Piaggio P.119 Fighter Prototype
The Piaggio P.119 fighter could have been something special in the fighting of World War 2 but the Italian surrender of September 1943 doomed the project.
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There were several aircraft of the World War 2 period (1939-1945) that attempted the concept of mounting the engine aft of the cockpit and utilizing a extension shaft to drive a nose-mounted propeller. The Bell P-39 "Airacobra" was perhaps the most famous (and successful) of these though one of the more rarer such designs to emerge during this time was from Italy through the experimental Piaggio P.119. The project netted only a sole prototype before the Italian surrender.
The P.119 was made even more unique by its selection of an air-cooled radial piston engine - the Piaggio P.XV RC.45 18-cylinder twin-row of 1,500 horsepower. This forced a large air scoop to be fitted under the nose near the main wing elements for aspirating the air-cooled installation. The benefit of fitting the engine aft of the pilot's position was that the cockpit could be moved further ahead (and thus improve the pilot's vision) while also opening the nose assembly to a concentrated weapons load. The wing mainplanes were then free to carry weight loads or fuel as needed.
The P.119 emerged as a private venture with Giovanni Casiraghi credited with its design. It was a single-seat fighter at heart with proposed armament being 1 x 20mm Breda-SAFAT autocannon firing through the propeller hub (as in the P-39 design) backed by 4 x 12.7mm Breda-SAFAT heavy machine guns. All of the armament would be concentrated in the hollowed-out nose section. This made the P.119 entry a well-armed fighting machine if other aspects of its design could be mastered - namely its uniquely-placed center-of-gravity.
Italian authorities took interest in the design by March 1940 as the war raged on. A monocoque fuselage with metal skinning was used to make the P.119 one of the more modern Italian offerings of the war (many still relied on mixed wood/metal construction practices). A first flight by way of prototype was had on December 19th, 1942 and results were promising enough to warrant flight trials which lasted into August of 1943. It was found that the concentrated nature of the weapons causes excessive vibration of the aircraft when all were fired but this issue appeared solvable. A landing accident also damaged one of the wings which grounded the aircraft for repairs.
With series production expected to come through, engineers laid plans for the aircraft to accept the more powerful Piaggio P.XV RC.60/2V radial piston engine of 1,700 horsepower - hopefully driving performance figures even further. As it stood, the P.119 could manage a maximum speed of 400 miles per hour, a range out to 940 miles and a service ceiling nearing 41,348 feet. 10,000 feet of altitude could be reached in 3.25 minutes.
Despite all of this work and optimism, the P.119 was derailed when Italy surrendered to the Allied powers in September of 1943. The Armistice all but doomed the promising product and nothing more beyond the completed prototype was finished.