Category Archives: World War II

Nakajima HA-54 engine front

Nakajima [Ha-54] (Ha-505) 36-Cylinder Aircraft Engine

By William Pearce

On 6 December 1917, Chikuhei Nakajima founded one of the first aircraft manufacturing companies in Japan. Originally known as the Japanese Aeroplane Research Institute (Nihon Hikoki Kenkyūsho), the company went through a few name changes and was reorganized as the Nakajima Aircraft Company, Ltd (Nakajima Hikōki KK) in December 1931, with Chikuhei Nakajima as its chairman. At the onset of World War II, Nakajima felt that the United States had vast industrial resources and that the attack on Pearl Harbor would have dire consequences for Japan. Nakajima believed that the only way to ensure a Japanese victory was for Japan to have a reliable method to consistently attack the US mainland. Such attacks would require the US military to divert offensive forces to defend and protect the US.

Nakajima HA-54 engine front

The 36-cylinder, 5,000 hp (3,728 kW) Nakajima [Ha-54] was an ambitious engine program. The engine was needed long before it would be ready. The project was cancelled to reallocate resources to more urgent needs.

In 1942, Nakajima made his thoughts known to the Imperial Japanese Army (IJA) and Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN), but neither service gave Nakajima much consideration or any support. Frustrated, Nakajima used his company’s own resources to design a large bomber capable of striking the US mainland from Japan. Nakajima designated his bomber design Project Z (or Z Airplane). After months of research, Nakajima again approached the IJA and IJN in April 1943 with his Project Z proposals. The IJA and IJN were more receptive, but there was no consensus between the services on the aircraft’s design, specifications, or mission. The IJA and IJN submitted an updated proposal to Nakajima in June 1943, and through the remainder of 1943, Nakajima worked to solidify the Project Z aircraft design.

In August 1943, Nakajima distributed his thesis, “Strategy for Ultimate Victory,” to IJA and IJN officials and to prominent politicians. The thesis outlined strategic use of Project Z bombers to attack industrial targets in the US. The bombers could fly from Japan to Germany and strike targets in the western US as well as industrial areas in the mid-western states. Once in Germany, the bombers would be rearmed and refueled to make the return trip to Japan, again striking the US. The attacks, combined with their effect on production, was predicted to halt the US advance against Japan and aid in the defense of Germany.

Nakajima HA-54 section

Sectional drawing of what is believed to be the final configuration of the [Ha-54] engine. A single-rotation propeller is depicted. Note the cooling fan at the front of the engine, the annular intake manifold at the middle of the engine, and the supercharger impeller at the rear of the engine. Induction manifolds are shown at the top of the drawing, and exhaust manifolds are at the bottom.

Although several different designs and configurations were investigated, the Project Z aircraft that entered development was a six-engine, long-range bomber of all metal construction. The proposed aircraft had a wingspan of 213.2 ft (64.98 m), a length of 147.6 ft (44.98 m), and a height of 28.8 ft (8.77 m). Project Z had an empty weight of 143,300 lb (65,000 kg) and a maximum weight of 352,739 lb (160,000 kg). The bomber’s top speed was 422 mph (679 km/h) at 32,808 ft (10,000 m). Project Z had a maximum range of 11,185 miles (18,000 km) and a ceiling of 49,213 ft (15,000 m).

Such a massive aircraft required very powerful engines; however, no engine in Japan had the power that Project Z required. To solve this issue, Nakajima decided to make a power plant that could support Project Z by coupling together two existing [Ha-44] engines. The [Ha-44] was the most powerful engine that Nakajima was developing, and the new combined engine for Project Z was designated [Ha-54].

The heritage of Nakajima’s radial engines lies in licenses the company acquired to produce the Bristol Jupiter, Pratt & Whitney R-1340 Wasp, Wright R-1820 Cyclone, and Gnome-Rhône 14M. Nakajima obtained the Jupiter license in 1925, the Wasp license in 1929, the Cyclone license in 1933, and the 14M license in 1937. While Jupiter engines were produced, the Wasp and Cyclone licenses were obtained to gain knowledge, and Nakajima did not produce those engines. Many Nakajima radial engines used a 146 mm bore, which directly corresponded to the Jupiter’s 5.75 in bore, and several Nakajima personnel spent a few months in the US being instructed by Wright as part of the license agreement. The general construction of Nakajima radials resembled a combination of Bristol, Pratt & Whitney, and Wright engines, and Nakajima engineers consistently incorporated their own thoughts and ideas into their engines.

Nakajima HA-54 engine mount

This model of the [Ha-54] illustrates the significant structure proposed to mount the engine. Such a mounting system would make engine maintenance very difficult, with the entire engine needing to be pulled to change a cylinder on the rear engine section. Note the exhaust collector ring and its outlet, which would lead to a turbosupercharger.

When Nakajima started to develop their own engines in the late 1920s, their designation system consisted of their name and the engine type followed by the engine model letter. As an example, the designation “NAL” represented Nakajima Air-cooled L model. When Nakajima started to develop a new class of high-power engines in the early 1940s, the focus was on air-cooled engines. Subsequently, the letter “N” and the engine type were dropped from the engine designation system. A new letter was used to designate the next generation of engines, followed by the engine model letter. As an example, the designation “BH” stood for B generation H model.

Japanese companies, the IJA, and the IJN all had their own designations for engines. To eliminate confusion (or perhaps add more), a joint designation system was introduced in May 1943. Nakajima [Ha-44] was the joint designation for the engine that would be the basis for Project Z’s engines. The [Ha-44] carried the Nakajima designation BH, the IJA designation Ha-219, and the IJN designation NK11. The [Ha-44] was an experimental, 2,942 cu in (48.2 L), 18-cylinder, air-cooled, radial engine. Development of the [Ha-44] began around 1941, and the engine was based on the 14-cylinder Nakajima [Ha-34] (Nakajima NAL, IJA Ha-41/Ha-109, and IJN NK5). By mid-1943, the [Ha-44] was producing 2,400 hp (1,790 kW) at 2,700 rpm. Two [Ha-44] power sections would be connected to make up the [Ha-54] engine.

Nakajima HA-54 engine cooling flow

This drawing depicts the cooling air flow of the [Ha-54] engine. This was the proposed configuration, but sufficient cooling for the rear cylinders was never achieved. Note the cooling fan at the front of the engine and the intake manifold ring at the center of the engine.

The [Ha-54] engine carried the Nakajima designation D-BH, for Double-BH. It was also designated Nakajima Ha-505 by the IJA but had no known IJN designation. The engine was a 36-cylinder, air-cooled radial with two-stage supercharging. The [Ha-54] was comprised of two [Ha-44] engine sections bolted together via an intermediate section. The two engine sections formed a single four-row radial engine with nine-cylinders in each row. The crankshafts of the two engine sections were directly joined, and neither engine section could operate without the other.

The [Ha-54] used cylinders constructed of an aluminum head that was screwed onto a steel barrel. Each cylinder had two valves that were actuated by pushrods driven by cam rings. Exhaust gases flowed into a collector ring positioned behind the engine. Two ducts led from the collector ring, with each duct delivering the exhaust to a turbosupercharger located farther aft in the engine nacelle. The pressurized air from the turbosupercharger was fed through an intercooler and into a mechanically-driven supercharger at the rear of the engine. The fully-charged air from the supercharger was directed to an annular manifold at the center of the engine. Induction air for the front and rear engine sections was distributed from this central manifold. Because of this configuration, cylinders on the front engine section had rear-facing intake and exhaust ports, while the cylinders on the rear engine section had front facing intake ports and rear facing exhaust ports. Other methods to distribute air into the cylinders were investigated, including the use of two supercharger impellers at the rear of the engine, with each impeller dedicated to one engine section. In addition, some versions of the engine did not employ a turbosupercharger.

Nakajima HA-54 with baffles

Nakajima tests indicated that cooling the [Ha-54] engine would be difficult. This model shows one of the final cooling configurations and matches the above drawing. Air flowed through the cylinders of the front engine section and exited at the center of the engine. Air that flowed over the front cylinders was directed down to flow through the cylinders of the rear engine section.

Some sources state a low pressure fuel injection system was planned for the [Ha-54] engine. Other Nakajima engines injected the fuel directly before the impeller at 14 psi (.97 bar). However, a different fuel injection point may have been selected to avoid the constant presence of a volatile air/fuel mixture in the annular induction ring at the center of the engine. Anti-detonation injection was also available for takeoff or emergency power.

Cooling the huge engine posed a serious issue, and much research was devoted to finding an adequate solution. Investigations were conducted to employ fan-assisted, forced-air cooling with an engine-driven fan positioned at either the front or rear of the engine. Another plan involved ram-air cooling for the front engine section and reverse cooling for the rear engine section. In this configuration, baffling separated the air flow from the front and rear engine sections. Air to cool the rear engine section was brought in via the wing’s leading edge, made a 180-degree turn, flowed through the cylinders of the rear engine section, and exited cowl flaps positioned at the middle of the engine.

Nakajima HA-54 no turbo

A fully-cowled model of the [Ha-54] with ram-air (no fan) cooling for the front engine section and reverse cooling for the rear engine section. Note how the cooling air for both engine sections exited the cowl flaps at the center of the nacelle. Also, the engine depicted did not use a turbosupercharger and had nine exhaust stacks protruding from the cowling.

