Army Pursuits the Biplane Period, 1920-1932
Orenco Pw-3, Loening PA-1, Aeromarine PG-1, & Gallaudet PW-4, & Dayton-Wright PS-1
Previously, the Army had tested, in July 1921, an imported air-cooled fighter, the British Aerial Transport F.K. 23 “Bantam,” a very light design by Koolhoven with a monocoque fuselage and 184-hp A.B.C. Wasp A radial.
A single-seat ground-attack sesquiplane was designed by I. M. Laddon around the Wright K, a Hispano H with a 37-mm Baldwin cannon firing through the hollow engine crankshaft. Armor weighing 165 pounds protected the engine and cockpit, and a .50-caliber gun was added so the PG-l (Pursuit, Ground) could be used both for ground strafing and attacking hostile armored aircraft. Vee struts connected the narrow lower wing to the upper wing atop the fuselage, with the piot’s head poking through the center section. A radiator in front of his face further ruined his visibility.
After a test cannon-engine was produced in July 1920, bids for the PG-l were requested from private firms. Four submitted bids, and Aeromarine, at Keyport, New Jersey, received the order on March 15, 1921, for three prototypes. The first was delivered as a static test airframe on November 28, 1921, for static tests and the second was flown on July 14, 1922, with a Wright H, which failed on takeoff, destroying the aircraft. A 346-hp Packard 1237 was used on the third prototype, tested in 1923. Its top speed of 116 mph at 3,342 pounds gross weight was below that expected of the original configuration, as shown in the accompanying data.
Gallaudet’s single PW-4 ordered June 21, 1921, was the Army’s first all-metal fighter. With very modern bullet lines, “I” struts, and a 350-hp Packard lA-1237, the PW-4 began taxi tests on February 17, 1922, but after static tests was considered unsafe to fly. Two other examples on the contract were canceled November 17, 1922.
More extreme was the Dayton-Wright PS-l (Pursuit Special), a high-wing parasol monoplane ordered on June 29, 1921, and first delivered for static tests on November 13, 1922. Powered by a 200-hp Lawrance J-l radial within a streamlined cowling, it introduced one of the first retractable wheel arrangements. The wheels folded up into the fuselage, as on the Grummans a decade later. Two more were completed in June/July 1923, but they flew badly, their tactical use was unclear, and they became another unsatisfactory project.
Anthony Fokker had built many successful fighters for the Kaiser’s Air Force during World War I, the most famous being the D VII. After the Armistice, he moved his factory to the Netherlands and began selling planes to his erstwhile adversaries. The Air Service had brought back 142 D VIIs captured from Germany, actually used them in service, and respected Fokker’s sturdy cantilever wing structures.
On December 4, 1920, the Army ordered two examples of the Fokker V-40, a high-wing monoplane development of the wartime D VIII. While the welded steel tube fuselage was long enough to make a vertical fin unnecessary for the balanced rudder, the cantilever wing was all wood. They arrived at McCook Field on January 22, 1922, and the first was flown with a 334-hp Wright H.