The forerunner of the Republic Aviation concern, makers of the World War 2-winning P-47 "Thunderbolt", was known as the Seversky Aircraft Company in 1931. The company was founded by the Russian ex-pat Alexander Seversky and eventually went on to produce America's first modern single-seat, single-engine fighter - the "P-35" (detailed elsewhere on this site). This aircraft was completed with metal skinning, an enclosed cockpit, and retractable undercarriage - considered all modern qualities in the interwar period.
While not an outstanding design by any regard (the design under-performed, was under-armed, and lacked agility), the series netted 196 production examples which went on to stock the inventories of the United States Army Air Corps (USAAC), the Swedish Air Force, and the Philippine Army Air Corps among others. The type then served as the basis for the Republic P-43 "Lancer" fighter, the predecessor to the famous P-47 Thunderbolt.
With the USAAC's support, Seversky took the P-35 as a starting point for a new, more powerful and lethal fighter. Seversky engineers returned to their drawing boards to produce a refined version of the P-35 with performance and qualities akin to European contemporaries that now included the British Supermarine "Spitfire" and the German Messerschmitt Bf 109. This meant a fighter that could outpace any known rival of the time, was well-armed, and held the agility needed to outperform any aggressor - the result of this work became the "XP-41".
The XP-41 was immediately differentiated by the extra two feet of airframe added to the fuselage to help extend the design from its original portly appearance. Engineers then did away with the exposed housings of the main landing gear legs for greater streamlining - a more common wide-track arrangement was added with folding door flaps that completely embedded the main legs into the design. The engine became an uprated Pratt & Whitney R-1830-10 outputting 1,200 horsepower and this turned a three-bladed propeller unit at the nose. A tightly-fitted cowling was designed for aerodynamic efficiency with a air scoop embedded at the portside wing root for the intended two-stage supercharger.
The single pilot sat under a "greenhouse" style canopy which integrated to the dorsal fuselage line - allowing for relatively good views from the cockpit. The straight mainplanes were given rounded tips and mounted low along the fuselage sides. The tail unit was of traditional plane arrangement - a single fin with low-mounted horizontal surfaces. A small tail-wheel was affixed under the structure for ground-running.
Proposed armament was modest: 1 x 0.50 caliber Heavy Machine Gun (HMG) with 1 x 0.30 caliber Medium Machine Gun (MMG).
The prototype took to the air for the first time during March of 1939, months before the official start of World War 2 (September 1st, 1939). A maximum speed of 325 miles-per-hour was reached in flight-testing at altitudes of 15,000 feet - proving the design sound. The wide track undercarriage made for better ground handling though views were still largely obstructed by the tail-dragger / nose-up stance, wide wing span, and long nose ahead of the pilot - though these were limitations of all monoplane fighters of the day.
Despite the promising showing and improved qualities, the XP-41 did not become a solution for the USAAC going forward. By the time of the American involvement in the war, more impressive designs had taken shape, leaving the XP-41 to serve as a stepping stone towards the ultimate Seversky/Republic fighter, the P-47 by way of the limited-production P-43.
The XP-41 was the last fighter design to bear the Seversky name - the company was reorganized and transitioned to the better-remembered "Republic Aviation" brand in 1939.
(OPERATORS list includes past, present, and future operators when applicable)
✓Air-to-Air Combat, Fighter
General ability to actively engage other aircraft of similar form and function, typically through guns, missiles, and/or aerial rockets.
✓X-Plane (Developmental, Prototype, Technology Demonstrator)
Aircraft developed for the role of prototyping, technology demonstration, or research / data collection.
26.9 ft (8.20 m)
36.1 ft (11.00 m)
12.5 ft (3.80 m)
5,401 lb (2,450 kg)
7,220 lb (3,275 kg)
+1,819 lb (+825 kg)
(Showcased structural values pertain to the base Seversky XP-41 production variant)
1 x Pratt & Whitney R-1830-19 supercharged (two-stage) air-cooled radial piston engine developing 1,200 horsepower driving three-bladed propeller unit at the nose.
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