Republic XP-72 No 2 front

Republic XP-72 Super Thunderbolt / Ultrabolt Fighter

By William Pearce

In 1941, the Republic P-47 Thunderbolt had just entered production, and hundreds of the aircraft had been ordered. However, led by Alexander Kartveli, the design team at Republic stayed at the forefront of fighter development by incorporating new engines into new airframe designs. In July 1941, Republic submitted two new designs to the United States Army Air Force (AAF), the AP-18 and the AP-19. The AP-18 was a unique interceptor fighter powered by the Wright R-2160 Tornado engine. The AP-19 design was more conventional and was powered by the Pratt & Whitney (P&W) Wasp X (R-4360). Both engines were under development, but the R-2160 was anticipated first and received much interest from the AAF. As a result, the AP-18 design was ordered on December 1941 as the Republic XP-69.

Republic XP-72 No 1 roll out

The first Republic XP-72 prototype soon after being completed. The 14 ft 2 in (4.23 m) diameter Curtiss propeller was one of the largest used during World War II.

By 1943, the R-2160 engine had encountered major issues, but development of the R-4360 engine was steadily progressing. Republic felt the AP-19 design held more potential and wanted to end work on the XP-69. The AAF agreed, and the XP-69 project was cancelled on 11 May 1943. Two prototypes of the AP-19 design were ordered on 18 June 1943, and the aircraft was designated XP-72 (it also carried the experimental project designation MX-189). In addition, Republic felt the XP-72 was superior to the XP-47J, an interceptor derivative of the P-47, and asked that the second XP-47J prototype be cancelled. The AAF approved this request, and Republic focused on the XP-72.

The XP-72 was often called the Super Thunderbolt, or Superbolt, or Ultrabolt, and it benefitted from everything Republic had learned with the P-47 series, including the XP-47J. The XP-72 was essentially the wings, fuselage, and tail of a bubble-canopied P-47D combined with the close-fitting cowling used on the XP-47J. Of course, numerous internal changes made the XP-72’s resemblance to the P-47 a superficial oversimplification of the new aircraft’s design. Under the close-fitting cowling was a 28-cylinder P&W R-4360 engine. The engine drove a fan at the front of the cowling to assist cooling. A small cowl flap was positioned on each side of the cowling. The cowl flaps were automatic but could be manually controlled. At the cowl flaps, air exiting the cowling was combined with exhaust gases being expelled through ejector stacks and provided a small amount of thrust.

PW R-4360 remote supercharger

The Pratt & Whitney R-4360-13 and -19 engines had a remote, variable-speed, first-stage supercharger. This large supercharger was installed behind the XP-72’s cockpit and was connected to the engine via a fluid coupling.

The XP-72’s R-4360 engine used two-stage supercharging. The first stage was a mechanically-driven, variable-speed, remote supercharger positioned behind the cockpit, where the turbosupercharger was located on the P-47. To power the remote supercharger, a covered shaft extended from the unit, through the lower cockpit, and connected to the engine via a fluid coupling. The remote supercharger’s impeller was around 3 ft (.9 m) in diameter. The second stage was the standard supercharger that was integral with the engine.

A scoop positioned under the fuselage and in line with the wings leading edge split air into three ducts. The left and right ducts delivered air to oil coolers positioned on the bottom sides of the scoop. The outlet for each oil cooler was on the lower side of the scoop and about at the midpoint of its length. The larger, center duct fed air to the intake on the back of the remote supercharger and to the intercooler. The intercooler was positioned behind the remote supercharger. After being compressed in the supercharger, the air exited via two outlets and passed through the intercooler. After leaving the intercooler, the cooled induction air was split into two ducts and delivered to the R-4360’s downdraft intake, which is where the two ducts merged. The air then passed through the engine’s integral supercharger and into the engine’s cylinders. Cooling air that passed through the intercooler was discharged via an outlet in front of the tailwheel. No exhaust-driven turbosupercharger was installed on or planned for the XP-72 prototypes or the P-72 production aircraft.

Republic XP-72 No 1 left side

This side view of the first XP-72 illustrates the aircraft’s resemblance to the P-47 Thunderbolt. The notch just before the tailwheel is the air outlet from the intercooler. The serial number painted on the tail should actually be “336598” to conform to AAF guidelines. Neither XP-72 had the “correct” serial number painted on their tails.

Some sources state the XP-72 had strengthened landing gear compared to the P-47, while other sources say it was the same landing gear used on the P-47. The wings incorporated six .50-cal machine guns (three in each wing) with 267 rpg. However, the gun package could be changed to four 37-mm cannons (two in each wing). A hardpoint under each wing could carry a 150-gallon (568 L) drop tank or up to a 1,000 lb (454 kg) bomb. Just like on the P-47, an inlet for cabin air was located on the leading edge of the right wing. Dive recovery flaps were fitted under the wings, just behind the main gear wells.

The XP-72 was roughly the same size and weight as the P-47D but was more aerodynamic and possessed about 50% more power. The XP-72 aircraft had a 40 ft 11 in (12.47 m) wingspan, was 36 ft 8 in (11.18 m) long, and was 16 ft (4.88 m) tall. The aircraft had an empty weight of 11,375 lb (5,160 kg), a normal weight of 14,760 lb (6,695 kg), and a maximum takeoff weight of 17,492 lb (7,934 kg). The XP-72 had a top speed of 490 mph (789 km/h) at 25,000 ft (7,620 m) and an initial rate of climb of 5,280 fpm (26.8 m/s), decreasing to 3,550 fpm (18.0 m/s) at 25,000 ft (7,620 m). The aircraft could reach 20,000 ft (6,096 m) in under five minutes. The XP-72’s service ceiling was 42,000 ft (12,802 m). With 370 gallons (1,401 L) of internal fuel and two 150-gallon (568 L) drop tanks, the aircraft had a range of 1,200 miles (1,931 km) at a 300 mph (483 km/h) cruise speed.

Republic XP-72 No 1 right front

The XP-72 was a formidable aircraft with amazing performance. The scoop under the fuselage brought air to the oil coolers, intercooler, and supercharger. The duct in the wing was for cabin air. The close-fitting engine cowling was one of the best installations of an R-4360 and used an engine-driven fan to assist cooling.

