WWII fixed-gear fighter projects

cluttonfred

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The recent thread on a treasure trove of Martin-Baker photos (and the MB 2 in particular) got me thinking about other attempts at simple, fixed-gear fighters. I don't mean holdovers from the interwar years, but new 1939-1945 designs that still used fixed gear. One comes to mind off the top of my head, the Miles M.20 "emergency fighter." The wood-and-fabric M.20 managed to outperform a Hurricane and fall just short of a Spitfire with exact same engine, but with up to 12 .303 Brownings and double the fuel and ammunition load. Two prototypes were built, one for emergency production during the Battle of Britain, which did not prove necessary, and another to an Admiralty specification for a carrier-based fighter that was not accepted as it was easier and cheaper to convert existing Hurricanes and Spitfires.

Miles M.20 (click for Wikipedia article including specs)



Another nice pic here and more info here. In that second one you can easily see the differences between the two prototypes.

Any more nominees for WWII fixed-gear fighter projects?
 

Pioneer

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That bubbled canopy looks effective and before its time!!
Thanks for sharing!!

Regards
Pioneer
 

Stargazer2006

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The M.20 remains one of my favorite British aircraft prototypes ever. Shame it never was put in production.
 

cluttonfred

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Stargazer2006 said:
The M.20 remains one of my favorite British aircraft prototypes ever. Shame it never was put in production.

I agree, Miles was an innovative firm that was seemingly never taken very seriously in their combat aircraft design submissions, some of which seem like they would have been very useful. MILES AIRCRAFT SINCE 1925, Don L. Brown's book from the Putnam aviation series, is full of a number of very interesting designs, some of which were actually built as proof-of-concept projects without official blessing during wartime, which invoked the ire of officialdom.

One of my favorite was the scheme to use M.38 Messenger liaison aircraft for convoy protection anti-submarine patrols from 60 x 60 foot decks on the back of merchantmen. Tests on land with light rockets for takeoff boost, a simple arrestor hook and bungee-sprung ropes for landing and a bungee-sprung net for back up, showed that it all worked in principle. There was even a trial run on a small carrier without using any arrestor gear at all. A shipping magnate was willing to pay for the conversions of his ships, but the bureaucracy just didn't get it.

If you like Miles aircraft, check out this lovely article, "47 Miles of Scratchbuilding," by an Argentine who modelled almost every Miles design through WWII.
 

Stargazer2006

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Mole said:
Stargazer2006 said:
The M.20 remains one of my favorite British aircraft prototypes ever. Shame it never was put in production.

I agree, Miles was an innovative firm that was seemingly never taken very seriously in their combat aircraft design submissions, some of which seem like they would have been very useful. MILES AIRCRAFT SINCE 1925, Don L. Brown's book from the Putnam aviation series, is full of a number of very interesting designs, some of which were actually built as proof-of-concept projects without official blessing during wartime, which invoked the ire of officialdom.

One of my favorite was the scheme to use M.38 Messenger liaison aircraft for convoy protection anti-submarine patrols from 60 x 60 foot decks on the back of merchantmen. Tests on land with light rockets for takeoff boost, a simple arrestor hook and bungee-sprung ropes for landing and a bungee-sprung net for back up, showed that it all worked in principle. There was even a trial run on a small carrier without using any arrestor gear at all. A shipping magnate was willing to pay for the conversions of his ships, but the bureaucracy just didn't get it.

If you like Miles aircraft, check out this lovely article, "47 Miles of Scratchbuilding," by an Argentine who modelled almost every Miles design through WWII.

Yeah, I know. I'm a great fan of Miles aircraft, and both the Putnam book and that website are two faves of mine! Thanks for the reminder, anyway... ;-)
 

Grey Havoc

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Mole said:
One of my favorite was the scheme to use M.38 Messenger liaison aircraft for convoy protection anti-submarine patrols from 60 x 60 foot decks on the back of merchantmen. Tests on land with light rockets for takeoff boost, a simple arrestor hook and bungee-sprung ropes for landing and a bungee-sprung net for back up, showed that it all worked in principle. There was even a trial run on a small carrier without using any arrestor gear at all. A shipping magnate was willing to pay for the conversions of his ships, but the bureaucracy just didn't get it.

Talk about blockheaded!
 

Graham1973

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Mole said:
The recent thread on a treasure trove of Martin-Baker photos (and the MB 2 in particular) got me thinking about other attempts at simple, fixed-gear fighters. I don't mean holdovers from the interwar years, but new 1939-1945 designs that still used fixed gear. One comes to mind off the top of my head, the Miles M.20 "emergency fighter." The wood-and-fabric M.20 managed to outperform a Hurricane and fall just short of a Spitfire with exact same engine, but with up to 12 .303 Brownings...

Wikipedia gives the M.20 only the standard 8 gun installation, from what I'd read the RAF only went to 12 gun installations on the early Typhoons.
 

cluttonfred

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The twelve-gun option was mentioned, IIRC, in Don Brown's MILES AIRCRAFT SINCE 1925. Even with the standard eight-gun complement, the weight savings and wing volume freed up by going with fixed gear allowed substantially more ammunition and fuel than the comparable Hurricane or Spitfire.
 

Arjen

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The elimination of a retractable undercarriage made sufficient space available in the wing for the installation of twelve .303 Browning guns as compared with eight on the Hurricane and Spitfire. In addition, there was space to carry 5,000 rounds of ammunition and 154 gal of fuel, double that of the existing fighters, which meant that the M.20 could remain in combat much longer without having to drop out for refuelling and rearming.
Source: 'Miles Aircraft since 1925' by Don L. Brown, Putnam, 1970.

The very thick wings of NACA230 section carried eight Browning machine guns, but were so designed as to enable four further guns to be fitted if required.
Source: 'The British Fighter since 1912' by Francis K. Mason, Putnam, 1992.
 

