Tucker XP-57 (Peashooter) Bomber Interceptor / Fighter Proposal
Preston Tucker attempted to nab a U.S. Army contract by pushing this ultimately-abandoned XP-57 Peashooter bomber interceptor.
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Prior to World War 2 (1939-1944), American airpower authorities began to seriously consider the concept of a very-light-weight point defense interceptor to counter the possible threat of enemy bombers in American airspace. The aircraft would be designed with minimal use of strategic war materials (namely metal) and showcase a very contained profile while possessing performance and armament suitable for the interception role. From this came several lightweight fighter programs of which none materialized into workable production forms to fit the role - one of these concepts became the Tucker XP-75.
Preston Tucker plied his trade as an automobile designer and businessman, eventually remembered for his post-war Tucker Sedan of 1948. He saw the potential of U.S. military contracts for his privately-owned machine parts business and began a design concept for a lightweight interceptor as the "Model AL-5". it was nicknamed the "Peashooter" due to its proposed dimensions. He then formed Tucker Aviation Corporation out of Detroit, Michigan during 1940 to help support the future design and development of this aircraft and help push an Army contract - which was granted in July of 1940. The charge called for a single low-cost prototype under the "XP-57" pursuit fighter designation with support through the storied Wright Field.
The finalized design was a single-seat, single-engine development with a length of 26.6 feet, a wingspan of 28.4 feet, and a height of 8 feet while showcasing an empty weight of 3,000lbs. Unlike a majority of contemporaries, the undercarriage would be a tricycle arrangement - a rather modern approach typically seen from aircraft under the Bell brand label. Additionally, the XP-57 adopted another Bell quality - the powerplant installation behind the cockpit with a drive shaft running the two-bladed propeller at front of the nose (as in the Bell P-39 Airacobra). Due to scarcity of better known engines at the time, the Miller L-510-1 Double series V12 liquid-cooled engine of 720 horsepower output was selected due to its availability and promised performance. Maximum speed was estimated at 308 miles per hour with a range out to 600 miles and rate-of-climb of 1,700 feet-per-minute. For combat, it would be capably-armed with either 1 x 20mm cannon (60 rounds of ammunition) and 1 x 0.50 caliber Browning heavy machine gun (400 rounds) or 3 x 0.50 caliber heaving machine guns (488 rounds). For the 20mm cannon installation, the weapon would fire through the propeller hub (again, as in the Bell P-39 series).
Weight would be a key quality of the small design and an engineering struggle to boot. As such, it was decided that the wings would be formed of a wooden understructure with fabric covering. A steel tube frame was to make up the structural support of the fuselage and aluminum skin would be used to cover it. Cockpit and engine armoring were nixed as they only served to add weight and degrade performance for a fighter design intended to be both fast and nimble.
Work on the XP-57 began in short order but Tucker Aviation filed for bankruptcy as soon as February of 1941 - nearly a full year before America would commit to war. The company experienced internal troubles which delayed progress and the program was further done in by the evolution of U.S. Army fighter requirements leading up to World War 2 - primarily driven by worldwide developments seen elsewhere. As such, the XP-57 went nowhere and the Army allowed its contract with Tucker Aviation to run its course and fall to history. The company was then acquired by Higgins Industries and Tucker served his time as Vice President until 1943 while the company concentrated on weapons, turret, and powerplant manufacture for the Higgins torpedo boats.