The first XP-72 prototype (serial number 43-36598) was completed with a single-rotation propeller and a P&W R-4360-13 engine. The Curtiss Electric four-blade propeller was 14 ft 2 in (4.23 m) in diameter, which was one of the largest propellers used during World War II and was probably the largest propeller fitted to a fighter. The propeller left only 5 in (127 mm) of ground clearance, and the pilots employed three-point takeoffs and landings to make sure there were no propeller ground strikes. The R-4360-13 engine could accommodate the remote, variable-speed supercharger, but sources disagree regarding whether or not the remote supercharger was installed in the XP-72. The -13 engine produced 3,450 hp (2,573 kW) with the remote supercharger and 3,000 hp (2,237 kW) without it. The first XP-72 was finished on 29 January 1944. The aircraft’s first flight was made from Republic Field in Farmingdale, New York on 2 February 1944.

The second XP-72 prototype (serial number 43-36599) used a 13 ft 6 in (4.11 m) diameter, six-blade, contra-rotating Aeroproducts propeller. This propeller gave 9 in (229 mm) of ground clearance, and three-point takeoffs and landings were still the standard practice. Sources disagree on which dash number engine was used in the second prototype. Some sources claim a 3,000 hp (2,237 kW) R-4360-3 engine was used on the second XP-72. The -3 had a single-speed, single-stage (non-remote) supercharger and accommodated contra-rotating propellers, but the -3 engine used SAE #60-80 spline shafts. The Aeroproducts propeller used SAE #50-70 spline shafts, so it seems unlikely that the -3 engine was used. Many sources state the second XP-72 used a R-4360-13 engine, the same type fitted to the first prototype. The -13 engine was single-rotation with a SAE #60 spline shaft and could not accommodate contra-rotating propellers. However, it is possible that a contra-rotating gear case from another engine could have been fitted to the -13. The -8 (Douglas XTB2D) and -10 (Boeing XF8B) engines built for the Navy both used SAE #50-70 spline shafts. It is odd that another dash number was not assigned for such a change, but the -13 engine seems like the most likely candidate to have powered the second XP-72. Other sources propose that the engine was a R-4360-19 (see below), but there is no indication that any -19 engines were built.

Republic XP-72 No 2 front

With its six-blade, contra-rotating propellers, the second XP-72 is an impressive sight. Even with its hollow blades, the propeller still weighed around 765 lb (347 kg). Note the installed underwing pylons.

Regardless of the exact dash number, the second XP-72 was first flown on 26 June 1944. The contra-rotating propellers had a slight destabilizing effect on the aircraft, but the effect was manageable, and the aircraft still exhibited excellent flight characteristics. It is often reported that the second XP-72 was damaged beyond repair because of an emergency landing following an inflight fire. However, Ken Jernstedt, the pilot on that flight, has stated the incident never happened. In Jernstedt’s account, he was making a high-performance takeoff from Caldwell, New Jersey when an oil seal on the supercharger failed and caused a massive oil leak. Hot oil sprayed into the cockpit, on Jernstedt’s legs, and on the outside of the canopy. When Jernstedt brought the aircraft around for a quick landing, a Vought F4U Corsair suffering from an inflight fire crossed his path. Jernstedt had to veer around the Corsair to land the XP-72, which was damaged in the incident. While the aircraft could have been repaired, the XP-72 program ended soon after.

The Republic XP-72 was noted as exceptionally fast with amazing performance and for being a beautifully flying airplane. It is often reported that test pilot Carl Bellinger attained a speed of 480 mph (772 km/h) at sea level, but this speed was most likely recorded at altitude. Almost all sources indicate that both XP-72 prototypes achieved 490 mph (789 km/h) at 25,000 ft (7,620 m).

Republic XP-72 no 2 right side

The second XP-72 shortly after an engine run. Note that the tail of the aircraft is tied down. The air outlet from the oil cooler is visible on the lower fuselage, just under the wing’s trailing edge. Another outlet was positioned in the same spot on the opposite side of the aircraft.

An order for 100 P-72 aircraft was placed in late 1944. Production P-72s were to be powered by the P&W R-4360-19 engine, which used the Aeroproducts contra-rotating propeller and had an engine-driven, variable-speed, remote supercharger similar to the one used on the -13. The -19 engine was planned to provide 3,650 hp (2,722 kW) at sea level and 3,000 hp (2,237 kW) at 25,000 ft (7,620 m), allowing the P-72 to attain an estimated speed of 504 mph (811 km/h) at 25,000 ft (7,620 m). Further engine development resulting in 4,000 hp (2,983 kW) would reportedly enable the P-72 to reach a speed of 540 mph (869 km/h) at 25,000 ft (7,620 m). The 540 mph (869 km/h) speed seems a little optimistic. An upgraded wing, similar to that used on the P-47N, was to be applied to production P-72s. The P-47N wing held more fuel and increased the aircraft’s span by about 2 ft (.61 m). The speeds mentioned above were most likely estimated with the original, smaller wing.

As excellent as the P-72 may have been, the war situation indicated the aircraft was not needed, and the emergence of jet aircraft indicated that the P-72’s speed would soon be outclassed. The order for 100 P-72 aircraft was cancelled on 4 January 1945 so that Republic could focus on the P-84 Thunderjet fighter. On the day the P-72 was cancelled, the AAF ordered 100 P-84 jet aircraft (25 pre-production YP-84As and 75 production P-84Bs). The two XP-72 aircraft survived the war but did not last much longer. One airframe, without its engine, was given to a local (on Long Island, NY) chapter of the Air Scouts in August 1946. The other airframe was eventually scrapped.

Republic XP-72 No 2 right rear

With the war winding down and jet aircraft on the horizon, the XP-72 never entered production, despite the aircraft’s impressive performance. Production P-72 aircraft could have been the ultimate piston-engine fighter.

Correspondence with Tom Fey
U.S. Experimental and Prototype Aircraft Projects: Fighters 1939–1945 by Bill Norton (2008)
R-4360: Pratt & Whitney’s Major Miracle by Graham White (2006)
Republic’s P-47 Thunderbolt by Warren M. Bodie (1994)
American Secret Projects: Fighters, Bombers, and Attack Aircraft, 1937-1945 by Tony Buttler and Alan Griffith (2015)
US Army Air Force Fighters Part 2 by William Green and Gordon Swanborough (1978)

Bristol Hydra front

Bristol Hydra 16-Cylinder Radial Aircraft Engine

By William Pearce

In 1930, the Bristol Aeroplane Company began to contemplate the future of aircraft engines. Their engine department was run by Roy Fedden, a prolific aircraft engine designer. At the time, Bristol was manufacturing its nine-cylinder, single-row Mercury radial engine that had an output of 510 hp (380 kW) and displaced 1,519 cu in (24.9 L). The Mercury engine was under continuous development to increase its output. However, to produce more power out of the same basic engine size, Fedden realized that a second cylinder row was needed.

Bristol Hydra front

The Bristol Hydra was an odd radial engine utilizing two inline rows of eight cylinders. The engine suffered from vibration issues due to a lack of crankshaft support. Note the dual overhead camshafts for each front and rear cylinder pair.

