Grumman XF5F-1 Skyrocket by René Hieronymus
Brand: MPM
Scale: 1/72
Modeler: René Hieronymus

 

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Grumman XF5F-1 Skyrocket

April1940

 

The Grumman XF5F Skyrocket was a prototype of a twin-engine shipboard fighter interceptor to which Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation applied the model number G-34. It was a radical advance in shipboard fighters at the time when single engine fighters were just changing to monoplane designs from bi-planes. The U.S. Navy ordered one prototype airplane on June 30, 1938 with the designation XF5F-1. The aircraft possessed a unique appearance in that the forward part of the fuselage did not extend forward of the wing. Provisions were included in the prototype for two 23 mm Madsen cannons.

 

The aircraft flew for the first time on April 1, 1940. Engine cooling problems arose in the initial flights, resulting in modification to the oil cooling ducts. Further modifications were made to the prototype including reduction in the height of the cockpit canopy, revising the armament installation to four 0.5 inch machine guns in place of the cannon, redesign of the engine nacelles, adding spinners to the propellers, and extending the fuselage forward of the wing. These changes were completed on July 15, 1941. Additional changes were needed after further flight tests that were not completed until January 15, 1942. In the meantime Grumman began work on a more advanced twin-engine shipboard fighter, the XF7F-1, and further testing with the XF5F-1 supported the development of the newer design. The prototype continued to be used in various tests, although plagued by various landing gear problems, until it was struck from the list of active aircraft after it made a belly landing on December 11, 1944.

 

The F5F-1's test pilot, "Connie" Converse, in 1980 recalled "the flying qualities for the XF5F-1 were good overall. The counter-rotating props were a nice feature; virtually eliminating the torque effect on takeoff ... single-engine performance was good, rudder forces tended to be high in single engine configuration. Spin recovery was positive but elevator forces required for recovery were unusually high. All acrobatics were easily performed, and of course forward visibility was excellent."1 In 1941, Navy pilots tested the Skyrocket in a fly-off against the Spitfire, Hurricane, P-40, P-39, XFL-1 Airabonita, XF4U, F4F, and F2A. LDCR Crommelin, in charge of the test, stated in a 1985 letter to George Skurla, Grumman president, "for instance, I remember testing the XF5F against the XF4U on climb to the 10.000 foot level. I pulled away from the Corsair so fast I thought he was having engine trouble. The F5F was a carrier pilot's dream, as opposite rotating propellers eliminated all torque and you had no large engine up front to look around to see the LSO (landing signal officer) ... The analysis of all the data definitely favoured the F5F, and the Spitfire came in a distant second. ..ADM Towers told me that securing spare parts ... and other particulars which compounded the difficulty of building the twin-engine fighter, had ruled out the Skyrocket and that the Bureau had settled on the Wildcat for mass production."2 It is true that the Skyrocket had some developmental problems, but no more than any other aircraft of similar radical design. The Navy was also concerned that the F5F was overweight, but this was more a problem of their expectations than reality. The Navy was used to comparatively small, light biplanes. The newer, high performance monoplanes were all overweight by that standard. The F4U Corsair weighed more than the F5F, even though it had a single engine

 

The XF5F Skyrocket is best known for its appearances in the Blackhawk comic books. The Skyrocket was introduced in the first issue of Military Comics, published in 1941. Skyrockets continued to be flown by the Blackhawk Squadron through the entirety of World War II and afterward. It was finally replaced with a jet fighter in 1949. However, in nearly all Blackhawk stories set during and immediately after WW II, even those published as late as 1990, the Skyrocket is the primary aircraft used by the Blackhawks. Over that nearly fifty year time span, the Blackhawks' Skyrockets sported several different colour schemes and many different versions of the Blackhawk insignia. It was even modified with different engines and tail configurations by certain artists.

 

General characteristics: Crew: 1, Length: 28 ft 9 in (8.76 m), Wingspan: 42 ft (12.80 m), Height: 11 ft 4 in (3.45 m), Wing area: 303.5 ft² (28.2 m²), Empty weight: 8,107 lb (3,677 kg),   Loaded weight: 10,138 lb (4,600 kg), Max takeoff weight: 10,892 lb (), Powerplant: 2× Wright XR-1820-40/42 Cyclone nine cylinder radial air-cooled engine, 1,200 hp (895 kW) each. Performance: Maximum speed: 383 mi/h at sea level (616 km/h), Range: 1,200 statute miles (1,930 km), Service ceiling 33,000 ft (10,000 m), Rate of climb: 4,000 ft/min (1,220 m/min). Armament: Four 0.5 in (12.7 mm) machine guns, Two 165 lb (75 kg) bombs.

 

USN09 René Hieronymus Scale 1:72Building time: 13 hrs.

      
      
      
      
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  Photos and text © 2009 by René Hieronymus

January 18, 2009

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