Alternative night fighters for the air forces/services, 1939-45

tomo pauk

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The recent thread about the 1-engined fighters is to blame: ( :) )

I'm aware of the RAF investigating fitting radar to a Hawker Typhoon to make a single seat, single engine night fighter, and some Hurricanes were converted for such a role in the CBI. But were there other known successful conversions of single seat, single engine fighters to being night/all-weather fighters? I also know of the P-51D Mustang that was converted into a two seat night/all-weather interceptor, though I have no idea how well it worked (photos of it are at IWM's site), and some trainer versions of P-38s were converted into P-38M night fighters. The conversion as far as I know worked well, but there was little for them to shoot down in 1945 when it was introduced (the P-51 night fighter conversion was also from 1945).

The alternative NFs should be able to be either more capable than the historical aircraft used (factors being speed, maneuverability, weaponry, electronics etc.), and/or more easily available, or earlier available. The suitability for night fighting in terms of good low-speed handling, overall handling is obviously still required. Radars and other allectronics - as these can be plausibly available to a country in question. Granted, even a radar-less night fighter will work, as demonstrated by Luftwaffe and RAF.
 

tomo pauk

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For the USAAF, 1941-42: the DB-7 airframe, powered by either the V-1710, or the 2-stage R-1830 as it becomes available.
(the Havoc I was supposed to do 322 mph at 15200 ft, engine being the 1-stage supercharged R-1830 that gave 1000 HP at 12000 ft without ram effect).
 

muskeg13

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For the USAAF, 1941-42: the DB-7 airframe, powered by either the V-1710, or the 2-stage R-1830 as it becomes available.
(the Havoc I was supposed to do 322 mph at 15200 ft, engine being the 1-stage supercharged R-1830 that gave 1000 HP at 12000 ft without ram effect).
How would these engine swaps improve performance over what the P-70 Nighthawk used historically?

 
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tomo pauk

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How would these engine swaps would improve performance over what the P-70 Nighthawk used historically?


What it could provide is a year+- or earlier service entry - the 1st P-70 seem to be delivered in April of 1942. So it checks the 'earlier available' box.
It should also be a much more maneuverable bird, with 2000-3000 lb less weight.
 

muskeg13

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What it could provide is a year+- or earlier service entry - the 1st P-70 seem to be delivered in April of 1942. So it checks the 'earlier available' box.
It should also be a much more maneuverable bird, with 2000-3000 lb less weight.
The British began to convert ex-French contract DB-7s with R-1830s to night fighters and night intruders in the winter of 1940/41:

Given a high enough priority, the P-70 could have begun entering USAAC service as early as late 1940/early 1941 (with Wright R-2600s). There was no need to revert to lower powered R-1830s. However, how would more streamlined, but lower powered, Allison V-1710s affect performance?

From the previous Joe Baugher P-70 website linked above, the USAAC had already conducted successful testing of a nightfighter A-20 (R-2600) variant in 1940:
Before the USA entered the Second World War, the USAAC felt that it needed long-range fighters more than it needed attack bombers, and the prototype A-20 (39-735) was adapted for night fighting duties under the designation XP-70. Two unsupercharged 1600 hp Wright R-2600-11s replaced the turbosupercharged R-2600-7s. RAF experience with the modified DB-7 Havoc was used as a guideline. British AI Mk IV radar was mounted in an unglazed nose, with an arrow-like transmitting antenna located in front of the nose, and receiving antennae being located on the fuselage sides and on the port wing. All bomb racks and all defensive armament were removed. The crew was reduced from three to two, the second crewman being a radar operator seated in the rear cockpit. Four 20-mm cannon with 60 rpg were installed in a ventral tub. The success of these modifications led to a USAAC decision on October 15, 1940 to have fifty-nine more of the A-20s on order modified as P-70 night fighters.
 
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muskeg13

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If there was a night fighter variant of the Bristol Blenheim, wouldn't a night fighter/night intruder version of the Martin Maryland in 1939/40 even be better?