Fedden and Bristol evaluated at least 28 engine designs to determine the best path forward for a multi-row engine. At the same time, Fedden was investigating a switch to using sleeve valves, but their development at Bristol had just begun. The multi-row engine would continue to use poppet valves. At the end of 1931, a 16-cylinder, air-cooled engine design was selected for development. This engine was called the Double Octagon or Hydra.

The Bristol Hydra was designed by Frank Owner in 1932, and the project was overseen by Fedden. The radial engine was very unusual in that it had an even number of cylinders for each row. Nearly all four-stroke radial engines have an odd number of cylinders per row so that every other cylinder can fire as the crankshaft turns. In addition, the Hydra’s cylinder rows were not staggered—the first and second rows were directly in line with each other. The “Double Octagon” name represented the engine’s configuration, in which the eight cylinders on each of the engine’s two rows formed an octagon. The name “Hydra” was given to the engine because of its numerous “heads” (cylinders).

Bristol Hydra side drawing Perkins

A sectional view of the Hydra created by Brian Perkins and based on a drawing found in the Bristol archives. The numbers in the drawing relate to the number of gear teeth. Note the unsupported crankshaft center section that joined the front and rear crankshaft sections. (Brain Perkins drawing via the Aircraft Engine Historical Society)

Unlike a traditional radial engine, the Hydra’s design resembled four V-4 engines mounted to a common crankcase and using a common crankshaft. In fact, a V-4 test engine was built to refine the Hydra’s cylinder and valve train design before a complete engine was built. The V-4 cylinder sections were mounted at 90-degree intervals around the crankcase, and their cylinders had a 45-degree bank angle. This configuration spaced all cylinder banks at 45-degree intervals. The V-4 cylinder sections had their exhaust ports located on the outer sides and their intake ports positioned in the Vee of each V-4 cylinder section. Two supercharger-fed intake manifolds delivered air to the Vee of each V-4 cylinder section, with each manifold servicing one front and rear cylinder. The engine’s supercharger turned at over four times crankshaft speed.

The Hydra used an aluminum cylinder that was machined all over with cooling fins. A steel barrel lined the inside of the cylinder. Each cylinder had one intake and one exhaust valve. Each front and rear cylinder formed a pair, and each cylinder pair had separate overhead camshafts that directly operated the intake and exhaust valves. At the rear of the cylinder pair, the exhaust camshaft was driven via beveled gears by a vertical shaft that was powered from the crankshaft by a gear set. A short cross shaft extended from the exhaust camshaft to power the intake camshaft. Each cylinder had two spark plugs.

Bristol Hydra 16-cylinder

Front and side view of the Hydra. Note the exhaust stacks protruding slightly above the cylinders.

The engine’s crankshaft was built-up from three pieces. The center piece joined the front and rear sections via four clamping bolts. The crankshaft only had two main bearings and no center support. Single-piece master connecting rods were used. A bevel gear reduction at the front of the engine reduced the propeller speed to .42 times that of the crankshaft. The relatively high-level of gear reduction was needed because of the engine’s high operating speed.

The Hydra had a 5.0 in (127 mm) bore and stroke. The engine’s total displacement was 1,571 cu in (25.7 L). The Hydra had a 6 to 1 compression ratio and produced 870 hp (649 kW) on 75 octane fuel. On 87 octane fuel, the engine reportedly produced 1,020 hp (761 kW). The power outputs were achieved at 3,620 rpm, a very high speed for a radial engine. The engine was 46.5 in (1.18 m) in diameter, 57 in (1.45 m) long, and weighed approximately 1,500 lb (680 kg). With its unusual cylinder configuration, the Hydra had the following cylinder firing order: 1F, 2F, 7R, 4F, 1R, 6F, 3R, 8F, 5R, 6R, 3F, 8R, 5F, 2R, 7F, and 4R.

Bristol Hydra Hawker Harrier

Hydra engine installed in the sole Hawker Harrier. Note the baffling on the engine. The four-blade test club propeller was fitted for ground runs.

The Hydra V-4 test engine underwent runs in mid-1932 and eventually produced around 190 hp (142 kW) with no cooling issues. A complete 16-cylinder Hydra was first run in 1933. Later that year, the engine was installed in the sole Hawker Harrier biplane bomber prototype, J8325. The engine’s configuration made installation very easy, and the intake Vees were baffled to improve cooling airflow.

The Hydra-powered Harrier encountered some oil leaks and ignition issues, but the main trouble was with excessive engine vibration. The lack of a center main bearing on the crankshaft caused the vibration issues, which could be quite severe at certain RPMs. The short stroke of the engine combined with a short crankshaft gave the designers the false hope that the center main bearing would not be needed. A redesign of the engine was required to cure the vibration issues.

Bristol Hydra Hawker Harrier side

The Hydra-powered Harrier completely cowled and with its three-blade flight propeller. The aircraft was flown in this configuration during 1933, but engine vibration issues at critical RPMs limited the testing.

By 1934, the Mercury was approaching the 800 hp (597 kW) level, and the new nine-cylinder, 1,753 cu in (28.7 L) Pegasus was giving every indication that 900 hp (671 kW) was just around the corner. In addition, the sleeve valve, 1,519 cu in (24.9 L) Perseus engine had proved reliable and was producing around 700 hp (522 kW), and more ambitious sleeve valve engines were being designed. Rather than proceed with the Hydra and its double-octagon configuration, Bristol chose to develop its existing production engines and also focus on new sleeve valve engines.

The Hydra engine project was funded entirely by Bristol, although Fedden tried to get Air Ministry support. Only two Bristol Hydra engines were built; remarkably, both are reported to still exist. One is housed at the Sir Roy Fedden Heritage Centre, Bristol Branch of the Rolls-Royce Heritage Trust, in Bristol, United Kingdom. The other engine is stored at the Royal Air Force Museum London, located on the old Hendon Aerodrome.