The final cooling configuration involved an engine-driven fan at the front of the cowling. Air was ducted through the cooling fins of the front engine section’s cylinders. The air then exited cowl flaps at the center of the engine cowling. Separately, air was ducted over the cylinders of the front engine section and through the cooling fins of the rear engine section’s cylinders. This air then exited via cowl flaps at the rear of the engine cowling.

At the front of the [Ha-54] engine, the crankshaft drove a propeller gear reduction and the cooling fan. Both single-rotation and contra-rotating propellers were considered, with the final decision in favor of six-blade (or possibly eight-blade) contra-rotating propellers that had a diameter of 14.8 ft (4.5 m). The [Ha-54] engine would be supported by a series of mounting rings that connected to the engine at its center and rear.

The Nakajima [Ha-54] had a 5.75 in bore (146 mm) and a 6.30 in (160 mm) stroke. The 36-cylinder engine had a 7.5 to 1 compression ratio and a total displacement of 5,885 cu in (69.4 L). The [Ha-54] had a maximum output of 5,000 hp (3,728 kW) at 2,800 rpm for takeoff and 4,600 hp (3,430 kW) at 2,800 rpm at 29,528 ft (9,000 m). The engine had a diameter of 61 in (1.55 m) and was 141 in (3.58 m) long. The [Ha-54] weighed approximately 5,400 lb (2,450 kg).

Nakajima HA-54 two impellers

This drawing of the [Ha-54] shows some of the engine mount positions. Note that there are two supercharger impellers depicted. In this version of the engine, each impeller provided induction air to one engine section.

The question of cooling the [Ha-54] was never entirely resolved, and development of the engine was forecasted to take too long. By January 1944, work on the [Ha-54] had stopped, and it is unlikely that a complete engine was ever built. With the the cancellation of the 5,000 hp (3,728 kW) [Ha-54], a scaled-down version of the Project Z aircraft was designed and powered by [Ha-44] engines, which had been developed to 2,500 hp (1,864 kW). The new aircraft, designated Nakajima G10N Fugaku (Mount Fiji) was slightly smaller but still possessed the same, six-engine configuration as Project Z. By the summer of 1944, all of Japan’s resources were needed to protect the homeland, and the prospect of a long-range bomber attacking the US mainland was out of reach. The G10N Fugaku was cancelled, and all work stopped on its engines.

After World War II, the Nakajima Aircraft Company became the Fuji Industrial Company, Ltd. (Fuji Sangyo KK). In July 1953, the company merged with four others to form Fuji Heavy Industries, Ltd. (Fuji Jūkōgyō Kabushiki-gaisha). Fuji Heavy Industries manufactured Subaru automobiles and supplied equipment for the aerospace and transportation industries. In April 2017, Fuji Heavy Industries was renamed the Subaru Corporation.

Nakajima Project Z

The final version of the original Nakajima Project Z bomber with its six [Na-54] engines. Development of the [Na-54] was forecasted to take too long, so [Na-44] engines were substituted, and the aircraft was scaled-down as the Nakajima G10N Fugaku. As Japan’s prospects for an offensive victory faded, the project was cancelled, and resources were reallocated to defense.

Sources:
Japanese Aero-Engines 1910–1945 by Mike Goodwin and Peter Starkings (2017)
Japanese Secret Projects 1 by Edwin M. Dyer III (2009)
“Nakajima Engine Design and Development” Air Technical Intelligence Group Report No. 45 by J. H. Morse (5 November 1945)
“Nakajima Aircraft Company, LTD” The United States Strategic Bombing Survey, Corporation Report No. II (June 1947)
https://www.secretprojects.co.uk/forum/index.php?topic=24084.0
http://www.enginehistory.org/Piston/Japanese/japanese.shtml
http://forum.valka.cz/topic/view/199974/Ha-505-Ha-54-01
https://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E5%AF%8C%E5%B6%BD

Fairey P24 Monarch engine

Fairey P.24 Monarch Aircraft Engine

By William Pearce

The first original engine made by the Fairey Aviation Company (FAC) was the P.12 Prince. Designed by Captain Archibald Graham Forsyth, the Prince was a 1,559 cu in (25.5 L) V-12 that was ultimately rated at 750 hp (559 kW) for normal output and 900 hp (671 kW) for maximum output.

Fairey P24 Monarch engine

The Fairey P.24 Monarch was a final attempt by Fairey Aviation to produce a piston aircraft engine. The engine proved to be reliable and had some unusual features, but nothing about it was revolutionary. Both Britain and the United States passed at the opportunity to produce the engine.

Seeking more power, Forsyth investigated a 16-cylinder engine designated P.16 that displaced 2,078 cu in (34.1 L). A V-16 design was initially considered, but the configuration was changed over concerns regarding the engine’s length combined with excessive torsional vibrations and stress of the long crankshaft. The P.16 configuration was switched to an H-16 with four banks of four cylinders. However, by switching to an H-24 configuration with four banks of six cylinders, a more powerful engine could be developed that would possess the same frontal area as the H-16. In fact, there is little evidence from primary sources that indicates a P.16 engine or an H-16 configuration were ever seriously considered. Design work on the H-24 engine had begun by October 1935. The H-24 engine was designated P.24 and may have been initially named “Prince” (like the P.12). For a time, the P.24 was called “Queen,” but the name was later changed to “Monarch.”

The Fairey P.24 Monarch was a vertical H engine in which the left and right 12-cylinder engine sections could be operated independently of each other. The aluminum crankcase was made of an upper and lower half. Each bank of six cylinders was mounted to the crankcase. An aluminum cylinder head attached to the cylinder bank. The P.24 retained the bore and stroke of the P.12 (and P.16) engine. Each cylinder had two intake valves and one exhaust valve, all actuated by a single overhead camshaft driven from the rear of the engine. The 1.8125 in (46 mm) diameter intake valves were operated by a T-type tappet, and the 2.25 in (57 mm) diameter exhaust valve was operated directly by the camshaft. It is interesting to note that various British patents (no. 463,501 and 465,540) filed by FAC and Forsyth show four valves per cylinder. No information has been found of a four-valve head being fitted to a P.24 engine.

Fairey P24 integral passageways

Drawings taken from British patent 463,501 illustrate the integral passageways of the P.24’s induction system. The drawn configuration was nearly identical to that used on the actual engine. The sectional view on the right illustrates the numerous sharp turns the air/fuel mixture made on its way into the cylinders.

Mounted to each side of the engine was a single-stage, two-speed supercharger with two carburetors mounted on its inlet. The superchargers were driven from the rear of the engine at 8.3475 times crankshaft speed through three step-up gears. Via a short manifold, each supercharger delivered air into passageways cast integral with the crankcase, cylinder bank, and cylinder head. A single passageway brought air into two cylinders. It was noted in British patent 463,501 that having intake passageways cast integral with the crankcase made the engine cleaner, more rigid, and opened the vertical space between the cylinder banks for either an oil cooler or gun. However, if a gun were to be considered, the crankcase construction did not allow it to fire through the propeller hub. Rather, the gun would need to be synchronized to fire through the propellers.

The air/fuel mixture was ignited by two spark plugs—one on each side of the cylinder. The spark plugs were fired by four magnetos mounted to the rear of the engine. The upper two magnetos fired the spark plugs located on the inner side of the cylinders, and the lower two magnetos fired the spark plugs located on the outer side of the cylinders. The left and right sides of the P.24 had the same firing order: 1U, 5L, 4U, 1L, 2U, 4L, 6U, 2L, 3U, 6L, 5U, and 3L. The first and last cylinders had their own exhaust stack, but the middle four cylinders were paired off with a shared exhaust stack. This arrangement gave the P.24 16 exhaust stacks, which often caused the engine to be mistaken for an H-16.

Fairey P24 valves

Another drawing from British patent 463,501 details the induction, valves, and exhaust. Although the drawing has two exhaust valves per cylinder, the P.24 as built had only one exhaust valve. Note that each bank of six cylinders only has four exhaust stacks. This gave a total of 16 stacks for the P.24 engine, which is why it is occasionally mistaken for an H-16.

At the front of the engine, each crankshaft was geared to a separate propeller shaft at a .5435 reduction. The two propeller shafts made up a coaxial, contra-rotating unit. The crankshafts and accessories for each engine section rotated in opposite directions. When viewed from the rear, the left crankshaft rotated clockwise and powered the front propeller. The right crankshaft rotated counterclockwise and powered the rear propeller. The P.24’s fully-adjustable, contra-rotating propeller was developed by FAC. Each crankshaft had six throws and was supported by eight main bearings. The pistons were connected to the crankshaft by fork-and-blade connecting rods, with the fork rod servicing the lower cylinders and the blade rod servicing the upper cylinders. Since they rotated in opposite directions, the crankshafts and engine accessories were not interchangeable.

When either the left or right side of the engine was shut down, the other side of the engine would continue to operate and power its propeller. This gave any aircraft powered by a P.24 engine the reliability of two engines without the drawback of asymmetrical thrust in an engine-out situation. This configuration also allowed half of the engine to be shut down to extend the aircraft’s range or loiter time. Although the cooling and oil systems of the engine sections were separate, they used common tanks and coolers during engine tests. It was noted that completely separate coolers and tanks could be installed in an aircraft to make the engine sections truly independent of one another.

