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Boeing F4B / P-12 Carrier-Borne / Pursuit Fighter (1929)

Authored By Staff Writer | Last Updated: 10/15/2015

The F4B / P-12 pursuit fighter line became an important product for both Boeing and the United States military.

In the latter half of the 1920s, Boeing undertook another private venture of a pursuit-minded military fighter in the Model 83. The type was intended as a direct successor to the original Boeing F2B and F3B pursuit fighter lines which were both adopted by the United States Navy in 1928. The new model was a revision of the classic designs though retaining the open-air cockpit, fixed undercarriage and biplane wing arrangement common to aircraft of the period. As a naval aircraft, the airframe was appropriately strengthened and given a tail hook for carrier deck landings. Performance was good as was handling which resulted in the model's adoption into the USN inventory as the "F4B". The initial model designation was F4B-1. The US Army Air Corps (USAAC) then followed suit and adopted the type in similar form (lacking USN-specified modifications) as the "P-12". The Boeing Model 89 served as the US Army base design and incorporated support for 1 x 500lb bomb. The sales of F4B/P-12 aircraft proved critical for the Boeing concern during The Great Depression period and a prototype achieved first flight on June 25th, 1928. This Boeing aircraft marked the last "wood-winged", biplane fighter to be accepted by the US military. Production spanned from 1929 into 1932 with the initial airframe received by the US Army Air Corps on February 26th, 1929.

The US Marine Corps also made use of the F4B platform through twenty-two examples of the "F4B-4". At least 92 of the -4 mark were built, making up a large portion of the available 187 F4Bs. In all, Boeing produced 586 examples.

Outwardly, the F4B/P-12 utilized the widely-accepted biplane configuration of the itme. The fuselage was well-streamlined with an open-air cockpit and raised fuselage spine. The wings were of near-equal span incorporating parallel struts with a supporting v-structure. The upper wing assembly was supported over the fuselage with a similar strut arrangement. The engine was housed in a forward compartment and drove a two-bladed metal propeller assembly. The undercarriage was fixed by way of a network of struts and managed a pair of landing wheels. The empennage included a short, rounded vertical tail fin and low-set horizontal planes. Dimensionally, the aircraft exhibited a wingspan of 30 feet with a length of 20 feet.

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Specifications for the
Boeing F4B / P-12
Carrier-Borne / Pursuit Fighter

Focus Model: Boeing P-12E
Country of Origin: United States
Manufacturer: Boeing - USA
Initial Year of Service: 1929
Production Total: 586

Crew: 1

Length: 20.34 ft (6.2 m)
Width: 29.99 ft (9.14 m)
Height: 8.99ft (2.74 m)
Weight (Empty): 2,355 lb (1,068 kg)
Weight (MTOW): 2,690 lb (1,220 kg)

Powerplant: 1 x Pratt & Whitney R-1340-17 radial piston engine developing 500 horsepower.

Maximum Speed: 189 mph (304 kmh; 164 kts)
Maximum Range: 570 miles (917 km)
Service Ceiling: 26,312 ft (8,020 m; 5.0 miles)
Rate-of-Climb: 1,666 feet-per-minute (508 m/min)

Hardpoints: 2
Armament Suite:
2 x 0.30 caliber Browning M1919 medium machine guns OR 1 x 0.30 Browning medium machine gun with 1 x 0.50 caliber Browning heavy machine gun.

OPTIONAL (depending on configuration):
1 x 500lb bomb
2 x 116lb bombs

Model 83 - Original model with R-1340-8 engine of 425 horsepower; single example.

Model 89 - Provision for 500lb bomb rank under fuselage; single example.

P-12 (Model 102) - USAAC evaluation model of F4B-1; R-1340-7 engine of 450 horsepower; nine produced.

XP-12A - Single-example; NACA engine cowl with R-1340-9 engine of 525 horsepower.

P-12B - Based on P-12 with revised landing wheels; 90 examples produced.

P-12C - Ring engine cowl; spead-bar undercarriage; 96 examples produced.

P-12D - P-12C model with R-1340-17 engine of 525 horsepower; 35 produced.

P-12E - P-12D model with semi-monocoque fuselage structure; new vertical tail fin; production included versions with tail wheel over skid design; 100 examples.

P-12F - P-12E model with R-1340-19 engine of 600 horsepower; 25 examples.

Xp-12G - Single prototype example; fitted with R-1340-15 engine with side-mounted supercharger.

XP-12H - Single prototype example; fitted with GISR-1340E engine.

P-12J - P-12E with R-1320-23 engine of 575 horsepower; special bomb sighting equipment; single example.

YP-12K - P-12E and P-12J models with fuel-injected SR-1340E series engines; seven examples converted from existing mounts.

XP-12L - Single experimental example based on YP-12K fitting F-2 supercharger.

XF4B-1 - US Navy prototypes; two examples

F4B-1 - Initial US Navy models; provision for underfuselage bomb; 27 examples produced.

F4B-2 - Spread-bar landing gear; tailwheel; 46 produced.

F4B-3 - F4B-2 models with semi-monocoque fuselage; 21 examples.

F4B-4 - F4B-3 model with new tail fin design; fitted with R-1340-16 engine of 550 horsepower; provision for 2 x 116lb bombs.

F4B-4A - 23 examples serving as radio-controlled targets.

Model 100 - Civilian variant based on F4B-1; four produced.

Model 100A - Two-seat conversion manufactured for Howard Hughes.

Model 100D - Demonstrator aircraft

Model 100E - P-12E model for export to Siamese Air Force.

Model 100F - P-12F engine testbed for Pratt & Whitney.

Model 218 - P-12E model for export to China

Model 256 - F4B-4 model for export to Brazil; 14 examples.

Model 267 - F4B-3 model (P-12E wings) for export to Brazil; nine examples.

A-5 - Proposed radio-controlled target drone; never produced.

Brazil; China; Philippines; Spain; Thailand; United States