Bristol Hydra display

A preserved Bristol Hydra engine held by the Bristol Branch of the Rolls-Royce Heritage Trust. Note the extensive finning on the aluminum cylinders. (Brain Perkins image via the Aircraft Engine Historical Society)

Fedden – the life of Sir Roy Fedden by Bill Gunston (1998)
British Piston Aero-Engines and their Aircraft by Alec Lumsden (2003)
An Account of Partnership – Industry, Government and the Aero Engine by George Bulman and edited by Mike Neale (2002)
“My Wife Calls it an Obsession!!!! Part 2: Bristol Hydra” by Brian Perkins Torque Meter Volume 4, Number 2 (Spring 2005)
“The Future of the Air-Cooled Engine” Flight (25 February 1937)

SGP Sla 16 X-16 front

SGP Sla 16 (Porsche Type 203) X-16 Tank Engine

By William Pearce

In 1943, Simmering-Graz-Pauker (SGP) in Vienna, Austria was tasked by the Heereswaffenamt (HWA, German Army Weapons Agency) to develop a new main tank engine for the Heer (German Army). The requested engine was an air-cooled diesel that would only require minor modifications to be interchangeable with the existing engine installed in various German tanks. The existing engine was the liquid-cooled Maybach HL230 V-12 that produced 690 hp at 3,000 rpm and displaced 1,409 cu in (23.1 L). However, reliability issues with the HL230 limited the engine to 2,500 rpm and 600 hp (447 kW). The demand for an air-cooled diesel was dictated by Adolf Hitler, and SGP was to work closely with Porsche GmbH to develop the new engine.

SGP Sla 16 X-16 front

Front view of the basic Simmering-Graz-Pauker Sla 16 engine without the airbox, turbochargers, or cooling fans. The intake manifolds and some baffling can be seen in the 45-degee Vee formed by the cylinders. Note that the intake ports are on the top of the cylinders.

Led by Ferdinand Porsche, the Porsche design and consulting firm had experience with air-cooled engines and took on the brunt of the preliminary design work for the new engine. Ferdinand Porsche had been discussing tanks and diesel tank engines with Hitler since 1942. Designed by Porsche’s Paul Netzker, the new engine was an X-16 layout consisting of four banks of four cylinders. The cylinder banks were spaced 135 degrees apart on the top and bottom and 45 degrees apart on the sides. The engine was issued Porsche designation Type 203 and SGP designation Sla 16 (which will be used for the remainder of this article).

The Simmering-Graz-Pauker Sla 16 was made of a sheet steel crankcase and used a single crankshaft with four master connecting rods. Three articulating connecting rods attached to each master rod. The cylinders were comprised of a substantially finned aluminum cylinder head screwed onto a finned, steel cylinder barrel. At the front of each cylinder bank was an injection pump that fed fuel to that bank’s cylinders. The fuel injector was positioned in the cylinder head and angled toward the 135-degree side of the cylinder. At the base of each cylinder bank was a camshaft positioned on the 135-degree side. The four camshafts were driven from the rear of the engine and operated the two valves per cylinder via pushrods and rockers. The intake and exhaust ports were located on the 45-degree side of the cylinders, with the intake port on the top of the cylinder.

SGP Sla 16 X-16 section

Transverse cross section of the Sla 16 illustrates the engine’s X configuration and the drive for the cooling fans. Note the master and articulated connecting rods and the four exhaust manifolds in the left side of the drawing.

Induction air was drawn in through a large filter placed above the engine. The air then flowed through twin turbochargers located at the engine’s rear. Two separate intake manifolds branched out from each turbocharger, with one manifold supplying the upper cylinder bank and the other manifold supplying the lower cylinder bank. The exhaust from two cylinders was paired in a single manifold so that each side of the engine had four exhaust manifolds leading to the turbocharger. The turbochargers were made by Brown Boveri and spun at a maximum of 28,000 rpm. The boost from the turbochargers was conservative at 7.3 psi (.5 bar).

To cool the engine, a fan was placed above and outside each of the two upper cylinder banks. The fans extracted warm air out from between the tight, 45-degree cylinder bank sections, which were closely baffled. As a result, cool air was drawn in through the cylinders’ cooling fins and into the 45-degree Vee. Each fan was driven via a beveled gear shaft that extended from the cooling fan to the rear of the engine. Here, an enclosed drive shaft with two universal joints and beveled gears took power from the crankshaft at the extreme rear of the engine and powered the shafts that led to the fans. The cooling fans were developed by FKFS (Forschungsinstitut für Kraftfahrwesen und Fahrzeugmotoren Stuttgart or Research Institute of Automotive Engineering and Vehicle Engines Stuttgart). The fans were 20.5 in (520 mm) in diameter and operated at 2.05 times crankshaft speed. Two oil coolers flanked each engine cooling fan.

SGP Sla 16 X-16 rear

Without all of the engine’s accessories, the drive for the cooling fans can be seen protruding from the back of the Sla 16 engine. The push rod tubes and fuel injectors are visible on the far cylinder bank. The four passageways in the rear baffle are for the exhaust manifolds.

Helical gears increased the speed of the Sla 16’s output shaft to 1.5 times crankshaft speed. The speed increase was needed because of the operating speed difference between the Sla 16 and the Maybach HL230. In order to be a direct replacement, the 2,000 rpm Sla 16 needed to have an output speed multiplier to match the 3,000 rpm HL230. Since the Sla 16’s crankshaft was in the middle of the engine’s X configuration, the step-up gears also lowered the output shaft to align with the existing transmission used with the V-12 HL230.

The Sla 16 had a 14.5 to 1 compression ratio, a 5.3 in (135 mm) bore, and a 6.3 in (160 mm) stroke. The engine’s total displacement was 2,236 cu in (36.6 L). The Sla 16 was forecasted to produce 750 hp (559 kW) at 2,000 rpm. With the cooling fans, the complete engine was approximately 5.5 ft (1.68 m) long, 8.2 ft (2.50 m) wide, and 3.8 ft (1.15 m) tall. The Sla 16 weighed 4,960 lb (2,250 kg).

By late 1943, a single-cylinder 140 cu in (2.3 L) test engine had been built and designated Type 192. The Type 192 engine passed a 48-hour test run on 6 November 1943. The single cylinder engine produced 47 hp (35 kW) at 2,100 rpm, which scaled to an output of 752 hp (561 kW) for the complete 16-cylinder engine. The listed output did not take into consideration the power needed to drive the cooling fans. With favorable results from the Type 192 tests, work moved forward on the full-size Sla 16 X-16 engine.

SGP Sla 16 X-16 fans rear

Rear view of the complete Sla 16. The airbox on the top of the engine fed air into the turbochargers via a bifurcated manifold. Note the oil coolers and cooling fans. The enclosed drive shafts for the cooling fans can been seen below the turbocharger exhaust outlets.