Fairey P24 Monarch installation drawing

The P.24 installation drawing illustrates the H-24 engine as built. British patent 463,501 mentioned the possibility of installing a gun between the upper cylinder banks, but no provisions for such equipment were incorporated into the actual engine.

The Fairey P.24 Monarch had a 5.25 in (133 mm) bore, a 6.0 in (152 mm) stroke, and a compression ratio of 6 to 1. The engine displaced 3,117 cu in (51.1 L) and was originally rated for 2,000 hp (1,491 kW) at 2,600 rpm. However, Forsyth felt the engine could be developed to 2,600 hp (1,939 kW) at 3,000 rpm. The two-speed superchargers gave critical altitudes of 6,000 and 13,000 ft (1,829 and 3,962 m). Fuel consumption was .63 lb/hp/hr (383 g/kW/h) at takeoff, .55 lb/hp/hr (335 g/kW/h) at full power, and .45 lb/hp/hr (274 g/kW/h) at 60% throttle. The P.24 engine was 86.25 in (2.19 m) long, 43.0 in (1.09 m) wide, and 52.5 in (1.33 m) tall. The engine weighed around 2,330 lb (1,057 kg), although 2,180 lb (989 kg) is given by many sources. Perhaps the discrepancy in reported weight is a result of the engine’s weight changing with the installation of various accessories.

The P.24 was first run in 1938. The test cell at FAC was not built for the full power of the P.24, so just half of the engine was run at a time. By 6 October 1938, the engine was successfully completing two-hour runs without issues. Arrangements were made to install the P.24 in a Fairey Battle light bomber, and the engine was being considered for use in the Hawker Tornado fighter. The P.24 started its 50-hour civil type test on 13 May 1939 and successfully completed the test on 14 June 1939. For the test, the engine ratings were a normal output of 1,200 hp (895 kW) at 10,500 ft (3,200 m) and 2,400 rpm, and a maximum output of 1,450 hp (1,081 kW) at 10,500 ft (3,200 m) and 2,750 rpm. It appears that a single-speed supercharger delivering just .5 psi (.04 bar) of boost was used for the 50-hour test.

Fairey P24 Monarch Battle GB side

This side view of the P.24 engine installed in Fairey Battle K9370 illustrates the very large radiator installed under the aircraft. It is easy to understand why the engine, with its 16 prominent exhaust stacks, is often thought to be an H-16. Note that the propellers do not have a complete spinner, which was installed later.

The P.24-powered Battle (K9370) first flew on 30 June 1939, piloted by Christopher S. Staniland. A short time later, a P.24 test engine achieved 1,540 hp (1,148 kW) at 2,600 rpm with 3 psi (.21 bar) of boost for takeoff. With P.24 tests moving forward, FAC looked to apply the engine to new aircraft designs. On 19 October 1939, FAC proposed using the P.24 engine in aircraft designed to specifications N8/39 and N9/39. Designed by FAC chief designer Marcel Lobelle, the same basic single-engine, two-seat fighter design was used to satisfy both specifications, with the addition of a turret for N9/39. In Lobelle’s drawings, the FAC engine was labeled as the “Queen,” but it was visually identical to the P.24 as built. In addition, the late-1939 time frame was after FAC had moved away from 16-cylinder engine designs. In the late-1939 proposals, the engine was rated at 1,320 hp (984 kW) for takeoff and 1,170 hp (872 kW) at 15,000 ft (4,572 m).

During 1940, a number of short runs were made up to 1,750 hp (1,305 kW), but there were no long periods of running at these high outputs. Trouble was experienced with the superchargers and main bearings. A maximum of 2,200 hp (1,641 kW) was achieved, but not with both halves of the engine running at the same time. Each individual engine half achieved an output of 1,100 hp (820 kW), adding up to the 2,200 hp (1,641 kW) figure. In fact, each engine half made two runs at 1,100 hp (820 kW), but the runs were only a short duration of two minutes each.

Fairey P24 Monarch Battle GB front

A well circulated image of the P.24-powered Battle in Britain. Taken at the same time is another image that shows the front propeller turning (left side of the engine running). A doctored set of these images had the exhaust stacks removed to keep the engine’s configuration a secret. Note the complete spinner.

In October 1940, the Air Ministry made it clear that no production orders for the P.24 engine would be placed. Instead, the focus was on other engines already further developed and being designed by established engine manufacturers with greater facilities for production. In April 1941, the Fleet Air Arm (FAA) expressed some interest in the P.24. Since the P.24 had twin-engine reliability, and its contra-rotating propellers eliminated torque reaction, the engine was ideally suited for carrier operations. However, the Air Ministry again asserted that there would be no production of the engine. This did not stop FAC from continuing to push the P.24 engine, even proposing in mid-1942 that the Fairey Firefly carrier fighter should be re-engined with a P.24 that would produce 2,150 hp (1,603 kW) at 3,000 rpm. The Air Ministry was not interested, and the plan went no further. The P.24-powered Battle was turned over to Royal Aircraft Establishment Farnborough on 12 July 1941. By this time, P.24 engines on test had been run 20 hours at 2,000–2,100 hp (1,491–1,566 kW) and five hours at 2,100–2,300 hp (1,566–1,715 kW).

Fairey had discussed the P.24 engine with United States Army Air Force (AAF) officials in June 1941. The following month, Forsyth visited the US to give more details about the engine. Fairey and Forsyth felt that the Air Ministry had made a mistake in exclusively backing the Napier Sabre and not providing any support for the P.24. They wanted P.24 development and production to continue in the US; production in the US by an established engine manufacturer would be easier than FAC undertaking the task themselves. By this time, the name “Monarch” was applied to the P.24 engine. In August 1941, the AAF stated that they were not interested in the development or production of the P.24 engine, but they were interested the in the contra-rotating propellers developed for the engine. However, Fairey stated in a letter dated November 1941 that Wright Field in Dayton, Ohio had prepared three-view drawings of the P.24 installed in the Republic P-47 Thunderbolt fighter and the Curtiss A-25 Shrike (SB2C Helldiver) dive bomber. Fairey also stated that the Ford Motor Company was engaged in discussions about producing the engine.

Fairey P24 Monarch Battle US side

The P.24 was flown extensively in the US, but the AAF was mostly interested in the contra-rotating propeller. The Battle retained its serial number, but the British roundels were painted over, and US markings were applied. Note the star under the wing and the stripes on the tail. Some contend the Battle was designed to be powered by the P.24. However, the Battle’s origin can be traced to 1933, and the P.24’s design was initiated over two years later, in 1935. An early design of the Battle was powered by the Fairey P.12 Prince.

The apparent reversal of the AAF’s interest in P.24 production seems odd, and it may have been more optimism on Fairey’s part than what was really expressed by the AAF. Fairey did want to get the engine to the US, and claiming that the AAF was interested was the quickest way to get the cooperation of the Air Ministry, who had been battling Fairey for quite some time. Regardless of the AAF’s level of interest in the engine, they were certainly interested in the contra-rotating propellers. The P.24-powered Battle was shipped to the US on 5 December 1941. Another P.24 engine was delivered to Farnborough for further testing, and a third Monarch engine was prepared for shipping to the US. With the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the second P.24 engine was never sent to the US.

Many sources state that the P.24 engine was considered to replace the Pratt & Whitney R-2800 in the P-47. It should be noted that an order for 773 P-47Bs (602 were finished as P-47Cs) was placed in September 1940; the XP-47B made its first flight on 6 May 1941, and an order for 805 P-47Ds was placed in October 1941. All of this P-47 activity occurred before the AAF touched the P.24 engine and before the US entered World War II. An additional 1,050 P-47Ds and 354 P-47Gs were ordered in January 1942, before the AAF had much, if any, time to evaluate the P.24 engine. It would seem that the AAF was quite content with the R-2800 engine, since full-scale P-47 production was underway, and 2,982 aircraft were on order. A request from Fairey dated January 1943 sought a new set of propellers for a P.24 engine installed in a P-47. At the time, the P-47 was two months away from entering combat, with hundreds of aircraft produced and thousands on order. It seems highly unlikely that any engine change would have been seriously considered by the AAF.

Fairey P24 Monarch FAA side

The sole surviving P.24 Monarch engine and its propellers are preserved and housed in the Fleet Air Arm Museum at Yeovilton. Only around three P.24 engines were built. (Rory57 image via flickr.com)

When the AAF received the P.24-powered Battle at Wright Field in Dayton, Ohio, it had around 87 hours of flight time. The P.24 engine had a takeoff rating of 2,100 hp (1,566 kW) and military ratings of 2,100 hp (1,566 kW) at 6,000 ft (1,829 m) and 1,850 hp (1,380 kW) at 13,000 ft (3,962 m); all ratings were at 3,000 rpm with 9 psi (.62 bar) of boost and using 87 octane fuel. Forsyth believed the engine was capable of 2,600 hp (1,939 kW) with 100 octane fuel. The AAF found the coaxial propellers and the “double engine” concept novel, but found the rest of the engine conventional. The AAF felt the design of the P.24 limited its further development. Since the intake manifolds were cast into the engine’s crankcase, a complete redesign would need to be undertaken to improve their flow. As it was, the intake manifolds fed the air/fuel mixture clumsily into the cylinders through five turns, some of which were fairly sharp 90-degree bends. The integrally cast manifold also caused the air/fuel mixture to be heated as it flowed to the cylinders. Another issue was that the gear reduction housing was cast integral with the crankcase. If a failure caused damage to the gear reduction housing, the entire crankcase would need to be scrapped. With all of the integral components, the two crankcase castings were large and complex. The AAF also noted the non-interchangeability of the crankshafts and other components. The AAF remarked that BMEP (brake mean effective pressure) achieved by the P.24 at 3,000 rpm with 9 psi (.62 bar) of boost was matched by the Allison V-3420 with 3.75 psi (.26 bar) of boost at the same rpm. In addition, the relatively low critical altitude of the P.24 meant the Rolls-Royce Merlin 60 series had a 160 hp (119 kW) advantage at 30,000 ft (9,144 m).

