....contributed to its poor performance, or perhaps
the engines did not perform as anticipated. An obvious question concerns
the choice of so large a wing area for the aircraft. In comparison with
the 60-poundper-square-foot wing loading of the Me 262, the corresponding
value for the Airacomet was 28 pounds per square foot. The use of sophisticated
leading-edge and trailing-edge high-lift devices on the Me 262 gave acceptable
takeoff, landing, and maneuver characteristics with a small wing area and
high wing loading on this aircraft. Only small, simple, inboard trailing-edge
flaps were used on the P-59A, and the resultant low maximum lift coefficient
no doubt played a large part in dictating the choice of a low wing loading
and associated large wing area.
In any event, the poor performance of the P-59A precluded
its adoption as a production fighter for the U.S. Armed Forces. The P-59 is
included here only because of its historic interest as the first jet aircraft
developed in the United States.
First Operational United States Jet Fighters
"Frantic" best describes the pace of some aircraft development
programs during World War II. Surely falling into this category was the Lockheed
P-80 Shooting Star program. By the summer of 1943,  the poor performance of the
Bell Airacomet spelled the need for the development of a new U.S. jet fighter.
Lockheed had been making design studies of such an aircraft and in June 1943
was awarded a prototype development contract with the stipulation that the
aircraft be ready for flight in 180 days. Completion of the aircraft actually
required only 150 days, but first flight was delayed by engine problems until
Illustrated in figure 11.4 is a Lockheed P-80B Shooting
Star. Conventional in basic configuration, the P-80 featured an unswept wing
of 13-percent thickness mounted in the low position and, unlike the twin-engine
Meteor and the Me 262, had a single engine located in the fuselage behind
the pilot. Air was delivered to the engine by side inlets located on the fuselage
just ahead of the wing root, and the jet exhaust nozzle was at the extreme
end of the fuselage. Adjacent to the fuselage side may be seen the bleed slots
that removed the fuselage boundary layer from the engine intake air and thus
prevented flow separation inside the inlet. No such slots were provided on
the prototype, and intermittent separation did occur in the inlets. "Duct
rumble" was the term used to describe this phenomenon because of the alarming
noise heard by the pilot. Evident in the photograph is the deployed speed
brake located on the bottom of the fuselage. Like the P-38 described in...
Figure 11. 4 - Lockheed P-80B Shooting Star single-engine
jet fighter. [mfr via Martin Copp]
....chapter 5, the P-80 had a small dive-recovery flap near the leading edge
of the lower surface of the wing. Again like later versions of the P-38, the
P-80 had power-operated ailerons. The other controls were manually operated.
Split trailing-edge flaps provided lift augmentation at low speeds.
The cockpit of production models of the Shooting Star
was pressurized and air-conditioned. In the prototype, no air-conditioning
was provided so that the temperature resulting from a combination of the high
temperatures of the California desert and sustained high Mach number flight
at low altitude caused the interior surfaces of the cockpit and controls to
become uncomfortably hot. For example, with an ambient temperature of 90°
some parts of the aircraft would reach a temperature of 150 in prolonged flight
at a Mach number of 0.73. Another advance in cockpit equipment was the ejection
seat incorporated in the P-80C model of the Shooting Star. (The first successful
manned test of an ejection seat took place in July 1946.)
Although the P-80 was conventional in appearance, the
aircraft was the result of a careful synthesis of weight, size, and thrust
parameters, as well as close attention to aerodynamic refinement. As a consequence,
it had performance far superior to that of the P-59A although the thrust-to-weight
ratio of the earlier aircraft was actually about 12 percent greater than that
of the P-80A. For example, the maximum sea-level speed of 558 miles per hour
was 145 miles per hour greater than that of the maximum speed of the P-59A,
which occurred at 30 000 feet. As seen in table
V, the climbing performance of the P-80A was
also far superior to that of the earlier aircraft; the much smaller wing and
resultant drag area of the P-80A no doubt played a significant role in ensuring
the higher performance of the Shooting Star. In comparison with the drag area
of the famous World War II Mustang, the drag area of 3.2 square feet of the
P-80A was about 15 percent lower than that of the earlier propeller-driven
aircraft. (Compare data in table III and table V.)
The P-80 came too late for operational service in World
War II, but the F-80C did see action in the Korean conflict of the early 1950's.
