Curtiss XF15C Mixed-Propulsion Navy Fighter Prototype
The Curtiss XF15C was born during the fighting of World War 2 but suffered cancellation in the immediate post-war period.
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World War 2 (1939-1945) showcased both the pinnacle of the propeller-driven aircraft design and the rise of jet-powered aircraft. The former would be embodied by such aircraft as the late-war Grumman F8F "Bearcat" U.S. Navy (USN) fighter while the latter appeared through several progressive types that ultimately became fighting forms - the British "Gloster Meteor", the German Messerschmitt Me 262 "Schwalbe", and the American Lockheed P-80 "Shooting Star".
The road to dedicated turbojet aircraft was itself a long and arduous one that claimed the lives of many and further the careers of a select few. There stood a bridge design between the piston-powered forms that dominated the air battles of the war and the true turbojet-powered designs - the mixed-propulsion, or composite fighter, aircraft.
Because early turbojet designs were thirsty and generally seen as unreliable, early fighter forms were often fitted with two or more jets and these mounted under the wings for ease-of-maintenance and repair/replacement. Even the earliest of jet fighters - such as the famous Me 262 - actually flew under prop-power for a time in its testing phase. As such, engineers began drawing up plans for the short-term future of the military fighter aircraft flight and this led down the path of the combination propulsion system - a propeller-driven engine coupled with a force-producing rocket or turbojet installation.
Curtiss Aeroplane had been a longtime supplier of military and civilian aircraft even prior to World War 2 but its true claim to fame would only ever be its prewar P-40 "Warhawk" fighter which made a name for itself fighting over China against the Japanese. The company put together many other projects - some that were adopted and others that fell by the wayside before the end, the Curtiss XF15C becoming one of the latter investments.
The United States Navy was somewhat convinced about the short-term gains in utilization of a combination propulsion scheme and commissioned for several designs - one becoming the Ryan FR-1"Fireball" which first flew in June of 1944 and saw production reach 71 examples. This aircraft was evolved into the XF2R "Dark Shark" which flew in 1946. For its second composite fighter aircraft, the USN looked at a capable airframe powered by a Pratt & Whitney R-2800-34W of 2,100 horsepower coupled with the Allis-Chalmers J36 turbojet of 2,700 pounds thrust output (the Allis-Chalmers was a license-production copy of the British de Havilland Goblin engine). A four-bladed propeller would be driven by the former installation which also benefitted from use of a single-stage supercharger element.