The first Sla 16 engine was tested in late 1944 and produced 770 hp (574 kW) at 2,200 rpm without the cooling fans. It took around 95 hp (71 kW) to drive the cooling fans, which reduced the engine’s output to 685 hp (511 kW). On 10 January 1945, two Sla 16 test engines had completed a combined 300 hours of test operation. Porsche’s involvement with the engine had essentially stopped by this time. Plans were made for Sla 16 production to start in June 1945 at the Steyr-Daimler-Puch factory in Austria. Steyr-Daimler-Puch was producing Daimler-Benz DB 603 engines (although the factory built DB 605s from October 1942 to October 1943), and production of the DB 603 would give way for the Sla 16. Some changes were incorporated into the Sla 16 production engines, such as the use of two fuel injection pumps rather than the four pumps used on the prototype engines. It is possible that the production engines carried the Porsche Type 220 designation. However, the Sla 16 engine never entered production because of the German surrender in May 1945.

A Sla 16 engine was reportedly installed in the chassis of the experimental Panzerjäger Tiger Ausf. B (Tank Hunter Tiger Variant B or Jagdtiger, Hunting Tiger) and underwent some feasibility tests. Initially, the lower cylinder banks ran hot, but modifications to the cooling fans and air baffles resolved the issue. In addition, a Panzerkampfwagen Tiger Ausf. B (Armored Fighting Vehicle Tiger Variant B), or Tiger II, was modified to accept a Sla 16 engine and waited for the engine’s installation. However, the installation was never completed. The engine was also proposed for the VK 45.02 P2 (Porsche Type 181C), which was never built. The majority of Sla 16 parts, tooling, and equipment were captured by the Soviet Union at the end of World War II.

SGP Sla 16 X-16 stand

The left image (engine inverted) shows the camshaft drives at the rear of the engine. In the center image (engine upright), the engine’s output can be seen below the crankshaft. The right image (engine almost inverted) displays the cylinder’s valves. The exhaust ports on the side of the cylinders are easily seen, while the intake ports on the top of the cylinders have been covered.

In late 1943, FKFS contemplated using the 140 cu in (2.3 L) cylinder from the Sla 16 as the starting point for a new tank engine to power the proposed Panzerkampfwagen Panther II. The FKFS engine consisted of two V-12 engines mounted 90-degrees apart on a common crankcase. The 24-cylinder engine would have displaced 3,354 cu in (55.0 L) and produced 1,100 hp (820 kW). Four engine-driven, FKFS cooling fans would have been installed, with two above each V-12 engine section. The FKFS 24-cylinder engine project did not progress beyond the drawing board, and the Panther II was never built.

A larger version of the X-16 engine was investigated under the Porsche Type 212 designation. This engine had a 5.9 in (150 mm) bore and a 6.7 in (170 mm) stroke. Total displacement of the Type 212 was 2,933 cu in (48 L), and the engine was forecasted to produce 1,500 hp (1,119 kW) at 2,500 rpm. A 183 cu in (3.0 L), single-cylinder test engine was evaluated as the Type 213, but it does not appear that the tests were completed or that a complete Type 212 engine was built. The Type 212 was proposed to power the Panzerkampfwagen VIII Maus (Porsche Type 205), but the engine was rejected by Albert Speer, the Minister of Armaments.

SGP Sla 16 X-16 test

The Sla 16 engine under test in late 1944 without cooling fans or turbochargers. However, the test equipment most likely provided forced induction.

Notes: Sources are split on the Porsche Type designation for the 750 hp (559 kW) Sla 16. Many refer to the engine as the Type 203, and just as many use Type 212. In addition, Type 180, 181, 192, and 220 are also used. Type 180 was a tank design (VK 45.02 P) that originally used Porsche’s Type 101 V-10 engine. Type 181 was the same tank reengined with the Sla 16 after the V-10 encountered problems. As mentioned in the article, Type 192 was a single-cylinder test engine for the Sla 16. Since Type 213 was a single-cylinder test engine for the larger X-16, it makes sense for the larger X-16 to be Type 212. This leaves Type 203 as the logical choice for the Sla 16. As stated in the article, Type 220 may have been the production version of the Sla 16.

Furthermore, a number of sources list the larger, 1,500 hp (1,119 kW) engine as an X-18. However, there can be no X-18 engine; to add up to a total of 18 cylinders, two banks would need to have five cylinders each, and two banks would need to have four cylinders each. Such an armament would be ill-advised. Most likely, “X-16” was either mistyped or misread as “X-18” on some scarce document captured at the end of World War II, and the misnomer stuck. However.

Lastly, the Porsche Type 181B (VK 45.02 P2) tank design was to be powered by two 16-cylinder engines. The 16-cylinder engine was an air-cooled diesel that produced 370 hp (276 kW) at 2,000 rpm. Reportedly, the design of this engine was a collaboration with Deutz. Some sources indicate the engine was a V-16, while others state it was an X-16. It is not clear whether the smaller 16-cylinder engine had anything in common with the Sla 16 or what its Type number was. The small 16-cylinder engine had a 4.3 in (110 mm) bore, a 5.1 in (130 mm) stroke, and a total displacement of 1,206 cu in (19.8 L). The small 16-cylinder engine was never built.

SGP Sla 16 X-16 general arrangement rear

General arrangement drawing of the Sla 16 engine.

Professor Porsche’s Wars by Karl Ludvigsen (2014)
Der Panzer-Kampfwagen Tiger und seine Abarten by Walter J. Spielberger (1998)
AFV Weapons Profile: Elefant and Maus (+ E-100) by Walter J. Spielberger and John Milsom (October 1973)
Wunibald I. E. Kamm – Wegbereiter der modernen Kraftfahrtechnik by Jurgen Potthoff and Ingobert C. Schmid (2012)
Daimler-Benz in the Third Reich by Neil Gregor (1998)

Otto-Langen Atmospheric Engine

Otto-Langen Atmospheric Engine

By William Pearce

Before devoting his life to engine development, Nicolaus Otto worked selling merchandise to grocery stores around Cologne, Germany, but he always had an interest in science and technology. Otto became entirely focused on internal combustion engines around 1860, after reading about Étienne Lenoir’s engine. He was so fascinated that he had an example built for experimentation in 1861.

Otto-Langen 1866 drawing

Drawing of the Otto-Langen engine circa 1866. Note the piston (K) and its rack (X) in the cylinder (A). The drawing also shows an early version of the over-running clutch (S).

Otto tried a wide-range of modifications to the Lenoir atmospheric engine in search of better performance. One interesting finding was that when the engine’s cylinder and piston were used to compress the incoming air and fuel charge, the resulting power stroke had enough energy to rotate the crankshaft through several revolutions. While Otto had discovered a number of improvements for the Lenoir atmospheric engine, creating a compression engine was a bit beyond the contemporary technology. Otto had already spent his saving and what he had borrowed from friends. To continue his research and develop an atmospheric engine, he needed money.

