P-26 "Peashooter"
Role Fighter
National origin United States
Manufacturer Boeing
First flight 20 March 1932
Retired 1956[1]
Primary users United States Army Air Corps
Republic of China Air Force
Philippine Army Air Corps
Guatemalan Air Force
Number built 151[2]
Variants Boeing P-29/XF7B-1

The Boeing P-26 "Peashooter" was the first American production all-metal fighter aircraft and the first pursuit monoplane to enter squadron service with the United States Army Air Corps. Designed and built by Boeing, the prototype first flew in 1932, and the type was still in use with the U.S. Army Air Corps as late as 1941 in the Philippines. There are two surviving Peashooters and three reproductions on display, with two more under construction.

Design and development

Formation of nine Boeing P-26s of the 20th Pursuit Group

The project, funded by Boeing, to produce the Boeing Model 248 began in September 1931, with the US Army Air Corps supplying the engines and the instruments. The open cockpit, fixed landing gear, externally braced wing design was the last such design procured by the USAAC as a fighter. The Model 248 had a high landing speed, which caused a number of accidents. To remedy this, flaps were fitted to reduce the landing speed. The Army Air Corps ordered three prototypes, designated XP-936, which first flew on 20 March 1932.

The Boeing XP-936's headrest offered little protection should it overturn on landing, risking injury to the pilot. As a result, production Model 266s (P-26As) had a taller headrest installed to provide protection.

Two fighters were completed as P-26Bs with fuel-injected Pratt & Whitney R-1340-33 engines. These were followed by twenty-three P-26Cs, with carburated R-1340-27s and modified fuel systems.[3] Both the Spanish Air Force (one aircraft) and the Republic of China Air Force (eleven aircraft) ordered examples of the Boeing Model 281, an export version comparable to the P-26C, in 1936.

The "Peashooter", as it was known by service pilots,[Note 1] was faster than previous American combat aircraft. Nonetheless, rapid progress in aviation led to it quickly becoming an anachronism, with wire-braced wings, fixed landing gear and an open cockpit. The cantilever-wing Dewoitine D.500 flew the same year as the P-26 and two years afterwards the Soviet I-16 with retractable landing gear was flying. By 1935, just three years after the P-26, the Curtiss P-36, Messerschmitt Bf 109 and Hawker Hurricane were flying, all with enclosed cockpits, retractable landing gear and cantilever wings. However, some P-26s remained in service until after the United States entered World War II in December 1941.

Operational history

U.S. Army Air Corps

Deliveries to USAAC pursuit squadrons began in December 1933 with the last production P-26C aircraft coming off the assembly line in 1936. Ultimately, 22 squadrons flew the Peashooter, with peak service being six squadrons, in 1936. P-26s were the frontline fighters of the USAAC until 1938, when Seversky P-35s and Curtiss P-36s began to replace them. A total of twenty P-26s were lost in accidents between 1934 and America's entry into World War II on 7 December 1941, but only five of them were before 1940.

Boeing P-26A Peashooter of the 34th Pursuit Squadron 17th Pursuit Group

Air Corps units using the P-26[4] were the:

Overseas deployments

Between 1938 and 1940, P-26s were assigned overseas to supplement Seversky P-35s in two defense units based at Wheeler Field, Territory of Hawaii:

The 17th PG became the 17th Attack Group in 1935, and its P-26s were transferred in 1938 to the 16th Pursuit Group (24th, 29th, and 78th PS) at Albrook Field in the Panama Canal Zone. These P-26s were transferred in 1940 to the 37th Pursuit Group (28th, 30th, and 31st PS) which flew them until they were replaced by P-40s in May 1941. Some continued service with the 32d Pursuit Group (51st and 53rd PS), but only nine P-26s remained operational in Central America at the start of World War II, although seven P-26As remained on strength with the Sixth Air Force as late as May 1943.[5]

P-26As were also flown by the 3d PS of the 4th Composite Group, based in the Philippines. Between 1937 and 1941, 31 were sold to the fledgling Philippine Army Air Corps.

Combat service

Lineup of Chinese Boeing 281s

The first example to see combat was a Model 281 sent to Spain before the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War. It was operated by the Spanish Republican Air Force, but no kills were made with it before it was shot down on October 21, 1936.[6][7]

On 15 August 1937, eight 281s from the Chinese Nationalist Air Force 3rd Pursuit Group, 17th Squadron, based at Chuyung airfield, engaged eight of twenty Mitsubishi G3M Nell medium bombers from the Kisarazu Air Group attacking Nanking. Four of the Chinese fighters shot down three of the fourteen Japanese bombers destroyed that day without suffering any losses, while Chinese Hawk IIs, Hawk IIIs and Fiat CR.32s claimed the other eleven.[8] Subsequent engagements between the Chinese 281 pilots and Japanese Navy Mitsubishi A5Ms were the first aerial dogfights and kills between all-metal monoplane fighter aircraft.[9][10] Chinese-American volunteer pilots who joined the Chinese Air Force in the mid-1930s include aces John "Buffalo" Huang and John Wong Pan-yang, both of whom successfully fought the Japanese in the 281. John Wong Pan-yang scored two shared kills over A5Ms on 22 September 1937 and a solo kill over an A5M on 12 October 1937 over Nanking while in his Boeing 281.[11][12][13]