Of course, enhancements to the P.24 could be made, and Forsyth suggested that further development of the engine be conducted in the US. This included increasing the bore of the P.24 to 5.5 in (140 mm), which would give a displacement of 3,421 cu in (56.1 L) and an output of 3,000 hp (2,237 kW). In addition, a P.32 could be built with four banks of eight cylinders for a total displacement of 4,156 cu in (68.1 L). The bore of the 32-cylinder P.32 could also be increased to 5.5 in (140 mm) for a total displacement of 4,562 cu in (74.8 L). A 24-cylinder engine with a 6.0 in (152 mm) bore and stroke could be developed that would displace 4,072 cu in (66.7 L) and produce 3,400 hp (2,535 kW).

Additions to the basic P.24 included developing a two-stage supercharger that would enable the engine to produce around 1,800 hp (1,342 kW) at 36,000 ft (10,973 m). The AAF mentioned that the stages would be separate, with one stage driven from the propeller gear reduction at the front of the engine. In May 1942, Forsyth applied for a US patent (no. 2,470,155) that addressed some of the AAF’s concerns regarding the engine’s gear reduction and supercharger. The patent outlines the basic P.24 engine but with a detachable propeller gear reduction. The engine could be used in a variety of aircraft, and different gear reductions would be fitted to provide the desired propeller rpm based on the aircraft’s role. An extension could be installed between the engine and propeller gear reduction that had a mounting to drive an additional supercharger on each side of the engine. In addition, different superchargers with their own gearing could be installed on the engine to provide different levels of boost based on the needs of the aircraft. In some configurations, superchargers could be engaged as the aircraft gained altitude. In addition, US patent 2,470,155 described how P.24 engines could be coupled to create an H-48 engine. A 48-cylinder engine would displace 6,234 cu in (102 L) and produce over 4,400 hp (3,281 kW).

Fairey P24 Turbosuperchargers

Forsyth envisioned adding turbosuperchargers to the P.24 as another stage of charging. This concept is outlined in British patent 463,984 (top, granted in 1937) and US patent 2,395,262 (bottom, granted 1946). In addition, a front mounted supercharger driven from the propeller gear reduction was contemplated. All of these arrangements were to give the P.24 better high-altitude performance, but none were built.

In June 1942, FAC and Forsyth applied for another US patent (no. 2,395,262) that detailed another supercharger configuration, but with a turbosupercharger mounted to the front of the engine. This configuration was briefly mentioned in US patent 2,470,155. In US patent 2,395,262, the turbosupercharger was the first stage and was powered by the exhaust gases from the top row of cylinders. Exhaust from the lower cylinders was combined with the exhaust from the turbosupercharger. The pressurized air flowed from the turbosupercharger to the gear-driven supercharger at the rear of the engine. The air was pressurized further and directed into the engine via manifolds as seen on the P.24.

Forsyth had been considering the combined turbo and supercharger arrangement since before the P.24 first ran. This concept was outlined in a British patent (no. 463,984) applied for in 1935 and granted in 1937. In this patent, the turbosuperchargers would be mounted on the sides of the engine, outside of the induction manifolds. The gear-driven supercharger would be run alone for low altitude operation, and the turbosupercharger would provide additional boost at higher altitudes. At a certain altitude, valves would open, allowing engine exhaust into the turbosupercharger to start its operation. At the same time, valves on the gear-driven supercharger’s inlet pipes would close. The turbosupercharger would become the first stage of charging and feed air into the gear-driven supercharger, in which fuel would be added and the mixture further pressurized before being fed into the cylinders.

Fairey P24 with compressors

As the jet age dawned, Forsyth looked to incorporate the new technology into the P.24. The top drawing is from British patent 591,048 and describes a single compressor (H) mounted behind the engine (A) and supercharger (F). Induction pipes (34) lead from the supercharger to the engine. The bottom drawing is from British patent 591,189 and describes a compressor (M) mounted behind each engine section. Both configurations allow the engine to drive the propellers, the compressor, or both. In addition, fuel could be injected and ignited into combustion chambers (I top and S bottom) for additional thrust. The patents were applied for in 1944 and granted in 1947.

Forsyth also suggested developing a jet engine section to be added to the P.24. British patent 591,048 described the P.24 employed in a semi-motorjet configuration. Behind the piston engine was a supercharger, and behind the supercharger was a large, engine-driven compressor. Fuel was injected and ignited in the compressor to generate thrust. Three different power options were available: the engine could drive the propellers only; the engine could drive both the propellers and the compressor; or the propellers could be disengaged, and the engine would drive the compressor alone, the compressor generating the thrust needed to maintain flight. A series of clutches connected or disconnected the propellers, piston engine, and compressor.

British patent 591,189 described a very similar engine concept as the semi-motorjet listed above; however, two compressors were used. Each engine section had its own compressor section, and the piston engine’s superchargers were again located on the side of the engine. In addition to the power options listed in the previously mentioned patent, one engine section could drive one propeller, while the other engine section could drive one compressor. Both of the patents that incorporated compressors with the P.24 engine were applied for in 1944 and granted in 1947.

Forsyth even thought about using P.24 components to create a marine engine. US patent 2,389,663 outlines P.24 cylinder banks being used in a U-12 configuration. Two U-12 engine sections would be combined to create a U-24 engine. The drive for the contra-rotating marine propellers would come from between the two U-12 engine sections. The patent notes that the six-cylinder engine sections could be run independently and that the superchargers could be engaged or disengaged. Low-speed operation would consist of running one six-cylinder engine section without supercharging. High-speed operation would employ all 24 cylinders and four superchargers.

Fairey U-24 marine engine

For marine use, Forsyth mounted the four banks of the P.24 on a new crankcase to create a U-24 engine. This drawing from US patent 2,389,663 shows the engine and how it would drive a contra-rotating propeller. The bevel drive to the supercharger is shown by number 10.

All of these inventive propulsive ideas came to naught. As previously mentioned, the British supported the Sabre and not the P.24. The AAF felt that only 2,460 hp (1,834 kW) at 3,000 rpm would be obtained from the P.24 (as built) with 100 octane fuel and that no part of the engine was so remarkable that it warranted production in the US. This opinion did not stop the AAF from adding 250 hours of flight time to the P.24 before the Battle was returned to Britain in 1943. The aircraft logged around 340 hours powered by the P.24 engine.

Some suggest that if FAC had received the resources given to Napier for development of the Sabre, the P.24 would have been a phenomenal engine. The P.24 was a good engine, but its performance does not appear to be exceedingly remarkable for the era in which it was developed. While it is true that the P.24 performed reliably, the 3,117 cu in (51.1 L) engine was producing under 2,000 hp (1,491 kW) for most of its developmental life. A P.24 Monarch engine and its contra-rotating propellers survived and are currently on display in the Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm Museum at Yeovilton. The engine and propellers were most likely those used on the Battle.

Fairey P24 engine configurations

A variety of P.24 engine configurations were illustrated in US patent 2,470,155. All of the different configurations are reminiscent of what Allison envisioned for the V-1710 and V-3420. Note the bevel gear drives for the power shafts.

Sources:
Fairey Aircraft since 1915 by H. A. Taylor (1988)
British Piston Aero-Engines and their Aircraft by Alec Lumsden (2003)
World Encyclopedia of Aero Engines by Bill Gunston (2006)
Fairey Firefly by W. Harrison (1992)
Report on 50 Hours Civil Category Type Test Fairey P.24 – Series I (October 1939)
Memorandum Report on Fairey P-24 (Monarch) Engine by B. Beaman, F. L. Prescott, E. A. Wolfe, and Opie Chenoweth (22 August 1941)
Memorandum Report on Evaluation of P-24 Engine and Coaxial Rotating Propellers by Air Cops Material Division (27 August 1941)
“Improvements in or relating to Gaseous Fuel Induction Pipes for Internal Combustion Engine” British patent 463,501 by Fairey Aviation Company and Archibald Graham Forsyth (granted 1 April 1937)
“Improvements in or relating to Supercharging Internal Combustion Engines” British patent 463,984 by Fairey Aviation Company and Archibald Graham Forsyth (granted 9 April 1937)
“Improvements in or relating to Valve Mechanism for Internal Combustion Engines” British patent 465,540 by Fairey Aviation Company and Archibald Graham Forsyth (granted 10 May 1937)
“Improvements in or relating to Power Plants for Aircraft” British patent 469,615 by Fairey Aviation Company and Archibald Graham Forsyth (granted 29 July 1937)
“Marine Power Unit” US patent 2,389,663 by Archibald Graham Forsyth (granted 27 November 1945)
“Supercharging Arrangement” US patent 2,395,262 by Archibald Graham Forsyth (granted 19 February 1946)
“A Power Unit for Aircraft and the like” British patent 591,048 by Fairey Aviation Company and Archibald Graham Forsyth (granted 5 August 1947)
“Improvements in or relating to Power Units” British patent 591,189 by Fairey Aviation Company and Archibald Graham Forsyth (granted 11 August 1947)
“Supercharged Multiple Motor Internal-Combustion Unit for Aircraft” US patent 2,448,789 by Archibald Graham Forsyth (granted 7 September 1948)
“Power Plant Assembly” US patent 2,470,155 by Archibald Graham Forsyth (granted 17 May 1949)
http://ww2aircraft.net/forum/threads/fairey-aero-engines-any-good-info.30710/

Isotta Fraschini Zeta rear

Isotta Fraschini Zeta X-24 Aircraft Engine

By William Pearce

In 1900, Cesare Isotta and Vincenzo Fraschini formed Isotta Fraschini (IF) in Milan, Italy. The firm originally imported automobiles, but began manufacturing its own vehicles by 1904. In 1908, IF started experimenting with aircraft engines and began producing them by 1911. The company went on to build successful lines of air-cooled and water-cooled engines. In the early 1930s, IF experienced financial issues caused in part by the great depression. In 1932, the Italian aircraft manufacturer Caproni purchased IF and continued production of automobiles and engines (both aircraft and marine).