For some time, Eugen Langen ran his family’s sugar refining business in Cologne, Germany, but, like Nicolaus Otto, his true passion was for science and technology. Langen had become a fairly wealthy man from the family business and from a few of his own ventures. In 1863, his business was running smoothly, and he was looking for a new enterprise. Langen had read of the Lenoir engine and contemplated how such a device could benefit industry.

Otto-Langen repro overrunning clutch

A reproduction of the over-running clutch built by Wayne Grenning of Grenning Models. Counterclockwise movement of the gear brings the shoes to their stops and allows the gear to rotate free from the inner hub. When the gear rotates clockwise, the shoes slide on their rollers until they are wedged between the gear and the inner hub, locking the two together. The clutch was originally designed by Franz Reuleaux, and later clutches used on the Otto-Langen had three shoes. (Wayne Grenning image)

Exactly how Otto and Langen met is not known. Perhaps Otto sought out Langen as a financial backer, or perhaps they met through a third party. Regardless, Langen witnessed Otto’s unrefined atmospheric engine running on 9 February 1864. Langen saw potential in the engine and its inventor. Langen and Otto formed N.A. Otto & Cie on 31 March 1864 to develop and manufacture internal combustion engines.

Otto-Langen repro piston rack

Other reproduction parts built by Wayne Grenning. The piston with its rack attached are shown outside of the cylinder housing column. The piston and rack weigh around 80 lb (36 kg). The studs seen at the base of the column are where the slide valve mounts. (Wayne Grenning image)

Three years of experimentation and refinement occurred before N.A. Otto & Cie had a marketable engine that was superior to the competition. The Otto-Langen .5 hp (.37 kW), single-cylinder, atmospheric engine made its public debut at the 1867 International Exposition in Paris, France (Exposition universelle de 1867). Nothing about the engine appeared remarkable, but interest piqued when a demonstration showed that the engine consumed half the gas of other engines of the same power. The engine’s remarkably efficient performance won it the grand prize.

The Otto-Langen engine consisted of a vertical column that formed a single cylinder. A free piston was installed in the cylinder, with the piston head facing down. Attached to the upper part of the piston was a rack gear that extended out vertically above the engine. The rack engaged the one-way, over-running (sprag) clutch that was mounted on the engine’s main drive shaft. The clutch was the first of its type and was designed by Franz Reuleaux. The flywheel was mounted on one side of the main drive shaft, and the belt drive pulley was mounted on the other side. On the flywheel side of the main drive shaft was the main drive gear. The main gear engaged an accessory gear, which drove the accessory shaft. Typically, the accessory gear was larger and had more teeth than the main gear. The difference resulted in an accessory gear speed slower than that of the main gear, which helped reduce impact forces on the accessory gear drive.

Otto-Langen Rough Tumble Engineers top

Top view of the Otto-Langen engine at the Rough and Tumble Engineers Historical Association in Kinzers, Pennsylvania. It is the oldest internal combustion engine in the Americas. Installed on the main drive shaft (top) from left to right are the flywheel, main drive gear, over-running clutch, and belt drive. Installed on the accessory shaft (bottom) from left to right are the accessory drive gear, secondary eccentric, main eccentric, and ratcheting gear. (Rough and Tumble Engineers image)

The accessory gear was mounted on and drove the accessory shaft. Also on the accessory shaft were two eccentrics and a ratcheting gear. The ratcheting gear was attached directly to and turned with the accessory shaft. The two eccentrics operated independently of the accessory shaft and were mostly stationary. A pawl would engage the ratcheting gear and drive the main eccentric. This eccentric lifted the piston and rack assembly and also drove the second eccentric, which operated the hand-scraped slide valve at the base of the engine via a control rod. When the eccentrics raised the piston and slide valve, the air and fuel mixture was draw into the cylinder. The slide valve then aligned to a port with an internal flame that ignited the gaseous mixture in the cylinder.

On the power stroke, the free piston had unrestricted upward movement in the cylinder and took advantage of the complete expansion of gasses during the combustion process. As the piston moved up, the rack attached to the upper side of the piston moved freely on the clutch. As atmospheric pressure and gravity pulled the rack and piston back down, the rack engaged the over-running clutch that drove the main drive shaft. A flyball governor was driven by the accessory shaft and controlled an exhaust valve. With a closed exhaust valve, the piston could not fully descend. As the speed of the accessory shaft decreased below the desired rpm, the governor opened the exhaust valve, which allowed the piston to descend. This movement of the piston and its attached rack assembly tripped an arm that engaged the pawl to the ratcheting gear, driving the eccentrics and subsequently firing the engine.

Otto-Langen reproduction pawl

Grenning’s full-size reproduction of a .5 hp (.37 kW) Otto-Langen engine under power. The accessory shaft is in the foreground, and the pawl in the center of the image is about to engage the ratcheting gear. The ratcheting gear will then drive the eccentrics. (Wayne Grenning image)

The internal flame that ignited the gaseous mixture in the cylinder was extinguished on each power stroke. The internal flame was relit by an external flame via a port on the slide valve that aligned as the valve moved. The Otto-Langen engine was run on illuminating gas, which was typically distributed at around .07 psi (.005 bar). When firing, the engine needed more gas than the line could supply. An accumulator bag was used, which held a surplus of gas. The Otto-Langen engine would draw from the bag when firing, and the gas would be replenished between firings from the low-pressure supply line.

For cooling, an integral water jacket surrounded the cylinder. The Otto-Langen engine employed thermosyphon circulation. As the water was heated, it expanded out of a port in the upper part of the water jacket and flowed to an external reservoir. At the same time, cool water was drawn from the external reservoir and to the engine. The engine relied on manual, external lubrication, which could be (and was) supplied while the engine was in operation. The Otto Langen’s design and features allowed for a quick start and continuous running.

Otto-Langen reproduction base

The base of Grenning’s Otto-Langen reproduction shows the safety slide valve (with brass connector) and the main slide valve behind it. The main slide valve was operated by the secondary eccentric. The rod with the coiled spring is the governor-controlled exhaust valve. Later engines did not have the safety slide valve, and the governor controlled the pawl’s engagement. (Wayne Grenning image)

Because of the free piston, cylinder firing was not directly linked to the rpm of the drive shaft. With a light load, the cylinder could fire once for every 25 revolutions of the main drive shaft. Under heavy loads, the cylinder could fire once for every two revolutions. The engine was typically operated with a main drive shaft speed of 90 rpm. However, the speed could be increased to 120 rpm or decreased to around 30 rpm. The high and low speeds were dictated by the mechanical limitations of the eccentrics and slide valve movement.

