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At the start of World War I, aviation was still in its infancy,  The generals on both sides looked upon the airplane as an extension of the balloon, to be used for reconnaissance.  It soon became apparent that the airplane could be an effective weapon of war.  The race was on for air supremacy. 

The SPAD XIII was designed in 1916 and entered service in September of 1917 as a French attempt to counter the twin-gun German fighters.  The SPAD XIII used two Vickers .303 machine guns with 400 rounds of ammunition per gun.  The U.S. Air Service began flying the SPAD XIII in March 1918 and by war's end in November 1918, the Air Service had acquired 893 aircraft. Throughout 1917 and into 1918, the SPAD XIII held its own against German aircraft, but in the summer of 1918, it was outclassed by the Fokker D.VII. 

The Spad S. XIII was manufactured by Societe pour l'Aviation et ses Derives of France and had a wing span of 26 ft. 6 in. with a length of 20 ft. 6 in. and a height of 8 ft. 6 in.

The aircraft weighed 1,888 lbs. and was powered by a 200 hp. or 220 hp. Hispano-Suiza water-cooled engine.  Besides the two machine guns, it could carry four 25 pound bombs.

It had a maximum speed of 135 mph and a range of 250 miles.  The service ceiling was 20,000 feet.

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Consolidated B-24 Liberator

The B-24, along with the B-17, was the predominate aircraft used by the American Air Force for strategic bombing during World War II. Over 18,000 were produced by the end of the war, more than other American aircraft. It was produced not only by Consolidated (Convair) who designed it, but by Ford, Douglas and North American. The first prototype flew in December of 1939, with the first production aircraft delivered in 1940. It saw action in all theaters of the war.

The B-24J was powered by four Pratt & Whitney R-1830-65 Twin Wasp, 14-cylinder radial air-cooled engines generating 1200 hp each. It had a wing span of 110 feet, a length of 67 feet 2 inches and a height of 18 feet. The maximum speed was 300 mph at 25,000 feet with a ceiling of 28,000 feet and a range of 2,100 miles. The armament was 10 .50-cal. machine guns and it could carry 8,800 pounds of bombs for a gross weight of 65,000 pounds. Fully loaded, it carried a crew of 10.

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The first of a series of Cats, the F4F was produced by Grumman and saw service in the Pacific and the Atlantic as a carrier-based fighter. It was one of the Navy's first monoplanes. The first prototype flew in September 1937. The Navy received their first operational version, the F4F-3, in December 1940.

In 1942, the -4's, featuring folding wings, entered service and became the principal U.S. front line carrier-based fighter. The  Wildcat remained in production until August 1945. The FM-1 and the FM-2 were the last two models and were made by General Motors. The FM-2 had a maximum speed of 330 mph at 21,000 ft., with a range of 860 miles. Its armament was four 0.50-cal. machine guns. With a wing span of 38 ft. and a length of 28 ft. 9 in., the Wildcat had a service ceiling of 37,500 ft. It was powered by a 1500 hp Wright radial engine.

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The Flying Fortress was the Air Corp's most celebrated four-engine strategic bomber. A low-wing aircraft in the heavy bomber class, the prototype first flew in July of 1935. It first saw action in May of 1941 with the Royal Air Force. Over 12,000 aircraft of all versions were manufactured.

Widely used in the European theatre during World War II, these aircraft operated from many airfields in Britain, allowing crippling raids on German industrial and military targets. The B-17 was also used in the Pacific theatre against the Japanese forces in the early part of the war.

The B-17 had a range of 3,400 miles and a ceiling of around 35,000 ft. The G version carried a 17,600 lb. bomb load and was armed with 13 .50-cal. machine guns with a crew of 10. It was powered by four Wright R-1820-97 Cyclone 9-cylinder radial, air-cooled engines of 1,200 hp each.   It was 74 ft. in length with a wing span of 103 feet 9 inches. Gross weight of the B-17G was 65,500 pounds.

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The North American P-51 Mustang, originally ordered in 1939 by the British government, first flew in 1940 with the Allison V-1710 liquid-cooled V-12 engine. The aircraft was later re-engined with the Packard Merlin which greatly improved its performance and operation at high altitude. The first prototype using this engine, a modified P-51B, flew in September of 1942. A total of 3738 aircraft of this configuration were built.

The largest number produced was the D model, with 7956 aircraft. In this configuration, the Mustang reached speeds of 437 mph at an altitude of 24,937 feet using a 1700 hp Merlin. This later model Mustang, with additional fuel capacity in its drop tanks, was used to escort bomber squadrons to their targets over Europe and greatly reducing bomber losses.

