American Secret Projects Vol 1: Fighters, Bombers and Attack Aircraft 1937-1945

Published on
Review Author(s)
Book Author(s)
Tony Butler & Alan Griffith
Other Publication Information
280 pages, over 300 B&W, color photos and drawings
Product / Stock #
Provided by: Specialty Press
Book cover

Luftwaffe ’46, Hikoki ’46 all have had many books and websites devoted to them, the paper projects, X-planes and wonder weapons of the enemy Axis Powers. Now there is a book that details all of the same from the US manufacturers.

We are given a nice hardback book filled with photos of those designs that actually were built or made it to the mock-up stage, and drawings of those that did not. Some of the drawings are just basic rendering of the aircraft, while others are more useful engineering drawings with dimensions and scale.

The chapter layout begins with USAAF single engine fighters. Here each manufacturer’s designs are discussed. From early Bell designs for what would become the P-39 to the XP-47H and J on to the XP-75 Eagle and beyond are all discussed. There are even drawings and a manufacturer’s model of the forward swept wing P-51.

Chapter Two covers USAAF Twin-Engine fighters. The various attempts to improve the P-38, The XP-50 and XP-58 and many more that never made it off paper are covered. I found more information in this chapter on the Hughes D-2, D-3 and D-5 fighter designs than I have ever before. Including what are purported to be the only photos of the complete D-2!

Chapter Three covers USAAF light and medium bombers. Beginning with the Douglas B-23 and the Burnelli XBA-1 we are treated to a huge number of designs, some familiar and others that will surprise many of the readers. The Douglas El Segundo project 9 which is an 84 foot wingspan flying wing is one of the more interesting designs discussed.

Chapter Four covers the USAAF Heavy Bombers. Many will be familiar with the B-17, B-24 and B-29, but how about some of the designs that lead up to the B-29? The Boeing Model 333 with four engines arranged in the push-pull configuration. The lesser known B-32 is also given coverage. Then the chapter moves on to the B-36, Northrop flying wings and the many Martin designs some like the Model 189 Design 4 that would have looked right at home in “Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow”!

Chapter Five is on USAAF attack aircraft. Familiar designs by Martin, Douglas, Vultee and more can be found within the pages. But also less familiar ones by Stearman, Burnelli, Consolidated and Curtiss are detailed. The Curtiss model P-241 is an interesting one with elliptical wings, twin tail and two pusher engines driving contra-rotating propellers.

Chapter Six covers US Navy Fighters. Some of the more interesting designs here are the Bell 22VF, Brewster Model 33A pusher design as well as others from the Naval Aircraft factory and McDonnell! Also covered are more familiar designs such as the Super Corsairs (F2G), F7F and the Boeing XF8B. One of the ugliest designs and looking like the grandfather of the Boeing X-32 is the Curtiss Cab over engine design. The drawing on page 180 shows all.

Chapter Seven covers USN attack aircraft. Here there is much more than just the Skyraider and Mauler! We can be happy that the Brewster Model 37B while a futuristic looking design never made it past the concept stage. It is also interesting in just how many “improved” designs of the SB2C Curtiss continued to try and get the Navy to buy. I also see a lot of what was to become the Grumman S2F Tracker in the mock-up of the XTB2F-1 on page 208. I also particularly enjoyed the section on the Douglas A2D Skyshark, a turbo-prop improved version of the Skyraider.

Chapter Eight is on patrol bombers and flying boats. It is here that one finally finds the basic design of the aircraft on the cover of the book. While the cover art by Daniel Uhr appears to depict a USAAF bomber in the skies of Europe fighting off a Blohm und Voss P.203, the book reveals that this design was first proposed as a patrol bomber for the navy. The B-32 lineage is obvious in the cockpit area.

Chapter Nine is about miscellaneous programs such as the Vought XF5U and jet propulsion. Here we find the futuristic Lockheed L-133, a tailless twin-engine jet aircraft with canard control surfaces. Projected at 610MPH in 1942, it leaves one to wonder what might have been had the Army not rejected it despite a very thorough study by the design team.

The book concludes with two appendices. The first one lists each manufacturer alphabetically and all their projects. The second one lists the specifications that the designers were trying to meet with each design.

I really enjoyed this book and there is a good bit of information and a lot of useful drawings and pictures. For the modeler there is a lot to inspire the scratch builder. There is also much to inspire the modeler to try out a vacu-form or resin kit to add one of these to their collection. Most of the prototyped and paper airplanes discussed in this book that can be found in kit form will be found in 1/72 resin or vacu-form kits. I know that the XB-28 exists in 1/72 by either Rareplane or Execuform. The Lockheed L-133 is a resin kit by Sharkit. And for 1/48 modelers like me, Dynavector makes a superb A2D Skyshark. Others I am sure are out there but you will have to do a thorough search on your own. The book is available from Specialty Press at the website address above or by calling 1-800-895-4585 with $6.95 additional for shipping.

Our thanks to Specialty Press for the review copy and my thanks to IPMS/USA for the review opportunity


Add new comment

All comments are moderated to prevent spam

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.