Grumman G34 Skyrocket

On the 1st April 1940 this radical twin engined shipboard fighter took to the air on its maiden flight. Conceived in June 1938 (when trials of the first single engine monoplane fighters were only just beginning with the US Navy) this innovative design was one of a number submitted by American aircraft manufacturers to a Navy requirement for a very high speed shipboard interceptor. As, at that time, it was felt that the desired maximum speed of in excess of 400 mph could not be obtained with a single radial engine. Grumman's proposal was to fit two supercharged Pratt & Whitney twin wasp engines but, due to supply difficulties, these were changed for the 1,200hp Wright Radial engines to power the prototype. This of course meant a big increase in the wing span which would have resulted in major storage problems aboard US aircraft Carriers, so at an early stage the G34 was fitted with folding wings. The armament was to be two 23mm Madsen cannon or four machine-guns mounted in the nose. Provision was also made for the carrying of a small bomb load.

Flight trials revealed that although indeed exceedingly fast the G34 was still incapable of reaching the desired 400 mph (despite press releases indicating that it was capable of 450 mph-faster than any other fighter in the world at that time). The best that could be achieved was 380mph, and this coupled with undercarriage problems resulted in the project having to be continually delayed for alterations. The project being finally shelved in 1944 when the first Jet powered aircraft began to appear, thus spelling the end of the age of the piston engined interceptor.

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