How about a 2-seat version of the P-50 Skyrocket?
 
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tomo pauk

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Given a high enough priority, the P-70 could have begun entering USAAC service as early as late 1940/early 1941 (with Wright R-2600s). There was no need to revert to lower powered R-1830s. However, how would more streamlined, but lower powered, Allison V-1710s affect performance?
I have not suggested reverting from the R-2600, I've suggested improving upon the R-1830s. The A-20/P-70 were draggier and much heavier than the earlier members of the DB-7 famility.
The DB-7/Boston II/Havoc I as supplied to the British was powered by the R-1830, that gave 1100 HP for take off, and 1000 HP at 12500 ft, for 322 mph at 15000 ft (note the ram effect, 'worth' for 2500 ft). That is 15+ mph more than the DB-7 supplied to the French (British name for these was Boston I when they received them), their R-1830s were good for 900 HP at 12000 ft.

The V-1710-33 was making 1040 HP at 13500 ft, while the V-1710-39 was with a better low-alt power, 1150 HP at 12000 ft. Some advantage can be gained in streamlining, some can be gained in the exhaust thrust (but probably not much, since the exhausts will go through the flame hider). I'd settle for 340 mph.
The 2-stage R-1830 might add another few mph above 15000 ft.

If we're to make further development, the addition of a turbocharger can help, two per A/C obviously. Both R-1830 and V-1710 can benefit from this. Here the bigger and heavier A-20 might be a better starting point?
R-2600 + turbo is also interesting for this job, provided it can be debugged and properly cooled, eg via addition of the cooling fan.
Installation of the non-turbo 1700 HP R-2600s is another possibility - just don't wait until 1944.

If there was a night fighter variant of the Bristol Blenheim, wouldn't a night fighter/night intruder version of the Martin Maryland in 1939/40 even be better?

How about a 2-seat version of the P-50 Skyrocket?

Both ideas have merit.
Even the as-is Maryland flown by Adrian Warburton managed to score a lot of kills against the Axis aircraft. Install the better engines, radar as available, some extra guns and there it is?
P-50 should be easier to became a 2-seater than it was the case with P-38 - being a 'classic' twin has it's merits. Visibility is/was great, tricycle U/C also helps, and can be a performer even on ... every-day's engines.
 

tomo pauk

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Again for the Americans - the P-38 with a longer central pod (not unlike what the 'Swordfish' had). Leaves a lot more volume for electronics, comfortable backseat for the radar operator, as well as for the nose-wheel and guns. Some thin sheet metal cover over the turbo will be needed in order to have the glare not being a factor for the night operations.

USN and MC were operating the 1-seat NFs a lot, having a 2-seater F4U and/or F6F would've made things easier for the pilot.
 

