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  • Vultee P-66 Vanguard (Model 48) Trainer / Fighter Aircraft

    The Vultee P-66 Vanguard was originally ordered by Sweden, held back by the United States, and eventually featured over China.

     Updated: 5/11/2016; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ¬©www.MilitaryFactory.com

    A shortage of modern monoplane fighters worldwide preceding World War 2 (1939--1945) meant that virtually any and all fighter designs - whether inherently successful or not - were entertained by global powers for frontline service. The P-66 / Model 48 "Vanguard" was a development appearing just at the outbreak of the war in Europe and was designed by Richard W. Palmer for the Vultee Aircraft company as a dedicated fighter. It featured the usual modern traits of the time - an enclosed cockpit, streamlined metal fuselage, low-set monoplane wings and a retractable undercarriage - but was only produced in 146 total examples. Originally ordered by Sweden, the United States instead retained control over the Vanguard stock and offered it to allies in Britain and China, the latter becoming the primary operator of the design for its time aloft.

    Palmer headed the design of four similar aircraft to accomplish different dedicated over-battlefield tasks - V-48, BC-51, B-54 and BC-54D. These were used to fulfill fighter, basic training, advance training and basic training requirements respectively. The V-48, or Model 48, in particular, was to become a single-seat, single-engine fighter utilizing the latest in metal-skinning technology. Power would come from a Pratt & Whitney R-1830-S4C4-G 14-cylinder engine of 1,200 horsepower and driving a three-bladed propeller unit at the nose. The cockpit was set at midships and sported a framed canopy and raised fuselage spine. Wings were low-mounted monoplane assemblies fitted forwards and the tail of a conventional single-rudder design. The undercarriage was of a typical "tail dragger" configuration consistent for the times but retractable for drag reduction.

    The Model 48 achieved a first flight in prototype form on September 8th, 1939. Germany had invaded neighboring Poland back on September 1st and world powers - including the United States an ocean away - took notice of the evolving situation in Europe. Flight testing revealed several deficiencies in the design of Model 48, including engine cooling issues and stability problems, which forced a modification of the tail unit surfaces and internal engine intake arrangement. However these changes did little to alleviate the ongoing issues. Model 48 collided with a Lockheed Sirius utility aircraft on May 9th, 1940 which caused considerable damage to the Model 48's undercarriage (one leg was wholly lost). After a safe landing the aircraft was rebuilt with changes enacted but this also served to delay the Vanguard program as a whole.

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    Vultee P-66 Vanguard Technical Specifications

    Service Year: 1941
    Type: Trainer / Fighter Aircraft
    National Origin: United States
    Manufacturer(s): Vultee Aircraft - USA
    Production Total: 146

    Structural (Crew Space, Dimensions and Weights)

    Operating Crew: 1
    Weight (Empty): 5,236 lb (2,375 kg)
    Weight (MTOW): 7,385 lb (3,350 kg)

    Installed Power and Standard Day Performance

    Engine(s): 1 x Pratt & Whitney R-1830-33 14-cylinder twin-row radial piston engine developing 1,200 horsepower.

    Maximum Speed: 339 mph (545 kph; 294 knots)
    Service Ceiling: 28,215 feet (8,600 meters; 5.34 miles)
    Rate-of-Climb: 2,520 feet-per-minute (768 m/min)

    Armament / Mission Payload

    4 x 0.30 caliber Brownning M1919 machine guns
    2 x 0.50 caliber Browning M2 heavy machine guns

    Global Operators / Customers

    China; Taiwan; United Kingdom (evaluated); United States

    Model Variants (Including Prototypes)

    Model 48 - Vultee company designation

    P-66 "Vanguard" - Base Series Designation of USAAC/USAAF trainer version.

    V-48 - Original prototype model

    V-48X - Second prototype with modified wings and tail unit.

    V49C - Export model for Sweden

    Vanguard I - British Royal Air Force (RAF) designation; evaluated, not used operationally.