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Boeing Model 394

Carrierborne Lightweight Fighter Proposal

Boeing Model 394

Carrierborne Lightweight Fighter Proposal


Design of the Boeing Model 394 lightweight, carrier-based fleet defense fighter was to have be centered around the Wright XR-1820-56 air-cooled radial engine.
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ORIGIN: United States
YEAR: 1943
STATUS: Cancelled
MANUFACTURER(S): Boeing Company - USA
OPERATORS: United States (abandoned)

Unless otherwise noted the presented statistics below pertain to the Boeing Model 394 model. Common measurements, and their respective conversions, are shown when possible.
LENGTH: 29.86 feet (9.1 meters)
WIDTH: 34.94 feet (10.65 meters)
WEIGHT (EMPTY): 3,307 pounds (1,500 kilograms)
WEIGHT (MTOW): 6,206 pounds (2,815 kilograms)
ENGINE: x Wright XR-1820-56 9-cylinder supercharged air-cooled radial piston engine developing 1,500 horsepower and driving a three-bladed propeller unit at the nose.
SPEED (MAX): 377 miles-per-hour (607 kilometers-per-hour; 328 knots)
RANGE: 771 miles (1,240 kilometers; 670 nautical miles)
CEILING: 33,809 feet (10,305 meters; 6.40 miles)
RATE-OF-CLIMB: 5,230 feet-per-minute (1,594 meters-per-minute)

2 x 0.50 caliber Browning M2 Heavy Machine Guns (HMGs) in upper sides of engine cowling.
2 x 0.50 caliber Browning M2 HMGs in wings (one per wing).
Graphical image of an aircraft medium machine gun
Graphical image of an aircraft heavy machine gun

Series Model Variants
• Model 394 - Base Project Designation.


Detailing the development and operational history of the Boeing Model 394 Carrierborne Lightweight Fighter Proposal.  Entry last updated on 4/1/2019. Authored by Staff Writer. Content ©
1943 proved a critical year for the Allied war effort during the fighting of World War 2 (1939-1945). The American concern of Boeing, which already had such wartime stalwarts as the B-17 "Flying Fortress" in service in great numbers, did not rest on its laurels for many projects began to take shape in the hopes of securing potentially lucrative United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) and United States Navy (USN) contracts. The Boeing "Model 394" was a short-lived, proposed product of the period, arriving at a time when victory for the Allied cause was not a foregone conclusion - so any and all manner of combat aircraft designs were entertained by authorities.

The Model 394 was penciled out at a compact, lightweight carrier-based single-seat, single-engine fighter with strictly machine gun armament fitted. It would have been used in the "fleet defense" role, primarily in the Pacific Theater of War, to provide airborne defense for American carrier groups against marauding elements of the Empire of Japan. The compact nature of the design was to play well for the space-strapped American carriers and the lightweight quality meant the platform would make for a nimble gunnery platform. Beyond this, the aircraft was viewed as an economical measure that could be produced rapidly in the thousands utilizing proven design techniques and construction methods.

The aircraft was slated to use the Curtiss-Wright / Wright XR-1820-56 "Cyclone / Cyclone 9", a 9-cylinder, air-cooled supercharged engine rated between 1,200 horsepower and 1,350 horsepower (the Wright Cyclone was already in widespread use with the B-17 bomber series by Boeing). This would be bumped up to 1,500 horsepower output for the new Boeing fighter with "War Emergency Power" (WEP) capability built-in to achieve slightly better performance for short periods of time (the primary targeted flight envelope for the aircraft was mainly low-to-medium altitudes). The engine was to drive a three-bladed propeller unit at the nose.

Structurally, dimensions included an overall length of 29.9 feet and a wingspan of 34.9 feet. Gross weight reached 6,205lb.

With the engine set in the nose, the cockpit was situated directly aft and just ahead of midships. The wing mainplanes, fitted low against the sides of the fuselage,, was similarly positioned ahead of midships. Each wing member exhibited rounded tips and considerable forward sweep of the trailing edges with the leading edges left as straight as possible. The tail unit was traditional, a single fin with low-set horizontal planes being used. For ground-running, a typical "tail-dragger" arrangement was proposed but only the main legs were made retractable.