Shortround6

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I have not suggested reverting from the R-2600, I've suggested improving upon the R-1830s. The A-20/P-70 were draggier and much heavier than the earlier members of the DB-7 famility.
The DB-7/Boston II/Havoc I as supplied to the British was powered by the R-1830, that gave 1100 HP for take off, and 1000 HP at 12500 ft, for 322 mph at 15000 ft (note the ram effect, 'worth' for 2500 ft). That is 15+ mph more than the DB-7 supplied to the French (British name for these was Boston I when they received them), their R-1830s were good for 900 HP at 12000 ft.
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The R-2600 engines were not the defining dimensions of the Nacelles as built. This is a DB-7 (small tail). The R-1830s offer a bit pointer cowl but probably not enough to get exited about. Or to to make up for the difference in power, 1050hp at 13,100ft for the twin Wasps vs 1400hp at 11,500ft for the Cyclone 14s. Given the size of the fuselage engine is a much smaller percentage of the total compared to a single engine plane.
The V-1710-33 was making 1040 HP at 13500 ft, while the V-1710-39 was with a better low-alt power, 1150 HP at 12000 ft. Some advantage can be gained in streamlining, some can be gained in the exhaust thrust (but probably not much, since the exhausts will go through the flame hider). I'd settle for 340 mph.
The 2-stage R-1830 might add another few mph above 15000 ft.
You could redo the entire nacelle but you still have to put the landing gear somewhere. And/or get trickier landing gear strut arrangement.
Early R-2600 powered A-20s could do well into the 340mph range, but the armament "solutions" tended to be crude and ate into that.
Pointy nose on the Nacelle may help.
R-2600 + turbo is also interesting for this job, provided it can be debugged and properly cooled, eg via addition of the cooling fan.
Installation of the non-turbo 1700 HP R-2600s is another possibility - just don't wait until 1944.
Cooling fans work at take-off and low speeds. If you can't cool with a 180mph airflow going through the plane a cooling fan is probably not going to help.
There was a bit of interest back in the 60-70s for clutched cooling fans on cars. Once the car hit 50-60mph the airflow through the radiator spun the fan and fan declutched and was no longer a drag on the engine. Worked great, right up until it didn't (clutch froze or the clutch bearing wore out and it took out the water pump).
You needed new cooling fins, cylinder barrel and heads, to solve the cooling problem.
Getting the 1700hp R-2600 was a problem. Steal them from B-25s or Avengers at this point in time. The 1700hp engines were built in a different factory and used steel crankcases instead of the aluminum crankcases of the 1600hp versions (and many other differences).
Wright did use a cooling fan on the R-2600, the 1900hp version (with all new fins) in flying boats.

Both ideas have merit.
Even the as-is Maryland flown by Adrian Warburton managed to score a lot of kills against the Axis aircraft. Install the better engines, radar as available, some extra guns and there it is?
P-50 should be easier to became a 2-seater than it was the case with P-38 - being a 'classic' twin has it's merits. Visibility is/was great, tricycle U/C also helps, and can be a performer even on ... every-day's engines.
Not sure what the Maryland brings to the table. Good idea for a "quickie" but by the time you change much you can have the R-2600 powered A-20s that are over 30mph faster.

Let's keep in mind that the problem with the A-20/P-70 wasn't actually speed, it was climb and ceiling. Doing 340mph at 12-15,000ft wasn't much good if the enemy bombers were coming in at 20,000ft. and the P-70s had slowed down or took too long to climb to altitude.
 

tomo pauk

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Good bases for the British NFs:
- Gloster makes the F.9/37 around the Merlin engines
- Hawker Hotspur
- Hawker Henley, but with a better Merlin ASAP
- Fairey P.4/34, but again with a better Merlin
- Fairey Firefly, land based
- Defiant II as a 'proper' 2-seater (backseater is the radio operator), guns in the place of additional fuel tanks
- Supermarine Type 305 (bid for the turret fighter the Defiant won), but without the turret
- Blenheim with Merlins?
 

EwenS

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Good bases for the British NFs:

- Fairey Firefly, land based
Faster Fulmar NF so long as you are using metric AI.IV type radars.

The problem comes, as Fairey found out in 1943/44 with the NF.II, fitting the scanners for centimetric sets becomes problematic. The chosen set (AI.X is what I have a note of) needed separate transmitter & receiver scanners (don’t ask me why when Mosquito and P-61 only required one. Maybe due to the wing mounting. But where do you put the scanner centrally in a single engined aircraft?) The scanners inboard of the wing fold and looking through the propellor. The TRE couldn’t get the scanners synchronised reliably nor the interference problems from the prop cured.

Project scrapped. 328 NF.II planned. 228 cancelled before serials allocated & 63 after serials allocated. 37 completed March 1943 to Jan 1945.

It also needed an extra section 15” long in the fuselage forward of the cockpit to keep it in balance due to the weight of the extra equipment. That meant the initial proposal for a quick production line modification went out the window. The long nose made it difficult to deck land into the bargain.

A Firefly NF only became possible in 1944 when the ASH radar became available in a pod to hang under the fuselage as AI.XV. The US AN/APS-6 set was not made available to Britain until late 1944 in the F6F-5N Hellcat.

