205s.
RAF was buying 4-gun Gladiators and Defiants, as well as 6-gun Mohawks.
 

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I have to admit, having the prickly Australian turn his attention to fighters has some interest as a what-if and its not like he didn't attempt to dangle some goodies in front of the Air Ministry.

As a concept, the lightweight fighter was popular in the late 1930s and even up to around 1942 (e.g. Bell XP-77) but its notable that most of these designs either; a) never left the drawing board or b) never made it past the prototype stage.
They were all roughly "emergency fighters" because they were intended to be low-cost and low consumers of vital war materials, likewise were built by companies otherwise unengaged in military aircraft production, easy to fly by operationally inexperienced pilots and made up for lack of performance for mass as a second-wave of defences to pick off what came through the interceptors.

Dates are key in AUs and for me the dates do not add up here.
1937 - your Percival Mk1 fighter (6-gun, Kestrel, fixed u/c) leaves the drawing board, but already by 1937 the 8-gun fighter has been doctrinal adopted for two years and indeed in that year thoughts turn to fitting four 20mm cannon in both single-engined interceptors and twin-engined turret fighters. By 1937 the Kestrel is old hat, Merlins have been adopted for the Spitfire, Hurricane and Battle as the V-12 of choice, in 1937 the Air Staff has already released specifications asking for the next generation to use the 24-cylinder Sabre and Vulture and the 18-cylinder Centaurus.
There is no thought of lightweight cheap fighters. Interceptors and bomber-destroyers are wanted. Overseas current types remain, the probability of aerial attack in the Middle East and Far East look remote pre-war due to distances involved and low opinions of then current Italian and Japanese types (rightly or wrongly).

Its not until late 1939/early 1940 that companies like Miles and Percival turn to fighter concepts based on their monoplane designs (Master and Gull series respectively) as a way for them to contribute to the war effort. Somehow Miles gets his M.24 built but there is never any real interest in it - for MAP Miles and Percival are more useful as providers of modern trainers and Merlins are still in short supply and better off going to those aircraft able to make best use of them - Hurricanes and Spitfires.
Martin-Baker have no other role in the industry or products is allowed to continue tinkering with the MB series, the MB.2 was soon proved short of the mark and its no surprise MB turned their attentions to fitting Sabres and Griffons.

1940 - total war has come, since 1939 the UK and France have raided the aviation shops of Europe and American, even Italian fighters are ordered in the desperate attempt to boost numbers, but they are only intended as stopgaps and by 1940 panic buying makes some poor choices. Following the collapse of France, Netherlands and Belgium the UK ended up saddled with Mohawks and Buffalos and shipped them out East where they boosted numbers but kept their pilots out of harms way against the Luftwaffe. Had Japan never entered the war the Mohawk and Buffalo would have been hardly noted in aviation history except for holding the fort. Instead they were diced up by a mix of poor organisation and poor training.

If your Percival Mk.1 was in service by 1936 then it might be handy, but by 1939 its obsolete.
The P.32 looks like a nice looker as the basis of something possible but really Percival needed a better design team and access to wind tunnels and design resources and even then without adequate mass production facilities it means taking someone else off production work for something else as a sub-contractor.
 

Opportunistic Minnow

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I don't remember saying anything about the Percival's fighter being an emergency fighter.
Erm.... might want to glance at your OP again. Kestrel, fixed U/C, Ki-27 as a benchmark, 1937 or later i.e. in a world where the Spitfire has flown. Sounds like an emergency fighter to me. If your fixed gear "Fighter Mk2" doesn't scream panic fighter, I really don't know what else to say. Definitely some mixed messaging here.

If your Percival Mk.1 was in service by 1936 then it might be handy, but by 1939 its obsolete.
Mildly put. Deathtrap in 1940. Just because the Gladiator et al are still around, doesn't make these offerings a good idea! With the latter proposals, I just see Merlins being taken away from proper jobs. As for the idea of one of these still being "current" when the Butcher Bird calls......
 

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