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  • Vought V-173 (Flying Pancake) Experimental Fighter Aircraft

    The Vought V-173 was certainly one of the more unique fighter forms to come out of testing during World War 2.

     Updated: 4/21/2017; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ¬©www.MilitaryFactory.com

    Charles Zimmerman (1908-1996) served as an aeronautical engineer through most of his life and operated under the Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory in the 1930s during the world lead-up to World War 2. One of his more radical concepts became the V-173 "Flying Pancake" of the early 1940s which actually led to serious US Navy interest in such a fighter as the XF5U-1. Zimmerman developed a unique design centered around a wing-less frame which was rounded in its general appearance (hence the nickname of "Flying Pancake" assigned to the type). The low-drag design was intended to harness the natural occurring forces of propwash along the aircraft's surface area and promote much improved lift principles. It was believed that such a design would lead to aircraft exhibiting shorter take-offs and landings - critical components of at-sea carrier fighters. In many ways, this could lead to realizing the concept of Vertical Take-Off and Landing (VTOL), harnessing the vertical hover-power of a helicopter with the on-call forward movement of a conventional fixed-wing aircraft.

    Zimmerman's original vision included forward-mounted engines driving propellers. To this was added a prone cockpit position to advocate the slimmest forward profile possible, retaining maximum aerodynamic efficiency. With his team, Zimmerman produced scale models of the concept for testing. In 1937, Zimmerman went to work for Vought as a consultant and brought with him the circular low-drag concept to which he was granted a construction of a larger, electrically-driven, remote-controlled testing platform designated as the "V-162".

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    Vought V-173 (Flying Pancake) Technical Specifications

    Service Year: 1942
    Type: Experimental Fighter Aircraft
    National Origin: United States
    Manufacturer(s): Vought - USA
    Production Total: 1

    Structural (Crew Space, Dimensions and Weights)

    Operating Crew: 1

    Installed Power and Standard Day Performance

    Engine(s): 2 x Continental A-80 4-cylinder, horizontally-opposed engines developing 80 horsepower each.

    Maximum Speed: 138 mph (222 kph; 120 knots)
    Rate-of-Climb: 5,000 feet-per-minute (1,524 m/min)

    Armament / Mission Payload


    Global Operators / Customers

    United States

    Model Variants (Including Prototypes)

    V-173 - Base Prototype Series Designation; single example completed.

    VS-135 - Navy BuAer Designation

    XF5U-1 - US Navy fighter prototype designation