Isotta Fraschini Zeta front

The Isotta Fraschini Zeta used many components from the Gamma V-12 engine. The air-cooled, X-24 Zeta had its cylinder banks at 90 degrees, and cooling the rear cylinders proved to be a problem. (Kevin Kemmerer image)

In the late 1930s, IF developed a pair of inverted, 60 degree, V-12, air-cooled engines. The first of the engines was the Gamma. The Gamma had a 4.92 in (125 mm) bore and a 5.12 in (130 mm) stroke. The engine displaced 1,168 cu in (19.1 L) and produced 542 hp (404 kW) at 2,600 rpm. The second engine was the Delta; it had the same architecture as the Gamma but had a larger bore and stroke of 5.20 in (132 mm) and 6.30 in (160 mm) respectively. The Delta displaced 1,603 cu in (26.3 L) and produced 790 hp (589 kW) at 2,500 rpm.

In 1939, the Ministero dell’Aeronautica (Italian Air Ministry) worked to import Daimler-Benz aircraft engines from Germany and obtain licenses for their production. IF decided to design an engine powerful enough to compete with the Daimler-Benz engines or replace them if sufficient quantities could not be imported.

To speed engine development, IF created the new engine using as much existing technology as possible. Essentially, two Gamma engines were mounted on a common crankcase in an X configuration to create the new engine, which was called the Zeta. The use of air-cooling and a single crankshaft simplified the design of the 24-cylinder Zeta engine.

Isotta Fraschini Zeta rear

All of the Zeta’s accessories were driven at the rear of the engine. A camshaft housing spanned all of the cylinders for one cylinder bank. Note the two spark plug leads for each cylinder extending from the top of the camshaft housing. The pipes for the air starter can been seen on the upper cylinder bank. (Kevin Kemmerer image)

The Isotta Fraschini Zeta was made up of an aluminum crankcase with four cylinder banks, each with six individual cylinders. All cylinder banks were positioned 90 degrees from one another. Each air-cooled cylinder was secured to the crankcase by ten bolts, and the cylinder’s steel liner extended into the crankcase. Each cylinder had two spark plugs that were fired by magnetos positioned at the rear of the cylinder bank.

Each cylinder had one intake and one exhaust valve. Mounted to the top of each bank of cylinders was a camshaft housing that contained dual overhead camshafts. A vertical shaft at the rear of the cylinder bank directly drove the exhaust camshaft. A short cross shaft drove the intake camshaft from the exhaust camshaft. The crankshaft was supported by seven plain bearings, and each connecting rod served four cylinders via a master rod and three articulating rods.

An accessory section at the rear of the engine drove the magnetos, vertical drives for the camshafts, and a single-stage supercharger. The supercharger forced air through intake manifolds between the upper and lower cylinder Vees. The exhaust gases were expelled from the cylinders via individual stacks between the left and right cylinder Vees. A pressurized air starting system was used, and the engine had a compression ratio of 6.5 to 1. The Zeta maintained the 4.92 in (125 mm) bore and 5.12 in (130 mm) stroke of the Gamma. The Zeta displaced 2,336 cu in (38.3 L) and produced 1,233 hp (919 kW) at 2,700 rpm. The engine was around 68 in (1.73 m) long, and 39 in (1.00 m) wide and tall. The Zeta weighed approximately 1,675 lb (760 kg).

Caproni F6Z IF Zeta

The Caproni Vizzola F.6MZ was the only aircraft to fly with a Zeta engine. The close-fitting cowl can be seen bulging around the engine’s cylinder banks, and the removed panels show just how tight of a fit the cowling was. Note the gap around the propeller for cooling air.

The Zeta RC45 was first run on 28 February 1941, and development was slowed due to various design issues. The engine was also having trouble making the forecasted output, with only around 1,085 hp (809 kW) being achieved. As development progressed, many of the issues were resolved, but the engine still lacked power. In May 1943, the Zeta RC24/60 with a two-speed supercharger was run, but the engine was not able to pass its type test. A number of aircraft were considered for conversion from their initial engines to the Zeta, but serious progress was made on only two aircraft.

The Caproni Vizzola F.6M was an all-metal aircraft based on the Caproni Vizzola F.5 but powered by a 1,475 hp (1,100 kW), liquid-cooled, Daimler-Benz DB 605 engine. While the F.6M was being developed, the design of a second version of the aircraft powered by a Zeta RC45 engine was initiated on 7 October 1941. The new design was called F.6MZ (or just F.6Z). The Zeta-powered aircraft was ordered on 16 June 1942, and it was assigned serial number (Matricola Militare) MM.498. The engine change came about because reliable deliveries of the DB 605 and its license-built contemporary, the FIAT RA 1050, could not be assured.

Progress on the Caproni Vizzola F.6MZ was delayed because of the engine. While the F.6M first flew in September 1941, it was not until 14 August 1943 that the F.6MZ took flight. The F.6MZ had a tight-fitting cowling that bulged around the engine’s four valve covers, and four rows of short exhaust stacks protruded from the cowling. Cooling air was taken in from around the spinner, and the air was expelled via an annular slot at the rear of the cowling. An oil cooler was housed in a chin radiator below the cowling.

Caproni Vizzola F6Z

The F.6MZ was first flown on 14 August 1943. The two rows of exhaust stacks can be seen near the cylinder bank bulges. The cooling air exit flaps can just be seen at the rear of the cowling.

First flown by Antonio Moda, the F.6MZ had an estimated top speed of 391 mph (630 km/h), some 37 mph (60 km/h) faster than the F.6M. This speed seems optimistic, considering the Zeta had an output of at least 225 hp (168 kW) less than the DB 605 and that the F.6MZ could not have produced significantly less drag or have been much lighter than the F.6M. The Zeta engine experienced overheating issues throughout the flight test program—the rear cylinders did not have sufficient airflow for proper cooling. Some modifications were made, but further flight tests were halted with Italy’s surrender on 8 September 1943. Two F.6MZ aircraft were ordered, but only the first prototype was built.

In October 1941, Regia Aeronautica (Italian Royal Air Force) requested that Reggiane (Officine Meccaniche Reggiane) replace the DB 605 / FIAT RA 1050 in its RE 2005 Sagittario fighter with the IF Zeta RC24/60. Reggiane was another company owned by Caproni. The Zeta-powered aircraft, developed after the RE 2005, was the Reggiane RE 2004, and seven examples were ordered. Although Reggiane was less enthusiastic about the Zeta than Caproni Vizzola, they did work on designing a firewall-forward engine package.

Isotta Fraschini Zeta SM79

These four images show the Zeta RC24/60 engine installed in the nose of a SM.79. Once tested, this installation would be applied to the Reggiane RE 2004. Note how the exhaust stack arrangement was completely different from that used on the F.6MZ.

A Zeta engine was not delivered to Reggiane until 1943. At the time, Reggiane was building Savoia-Marchetti SM.79 Sparviero three-engined bombers. One SM.79 was modified to have the Zeta engine installed in the nose position. This would enable the engine to be flight tested, and the cooling characteristics of the cowling configuration could be evaluated before the engine was used in the RE 2004. Compared to the F.6Z cowling, the Reggiane cowling had a larger diameter but was a cleaner design. Again, cooling air was brought in from around the spinner and exited through an annular slot at the rear of the cowling, and an oil cooler was positioned below the cowling. The Reggiane installation used exhaust stacks that ended with two close rows along the sides of the cowling. It appears that the Italian surrender occurred before the Zeta engine was ever flown in the SM.79. In fact, the Zeta RC24/60 was never cleared for flight, and the engine used in the SM.79 was most likely a mockup without all of its internal components. Although never built, the RE 2004 had an estimated top speed of 385 mph (620 km/h), 36 mph (58 km/h) slower than the RE 2005. At 7,117 lb (3,228 kg), the RE 2004 was 842 lb (382 kg) lighter than the RE 2005.

