A P-39C of the 31st Pursuit Group. The C variant differed from all other versions of the Airacobra, as the aircraft was called, in having its 37mm T-9 cannon and two 0-50in and two 0-30in machine-guns all installed in the nose, with no wing-mounted weapons. The variant was not considered combat-ready on its introduction and only 20 saw service with the USAAC.
Had the “ramfighter” concept been adopted by the USAAC, later variants, like the P-39D seen here, would have been modified accordingly. The non-turbo-supercharged Airacobra’s performance at high altitude was poor, however, and the added weight of the armour would have further compromised its ability to reach enemy bombers.
The Commanding Officer of No 601 (County of London) Sqn of the RAF, Sqn Ldr E.J. Grade, demonstrates the “car-door” of the P-39 during the unit’s tenure with the type from August 1941 until March 1942.
The other prospective ramfighter was Bell’s unusual P-39, with its mid-fuselage-mounted Allison V-1710 engine and tricycle undercarriage. Here P-39Ds of the 31st Pursuit Group await their next mission at Selfridge Field, Michigan, in 1941.
The modifications proposed for the P-39C “ramfighter”, based on official project report, EXP-M-51/P744, dated 2-6-41.
Although often considered as something of an “also-ran”, the P-40 was built in ten main production variants, including the Packard Merlin-powered P-40F as seen here. By the time production ceased in 1944 a total of 13,738 had been built, the third highest American wartime fighter production run after the P-51 and P-47.
One of two types explored as “ramfighters” by the US Army Air Corps during 1940-41, the Curtiss P-40 was an inline-engined development of the P-36 radial-engined fighter of 1935.
The P-40D variant introduced a number of modifications to the type, including a shorter fuselage and undercarriage, a deeper nose radiator cowling and the removal of the fuselage guns. The calibre of the wing-mounted machine-guns was also increased from 0-30in to 0-50in. Only 22 were delivered to the US Army Air Forces, the remaining 560 produced going to the RAF to serve as Kittyhawk Mk Is.
The locations and thickness of the armour plate proposed for the P-40D “ramfighter”. How the pilot was supposed to see past the sides of the armoured “head-box” during combat manoeuvres, or bale out, were not addressed by the study.
The Lockheed P-38L Lightning with the final standard rocket-cluster installation in use when the war ended.
Had the Lockheed P-38 Lightning been combat-ready when the ramfighter project was discussed during 1940-41, it may have also been included in the proposals. The P-47 was deemed impractical for the ramfighter role, but in truth the entire concept was unworkable