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Douglas XP-48

Lightweight Single-Seat Point Defense Fighter Aircraft Proposal

United States | 1940

"Douglas Aircraft Company proposed its XP-48 as a lightweight fighter for the United States Army Air Corps prior to the American entry in World War 2."

Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited: 08/07/2018 | Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com | The following text is exclusive to this site; No A.I. was used in the generation of this content.
The concept of an economically-minded, very-lightweight-fighter was on the minds of warplanners across the globe even before the outbreak of World War 2 in September of 1939. The United States Army Air Corps (USAAC) was one branch of service looking into the prospect of a fleet of such aircraft designed as "point defense" solutions to counter the threat of a fleet of enemy bombers. The fighters would be cheap-to-produce en mass and quick-to-construct in the numbers needed. Compact dimensions, non-essential construction materials (namely wood), and suitable armament were at the heart of many of the contributions to this category of military aircraft.

As a private venture, the Douglas Aircraft Company took up a lightweight fighter design for the purpose of selling it to the Army Air Corps. Work began in 1939 and involved a basic, conventionally-arranged fuselage seating a sole pilot at midships. The engine was fitted to the nose in the usual way and a single-finned tail unit was at play at the rear. The mainplane consisted of a straight monoplane arrangement, though very slim in their design, and seated ahead of midships. The undercarriage was of a rather forward-thinking configuration, being tricycle (three-legged) and retractable. The main legs were installed at the fuselage which was rather unique for a fighter of the period where main legs were typically attached to the main wing members.

The engine of choice became the Ranger XV-770 V12 inverted liquid-cooled inline piston engine of 525 horsepower. This was installed in a compartment at the nose and drove a three-bladed 9.5 foot diameter blade. The aircraft carried a fuel capacity of just 50 gallons as range was not to be a concern for this point defense fighter system.

The aircraft, known internally as the Model 312, was purposely designed as compact, measuring a length of 21.8 feet with a wingspan of 32 feet and a height of 9 feet. Empty weight was 2,675lb against an MTOW of 3,400lb.

In terms of armament, engineers proposed a then-typical mix of a 0.30 caliber Browning medium machine gun with a 0.50 caliber Browning heavy machine gun - both weapons being air-cooled and belt-fed. These would be installed over the nose (and engine) and synchronized to fire through the spinning propeller blades.

On the whole, the fuselage carried all of the pertinent systems - pilot, engine, avionics, fuel, undercarriage and armament. The raised fuselage spine reduced vision to the rear but the aircraft would be flying most always with the enemy ahead of it. The interesting tricycle undercarriage may have added an engineering challenge and required a steady hand at the stick for the pilot when ground-running or landing / taking off.

Army authorities found enough value in the proposed Model 312 that a formal specification was drawn up around it in August 1939 to cover the expected "XP-48" prototype. However, this Douglas design survived for only a short time as the Army cancelled the project as soon as February of 1940 - apparently unconvinced at the promised 350 miles-per-hour top speed estimated by Douglas engineers.

Another lightweight point defense fighter project, the Tucker XP-57 (detailed elsewhere on this site) - also fell to naught and the Bell XP-77 (also detailed elsewhere on this site), another entry into this field, managed at least two prototypes which saw some time in the air before it, too, was cancelled (in 1944).

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Power & Performance
Those special qualities that separate one aircraft design from another. Performance specifications presented assume optimal operating conditions for the Douglas XP-48 Lightweight Single-Seat Point Defense Fighter Aircraft Proposal.
1 x Ranger SGV-770 V12 inverted liquid-cooled inline piston engine developing 525 horsepower and driving a three-bladed propeller at the nose.
351 mph
565 kph | 305 kts
Max Speed
The nose-to-tail, wingtip-to-wingtip physical qualities of the Douglas XP-48 Lightweight Single-Seat Point Defense Fighter Aircraft Proposal.
21.8 ft
6.65 m
O/A Length
32.2 ft
(9.80 m)
O/A Width
8.9 ft
(2.70 m)
O/A Height
2,679 lb
(1,215 kg)
Empty Weight
3,406 lb
(1,545 kg)
Available supported armament and special-mission equipment featured in the design of the Douglas XP-48 Lightweight Single-Seat Point Defense Fighter Aircraft Proposal .
1 x 0.30 caliber medium machine gun in upper forward fuselage.
1 x 0.50 caliber heavy machine gun in upper forward fuselage.
Notable series variants as part of the Douglas XP-48 family line.
XP-48 - Base Project Designation
Global customers who have evaluated and/or operated the Douglas XP-48. Nations are displayed by flag, each linked to their respective national aircraft listing.

Total Production: 0 Units

Contractor(s): Douglas Aircraft Company - USA
National flag of the United States

[ United States (cancelled) ]
Relative Max Speed
Hi: 400mph
Lo: 200mph
Aircraft Max Listed Speed (351mph).

Graph Average of 300 MPH.
Era Crossover
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Showcasing Aircraft Era Crossover (if any)
MACH Regime (Sonic)
RANGES (MPH) Subsonic: <614mph | Transonic: 614-921 | Supersonic: 921-3836 | Hypersonic: 3836-7673 | Hi-Hypersonic: 7673-19180 | Reentry: >19030
Aviation Timeline
1 / 1
Image of the Douglas XP-48
Image copyright www.MilitaryFactory.com; No Reproduction Permitted.

Mission Roles
Some designs are single-minded in their approach while others offer a more versatile solution to airborne requirements.
Some designs stand the test of time while others are doomed to never advance beyond the drawing board; let history be their judge.
Going Further...
The Douglas XP-48 Lightweight Single-Seat Point Defense Fighter Aircraft Proposal appears in the following collections:
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