(Note that in 1948 the designation "P" was changed to "F" on all Air Force
fighters.) Designed as an air-superiority fighter, the F-80 could not compete
in that role with the Soviet-built MiG-15 supplied to the opposing forces
by the Soviet Union. It was, however, extensively employed in the ground-attack
mode. Armament consisted of six .50-caliber machine guns in the nose and externally
mounted bombs and rockets.
 The F-80 was withdrawn from
first-title United States Air Force (USAF) service in 1954; production of
the aircraft consisted of about 1700 units. But, this is not quite the end
Of the F-80 story. A two-seat trainer version of the aircraft appeared in
19-18. Known in the USAF as the T-33 and in the Navy as the T2V, over 5000
of these trainers were built; a number of them are still in service and can
be seen frequently at air bases in different parts of the country. Certainly
a long and useful life for an airplane developed in the closing years of World
War II. An account of the development and use of the P-80 and its derivatives
is given in reference 206.
The advent of the jet engine with its promise of greatly
improved high-speed performance placed the U.S. Navy in something of a dilemma.
As discussed, the early jet engines not only promised increased maximum speeds
but also appallingly long takeoff distances. Thus, a jet-powered aircraft
seemed incompatible with the short takeoff runs necessary for successful operations
from the deck of an aircraft carrier. To be competitive with land-based fighters,
however, the Navy needed the high-speed capability of the jet-powered airplane.
Proposed as a solution to the problem was a hybrid-type aircraft propelled
by a reciprocating engine driving a propeller in addition to a jet engine.
Takeoff would be shortened by the high thrust or the reciprocating engine
at low speed, and high speed would be ensured by the jet engine.
The only hybrid or composite to be produced in any quantity
was the Ryan FR-1 Fireball shown in figure 11.5. Except for the tricycle landing
gear, the FR-1 looked like a conventional propeller-driven fighter of the
World War II time period. A small 1600-pound-thrust jet engine was mounted
in the fuselage behind the pilot and was fed by air inlets in the wing leading
edge. High-speed performance of the aircraft was similar to that of the P-59A
but was in no way competitive with the Lockheed P-80. Takeoff performance
was. of course, much improved by the propeller with its reciprocating engine.
Fortunately, catapult launching of jet-powered aircraft from the deck of an
aircraft carrier provided the solution, still in use, to the Navy dilemma
of operating high-performance jet aircraft from carriers. As a consequence,
the hybrid concept exemplified by the FR-1 quietly passed into oblivion after
production of only 66 aircraft.
The first U.S. Navy jet fighter designed for carrier
operation with catapult launch appeared in 1945; it was produced by a new
aircraft company whose name has been closely associated with fighter developments
from that time until the present. Illustrated in figure 11.6 is the McDonnell
FH-1 Phantom, which made its first flight on January 26,...
 Figure 11.5 - Ryan FR-1 Fireball composite jet fighter.
[mfr via Martin Copp]
...1945, was first operated from a carrier in the summer
of 1946, and entered squadron service in 1948. The aircraft was conventional
in design and employed an unswept wing with simple high-lift devices; manual
flight controls were provided about all three axes. Mounted in the wing
roots were the two 1560-pound-thrust Westinghouse axial-flow jet engines.
Although not visible in the photograph, the inlets were located in the leading
edge of the wing roots. As can be seen, the exhaust nozzles protruded from
the wing trailing edge close to the side of the fuselage.
Although the thrust-to-weight ratio of the McDonnell
FH-1 was less than that of the Bell P-59, the data in table
V show the performance of the Phantom to be
much improved over the earlier aircraft but not nearly so good as for the
P-80. The low wing loading of 36.4 pounds per square foot was dictated by
the necessity for a landing speed compatible with operation from an aircraft
Because newer aircraft had much superior performance,
the short service life of the FH-1 ended in 1950. With much the same configuration,
a much improved McDonnell fighter, the F2H Banshee, first flew in 1947. This
heavier, more powerful aircraft with higher performance remained in Navy service
until the mid-1960's. Total Banshee production consisted of 364 units.
 Figure 11.6 - McDonnell FH-1 Phantom twin-engine jet fighter.
[ukn via AAHS]
The P-80 Shooting Star and the FH-1 Phantom were the
first operational jet fighters employed by the armed services of the United
States. Both aircraft had unswept wings. A number of other straightwing jet
fighters for both Air Force and Navy use appeared after World War II. None
of these aircraft showed any major new technical advancement or innovation
and hence they are not discussed. Descriptions of these various aircraft may
be found in reference 200.