Considered one of the best fighters of the war, the P-51D was used extensively in the Pacific in 1945 and was far superior to the Japanese aircraft it encountered, destroying many enemy aircraft. The last production variant, the H, was not completed in time to participate in the pacific campaign. A total of 15,686 Mustangs of all variants were manufactured. They were used by air forces of 20 countries and saw service in the Korean War as well.

The P-51 had a top speed of 450 mph and could operate above 40,000 ft altitude with a range of 950 miles. Along with the six .50-cal. wing guns, the aircraft could carry 2500 lb. bombs or eight 75-mm rockets. It had a wing span of 37 feet.

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Douglas C-47

A redesign of the civilian DC-3, twin-engine commercial airliner, for use as a military cargo transport with large cargo-loading doors, reinforced floor and an astrodome added behind flight deck. Between 1935 and 1947 Douglas Aircraft built a total of 10,654. The first C-47s were ordered in 1940 and by the end of WW II, 9,348 had been procured for Army Air Force use. They carried personnel and cargo, and in a combat role, towed troop-carrying gliders and dropped paratroops into enemy territory. The C-47 was the most widely used military transport in World War II. It was called a Dakota by RAF and an R4D by the US Navy. It carried a crew of 3. Called the “Gooney Bird”, it served in all theaters of World War II.

The C-47 had a wing span of 95 ft, a length of 64 ft 5 in and a height of 16 ft 11 in. It weighed 26,000 pounds loaded and was powered by two Pratt & Whitney
R-1830-S1C3G Twin Wasp radials at 1200hp. The Maximum cruising speed was 230 mph with a ceiling of 24,000 feet and a range of 1600 miles

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TBF/TBM Avenger

The aircraft that replaced the aging Douglas TBD Devastator, the Grumman TBF Avenger, had its start in 1939 when the Navy issued a request for a new torpedo bomber. Two companies responded and received development contracts, Chance Vought and Grumman Aircraft. When war broke out on December 7th 1941, Chance Vought was heavily involved with the production of the F4U Fighter and the production for the new torpedo bomber was given to Grumman.

First flown on 1 August 1941, the three-seat Grumman TBF-1 Avenger torpedo-bomber entered US Navy service just in time to participate in the Battle of Midway in June 1942. Of the six aircraft that were involved five were shot down and the remaining one severely damaged without hitting their targets.

The Avenger became the mainstay of the Navy and was an effective anti-ship weapon. Demand for the airplane was so great that the General Motors Company was also contracted to build it, under the designation TBM-1, beginning in September 1942. A total of 9,836 aircraft were built with 7,546 by General Motors. Over 1,000 TBF/TBM’s, were also used by the Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm in both Atlantic and Pacific theaters. The Avenger was also used by the Royal New Zealand Air Force.

After the war the Avenger continued in service until 1953 in such roles as a search-and-rescue aircraft, an all-weather night bomber, an electronic countermeasures platform, a Carrier On-Board Delivery (COD) aircraft, and a target tug.

Specifications (TBM-3):
    Engine: 1,900hp Wright R-2600-20 radial piston engine
    Weight: Empty 10,545 lbs., Maximum Takeoff 17,895
    Wing Span: 54ft. 2in.
    Length: 40ft 11.5in.
    Height: 15ft 5in.
        Maximum Speed at 16,500ft: 276mph
        Climb Rate: 2060 feet per minute
        Ceiling: 30,100ft
        Range: 1000 miles
        Two 12.7mm (0.5 in.) forward-firing machine guns
        One 12.7mm (0.5 in.) dorsal-mounted machine gun
        One 7.62mm (0.3 in.) ventral-mounted machine gun
        Up to 2,000lb of bombs in bomb-bay
        Wing-mounted rockets / drop tanks / radar pod

The Martin PBM Mariner

Designed in 1937 to meet a U.S. Navy requirement for a replacement for the PBY Catalina, the prototype PBM Mariner first flew in 1939. The aircraft was big, but compact, with twin engines, a gull wing, twin tail fins, and a strongly dihedralled tail plane. Some were delivered to Britain, Argentina, the Netherlands and Australia. Total production during the war was 1,289 of which 589 were the PBM-5 configuration.

Mass production started in 1942 with the PBM-3 model, which incorporated several new features that differentiate it from the earlier PBM-l and 2, giving it greater range, better protective armament and more striking power. While the wing and rudder design was retained, the retractable floats of the PBM-l had been replaced by fixed floats.
At the beginning of 1944 the finial version, PBM-5 entered service with bigger engines, more armament, and an improved radar.