Philippine AF P-26A in 1941

By December 1941, U.S. fighter strength in the Philippines included 28 P-26s, 12 of which were operational with the 6th Pursuit Squadron of the Philippine Army Air Corps.[14] Captain Jesús A. Villamor and his squadron of P-26s engaged Japanese Mitsubishi A6M Zeros above Zablan and Batangas Fields and, despite being outclassed, Villamor and his squadron claimed four kills, one Mitsubishi G3M bomber and three Zeros, two by Villamor himself.[15] For these actions, Villamor was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross and an Oak Leaf Cluster.[16][17] The P-26s were burned to prevent their capture by advancing Imperial Japanese Army forces on 24 December 1941.[18] Nine P-26s remained airworthy with the United States Army Air Forces (as the USAAC had been renamed in June 1941) in the Panama Canal Zone.

During 1942–1943, the Fuerza Aérea Guatemalteca (Guatemalan Air Force) acquired seven P-26s, which the United States government delivered to Guatemala as "Boeing PT-26A" trainers to circumvent restrictions on sales of fighters to Latin American countries.[19] The P-26's last combat operation was with the Guatemalan Air Force during a 1954 coup d'état.[20] The final pair of P-26s still flying in military service in the world would be replaced with North American P-51 Mustangs two years later in 1956.

Although Boeing produced the prototype XF8B in 1944 and the X-32 entry in the Joint Strike Fighter contest in 2000, the P-26 was the last Boeing Company fighter aircraft to enter service until Boeing acquired McDonnell Douglas in 1997 and took over its production and continuing support contracts for the F-15 Eagle and the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet.

Variants

Boeing XP-936 prototype with shorter headrest
XP-936
Model 248, prototypes powered by a 522 hp (389 kW) Pratt & Whitney SR-1340E Wasp radial engine, three built.[3]
XP-26
Designation assigned to the three XP-936 aircraft after acquisition by the USAAC on June 15, 1932. Other designations assigned to the aircraft included Y1P-26, XY1P-26, and eventually P-26.[3]
P-26A
Model 266, first production variant, powered by a 600 hp (450 kW) R-1340-27. Multiple modifications were made during the production run and afterward. 111 built. Surviving aircraft were redesignated RP-26A in October 1942 and then ZP-26A in December.[3]
P-26B
Model 266A, improved variant powered by a fuel-injected 600 hp (450 kW) R-1340-33. Two built, with 17 more being converted from P-26Cs.[3]
P-26C
Interim variant with a carbureted R-1340-27 and a modified fuel system. Flaps were factory installed. 23 built. All surviving P-26Cs were modified into P-26B standard in 1936.[3]
Model 281
Export version of the P-26C; 11 built for China and one for Spain.[3]

Operators

Operators of the P-26.
 United States
 Republic of China
 Guatemala
 Philippines
Spain Spain

Surviving aircraft

P-26A 33-123 at Duxford in England
P-26A 33-135 in 34th Pursuit Squadron markings, at the National Air and Space Museum′s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center

Replicas

Specifications (P-26A)

Boeing 281 3-view from L'Aerophile March 1935

Data from Aviation-history.com[30]

General characteristics

Performance

Armament

See also

Aircraft of comparable role, configuration, and era

Related lists

Notes

^ Note 1: The "peashooter" nickname is generally believed to devolve from the long forward-facing tubular gunsight at the pilot's position, reminiscent of the toy blowpipe called a peashooter.[33][better source needed] According to aviation enthusiast Robert Guttman, though, the nickname is supposedly derived from the blast tubes of its two internally mounted machine guns (blast tubes being metal tubes which surround and extend forward from fighter machine gun barrels, to prevent structural or mechanical damage to the aircraft from the firing of the machine guns).[34][better source needed]

