Review: U.S. Experimental & Prototype Aircraft Projects: Fighters 1939-1945
Although the United States at the end of World War II fielded the most formidable fighter force ever assembled to that time, a few scant years earlier it had been hard-pressed to offer up any modern fighters; indeed, the first American aircraft aircraft to see action at Pearl Harbor were P-36s that had long since been passed by technologically.
The story of how the US military and the American aviation industry turned this situation around is the focus of Bill Norton’s U.S. Experimental & Prototype Aircraft Projects: Fighters 1939-1945. It is hard to appreciate today how much progress had to be compressed into a few years in the 1940s, and how many different aircraft types, for many diverse roles, were created or at least proposed. Norton’s work covers the designs everybody knows – the P-38, P-51, Corsair, and Hellcat – but also gives extensive space to the also-rans and aircraft that never entered service at all – the Curtiss XP-46, P-60, and P-62, Lockheed P-58, Fisher P-75, and Grumman XF5F are among the many exotic types covered.