Designed for very long range operations, the craft is equipped to remain away from its base for protracted periods, while fulfilling its duties as a patrol bomber, convoy escort or fleet operations scout. The Mariner is equipped with a galley, sound proofing, and sleeping accommodations for long-range operations.

Unlike the PBY, which had relatively few problems in service, the PBM suffered from a number of problems, many of them related to the engine. These were finally overcome when the more powerful P&W R-2800s replaced the Wright R2600s in 1944.

The wing span was ll8 feet, with a fuselage length 80 feet and a height of 27 feet 6 inches. The aircraft empty weighed 32,378 lbs and had a gross weight of 58,000 lbs with a crew of 13. It had a maximum speed of 215 mph, a cruising speed of 170 mph, a service ceiling of 17,000 feet and a range of 3,400 statute miles.

The PBM-3D’s had two 1,900 hp Wright R-2600-22 Double Cyclone 14-cylinder two-row radials and the -5 had two 2,100 hp Pratt & Whitney R-2800-34 Double Wasp 18-cylinder two-row radials.

The PBM’s armament consisted of dual 0.50 caliber machine guns each in one nose and one dorsal turret, one 0.50 caliber machine guns at waist and tail positions (8 total 0.50 caliber machine guns). The engine nacelle-weapon bays were capable of up to 5,200 lbs of bombs or depth charges and two externally mounted 21-inch torpedoes.

PT-17 Stearman

Defined as one of the most recognizable WWII trainers ever built, the PT-17 Stearman "Kaydet" was a private venture by the Stearman Aircraft Company of Wichita (bought by Boeing in 1934).

In 1936, the U.S. Army Air Corps initially purchased 26 airframes from Boeing (the Model 75), which the Army named the PT-13. By 1940, 3519 were delivered. The U.S. Navy's early aircraft, designated NS-1, eventually evolved into the N2S series, and the Royal Canadian Air Force called their Lend-Lease aircraft PT-27s “Kaydet.” Overall, more than 10,346 were built by the end of 1945.

The plane was easy to fly, and relatively forgiving of new pilots. It gained a reputation as a rugged airplane and a good teacher. But because of the dangers of primary flight training, it was nicknamed the “Yellow Peril”.

The two-seat biplane was of mixed construction. The wings were of wood with fabric covering while the fuselage had a tough, welded steel framework, also fabric covered. Either a Lycoming R-680 (PT-13) or Continental R-670, 220 hp (PT-17) engine powered most models. It had a top speed of 124 mph with a 505-mile range. An engine shortage in 1940-41 led to the installation of 225-hp Jacobs R-755 engines on some 150 airframes, and the new designation PT-18. It had a wing span of 32ft. 2in., a length of 24ft. 3in. and a height of 9ft. 2in. The empty weight was 1936 pounds and a maximum takeoff weight of 2,717 pounds. The ceiling was 11,000 feet.

The C-46 “Commando”

The Curtiss-Wright C-46 Cammando was the largest and heaviest twin-engine aircraft to see service with the USAAF. It was supposed to be Curtiss’s airline/cargo entry in the commercial flying world and first flew as a military aircraft in March 1940 as the C-55.

WWII broke out and the US AAF ordered many aircraft for their Air Transport and Troop Carrier Command missions. The aircraft took on the military designation of C-46 and 3,144 of them were delivered. It became one of the cargo and troop-moving workhorses of the military. The aircraft gained fame when it was used to fly material over the ”hump”,(the Himalayas) from India to China. The C-46 could carry more cargo than the C-47 and offered better performance at higher altitudes.

The C-46A had a large cargo door on the port side of the rear fuselage, folding seats to accommodate 40 troops. Commando crews began flying the hazardous air route over the Himalayas in 1943 after the Japanese closed the Burma Road.

The C-46 did however, require more maintenance than the C-47 and suffered a higher loss rate. The aircraft was also used for towing gliders and dropping parachute troops during the Rhein River crossing in March 1945.

After the war the plane saw limited service in Korea and Vietnam, mainly for cargo flights and was phased out in a few years as it was no longer in production and superior aircraft were made available.

Manufactured by the Curtiss-Wright company, the aircraft required a crew of four and could hold up to 40 plus passengers. Its power plant was two Pratt & Whitney R-2800-34 radial engines rated at 2,100 hp each. The wingspan was 76 ft 4 in and a height of 21 ft 9 in. With an empty weight of 29,300 lb., it had a maximum takeoff weight of 51,000 lb. At a performance speed of 245 mph, it had a ceiling of 27,600 feet and a range of 1,800 miles.