Seversky P-35 Fighter Aircarft
The Seversky P-35 became the USAACs first all-metal fighter and saw combat action against Japan in the early years of World War 2.
Authored By Dan Alex; Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com
Upon its adoption in 1937, the portly Seversky P-35 pursuit aircraft became the United States Army Air Corp's (USAAC) first modern single-seat fighter by showcasing an enclosed cockpit, all-metal construction, and a retractable undercarriage. Its arrival was a highly publicized event in America, detailing the type as the fighter that was to earn the United States military aerial superiority over any foe of the time. In reality, however, the type was limited by its performance as well as its machine gun armament - these key limitations unveiled honestly (and brutally) in the early fighting of World War 2 (1939-1945).
Design of the P-35 was attributed to Russian Alexander P. Seversky. Born into wealth, Seversky enlisted with the Russian Air Service during World War 1 (1914-1918). On his first sortie, his two-seat aircraft was shot down by ground-based fire. In the ensuing crash landing, an undetonated bomb exploded and killed his crewmate while Seversky was to lose his own leg in the process. Undeterred and having recovered from his near-death experience, Seversky was granted use of a prosthetic and given command of an aircraft again - such was his dogged determination. Becoming a high-scoring ace for the Russians for their part in the conflict, he was then sent by the government to the United States to help secure surplus war goods. His future changed when the Communist revolution overtook his home country which tumbled the Empire into a complete civil war. Seversky then decided his fortunes would be better served as a citizen of the United States. Having made high-level connections during his stay, he joined forces with General Billy Mitchell who had been working on both the Army and Navy authorities to adopt more modern doctrine with regards to air superiority. Seversky's circle of friends soon grew and he himself attained the rank of Major in the Army Air Corps Reserve during 1926.
Aeronautics were a true passion and, in 1931, Seversky used seed capital to rent a lone hangar from a Long Island-based New York aviation company (Edo). His staff grew to include Alexander Kartveli, the soon-to-be designer of the classic World War 2-era P-47 "Thunderbolt" fighter. A combined effort then produced an all-metal, three-seat "SEV-3" amphibious record-setter in 1933. The U.S. Army's BT-8 trainers were an evolved form of this aircraft, beginning Seversky's involvement with such sales to the USAAC.
A period of trial and error then greeted the engineering team and the evolutionary process of what would become the P-35. Prototypes were modified accordingly and Seversky eyed his developments as the successor to the outgoing Boeing P-26 "Peashooter" monoplane that the Army currently held in stock. However, the competing firm of Curtiss was also working on their "Model 75" for the same potentially lucrative contract. After a fly-off between the two designs, the Seversky SEV-7 prototype was selected ahead of the Curtiss submission and an Army contract handed to Seversky on June 16th, 1936. The order was for 77 of the type under the pursuit fighter designation of "P-35". A testing prototype with (though with reduced performance) was made available to Army officials in July of 1937. Beyond the order from the U.S. Army was an order from Sweden - though an October 1940 embargo led to the Army claiming some of this outgoing stock as the "P-35A" and these were promptly shipped to American forces in the Philippines. Swedish versions (the "J9") were equipped with 2 x 12.7mm heavy machine guns in the wings and 2 x 7.62mm machine guns in the engine cowl, synchronized to fire through the spinning propeller blades. Power was from a Pratt & Whitney R1830-45 radial piston engine of 1,050 horsepower.