Sledgehammer's Cycles

Sledgehammer's Cycles
Sledgehammer's Performance and Custom Cycles

Monday, December 10, 2012

Hybrid Piston/Jet Carrier fighter

Jet-powered flight was an idea whose time seemingly had come during World War II.  Germany fielded the Me-262, the UK fielded the Gloster Meteor, and the US introduced the P-80 Shooting Star.  But that last was purely land-based.  The Navy wanted in on the action.

The problem was that the jet engines of the day didn't provide the quick acceleration needed to launch the air frame off the short flight deck of a Carrier.  And so Admiral McCain (father of the future Senator) proposed a solution: why not both a jet and a piston engine?






The Ryan Fireball was the result.  It had both a 1300 HP Wright Cyclone propeller engine for takeoff and landing, and a GE turbojet engine.  It was perhaps the strangest hybrid of the war. It wasn't that fast - only 400 MPH under jet power left it more than 50 MPH slower than the Mustang.  It was lightly armed - four Ma-Deuce Browning .50 caliber machine guns, with 300 rounds each.  Not particularly impressive - no faster than the Corsair or Hellcat at more than twice the price.

But it was a jet, and it would take off and land on an aircraft carrier.  That wasn't enough.  Only 77 were built before the program was canceled.  It's a statement of just how invested the economy was in waging that war, that there was money to fund a cockamamie scheme like this - a brute force attempt to bring the jet age to the Pacific Fleet.  So much money that the result would be worse than both the current propeller fighters in service at the time.  Only one survives.


13 comments:

Alien said...

I'm attempting to not place too much emphasis on the fact that in display mode the prop is feathered.....

orbitup said...

I guess it had to carry 2 different fuels also.

Old NFO said...

Actually the jet burned AVGAS 115-145... And it IS an oddball. But the P2V also had both props and jets... Two burning, two turning was the common radio call! :-)

UK Houston said...

... Only a single example, FR-1, Bu. 39657 still survives. Deployed first to NASA Ames, the aircraft served as an instructional airframe at a technical school before being acquired by the Planes of Fame Air Museum at Chino, California in the 1960s. After restoration to static display condition, 39657 was rolled out at Chino on 13 June 2009

bluesun said...

I''ve heard the story that pilots of it liked to come up asking a piston plane, slowly come off the prop and accelerate with the jet, just to freak out the other guy.

bluesun said...

*along, not asking. Stupid auto correct

wolfwalker said...

"It's a statement of just how invested the economy was in waging that war, that there was money to fund a cockamamie scheme like this"

Well, yes and no. Yes, there were a lot of cockamamie ideas being funded during the dark days of 1942 and 1943 -- when no one was sure how the war would turn out, but everyone wanted to be The One Who Won The War -- that is, the guy who devised the weapon that brought victory, and brought it fast. The Fireball was hardly the only such idea, nor even the worst of them. That title goes to the XF-85 'Goblin' parasite fighter, which was supposed to be carried aboard a parent bomber to the combat zone. Then it would be launched to fight enemy interceptors. After the bombers were off target, each Goblin would re-dock aboard its parent bomber for the ride home.

Then there was the Swoose Goose pusher-prop design, the right-out-of-SF XP-55 Ascender, the F-82 'Twin Mustang,' and of course the gargantuan Spruce Goose. Oh, and let's not forget a stupid-looking machine called the R-4, built by a crazy Russian immigrant named Ivan Sikorsky -- the world's first combat-operational helicopter.

One never knows which crazy idea will hit the big time...

Borepatch said...

Wolfwalker, it seems that the F-82 was pretty righteous:

http://borepatch.blogspot.com/2012/03/goofy-perceived-and-real.html

Anonymous said...

"Admiral McCain (father of the future Senator)"

Slight correction, I think this Admiral McCain was the Senator's grandfather.

Rob

Ritchie said...

Dad told of flying along in a transport, possibly a C-119, when one of these pulled alongside and the pilot shut down the front fan. The time lines do just overlap.

drjim said...

I've seen it out at the Chino Airshow. I didn't know it was the only one left.

Broken Andy said...

It was the Senator's grandfather. Admiral McCain, grandfather of Senator McCain, was a WWII aircraft carrier commander. His son, and the Senator's father, was a sub skipper during WWII, though he would also later become an Admiral.

Geodkyt said...

I thought some of the reasons for the piston engine were:

A) Reliability (something doubly important to a CV pilot)

B) Rapid throttle response (something early jets were bad at, and very important to a CV pilot when he bolters)

C) Efficiency over the fuel guzzling jet engines of the day.