P39D-1 vs F4F-4 Which would you rather be in fighting the Japanese? and Why did the

Discussion in 'Aviation' started by pinsog, Sep 23, 2012.

  1. pinsog

    pinsog Member

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    P39 do so poorly against the Japanese when it clearly had a signifigant performance advantage over Japanese fighters? (at least below 15,000 feet)
     
  2. tomo pauk

    tomo pauk Creator of Interesting Threads

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    USN in 1942 needed a plane that can catch IJN Vals Kates, flying from SL up to what, 15000 ft? Their choice could be P-39, but that's out of the question for the obvious reasons. Neither plane would be able to forestall the Japanese attack(s) without proper early warning control.

    Did the P-39 fared bad vs Japanese?
     
  3. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

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    What does that have to do with land based aircraft such as the P-39?

    I don't like the P-39 for two reason.
    1) Low endurance. A particularly bad feature in the Pacific.
    2) Handling issues such as unpredictable stalls.

    F4F performance was rather weak but at least the handling was predictable. I prefer that over the P-39. However if given a choice I'll take a P-40E which was in plentiful supply during 1942.
     
  4. muscogeemike

    muscogeemike Member

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    I’ve read that much of the P-39’s bad rep in the Pacific was due to the P-400’s use.

    Even after the P-400 was gone some pilots didn’t utilize their P-39’s to is fullest potential due to this bad early rep.

    Not that there weren’t problems (bad 37mm rounds, gun fumes in the cockpit, problems with coordinating the mixed armament), but all aircraft had to overcome problems.

    Later eval’s indicate that the P-39’s record was not nearly as bad as we have been lead to believe.
     
  5. Shortround6

    Shortround6 Well-Known Member

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    P-400's cannon may have worked better than the early P-39 cannon.
     
  6. ShVAK

    ShVAK Member

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    Against the Japanese I would've preferred the Wildcat. The P-39 was faster, had better maneuverability but its engine was vulnerable to fighter attack thanks to its mid-fuselage layout and poor rate of climb, and the handling issues weren't entirely resolved early on. The 37mm cannon wasn't necessary against lightly armored IJN/IJA aircraft and was unreliable besides.

    F4F had reliable armament, good armor, a sturdy if slightly underpowered radial up front and good range, all things a fighter needed to hold the line against the A6M and Ki-43 and it was one of the few fighter types that served from the beginning right up to V-J Day.
     
  7. FLYBOYJ

    FLYBOYJ "THE GREAT GAZOO"
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    #7 FLYBOYJ, Sep 23, 2012
    Last edited: Sep 23, 2012
    An aircraft doesn't stall without warning - this is a myth when speaking in terms of the P-39. The degree of stall waring will vary between aircraft. If you're operating the aircraft close to the outside of it's envelope, the right amount of training will ensure that you don't do anything that will kill you. With that said the P-39, because of its C/G location could be unstable, something actually desirable in a fighter. A well trained pilot with exploit this. The P-39 was Chuck Yeager's favorite WW2 fighter.

    I think one will find with the right research that most of the P-39 (and P-400) bad reputation was due to tactics and pilot error. Also examine how many were actually lost in air to air combat during the summer of 1942. JoeB posted some good information where it was shown that P-39s and P-40s were holding their own against the Japanese. Of course the tide turned in December 1942 when the first P-38s became operational.
     
  8. pinsog

    pinsog Member

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    If you were running the show at say, Guadalcanal, which figher would you have chosen, P39 or F4F-4?
     
  9. Juha

    Juha Well-Known Member

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    #9 Juha, Sep 23, 2012
    Last edited: Sep 23, 2012
    Hello Tomo
    Here is some of the info JoeB had given over the time:
    "No, it only covers to the end of the first set of Japanese offensives in that area around the beginning of March. For New Guinea I'm comparing the Japanese losses given in Sakaida "Winged Samurai" w/ the US claims and losses given in Hess "Pacific Sweep".

    The 8th FG (P-39) claimed 45 enemy aircraft April 30-June 1 1942, 37 of them Zeroes, losing 26 P-39's in air combat almost all to Zeroes. They were the only Allied fighter unit at Port Moresby having relieved 75sdn RAAF (P-40) when they arrived. The unit opposing them was the Tainan Air Group, A6M's, with suffered 11 pilots KIA in the same period... it's more like perhaps 1:2 considering in this case some of the combats were over the Japanese airfields and they could have lost some planes w/ surviving pilots, though it's not mentioned in any specific accounts I know of."


    and

    "stats from Apr 30-June 1 '42, 45 e/a claimed, 37 of them Zeroes, for 26 P-39's (13 pilots) lost in air combat. The Tainan Kokutai lost 11 pilots in this period, w/ the 8th the only Allied fighter unit it faced after May 3..The JNAF didn't use parachutes in this period but still lost more planes than pilots in other known cases; I've never seen a comprehensive accounting of this period though. Anyway ball park of 2:1 against the P-39's in planes..[though] close to even in pilots..."


    HTH
    Juha
     
  10. FLYBOYJ

    FLYBOYJ "THE GREAT GAZOO"
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    It would have depended on the mission. Lower altitude interception where I had the advantage of getting aircraft in the air ahead of the attack - P-39. Higher altitudes and missions involving range, F4F
     
  11. bob44

    bob44 Member

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    I would go with the F4F. Tough, rugged and simple. Good firepower, needed good tactics to win a fight.
     
