Review: "American Aircraft Development of the Second World War: Research Experimentation and Modification 1939-1945

The culmination of a series detailing the development of US combat aircraft of World War II, this latest book by Bill Norton is a must-have for anyone interested in out of the ordinary aircraft. Rather than focusing on a single class of aircraft, this work chronicles how new technologies were pursued during the war – often, these were conducted against urgent operational needs, and there were many avenues that could not be placed into production so as not to disrupt the supply of “good enough” designs. Mr. Norton has provided a copious number of photos detailing the test aircraft that took these technologies into the air – there are plenty of candidates for making distinctive models here.

And if you want “unusual” – concepts such as a proposal for an R-1535-powered ducted fan high speed research aircraft, and a system for transferring drop tanks – in flight – between aircraft, among many others, ought to fit the bill.

Listed below are some highlights from the various chapters that caught my eye – there are many more.

Chapter 2: Aeronautical Achievements B-18 carrying airfoil shape dorsally, and then as part of a wing glove. P-61A towing a Mustang P-51B with tall vertical tail and wing glove. A-17 with massive wing gloves to support the C-74 program. Stinson L-1 boundary layer control testbed PT-19 with subcale B-29 wing and tail

Chapter 3: Propulsion Challenges Tomahawk II R-1830 testbed XA-19C with Twin Wasp YA-19 with R-2800 Lockheed Ventura with Constellation nacelles XA-31B testbed for the XR-4360 Details of the XB-38 and XB-39 programs, and the XB-44 prototype for the B-50. B-23 Dragon with turbosupercharger installation. F4U engine testbeds

Chapter 4: Rocket Promise Development of JATO P-51 with supplemental rocket engine.

Chapter 5: Sonic Reach Wind tunnel model photos of a proposed ducted fan research aircraft for high speed flight Early consideration to use a rocket-boosted YP-80A for gathering transonic data. Illustration of the Bell Bell MX-524 – recognizable as an XS-1 ancestor design. Drawing of an early D-558 concept as a tail-dragger with flush fuselage intakes

Chapter 6: Undercarriage Variations P-40 with balloon tires A-20C & A-20H with tracked landing gear

Chapter 8: Piloting Diversions Mockup of a stepped nose configuration for the B-29 Prone pilot testing Pressurization research

Chapter 9: Mission Support Ditching experiment with a B-24 Deicing projects, including the XB-24F and XB-25E Air to Sea Rescue, including the B-17H and B-29 Super Dumbo Ambulance aircraft Aerial delivery

Chapter 12: Miscellaneous Projects Two-seat training versions of fighters – including photos of a Soviet P-40 trainer, and a P-40K with gear for taxi training of ground crew; TP-39 and TP-47 photos. Deatils of the development of the XB-40 and YB-41 gunships, and several photos of a YB-29 given extra armament to serve as a prototype formation escort. Fitting out the B-29 to carry nuclear weapons PB4Y-2 equipped with fuselage-mounted loudspeakers.

Chapter 13: Foreign Influence Evaluation of aircraft from overseas Recovery of an A6M from the Aleutians An in-depth review of the US reverse-engineering of the V-1 “buzz bomb” into the JB-2 cruise missile.

This review is of the Kindle version of the book

There is also a hardcover version available

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