IF also designed the Sigma, a larger X-24 engine using cylinders and other components from the inverted, V-12, air-cooled Delta. The Sigma had a 5.20 in (132 mm) bore and 6.30 in (160 mm) stroke. The engine displaced 3,207 cu in (52.5 L) and had an estimated output of 1,578 hp (1,178 kW) at 2,400 rpm. The Sigma was never built, but its approximate dimensions were 82 in (2.08 m) long, and 45 in (1.15 m) wide and tall. The engine weighed around 2,160 lb (980 kg).

Isotta Fraschini Zeta SM79 cowling

The Zeta installation for the RE 2004 (as seen on the SM.79) was fairly clean but somewhat spoiled by the large oil cooler under the cowling. Note the cooling air exit gap at the rear of the cowling.

Sources:
https://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isotta_Fraschini_Zeta
Tutti gli aerie del Re by Max Vinerba (2011)
Italian Civil and Military Aircraft 1930-1945 by Jonathan W. Thompson (1963)
I Reggiane dall’ A alla Z by Sergio Govi (1985)
The Caproni-Reggiane Fighters 1938-1945 by Piero Prato (1969)
Ali E Motori D’Italia by Emilio Bestetti (1939)
Isotta Fraschini: The Noble Pride of Italy by Tim Nichols (1971)

Allison V-3420-A front

Allison V-3420 24-Cylinder Aircraft Engine

By William Pearce

In the mid-1930s, the United States Army Air Corps (AAC) was interested in a long-range bomber. Boeing won a contract to build the aircraft, which was originally designated XBLR-1 (eXperimental Bomber Long Range-1), but ultimately became the XB-15. By 1935, the AAC realized that current engines, and those under development, lacked the power needed for such a large aircraft. At the time, the AAC was pursuing its next experimental long-range bomber, the Douglas XBLR-2. The AAC requested the Allison Engineering Company build a 1,600 hp (1,193 kW) engine for the XBLR-2, which later became the XB-19.

Allison V-3420-A front

The Allison V-3420 was much more than two V-1710 engines coupled together. However, as many V-1710 components were used as possible, resulting in only 340 new parts. This is a V-3420-A engine with an attached single-rotation gear reduction.

In 1935, Allison was in the middle of developing its 1,000 hp (746 kW) V-1710 engine. The AAC requested that the new 1,600 hp (1,193 kW) engine have a single crankshaft and use as many V-1710 components as possible to keep development time to a minimum. After evaluating a few different configurations, Allison decided to double the V-1710 to create a 24-cylinder engine in an X configuration. This engine became the X-3420.

The X-3420 would have an entirely new crankcase, crankshaft, gear reduction, supercharger, and accessory section, but it would keep the basic V-1710 cylinder and head. The X-3420 had a flattened X arrangement with a left and right cylinder bank angle of 60 degrees, an upper cylinder bank angle of 90 degrees, and a lower cylinder bank angle of 150 degrees. The fuel-injected engine would produce 1,600 hp (1,193 kW) at 2,400 rpm for takeoff and 1,000 hp (746 kW) at 1,800 rpm for economical cruise. The engine would have an 8.5 to 1 compression ratio and weigh 2,160 lb (980 kg).

While using as many V-1710 components as possible made Allison’s job easier, the X-3420’s single crankshaft and its master and articulating rods required much design work, as did its fuel-injection system. Very quickly, Allison realized it did not have the resources to develop the X-3420 and needed to focus on the V-1710, which was encountering technical issues. Development of the X-3420 was effectively abandoned in 1936. As an alternative, Ron Hazen, Allison’s Chief Engineer, proposed a new 2,000 hp (1,491 kW) engine that had two crankshafts and was more closely based on the V-1710. The engine would produce more power than the X-3420 and be developed in less time. The AAC approved of Hazen’s proposed engine, which became the V-3420. The engine was often referred to as a W-24 or double Vee (DV) and was occasionally called the DV-3420.

Allison V-3420-A rear

Rear view of the V-3420-A shows the supercharger mounted behind the right engine section and various accessories mounted behind the left engine section. The V-3420’s design enabled the engine to produce more power than its X-3420 progenitor.

The Allison V-3420 design was more complex than just coupling two V-1710 engines together. As with the proposed X-3420, a new crankcase, gear reduction, supercharger, and accessory section were at the center of the engine, but the V-3420 would utilize many V-1710 components. The use of two V-1710 crankshafts along with their connecting rods made the V-3420’s design and development much more manageable for Allison. The engine consisted of two 60 degree V-12 engine sections mounted on a common crankcase and separated by 90 degrees, which gave the inner cylinder banks 30 degrees of separation.

As V-1710 development progressed, Allison was able to offer the V-3420 with 2,300 hp (1,715 kW) for takeoff. At 2,300 lb (1,043 kg), the engine would only weigh 140 lb (64 kg) more than the single crankshaft X-3420, but it would produce an additional 700 hp (522 kW). In May 1937, the AAC contracted Allison to build the V-3420 engine prototype.

A large aluminum crankcase sat at the center of the 24-cylinder V-3420 engine. Attached to the crankcase were four cylinder banks. Each cylinder bank consisted of six steel cylinder barrels shrink fitted to a one-piece aluminum cylinder head. Each cylinder barrel was surrounded by an aluminum water jacket. A single overhead camshaft actuated two intake and two exhaust valves for each cylinder. Each cylinder had a 5.5 in (140 mm) bore and a 6.0 in (152 mm) stroke. The engine displaced 3,421 cu in (56.1 L) and had a compression ratio of 6.65 to 1. At the rear of the engine was a supercharger driven by the right crankshaft, and all accessories were driven by the left crankshaft. The engine was also intended to be used with a General Electric turbosupercharger.

Allison V-3420-B NMUSAF rear

This V-3420-B was the type installed in the Fisher XP-75. About 15 ft (4.6 m) of shafting separated the engine from the gear reduction. Note the much larger supercharger compared to the image of the V-3420-A engine. The V-3420-B used a two-stage supercharger and no turbosupercharger. (Gary Brossett image via the Aircraft Engine Historical Society)

There were only 340 parts unique to the V-3420 engine, and those accounted for 930 pieces of the 11,630 that made up the engine. Initially, the V-3420 had a takeoff rating of 2,300 hp (1,715 kW) at 3,000 rpm, a maximum rating of 2,000 hp (1,491 kW) at 2,600 rpm, and a cruise rating of 1,500 hp (1,119 kW) at 2,280 rpm. The basic 24-cylinder engine was 97.7 in (2.48 m) long, 60.0 in (1.52 m) wide, and 38.7 in (.98 m) tall. The engine weighed 2,665 lb (1,209 kg)—365 lb (166 kg) more than the original estimate.

In January 1938, Allison was authorized to release V-3420 engine specifications to aircraft manufacturers and airlines. This resulted in a number of aircraft designs incorporating the engine; however, only four V-3420-powered aircraft types were actually flown. The V-3420 engine was first run in April 1938, followed by an AAC order for six engines in June 1938. An engine was also displayed in the 1939 World’s Fair in New York.

The US Navy was aware of the V-3420 engine and asked Allison if it could be converted for marine use. Allison responded with the appropriate designs. In December 1939, the Navy ordered two V-3420 marine engines for installation in a new, aluminum-hulled Patrol Torpedo boat designated PT-8. The two V-3420 marine engines were delivered to the Navy, and the PT-8 boat started trials in November 1940. The PT-8 was tested through 1941, but no further boats or V-3420 marine engines were ordered. The sole PT-8 was later re-engined and still exists as of 2017.

Allison V-3420-B NMUSAF

On the V-3420-B engine, an idler gear kept the crankshafts in sync. The engine’s large crankcase can be seen in this image. The large aluminum casting had front and rear covers and a magnesium oil pan. (Gary Brossett image via the Aircraft Engine Historical Society)

For aircraft use, the V-3420 required further development, which was slow due to Allison’s ongoing commitments to the V-1710 engine as well as the AAC’s preoccupation with vastly expanding its resources for the coming war. In late 1940, Allison focused on two major models of the V-3420 engine: -A and -B. The V-3420-A had crankshafts that rotated the same direction—either clockwise or counterclockwise, depending on the desired rotation of the propeller. The -A engine used a single-rotation propeller with either an attached or remote gear reduction, but most commonly with an attached gear reduction. The V-3420-B had crankshafts that rotated in opposite directions and was used with contra-rotating propellers. Different versions of the -B engine could accommodate either an attached or remote gear reduction, which allowed a number of propeller shaft configurations, including right-angle drives. The -B engine almost always had a remote gear reduction. The two crankshafts of the V-3420-B were kept in sync by idler gears at the front of the engine. The idler gears also balanced power loads from the crankshafts to the contra-rotating propeller shafts.

In September 1940, Allison’s V-1710 commitments became overwhelming, and development of the V-3420 engine was put on hold. As a result, the XB-19 had four 2,000 hp (1,491 kW) Wright R-3350 18-cylinder radial engines installed in place of the V-3420s. However, the R-3350 was encountering its own extensive developmental issues that put its use in the Boeing B-29 Superfortress in question. In February 1941, the AAC requested that Allison restart development of the V-3420-A with an output of 3,000 hp (2,237 kW) as a possible replacement for the Wright R-3350. The B-29 bomber was too important for its fate to be tied to one engine.