  12. tomo pauk

    tomo pauk Creator of Interesting Threads

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    That declaration of the vulnerability due to the rear engine is not serious, right? 1st, the engine was provided with armor plate, 2nd, if one does not have engine behind, the pilot is tho receive the bullets/shells from astern. The P-39 was a better climber, too, when compared with F4F-4.
    Stating that F4F was serving up until the VJ day misses the point here - it was the FM that was serving, a lighter variant. It was serving aboard the carriers too small to accept fighters of greater performance, rarely oposing a major adversary attention, while the P-39 was in the combat vs. Luftwaffe all the time. No comparison for the later part of the war IMO.

    Many thanks :)
     
  13. Jabberwocky

    Jabberwocky Active Member

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    I’m not particularly familiar with the Pacific, but I was under the impression that the P-39C/D gave a better account of itself against Japanese fighters than the early P-40s in 1942 and early 1943 (Flying Tigers experience notwithstanding). The major trouble was they were forced to fight at 15,000 ft and above, where the Japanese types had a distinct performance advantage.

    From what I’ve read, the early P-39s also regularly failed to reach their placard numbers, thanks to some early manufacturing/quality control problems at Bell. The UK P-400s were only able to reach their guaranteed performance levels after the aircraft were stripped of paint, lightened and the rear empennage was chopped down!

    Even if it did make the advertised performance figures, I’d suggest that the P-39s would have a hard time against the A6M and Ki-43. Perhaps the only advantages the P-39 would have are a speed advantage below about 10,000 ft and rate of roll above about 300-325 mph.

    The Zero and Hyabusa definitely have the advantages in turn, climb and rate of roll below 275 mph.

    The P-39’s problem is much like that of the Spitfire V when facing the Japanese types: below about 20,000 ft, they were much better dogfighters. Unfortunately, in the P-39’s case, the Japanese types were also much better dogfighters above 20,000 ft as well. At least the Spitfire V had the advantage up high.
     
  14. Shortround6

    Shortround6 Well-Known Member

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    Being realistic there probably wasn't that much difference in range between the two planes. 144 to 120 gallons of internal fuel and the P-39 had less drag. These planes could also suck down over 30 gals of fuel just warming up, taking off and climbing to 15,000ft. The F4F climbed slower and would use more fuel to reach a given altitude even it did perform better once it got to 15-20,000ft or so.
    Many Navy "yardstick" ranges are calculated at low altitudes and low speeds. Upping the "cruise" speeds of both fighters to more reasonable patrol speeds so they don't get bounced with only 160-200mph in hand means even more fuel burned.
    Without drop tanks both planes are short ranged at reasonable speeds. I am not sure when the drop tanks show up for the F4F. Maybe in time for Guadalcanal
     
  15. ShVAK

    ShVAK Member

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    I'd posit that the rear engine vulnerability is pretty serious, even if it's armored a few good 20mm hits tend to equal a knocked out engine, and the P-39 was notoriously hard to bail out of compared to fighters with vertical-opening cockpits. The engine being there may have saved some pilots from getting eviscerated by enemy fire, but after it's been shot out what then? What's more the P-39 may have climbed better than an F4F but it still wasn't equal to Japanese types at the war's onset, especially considering the P-39 was often fighting at altitudes outside its element.

    Now on the Eastern Front, you mostly had later P-39 variants with various refinements over the older planes (including more armor and/or fuel, more horsepower, different props for higher climb rate etc.) that closed some performance gaps and allowed it to at least hold its own against LW fighters down low where the fight usually was, the P-63 was obviously even better and could fight the declining LW on their terms. None of this was the case in the PTO circa 1942.
     
  16. varsity078740

    varsity078740 Member

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    According to Craven Crate's The AAF In Word War II, the 8th and 35th Fighter Groups lost 25-33 P-39s/P-400s from
    April 30th thru July of 1942 with a number of pilot KIAs. The P-39's C/G problem was that it changed with expenditure of ammunition. Yeager's opinion of the P-39 echoed those of other pilots who flew it stateside as a trainer. A nice plane to rat race in lightly loaded but not a combat aircraft.

    Duane
     
  17. FLYBOYJ

    FLYBOYJ "THE GREAT GAZOO"
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    Again, compare that with Japanese losses, the P-39 wasn't doing well, but it sure wasn't getting "mauled."
     
  18. pinsog

    pinsog Member

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    Do you have the comparable losses for the Japanese against this fighter group?

    Do you think a well trained group of pilots that used the P39's strengths and knew the Japanese aircrafts weaknesses could have made this plane a winner?
     
  19. FLYBOYJ

    FLYBOYJ "THE GREAT GAZOO"
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    Look at Juha's post on the previous page.

    A winner? No. A "sustainer?" Possibly.
     
  20. muscogeemike

    muscogeemike Member

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    Ascetically I love this airplane but I have always wondered how much of the P-39/63’s rep on the E. Front was due to hype. The Russians needed all the help they could get and for a Russian pilot to be critical could have meant a lot of trouble for him.

    And the US used lend lease for all the good publicity they could ring out of it. If we were going to give away fighters why not ones that were conveniently in production and we didn’t really want?

    No doubt the Soviets used the planes with some success - but so did we, not only in the Pacific but in the Med.
     
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