V-11 & V-12 Vultee
Vultee offered Douglas competition with the V-11, a development of that firm’s 1934 V-lA transport. When single-engine transports were banned from commercial airlines, Vultee turned to the military market. The V-11 attack was a low-wing monoplane with retractable wheels and a long cockpit enclosure over two crewmen.
The V-11G could be operated as a low-level attack plane with 20 30-pound bombs in internal racks, four .30-caliber wing guns and the flexible gun used on Army attack planes, with a 1,125-mile range. Alternatively, it was a bomber carrying an 1,100, or four 300-pound bombs, and two 30-caliber wing guns, with a range of 2,380 miles. That V-11GB model accommodated a third crew member in the fuselage behind the gunner, adding a bombsight, and another gun in a retractable belly mounting.
The first V-11 two-seater began its flight tests at Glendale on September 18, 1935, but the next day the 750-hp SR-1820-F53 failed on takeoff, and both the pilot and the project engineer were killed in the crash. A second prototype (NR 14980) was completed October 9, and its successful tests won contracts for 100 aircraft built at a new Downey, California, factory for four foreign countries. This second prototype was rebuilt in 1940 and sold to Pratt & Whitney as an engine test ship.
Although no V-11s reached the Spanish civil war, several V-1A transports were acquired by both sides, and were sometimes armed for use as light bombers.
China bought 30 V-11 bombers. The first was completed in December 1936 with an F53 Cyclone, and the rest were V-11GBs completed, beginning July 1937, with the 850-hp R-1820-G2. They were used on raids beginning on February 7, 1938, by the 14th Squadron, an international unit with American and French pilots with Chinese gunners.
On September 7, 1936, the Soviet Union bought two three-place V-11GB attack bombers with the G-2 Cyclones, plus two sets of parts, along with the license and tools to manufacture them as replacements for their R-5 ground-attack biplanes. The first V-11GB (NX17328) was completed January 31, 1937, at Downey and arrived in Russia on April 30 with American specialists to help production. The V-11’s all-metal structure was very different than the I-15 biplanes then produced by Moscow’s Aircraft Factory #1.
But the Americans found their Soviet counterparts so secretive that they weren’t even told the Vultee’s new name. While the Soviet examples looked alike, except for the enclosed cowling on the M-62 engine, the BSh-l designation meant armored assault. Crew armor had become standard for VVS combat planes, but U.S. Army service types didn’t add armor until 1941. The added weight reduced the Vultee’s speed, and Soviet production stopped in December 1938 after only 36 aircraft, including those with American parts.
During 1938, Chinese Vultees and I-15bis biplanes had operated from the same fields, observed by Russian pilots. Their Air Force decided that to continue production of the maneuverable fighters would provide better interim attack aircraft while awaiting delivery of the BB-1 (Su-2) light bomber and development of the BSh-2, the prototype for the most famous World War II attack plane, the Il-2 Shturmovik. The Russian-built Vultees were stripped and turned over to Aeroflot as PS-43 mail planes.
Turkey received 40 V-11GBs completed between September 1937 and April 1938 for its 2nd Air Regiment. The Turkish president’s daughter, Sabiha Gokcen, flew a Vultee on a tour of nearby capitals, as the first Muslim female military pilot. Brazil ordered 26 Vultees, delivery beginning in June 1938. Twin floats and a modified tail fin were seen on the last Brazilian Vultee, flown March 7, 1939.
Not until after the V-11 became popular abroad was it tested by the U.S. Army, which was committed to the smaller, more economical Northrops. Seven service test examples were ordered June 24, 1938, as the YA-l9. Unlike the export versions, they were powered by Pratt & Whitney Wasps, the twin-row R-1830-17 giving 1,200-hp for takeoff. Six .30-caliber guns and 36 30-pound bombs were the usual armament.
The first YA-l9 was flown January 27, 1939, and five more were delivered in June/July, but the last became an engine test bed; the XA-19A with a 1,200-hp Lycoming 0-1230-1 inline engine balanced by a lengthened tail, and first flown May 22, 1940. Pratt & Whitney’s big new R-2800-1, programmed for the B-26, was also first flown on July 12, 1939, in the XA-19B, which had been the second YA-l9. The remaining YA-19s served at March Field until moved to the Canal Zone, where they were utilized by military attaches to nearby countries.
In an effort to improve the type, Vultee produced a prototype V-12 (NX18935), which was flown September 13, 1938, with a more streamlined canopy, flush riveting, a GR-1830-SlC3-G Twin Wasp with two-stage supercharger, and .50-caliber guns on the inboard wing mounts, along with two .30-caliber wing guns and two .30-caliber flexible guns. This prototype was sold to Pratt & Whitney in May 1940 as another engine test ship.
On November 22, 1939, China ordered 26 V-12Cs completed with a Wright R-1820-G105B and 52 V-12Ds with the big R-2600-A5B, deeper fuselage, and new vertical fin. The first V-12C (NX28367) appeared with a modified canopy, but was wrecked January 25, 1941, in a taxiing accident, and not flown. Others were to be assembled in China, but that project failed.
The V-12D was armed with one .50-caliber and one .30-caliber gun in the nose, two flexible .30-caliber guns, 20 30-lb. bombs in the internal bay, or an 1,100-lb. bomb underneath the fuselage. One was tested by Vultee in May 1941, but the others were shipped in parts for assembly in Asia. After their intended assembly plant at Loiwing, China, was bombed out in 1940, the assemblies were sent to Bangalore, India, where only three were completed by Hindustani Aircraft before that factory became otherwise occupied.
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