Allison V-3420-B right-angle drive

One V-3420-B engine was built to be mounted in an aircraft’s fuselage with extension shafts leading through the wings to right angle drives that would connect to the propellers. This type of engine configuration would have been used in the McDonnell Model 1. Only one engine was built with this configuration.

A V-3420 engine was delivered to Wright Field in October 1941, but with the bombing of Pearl Harbor in December, the V-3420 program was again put on hold so that Allison could focus on the V-1710 engine. History repeated itself in mid-1942 when the suitability of the R-3350 engine was again in question. Allison was instructed by the Army Air Force (AAF—the AAC was renamed in June 1941) to prepare the V-3420 for installation in a B-29, which was redesignated XB-39. Nine engines were built and delivered by October 1942. On 1 October 1942, the AAF ordered two Fisher XP-75 Eagle fighter prototypes that were powered by the V-3420-B engine. This was followed by an order placed on 28 October for 500 V-3420-A engines for installation in 100 production B-39 aircraft.

As the aircraft projects were underway, continued development of the V-3420 engine increased its output to a takeoff rating of 2,600 hp (1,939 kW) at 3,000 rpm with 8 psi (.55 bar) of boost, a normal rating of 2,100 hp (1,566 kW) at 2,600 rpm at 25,000 ft (7,620 m), and a cruise rating of 1,575 hp (1,175 kW) at 2,300 rpm at 25,000 ft (7,620 m). However, the engine could be overboosted in emergency situations to 3,000 hp (2,237 kW) at 3,000 rpm with 10.2 psi of boost (.70 bar).

Fisher P-75A Eagle

The Fisher P-75A was the end of a very tumultuous fighter program. The original design consisted of various parts from other aircraft that, when combined, would somehow make an aircraft superior to all others. The reality was that the combined parts created an aircraft that was downright dangerous and needed to be redesigned. A partial redesign did not completely cure the problems, and problems still existed after a subsequent complete redesigned. Still, 2,500 aircraft were ordered before better judgment prevailed and the program was cancelled. The P-75 was the only aircraft flown with V-3420-B engines.

The first aircraft to fly with the V-3420 was the Fisher XP-75. Developed by the Fisher Body Division of General Motors, the XP-75 was a long-range escort fighter. Through 1943, the AAF felt a desperate need for such an aircraft and ordered six additional XP-75 prototypes, bringing the total to eight. In addition, the AAF expressed its intent to purchase 2,500 P-75s if the prototypes met their performance estimates. The V-3420-B engine for the P-75 had a two-stage, variable speed supercharger (and no turbosupercharger) that was hydraulically coupled to the right crankshaft. The engine alone weighed 2,750 lb (1,247 kg), and its weight increased to 3,275 lb (1,486 kg) with its 3.5 in (89 mm) diameter extension shafts and remote gear reduction.

The XP-75 first flew on 17 November 1943, and the aircraft almost immediately ran into issues. Its V-3420-B engine was not entirely trouble free either; unequal fuel distribution was a continuing problem for the V-3420. The issue was mostly solved by having each alternate engine section fire every 30 degrees of rotation, rather than both engine sections firing every 60 degrees of rotation. The aircraft was redesigned to correct its deficiencies and was given the new designation of P-75A. The AAF ordered 2,500 P-75As on 7 June 1944, and production started immediately. However, the entire P-75 program was cancelled four months later, in October 1944. The P-75A did not live up to expectations, it was outmatched by aircraft already in service, and the end of the war was in sight. Eight XP-75 and six P-75A aircraft were built, but three of the aircraft crashed during testing. One P-75A was preserved and is on display in the National Museum of the US Air Force. The rest of the surviving aircraft were scrapped.

Douglas XB-19A

With V-3420-A engines installed, the Douglass XB-19A realized a boost in its performance. While the engines proved reliable, it was very time-consuming for Fisher to design and fabricate the new nacelles to house the V-3420. The same basic nacelle was also used on the XB-39.

Actual work to install V-3420-A engines in the XB-19 started in November 1942 at Fisher. The aircraft was redesignated XB-19A and flew for the first time with its V-3420 engines in January 1944. The V-3420 installation served as a test for the engine’s use in the XB-39. With the exception of range, the XB-19A’s performance increased across the board: maximum speed increased by 40 mph (64 km/h); cruising speed increased by 50 mph (80 km/h); service ceiling increased by 16,000 ft (4,877 m), but normal range decreased by 1,000 miles (1,609 km). The XB-19A was strictly an experimental aircraft and was never intended to enter production.

In February 1943, V-3420-A engines were selected to power the Lockheed XP-58 Chain Lightning. The V-3420 was not Lockheed’s first choice, or second, or third. The XP-58 heavy fighter program was initiated in 1940 but was beset with constant design and role changes, which were made worse by developmental issues of the aircraft’s previously selected engines. By the time it was completed, the XP-58 was oversized, overweight, underpowered, and not needed. First flown on 6 June 1944, the aircraft’s lackluster performance matched Lockheed and the AAF’s enthusiasm for the project. Only one prototype was built, and the XP-58 program was cancelled in May 1945.

Allison V-3420 XB-19A nacelle

The men working on the V-3420 installed in the XB-19A give some perspective as to the engine’s size and the size of the aircraft. The V-3420’s radiator, oil cooler, turbosupercharger, and intercooler were all mounted in the nacelle, under the engine. This configuration prevented the need for heavily modifying the aircraft.

Even though it helped spur the V-3420 engine program, the V-3420-powered B-29 was the last aircraft to take flight with the engine. A B-29 (actually a YB-29, the first pre-production aircraft) was delivered to Fisher for conversion to an XB-39 with V-3420-A engines. Work on the XB-39 was slow because Fisher’s main focus was the XP-75. The XB-39 finally flew on 9 December 1944. Performance of the XB-39 was superior to that of the B-29: its top speed was 50 mph (80 km/h) faster, and it had a 3,000 ft (914 m) higher service ceiling. However, standard B-29s were proving to be more than adequate, and it was not worth the time or trouble to convert any other airframes to V-3420-power.

To meet the power needs for extremely large aircraft designs during World War II, Allison proposed the DV-6840. The DV-6840 consisted of two V-3420s driving a common remote gearbox for contra-rotating propellers. A gearbox for the DV-6840 was completed in 1946, but no information has been found regarding it being tested. Allison had also planned a further development of the V-3420. This fuel-injected V-3420-C engine had a forecasted emergency output of 4,800 hp (3,579 kW) and a takeoff/military rating of 4,000 hp (2,983 kW)—both ratings at 3,200 rpm with water injection. However, the V-3420-C was never built.

Lockheed XP-58 Chain Lightning

The Lockheed XP-58 was another program than inexplicably pressed on despite the many signs that it was heading nowhere. Somewhere between three to seven engines were selected before the V-3420-A was finally chosen to power the aircraft. It was not Lockheed’s fault; they had no control over which experimental engines would actually be produced. Lockheed also had no control over the constantly changing roles the AAF asked the XP-58 to fulfill.

The Allison V-3420 was not a trouble-free engine, but it did work well in its few applications once initial issues were resolved. The engine held a lot of potential, but that potential faded as its development languished. At the start of 1944, only 33 V-3420 engines had been delivered, and two of those were marine engines. Had the AAC committed to the engine in 1936 and provided Allison with the resources needed to develop the engine, the V-3420 very well could have powered the B-29 and various post-war aircraft. The four aircraft projects that used the V-3420 did not fail because of the engine. By the time the V-3420 program was in order in 1944, other engines were adequately fulfilling the 3,000 hp (2,237 kW) role.

Allison built a total of 157 V-3420 engines: 37 -A engines (including the two marine engines) and 120 -B engines. A number of V-3420s were sold as surplus after the war. Some eventually made their way into museums, while other engines were used in a hydroplane (Henry J. Kaiser’s Scooter Too driven by Jack Regas) and a tractor puller (E. J. Potter’s Double Ugly). However, none of the V-3420 engines took flight again.

Fisher XB-39

The Boeing / Fisher XB-39 program is what put the V-3420 engine back on track to production. It was the most promising aircraft out of the four powered by the V-3420. Delayed by Fisher’s work on the XP-75, there was little point to the aircraft when it took to the air in December 1944. The image above shows the V-3420 engines being installed at the Fisher plant in Cleveland, Ohio. Fisher was producing various subassemblies for the B-29, which can be seen in the background. On the right side of the image, just behind the XB-39’s wing, is the fuselage of a P-75A.

Sources:
Vees For Victory!: The Story of the Allison V-1710 Aircraft Engine 1929-1948 by Dan Whitney (1998)
The Allison Engine Catalog 1915-2007 by John M. Leonard (2008)
Jim Allison’s Machine Shop: The First 30 Years by John M. Leonard (2016)
Aircraft Engines of the World 1946 by Paul H. Wilkinson (1946)
Allied Aircraft Piston Engines of World War II by Graham White (1995)
US Army Air Force Fighters Part 2 by William Green and Gordon Swanborough (1978)
McDonnell Douglas Aircraft since 1920: Volume I by Rene J. Francillon (1988)
Lockheed Aircraft since 1913 by Rene J. Francillon (1982/1987)
Boeing Aircraft since 1916 by Peter M. Bowers (1966/1989)

fiat-a38-rc15-45-v-16-engine

FIAT A.38, A.40, and A.44 Aircraft Engines

By William Pearce

In the early 1930s, Italy was a world leader in aviation and had developed both liquid-cooled and air-cooled engines. In 1933, the Italian Air Ministry decided to focus on air-cooled radial engines, and the development of liquid-cooled inline engines was essentially abandoned. By 1939, the shortsightedness of this decision became clear as most premiere frontline fighters from Britain, France, Germany, the Soviet Union, and the United States were powered by liquid-cooled engines. As a result, the Ministero dell’Aeronautica (Italian Air Ministry) began to encourage the development of liquid-cooled engines.

fiat-a38-rc15-45-v-16-engine

The FIAT A.38 RC15-45 was a 2,118 cu in (34.7 L) inverted V-16. The supercharger was mounted between the cylinder banks to decrease the engine’s length. Note the magnetos and contra-rotating propeller shafts.