As with other carrier-based warplanes, the Model 394 was envisioned with the usual carrier-based fighter qualities: reinforcement of the structure / undercarriage, arrestor gear equipment for deck-based landings, and wing-folding (the members hinged outboard of the main landing gear legs) folding (manually) towards the rear and resting along the fuselage sides.

Proposed standard armament was 4 x 0.50 caliber Browning M2 heavy machine guns, an American fighter plane staple of the World War 2 period. Two guns would be installed in the upper sides of the engine cowling while each wing member would be furnished with a single gun. The cowling-mounted guns would have to be synchronized to fire through the spinning propeller blades (the wing-mounted guns sat just outside of the propeller's arc).

Boeing engineers estimated a top speed of 435 miles-per-hour with a service ceiling up to 34,000 feet, and a range out to 770 miles for their little fighter. Jettisonable (external) fuel tanks would have extended the fighter's operational reach to 1,450 miles from its take-off point. Rate-of-climb was an impressive 5,230 feet-per-minute under full power, a strong quality to have for when intercepting inbound airborne enemy elements.

Despite its seemingly strong qualities (at least on paper), the Model 394 was not adopted for further development by USN authorities.


Our Data Modules allow for quick visual reference when comparing a single entry against contemporary designs. Areas covered include general ratings, speed assessments, and relative ranges based on distances between major cities.

Image of collection of graph types

Relative Maximum Speed
Hi: 400mph
Lo: 200mph
This entry's maximum listed speed (377mph).

Graph average of 300 miles-per-hour.
City-to-City Ranges
Graph showcases the Boeing Model 394's operational range (on internal fuel) when compared to distances between major cities.
Aviation Era
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Useful in showcasing the era cross-over of particular aircraft/aerospace designs.
Unit Production (0)
Comm. Market HI*: 44,000 units
Military Market HI**: 36,183 units

  * Commercial Market High belongs to Cessna 172.

  ** Military Market High belongs to Ilyushin Il-2.

Altitude Visualization
Small airplane graphic
Supported Roles
Ground Attack
Aerial Tanker
A2A=Air-to-Air; UAV=Unmanned; CAS=Close Support; ASW=Anti-Submarine; AEW=Airborne Early Warning; MEDEVAC=Medical Evac; EW=Electronic Warfare; SAR=Search-Rescue
Commitments / Honors
Military lapel ribbon for Operation Allied Force
Military lapel ribbon for the Arab-Israeli War
Military lapel ribbon for the Battle of Britain
Military lapel ribbon for the Battle of Midway
Military lapel ribbon for the Berlin Airlift
Military lapel ribbon for the Chaco War
Military lapel ribbon for the Cold War
Military lapel ribbon for the Cuban Missile Crisis
Military lapel ribbon for pioneering aircraft
Military lapel ribbon for the Falklands War
Military lapel ribbon for the French-Indochina War
Military lapel ribbon for the Golden Age of Flight
Military lapel ribbon for the 1991 Gulf War
Military lapel ribbon for the Indo-Pak Wars
Military lapel ribbon for the Iran-Iraq War
Military lapel ribbon for the Korean War
Military lapel ribbon for the 1982 Lebanon War
Military lapel ribbon for the Malayan Emergency
Military lapel ribbon representing modern aircraft
Military lapel ribbon for the attack on Pearl Harbor
Military lapel ribbon for the Six Day War
Military lapel ribbon for the Soviet-Afghan War
Military lapel ribbon for the Spanish Civil War
Military lapel ribbon for the Suez Crisis
Military lapel ribbon for the Vietnam War
Military lapel ribbon for Warsaw Pact of the Cold War-era
Military lapel ribbon for the WASP (WW2)
Military lapel ribbon for the World War 1
Military lapel ribbon for the World War 2
Military lapel ribbon for the Yom Kippur War
Military lapel ribbon for experimental x-plane aircraft
* Ribbons not necessarily indicative of actual historical campaign ribbons. Ribbons are clickable to their respective campaigns/operations.

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