Otto-Langen repro complete

Grenning’s completed Otto-Langen reproduction is a fantastic display of a modern-day master-craftsman’s appreciation of old-world engineering. After spending years researching the Otto-Langen, it took Grenning 14 months to build his reproduction engine. (Wayne Grenning image)

The cylinder housing on the early Otto-Langen engines was fluted and resembled a Grecian column, but this expensive feature was not included on later engines. In addition, early engines did not have a governor and had a second slide valve. The secondary slide valve acted as a safety feature to cut the gas flow to the cylinder. Extensive engine operation showed that the safety slide valve was not needed, and it was eliminated to cut down on manufacturing costs.

The success at the International Exposition in Paris brought in a flood of orders that N.A. Otto & Cie could not fulfill due to a lack of existing capital. Ludwig August Roosen-Runge, a businessman from Hamburg, lent financial support, and the company was renamed Langen, Otto & Roosen in 1869. That same year, the factory was relocated to Deutz, Germany. More capital was sought and found, and a new company, Gasmotoren-Fabrik Deutz AG (Deutz), was established in January 1872. That same year, Gottlieb Daimler and his protégé, Wilhelm Maybach, joined Deutz.

Maybach was tasked with redesigning the Otto-Langen engine to simplify its construction and lower its production cost. The updated design eliminated the accessory shaft and ran everything from the main drive shaft. The governor controlled cylinder firing with the pawl and not with the exhaust valve. The updated engine was available at the end of 1873.

Otto-Langen repro drive

View of the accessory shaft on Grenning’s engine. The left side of the shaft drives the flyball governor. In the background are the black gas accumulator bag and copper water reservoir. (Wayne Grenning image)

The .25 hp (.19 kW) version was the smallest Otto-Langen, and it stood 7 ft (2.1 m) tall and weighed 900 lb (408 kg). To make more power, the engine was basically scaled-up to a larger size. However, the design of the Otto-Langen engine limited just how large the engine could be while still being practical. With its vertical cylinder and long rack attached to the piston, the Otto-Langen was a tall and heavy engine. There were practical limits on the engine’s height and weight. The vertical piston had a tendency to send significant vibrations through the ground with every stroke. This shook foundations, could damage nearby equipment, and made most above ground level installations unfeasible. The largest Otto-Langen engine was the 3 hp (2.24 kW) model. It was 12.7 ft (3.9 m) tall and weighed 4,450 lb (2,018 kg).

The .5 hp (.37 kW) Otto-Langen engine created its power at 110 rpm at the flywheel with 40 power strokes per minute. The cylinder had a 5.9 in (150 mm) bore and a 38.7 in (985 mm) maximum stroke. Maximum displacement was 1,062 cu in (17.4 L). The engine was 8.8 ft (2.65 m) tall and weighed 1,600 lb (725 kg). The piston and rack assembly of the .5 hp (.37 kW) engine weighed around 80 lb (36 kg).

The 2 hp (1.49 kW) engine operated at 90 rpm at the flywheel with 30 power strokes per minute. The cylinder had a 12.5 in (318 mm) bore and a 40.5 in (1,030 mm) maximum stroke. Maximum displacement was 4,992 cu in (81.8 L). The 2 hp (1.49 kW) engine was 10.7 ft (3.25 m) tall and weighed 4,000 lb (1,815 kg). The piston and rack alone weighed 116 lb (52.6 kg).

Otto-Langen no1 Technikum

The first Otto-Langen engine is on display in the Deutz Technikum Engine Museum in Cologne, Germany. This engine has no governor, and the safety slide valve was removed sometime after the engine was built. The gas accumulator bag is on the right. (Wayne Grenning image)

By 1875, there was competition in the form of George Brayton’s Ready Motor and other engines. Otto felt that the atmospheric engine had reached its zenith, yet Daimler was still interested in pursuing the type. Tension existed between Otto and Daimler, and the men did not work well together. In 1876, Otto first ran his four-stroke, internal combustion engine using the combustion cycle that would revolutionize the world. Development of the Otto-Langen engine stopped around 1877, and production of the engine at Deutz stopped around 1878. Daimler and Maybach left Deutz in 1880 and formed a new company to develop engines and automobiles. The Deutz company is still in business designing and manufacturing internal combustion engines.

Between 1864 and 1882, Deutz and its predecessors built 2,649 Otto-Langen engines. Around 2,000 more engines were built by subsidiaries or under license in Austria (Langen & Wolf), Belgium (E. Schenck & Co.), Britain (Crossley Brothers), and France (Sarazin / Panhard). For a brief time, the Otto-Langen atmospheric engine led the industry, and it was the world’s first commercially successful internal combustion engine. Perhaps the Otto-Langen’s greatest achievement was to serve as a stepping stone to the four-stroke, Otto-cycle engine. Around 23 Otto-Langen engines survive, including the very first engine built, which won the grand prize in 1867. The over 150-year-old first engine is on display at the Deutz Technikum Engine Museum in Cologne, Germany, and it is run on special occasions.

Wayne Grenning of Grenning Models has built a number of reproduction Otto-Langen engines. He gives a detailed explanation of the engine’s operation in the video below.

Internal Fire by C. Lyle Cummins, Jr. (1989)
Flame Ignition by Wayne S. Grenning (2014)
Startup & Instructional Explanation of 1867 Otto Langen Engine Operation by Wayne Grenning (5 March 2017)
“Improvements in Air-Engines,” US patent 67,659 by Eugen Langen and Nicol. Auguste Otto (granted 13 August 1867)
“Improvements in Gas-Motor Engines,” US patent 153,245 by Gottlieb Daimler (granted 21 July 1874)

NAA XA2J Super Savage top

North American XA2J Super Savage Medium Bomber

By William Pearce

At the close of World War II, the United States Navy lacked the ability to carry out a nuclear strike. The nuclear bombs of the time were large and heavy, and no aircraft operating from an aircraft carrier could accommodate the bomb’s size and weight. The Navy did not want nuclear strikes to be the sole responsibility of the Army Air Force (AAF). In addition, the Navy felt that launching an attack with a medium-sized aircraft from a carrier that was hundreds of miles from the target offered advantages compared to large AAF bombers traveling thousands of miles to the target. On 13 August 1945, the Navy sponsored a design competition for a carrier-based, nuclear-strike aircraft. The competition was won by the North American AJ Savage.

NAA AJ Savage

Typical example of a production North American AJ-1 Savage, with its R-2800 engines on the wings and J33 jet in the rear fuselage. The intake for the jet was just before the vertical stabilizer and was closed when the jet was not in use.