Mounting the radar scanner out on the wing was less than an ideal solution. There was always some fuselage masking of the signals. When the USMC received radar equipped PBJ (B-25) with the wing scanner, they converted many of them to put it into the nose in front of the bombardier to improve its abilities.
 

Shortround6

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few more bit's on the American engines.

P & W delivered the first 2 R-1830s with two speed superchargers in April of 1940. They built 23 in May and 113 in June and then they were off to the races with hundreds built most every month.
The two stage engines were a lot slower. Only 98 built in all of 1940 (which is why the F4F-3A exists) and 507 built in 1941. 2129 built in 1942. Remember again 3 -6 months before completed plane shows up in a war zone.

Allison C-15s (-33s) weren't quite up to snuff in 1940, British got stuck with theirs, US army returned around 280? for rebuild.
Granted a not up to snuff Allison (won't pass 150 hr type test) may beat the crap out of a French or Russian engine that won't quite pass a 100 hour test.
 

tomo pauk

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Another few types:
- Westland gets the Welkin right, so it makes sense to do a 2-seater from it
- Whirlwind is not that tight a design...

Luftwaffe:
- the Ta 154 made from metal
- He 219 designed around the BMW 801s from the get-go
- a 2-seat Reggianne 2001-2005 or G.55 with German electronics
- a 2-seat Ar 234
 

Shortround6

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The alternative NFs should be able to be either more capable than the historical aircraft used (factors being speed, maneuverability, weaponry, electronics etc.), and/or more easily available, or earlier available. The suitability for night fighting in terms of good low-speed handling, overall handling is obviously still required. Radars and other allectronics - as these can be plausibly available to a country in question. Granted, even a radar-less night fighter will work, as demonstrated by Luftwaffe and RAF.
Think range/endurance. Most night fighters were operated on the "standing patrol" model. Or modified "standing Patrol" The early Blenheims and the Beaufighters often did patrols of 3-5 hours? P-61 was big as it was because the specifications called for 8 hours patrol time if I remember.
Now this may have been a chicken and the egg sort of thing. The early planes didn't have the climb of a Spitfire or Hurricane and had to start airborne instead of climbing to intercept a blip. Once that became established practice new planes were designed to meet practice even though new planes could sit on the ground and climb to combat altitude in the time available since early warning.
Not sure what the advantage of getting acclimated to flying around in the dark is.
Keeping the crew warm instead of frozen might be an advantage.
 

yulzari

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Martin Marylands were busily in demand by the RAF for bombing and long range reconnaissance in the Mediterranean and all were the subject of a direct British contract so it will be handbags at dawn if one took them away for use as night fighters.
 

muskeg13

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Martin Marylands were busily in demand by the RAF for bombing and long range reconnaissance in the Mediterranean and all were the subject of a direct British contract so it will be handbags at dawn if one took them away for use as night fighters.
Unless it was the RAF itself decided their Blenheims weren't cutting it, and until they could field enough Beaufighter night fighters, those intended for the FAA took a lower priority.
 

Glider

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Simply put, there were no alternatives.

The RAF certainly used their most advanced suitable aircraft almost as soon as they were available, notably the Beaufighter and then the Mosquito.

There were no alternatives, even theoretical which would meet your criteria of The alternative NFs should be able to be either more capable than the historical aircraft used
 

MikeMeech

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Another few types:
- Westland gets the Welkin right, so it makes sense to do a 2-seater from it
- Whirlwind is not that tight a design...
Hi
They did of course produce a radar equipped two-seater Welkin, the Mk. II, that was converted from the 83rd production single-seater. This aircraft first flew on 23rd October, 1944. The development of the Welkin was not needed in the end as the expected high altitude Luftwaffe bombing attacks failed to appear and Mosquito variants could undertake the operational tasks that did appear.

Mike
 

tomo pauk

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There were no alternatives, even theoretical which would meet your criteria of The alternative NFs should be able to be either more capable than the historical aircraft used
Does my sentence end there?
 
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