Hughes H-1: Potential Military development

Discussion in 'Aviation' started by wuzak, Jul 28, 2012.

  1. wuzak

    wuzak Well-Known Member

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    Hughes' H-1 racer set the world air speed record for land planes at a touch over 350mph in 1935 (the Macchi MC.72 had done 440mph the previous year).

    In 1937 Hughes managed to break the transcontinental US record by flying non-stop in the H-1, now fitted with longer span wings. Clearly it could hold some fuel!

    The USAAC did show some interest in the design, and asked Hughes if they could inspect the H-1. Howard Hughes supposedly agreed, flew to the USAAC base where this was supposed to happen and where the Army big wigs were gathered but failed to land the plane. He then continued his flight elsewhere. Probably the last time the USAAC considered the H-1 for military development.

    So, what if Howard Hughes wasn't such a nut case, and actually landed the H-1, so that the Army brass could inspect and appraise the aircraft?

    Could the H-1 have been made into a useful military fighter?

    What engien would it have used? The H-1 had the Pratt Whitney R-1535, which had limited development potential. The R-1830 had more potential, but was slightly bigger in diameter, by 4", length, by 6", and weight, by about 200lb. But the long nose could allow for a new engine.

    What of in-lines - could the Allison V-1710 fit in that long snout, perhaps with an annular radiator? Also, there is probably room to fit a B-series turbo, although this would cost much of the fuselag tankage that the H-1 carried.

    How would it have been armed? Two 0.30"s in the cowl and another pair in the wings? Maybe 2 0.50"s in the cowl only?

    How well would it compare with the P-35 and P-36?
     
  2. Shortround6

    Shortround6 Well-Known Member

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    I think we have had several threads on this or the Hughes H-1 has intruded on several threads.

    Basically, while the Hughes H-1 had a number of features that were of interest to the Military the plane as a whole would have been almost worthless as a military plane. The Military had already been part way down this road with a design study to turn a Wendell Williams racer into a fighter plane. By the time the design is adapted to Military needs/wants/requirements it would show little performance advantage over a fighter designed from the start as a fighter.
     
  3. wuzak

    wuzak Well-Known Member

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    The Hughes was not really a racer - it was a record plane, and altogether bigger and heavier than the Wedell-Williams - the H-1 empty weight was more than the Wedell-Williams Type 44 racer's gross weight.

    The Wedell-Williams racer had a wingspan of 26'3" (8.0m) compared to the Hughes H-1's 31'9" (9.67m) for the long span wings (wiki lists them as the original, but teh Smithsonian says that the originals were 25' (7.6m) - Hughes H-1 Racer - Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum).
     
  4. davparlr

    davparlr Well-Known Member

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    There has been an interesting discussion on another site in regards to this specific item ending up with some disagreement.

    The H-1 was strictly a racer and was very small. However it had almost the same dimensions and weight as the first Bf-109 and similar speed. It would have had to be increased a bit in size to accommodate the R-1830 engine and weapons but I think it certainly would have had the potential as being as capable as other 1940 fighters including the Bf-109E and Spitfire I, although maybe a bit slower. And if the F4F engine had been used, would have had equivalent or better high altitude performance.

    The real jump in performance would be to redesign for the R2800. This would have been a total redesign but would have provided a great low to mid altitude fighter similar to but probably better than the Fw-190 in performance, especially if the F4U engine was used. Engine development may have restricted its operation to later in the war, maybe 1943.





    We have pretty good data here. The P-66, which was designed by the H-1 designer and use its concept, although in my mind, was overly porkier, can be compared to the P-35 and P-36. With the same power engine but not the same engine, the P-66 was almost 30 mph faster than the P-36C and 50 mph faster than than the P-35A, although the P-35 was less powerful. The P-66 did not climb as well as the P-36. The P-66 has quite a similar appearance to the F4U, especially in the design of the empinage, but I could find no connection between the two.
     
  5. R Pope

    R Pope Member

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    The H1 would have been a nightmare to mass produce. The wood wing skin alone was applied at 1" or so thick, and hand sanded to a perfect profile. Can you see them doing that to a fighter plane? And where would the guns go? And the huge but crappy radio? The canopy would have to be higher for visibility, increasing drag, and a better, more suitable engine would require more mods. Better to leave her hanging from the museum ceiling and build Mustangs!
     
  6. wuzak

    wuzak Well-Known Member

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    The problem is that the Mustang is years away from being a prototype, let alone being in production at the time the H1 would have been considered for a military role. The standard fighter of the day was, in fact, the P-26. The P-35 and P-36 were under development, but not yet in production.

    I would suggest cowl mounted guns. As the engine has to be changed and the cowl modified to suit anyway, you could do it then.

    With the mods, and extra cockpit space, the performance may be reduced to something similar to the P-36?
     
  7. oldcrowcv63

    oldcrowcv63 Well-Known Member

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    Wouldn't the H-1's small wing area severely limit its development potential?
     
  8. wuzak

    wuzak Well-Known Member

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    Possibly.

    But the H1 was made with two sets of wings - a short set for the speed record, and a longer set for the transcontinental record. Why not develop a third set for military development?
     
  9. Shortround6

    Shortround6 Well-Known Member

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    And there is the conflict. The H-1, heavily modified to be a fighter, would also be in development, not production.

    1739L.jpg

    guns cannot go in the existing "cowl" as it is smaller than the engine and with a 14 cylinder radial there is no space between cylinders for the barrels/blast tubes to go. Going to the R-1830 means a fatter engine with a fatter engine cowl and a whole new fuselage center section to get the guns above/to the side of the engine.

    Notice the position of the pilots head in relation to the top of the "engine cowling". Deflection shooting would be most difficult and view for landing is poor at best.

    HughesH1_2.jpg

    Note that existing canopy wind screen slides forward for pilot egress. Note also the size of the landing gear tires and the landing gear.

    Hughes_H-1_Racer,_front.jpg

    There are no shock absorber struts, the only shock absorption is the flex in those tiny tires. There is no tail wheel, it used a retractable skid.

    Wing may have been wood covered with a metal internal structure. Wood was covered with "balloon" cloth and lacquered and polished.

    There is nothing that cannot be modified to make a service fighter but it all takes time and cuts into the performance. And in the end will you have a plane that is any better than the P-36?
     
  10. wuzak

    wuzak Well-Known Member

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    Well, that's what I asked in the OP.
     
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