First flown on 3 July 1948, the AJ Savage was a unique aircraft that spanned the gap between the piston-engine and jet-engine eras. The Savage was powered by two Pratt & Whitney R-2800 engines and a single Allison J33 turbojet that was mounted in the rear fuselage. The jet engine was used for takeoff and to make a final, high-speed dash to the target. In December 1947, before the AJ prototype had even flown, North American Aviation (NAA) proposed an improved version of the Savage that benefited from the continued advancement of turboprop engines. Designated NA-158 by the manufacturer, a mockup was inspected in September 1948, and the Navy ordered two examples and a static test airframe in October 1948—only three months after the AJ Savage’s first flight. The new aircraft was designated XA2J Super Savage, and the two prototypes ordered were given Navy Bureau of Aeronautics (BuAer) serial numbers 124439 and 124440.

Originally, the North American XA2J Super Savage was to be very different from the AJ Savage, but the jet engine in the rear fuselage would be retained. As the project moved through 1949, emphasis was placed on improving the XA2J’s deck performance over that of its predecessor. As a result, the XA2J became an entirely new aircraft but still resembled the AJ Savage. A mockup of the updated XA2J design, the NA-163, was inspected by the Navy in September 1949, and approval was given for NAA to begin construction.

NAA XA2J Super Savage Apr 1949

Concept drawing of the XA2J Super Savage from April 1949. Note how the aircraft bears little resemblance to the AJ Savage. The intake for the jet engine can be seen just before the vertical stabilizer. The pilot sat alone under the canopy, and the co-pilot/bombardier and gunner sat in the fuselage, behind and below the pilot.

The XA2J had the same basic configuration as its predecessor but was a larger aircraft overall. The Super Savage was of all metal construction and utilized tricycle landing gear. The high-mounted, straight wing was equipped with a drooping leading edge and large trailing edge flaps. To be brought below deck on a carrier, the aircraft’s wings and tail folded hydraulically. The pressurized cockpit accommodated the three-man crew, which consisted of a pilot, a co-pilot/bombardier, and a gunner. The pilot and co-pilot/bombardier sat side-by-side, and the rear-facing gunner sat behind them. Cockpit entry was via a side door, and an escape chute provided emergency egress out of the bottom of the aircraft. The co-pilot/bombardier was responsible for the up to 10,500 lb (4,763 kg) of bombs stored in a large, internal bomb bay. The gunner managed the radar-equipped tail turret with its two 20 mm cannons and 1,000 rpg. The defensive armament was never fitted to the prototype.

The XA2J did away with the mixed propeller and jet propulsion of the earlier AJ Savage; instead, it relied on two wing-mounted Allison T40 turboprop engines. The T40 engine was made up of two Allison T38 engines positioned side-by-side and coupled to a common gear reduction for contra-rotating propellers. Either T38 power section could be decoupled from the gear reduction, and the remaining engine could drive the complete contra-rotating propeller unit. The engine produced 5,332 hp (3,976 kW) and 1,225 lbf (4.7 kN) of thrust, for a combined output equivalent to 5,850 hp (4,362 kW). The Aeroproducts propellers used on the XA2J had six-blades and were 15 ft (4.57 m) in diameter.

NAA XA2J Super Savage ground

The XA2J Super Savage as built only had turboprop engines. In this image, the wide propellers installed on the aircraft have different cuff styles. Markings on the propeller installed on the right engine would seem to indicate that the propeller (rounded cuff) is being tested. Note the cockpit entry side door and open bomb bay doors.

The Super Savage had a 71 ft 6 in (21.8 m) wingspan and was 70 ft 3 in (21.4 m) long and 24 ft 2 in (7.4 m) tall. Folded, the wingspan dropped to 46 ft (14 m), and height decreased to 16 ft (4.9 m). The aircraft had an empty weight of 35,354 lb (16,036 kg) and a maximum takeoff weight of 61,170 lb (27,746 kg). Two fuel tanks at each wing root and two fuselage fuel tanks gave the aircraft a total fuel capacity of 2,620 gallons (9,918 L). The XA2J’s estimated top speed was 451 mph (726 km/h) at 24,000 ft (7,315 m), and its cruise speed was 400 mph (644 km/h). The aircraft had a ceiling of 37,500 ft (11,430 m) and a combat range of 2,180 miles (3,508 km) with an 8,000 lb (3,629 kg) bomb load.

NAA believed that the Super Savage airframe could be more than just a carrier-based medium bomber. The company developed designs in which various equipment packages could be installed in the aircraft’s bomb bay. The XA2J could be changed into a photo-recon platform with the installation of a camera package. Or the aircraft could become a tanker once it was outfitted with a 1,400 gallon (5,300 L) fuel tank in the bomb bay and a probe-and-drogue refueling system. A target tug system was also designed.

NAA XA2J Super Savage top

The Super Savage over the desert of California. The Allison T40 engine created trouble for every aircraft in which it was installed. The jet exhaust divider between the T38 engine sections can just be seen at the rear of the engine nacelle. Both propellers installed on the aircraft have square cuffs.

Construction of the first XA2J Super Savage prototype (BuAer 124439) began in late 1949 and progressed rapidly. However, Allison experienced massive technological problems developing the T40 engines, and they were not delivered until late 1951. The XA2J finally made its first flight on 4 January 1952 and was piloted by Robert Baker. The aircraft took off from Los Angeles International Airport and was ferried to Edwards Air Force Base (Edwards) for testing. By the time of the XA2J’s first flight, superior aircraft designs, namely the Douglas A3D (A-3) Skywarrior, were nearing completion. In addition, Allison never solved all of the T40’s issues, and the engines were limited to 5,035 hp (3,755 kW).

Testing at Edwards revealed some difficulties with the Super Savage. All aircraft powered by the complex T40 experienced numerous power plant failures, and the XA2J was no exception. The Super Savage was around 4,000 lb (1,814 kg) overweight and was never tested to its full potential. The highest speed obtained during testing was just over 400 mph (644 km/h). Even the aircraft’s estimated performance did not offer a significant advantage over that of the AJ Savage already in service. The XA2J project was cancelled in mid-1953, and the second prototype (BuAer 124440) was never completed.

NAA XA2J Super Savage in flight

The Super Savage had an aggressive appearance that gave the impression that the aircraft could live up to its name. However, it was outclassed by the Douglas A3D (A-3) Skywarrior and had performance on par with the AJ Savage it was intended to replace.

North American Aircraft 1934-1999 Volume 2 by Kevin Thompson (1999)
Aircraft Descriptive Data for North American XA2J-1 (June 1953)
American Attack Aircraft Since 1926 by E.R. Johnson (2008)
The Allison Engine Catalog 1915–2007 by John M. Leonard (2008)
“They didn’t quite… 5: Turbine-Driven Savage,” Air Pictorial Vol. 21 No. 12. (December 1959);all