Graham1973

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Thanks for clearing that up.

I'm wondering if there are any surviving comparative fly off reports. I know that they existed for captured German aircraft.
 

cluttonfred

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On the Aviolanda photo, those certainly look like wells for retractable landing gear in the fuselage.

On the Miles M.20 I have seen more the once the statement that the M.20 outperformed the Hurricane but not the Spitfire, comparing versions of all three using the same mark Merlin engine.
 

Graham1973

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Mole said:
On the Aviolanda photo, those certainly look like wells for retractable landing gear in the fuselage.

On the Miles M.20 I have seen more the once the statement that the M.20 outperformed the Hurricane but not the Spitfire, comparing versions of all three using the same mark Merlin engine.

When I was making the query about comparative fly off reports, I was thinking more in terms of maneuverablity, at various times during the war the RAF flew captured aircraft against the latest planes they had to see what their maneuver envelopes were and what techniques would be best to counter them.
 

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This is from the January, 1992 issue of Aeroplane Monthly.
 

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cluttonfred

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Reviving an old thread, here are a few more fixed-gear fighters

Caudron C.710/711/712 (C.710 shown, all prototypes, though retracftable-gear C.714 reached limited production and combat)
Caudron_C-710_right_front_photo_L'Aerophile_June_1938.jpg

Avia BH.35 (two prototypes, third redesigned under Nazi control to add retractable gear and other changes, developed into the B-135 which reached limited production and combat)
b35-7.jpg

Curtiss Hawk 75H/M/N/O/Q (75M saw series production in the U.S. and China and combat with the Nationalist Chinese)
Curtiss-Hawk-75-678x381.jpg

Mitsubish A5M (some still in combat service in early WWII)
1280px-Akagi_-_A5M_fighter.jpg

Any more? Anyone know what was the best-performing fixed-gear, piston-engine fighter of them all?
 

nuuumannn

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When I was making the query about comparative fly off reports, I was thinking more in terms of maneuverablity, at various times during the war the RAF flew captured aircraft against the latest planes they had to see what their maneuver envelopes were and what techniques would be best to counter them.

Test pilot Eric 'Winkle' Brown was impressed with the aircraft's performance in flight, being faster than the Martlet and having a good rate of climb, Brown particularly appreciating the view from the blown canopy, which was a rarity in British aircraft at the time, but said that during a dog fight with a Hurricane, "...it was obvious the Hurricane was more manoeuvrable and had a much smaller turning circle. In an attempt to follow the Hurricane in a steep turn I flicked out of control at 140mph without any warning. The Hurricane could also change direction faster and accelerate faster, although the M.20 was itself no slouch."

However, on landing, whilst under test for its carrier approach abilities, Brown remarked that the view from the cockpit forward was bad and that the controls felt sluggish. On cutting the power the aircraft sank rapidly and rearward stick motion was required to prevent the main wheels from hitting first and bouncing. "Half a dozen more landings convinced me that this would not be an ideal deck landing aircraft."

Over all, Brown again: "In essense my report to the Admiralty, which apparently was considering the M.20 to meet Naval Staff Specification N.1/41, expressed the view that the M.20, although surprisingly nippy in performance, could not match the Martlet, Hurricane or Spitfire for manoeuvrability, and did not offer enough speed performance superiority over the Martlet or Hurricane to give an offsetting advantage."
 
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riggerrob

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Several other fixed-gear prototypes are mentioned in Justo Miranda's book "Enemy at the Gates, Panic Fighters of World War 2."

It seems that the extra weight of retractable gear was impractical with less than 1,000 horsepower.

Similarly, modern insurance companies have concluded that retractable gear is ridiculously expensive (high rate of gear up landings) for private planes cruising at less than 200 knots (Cirrus, Cessna Columbia and a variety of RV-? kitplanes).
 

nuuumannn

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Similarly, modern insurance companies have concluded that retractable gear is ridiculously expensive (high rate of gear up landings) for private planes cruising at less than 200 knots (Cirrus, Cessna Columbia and a variety of RV-? kitplanes).

Interesting to know. It kinda makes sense, having bashed around circuits a few times, the difference between cruise and approach speed realistically speaking for a bug smasher isn't that much, so the fixed gear isn't going to impact speed management to the same degree than it would a bigger, faster aircraft slowing down from up top to final approach.
 

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Mole said:
One of my favorite was the scheme to use M.38 Messenger liaison aircraft for convoy protection anti-submarine patrols from 60 x 60 foot decks on the back of merchantmen. Tests on land with light rockets for takeoff boost, a simple arrestor hook and bungee-sprung ropes for landing and a bungee-sprung net for back up, showed that it all worked in principle. There was even a trial run on a small carrier without using any arrestor gear at all. A shipping magnate was willing to pay for the conversions of his ships, but the bureaucracy just didn't get it.

Talk about blockheaded!
I would love to read more about the plan. Any sources?
 

nuuumannn

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Fascinating information, Cluttonfred. Thanks for sharing it.
 

Aubi

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Avia B.35 had fixed gear due to necessity, Czech industry was unable to design a functional retractable landing grear, and while they tried to buy French Messier design, it took too long.
As the Hawk 75 is already here, I would mention the Yugoslav Ikarus IK-2. Production machines entered service in 1938. Similarly, the Poles continued their line of high-wing fighters with the PZL P.24.
Then there's also the Latvian VEF I-16.
 

cluttonfred

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The Latvian VEF I-16 is new to me, thanks Aubi! Thanks, too, Schneiderman, as the Napier Sabre link reminded me of the Napier Dagger-powered Martin Baker MB.2.
martin-baker-mb2-final-tail.jpg
 
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