References

  1. ^ Maloney 1973, p. 47.
  2. ^ Bowers 1976, p. 24.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Bowers, Peter (1984). Aerofax Minigraph 8: Boeing P-26 Variants. Aerofax, Inc. ISBN 0-942548-13-2.
  4. ^ Maloney and Ryan 1965, Squadron Assignments
  5. ^ Hagedorn, Dan (2006). Latin American Air Wars and Aircraft: 1912-1969. United Kingdom: Hikoki Publications. p. 174.
  6. ^ Nash, David. "Aircraft that took part in the Spanish Civil War." Archived 2015-02-05 at the Wayback Machine Aircraft of the Spanish Civil War, 31 March 2008. Retrieved: 5 August 2010.
  7. ^ Green and Swanborough Air Enthusiast December 1980 – March 1981, p. 73.
  8. ^ Gustavsson, Hakans. "Chinese biplane fighter aces - 'Buffalo' Wong Sun-Shui". Biplane Fighter Aces - China. Retrieved 2020-11-28.
  9. ^ Gustavsson, Håkan. "Sino-Japanese Air War 1937–1945." surfcity.kund.dalnet.se, 14 April 2010. Retrieved: 5 August 2010.
  10. ^ "Martyr Qin Jia-zhu". air.mnd.gov.tw. Retrieved 2020-11-28.
  11. ^ "Chinese biplane fighter aces - 'John' Wong Pan-Yang". surfcity.kund.dalnet.se. Retrieved 2020-11-28.
  12. ^ "Wong Sun-sui". WW2DB. Retrieved 2020-11-28.
  13. ^ "John Wong". acesofww2.com. Retrieved 2020-11-28.
  14. ^ Shores, Cull and Izawa 1992, p. 56.
  15. ^ John Toland (17 August 2016). But Not in Shame: The Six Months After Pearl Harbor. Random House Publishing Group. pp. 110–113. ISBN 978-1-101-96929-8.
  16. ^ "Jesus A. Villamor". Hall of Valor, Military Times. Gannett Government Media Corporation. Retrieved 17 January 2013.
  17. ^ "Roll of Honor". Times. 12 (7). Times Inc.: 57 1942. ISSN 0024-3019. Retrieved 17 January 2013.
  18. ^ Shores, Cull and Izawa 1992, pp. 184–185, 195.
  19. ^ Baugher, Joe. "Boeing P-26". USAAC/USAAF/USAF Fighter and Pursuit Aircraft: Original Fighter Series-1922 to 1962. Retrieved: 5 August 2010.
  20. ^ Cooper, Tom. "Guatemala since 1954." Central and Latin American Database, 1 September 2003. Retrieved: 5 August 2010.
  21. ^ "Boeing P-26A 'Peashooter'". Planes of Fame Air Museum. Retrieved 12 August 2021.
  22. ^ "Photo 33-123 (airliners photo collection)." airliners.net. Retrieved: 5 August 2010.
  23. ^ "Boeing P-26A Peashooter". National Air and Space Museum. Smithsonian Institution. Retrieved 12 August 2021.
  24. ^ "Boeing P-26A". National Museum of the United States Air Force. Retrieved 26 October 2021.
  25. ^ ""Peashooter" fighter goes on display in San Diego" San Diego Union-Tribune. Retrieved: 30 March 2015.
  26. ^ "P-26 Projects." Mayocraft.
  27. ^ "P-26 Peashooter." Archived 2012-05-03 at the Wayback Machine Military Aviation Museum. Retrieved: 31 May 2013.
  28. ^ O'Connor, Tim. "Golden Age P-26 Page." Archived 2018-05-07 at the Wayback Machine Golden Age Aeroplane Works, LLC . Retrieved: 26 July 2017.
  29. ^ Neri, Francis Karem Elazegui (April 8, 2022). "2022 PAAC P-26 PEASHOOTER AT THE BUNKER, BATAAN PROV'L CAPITOL". Facebook. Retrieved 2022-04-21.
  30. ^ "Boeing P-26 Peashooter". www.aviation-history.com. The Aviation Internet Group. 2002. Retrieved 25 February 2020.
  31. ^ Lednicer, David. "The Incomplete Guide to Airfoil Usage". m-selig.ae.illinois.edu. Retrieved 16 April 2019.
  32. ^ Fitzsimons 1978, pp. 2062–2063.
  33. ^ JWH1975 (September 30, 2016). "The last Peashooters". WWII After WWII: WWII Equipment Used After the War. Retrieved January 19, 2021.((cite web)): CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)Jo Kotula (July 1953). "Boeing P-26 "Peashooter"". Model Airplane News. Retrieved January 19, 2021.Poteet, Lewis J.; Stone, Martin J. (2016). Push Me Pull You: A Dictionary of Aviation Slang. p. 26. ISBN 9781475987225. Retrieved January 19, 2021.
  34. ^ Robert Guttman (July 1996). "Boeing's Trailblazing P-26 Peashooter". Aviation History Magazine. HistoryNet. Retrieved January 19, 2021.

Bibliography

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  • Bowers, Peter M. Boeing Aircraft since 1916. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press, 1989. ISBN 0-85177-804-6.
  • Bowers, Peter M. Boeing P-26 Variants (Aerofax Minigraph 8). Arlington, Texas: Aerofax Inc., 1985. ISBN 0-942548-13-2.
  • Bowers, Peter M. "The Boeing P-26A". Aircraft in Profile, Volume One, Part 2. Windsor, UK/Garden City, NY: Profile Publications/Doubleday, revised 4th edition, 1976. ISBN 0-85383-411-3.
  • Crosby, Francis. "Boeing P-26." Fighter Aircraft. London: Lorenz Books, 2002. ISBN 0-7548-0990-0.
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  • Fitzsimons, Bernard, ed. The Illustrated Encyclopedia of 20th Century Weapons and Warfare (Volume 19). London: Purnell & Son Ltd, 1978, First edition 1971. No ISBN.
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  • Maloney, Edward T. Boeing P-26 "Peashooter" (Aero Series 22). Fallbrook, California: Aero Publishers Inc., 1973. ISBN 0-8168-0584-9.
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USAAS/USAAC/USAAF/USAF fighter designations 1924–1962, and Tri-Service post-1962 systems