In 1939, the Italian Air Ministry asked FIAT to design a new aircraft engine to power the next generation of Italian fighter aircraft. FIAT engineers Antonio Fessia and Carlo Bona began designing the new engine, designated A.38. The A.38 was initially an upright V-16 engine closely based on the FIAT AS.8, which was originally designed to set speed records. While the AS.8 had individual cylinders, the A.38 used two cast cylinder blocks.

After the initial upright engine design, the Italian Air Ministry was inspired by the German Daimler-Benz 600 series of inverted V-12s and requested the A.38’s configuration be changed to an inverted engine. Fessia completely redesigned the A.38, leaving very little in common with the AS.8. The AS.8 engine was a 45 degree V-16 with a 5.51 in (140 mm) bore and stroke, and by 1940, the A.38 had become an inverted, 90 degree V-16 with a 5.43 in (138 mm) bore and a 5.71 in (145 mm) stroke.

The A.38’s 16-cylinder arrangement was selected to maximize the engine’s power output while keeping its cylinder size and supercharger boost within known and reliable limits. However, a V-16 engine is very long, and its crankshaft is subject to torsional vibrations. To keep the engine’s length as short as possible, Fessia used a 90 degree cylinder bank arrangement and positioned the supercharger horizontally between the cylinder banks. This resulted in a rather complex supercharger drive.

fiat-a38-test-cell

The AC.38 in a test cell. The supercharger arrangement greatly increased the engine’s otherwise small frontal area. The 1,200 hp (895 kW) engine could have sufficed with a single-rotation propeller, but the contra-rotating unit would eliminate asymmetrical torque.

The A.38 was of all-aluminum construction with two detachable monobloc cylinder blocks. Each cylinder bank had eight cylinders, and each cylinder had two inlet and two exhaust valves. The valves were actuated by dual overhead (underhead in this case) camshafts that were driven by a single vertical shaft from the front of the engine. Two spark plugs were installed in each cylinder, and the spark plugs for each cylinder bank were fired by two magnetos driven at the front of the engine. The A.38 had a compression ratio of 7 to 1.

The engine had contra-rotating propeller shafts that were driven at .514 engine speed. Between the cylinder banks were the carburetor, supercharger, intake manifolds, and water pump. There were plans to use fuel injection, but this was never completed. The single-stage supercharger had two-speeds that gave critical altitudes of 4,931 ft (1,500 m) and 14,764 ft (4,500 m). The supercharger was powered by a shaft driven from the front of the engine and situated in the Vee between the cylinders. This shaft also drove the oil and water pumps. The supercharger’s outlet was at the center of the engine, and the air was fed into four manifolds, each serving four cylinders.

The engine was officially designated A.38 RC15-45: “RC” for Riduttore de giri (gear reduction) and Compressore (supercharged), and 15/45 for the altitudes (in hectometers) at which maximum power was obtained. The A.38 had a 5.43 in (138 mm) bore, a 5.71 in (145 mm) stroke, and a displacement of 2,118 cu in (34.7 L). The engine produced 1,200 hp (895 kW) at 2,800 rpm at 4,931 ft (1,500 m) and 14,764 ft (4,500 m). The 1,200 hp (895 kW) output was not normally enough to justify the use of contra-rotating propellers, but a photo of the engine in a test cell and a drawing of the FIAT G.55 fighter powered by the A.38 show propellers with just two-blades. It would appear that contra-rotating propellers were used more to eliminate asymmetrical torque than to compensate for exceeding the capabilities of a single-rotation propeller. The engine weighed 1,698 lb (770 kg).

fiat-a38-powered-g55

The FIAT G.55 fighter was originally designed to use the A.38 engine with contra-rotating propellers (top), but the aircraft was redesigned once the switch to a single-rotation propeller (bottom) was made. Delays with the A.38 led to the Daimler-Benz DB 605 being installed in the G.55.

Three A.38 engines were ordered, but it is not clear if all were built. The A.38 underwent tests in 1941 and was able to achieved 1,300 hp (969 kW), but even more power was desired. Some developmental changes to the engine included switching to a single-rotation propeller shaft. Trouble was experienced with the engine’s crankshaft and supercharger drive, and despite multiple attempts, the engine failed to pass airworthy certification tests. Fessia continued to work on the engine into 1942, but the Italian Air Ministry had already obtained licenses to produce Daimler-Benz engines and was no longer interested in the A.38—FIAT would build the DB 605 as the RA 1050 Tifone (Typhoon). It is interesting to note that the AS.8 had proven itself reliable and probably would have been a faster and better starting point for Fessia than an all-new engine design.

A number of aircraft designs were made to accommodate the A.38 engine. The only design that was actually built was the G.55. The G.55 was originally planned to be powered by the A.38 turning contra-rotating propellers, but the design was later altered for a single-rotation, three-blade propeller. In late 1941, it became obvious that the G.55 airframe would be completed before the A.38 engine was cleared for flight tests. As a result, a change to the DB 605 engine was initiated. First flown on 30 April 1942, the G.55 arguably became the best Italian fighter of World War II. Due to the state of the Italian aircraft industry in wartime, the G.55 was never made in sufficient numbers to have any impact on the conflict.

fiat-a40-x-24-engine

The FIAT A.40 was a 2,000 hp (1,491 kW) X-24 that had the same bore and stroke as the A.38. Although two A.40 engines were built, they were never tested because of shifting priorities during World War II. Note the cannon installed in the upper Vee on the side view drawing.

In 1940, Fessia tasked Dante Giacosa to create a new engine to compete with the A.38 and produce 2,000 hp (1,491 kW) at 8,202 ft (2,500 m). Instead of the V-16 layout, Giacosa turned to an X-24 configuration with four six-cylinder banks positioned 90 degrees from each other. The X-24 engine was designated A.40 RC20-60, and it used the same 5.43 in (138 mm) bore and 5.71 in (145 mm) stroke as the A.38. The A.40 engine had a single crankshaft and used one master connecting rod with three articulated connecting rods for each row of cylinders. The induction manifold was installed in the Vee between the lower cylinder banks and fed the two-speed supercharger mounted at the rear of the engine. The A.40 used a fuel injection system that Giacosa and his team had designed. The gear reduction unit raised the single-rotation propeller shaft, which enabled a 20 mm or 37 mm cannon to be fitted in the Vee between the upper cylinder banks and to fire through the propeller hub. The A.40 displaced 3,176 cu in (52.1 L), and an output of 2,000 hp (1,491 kW) was expected at 6,562 ft (2,000 m) and 26,247 ft (6,000 m). Reportedly, two A.40 engines were built in 1943, but Italy’s surrender prevented the engines from ever being tested. No information has been found on the disposition of any A.38 or A.40 engines.

While Fessia was working on the A.38, he also designed a more powerful engine. There is some evidence that suggests the engine was originally designated A.42 and used four A.38 cylinder blocks in an H-32 configuration. However, the engine was redesigned and redesignated A.44 RC15-45. The FIAT A.44 was comprised of two V-16 engines stacked together to form an X configuration. The V-16 engine sections were independent of each other, and each section powered half of the A.44’s contra-rotating propeller at a .429 reduction. A.38 cylinder blocks, pistons, and crankshafts were used, but the V-16 engine sections had a wider bank angle of 135 degrees. The X-32 engine displaced 4,235 cu in (69.4 L) and was forecasted to produce 2,400 hp (1,790 kW) at 2,800 rpm and a maximum of 2,800 hp (2,088 kW) at 2,950 rpm. The engine was estimated to weigh 3,307 lb (1,500 kg), and the design progressed through 1942. While FIAT designed a few aircraft to be powered by the A.44, like the CR.44 fighter/bomber and the BR.44 torpedo bomber, the engine failed to gain the support of the Italian Air Ministry and was never built.

fiat-cr44-f-b-a44

The FIAT CR.44 fighter/bomber was planned around the 2,400 hp (1,790 kW) FIAT A.44 engine. The A.44 X-32 engine was essentially two V-16 engines mounted together. The A.44 engine would have shared most parts with the A.38, except the crankcase. Neither the A.44 nor the CR.44 were built.

Sources:
Aeronuatica Militare Museo Storico Catalogo Motori by Oscar Marchi (1980)
Ali D’Italia Fiat G 55 by Piero Vergnano and Gregory Alegi (1998)
Forty Years of Design with Fiat by Dante Giacosa (1979)
“Fantasmi di aerie e motori Fiat dal 1935 al 1945 (prime parte)” by Giovanni Masino; Ali Antiche 106 (2011)
“Fantasmi di aerie e motori Fiat dal 1935 al 1945 (seconda parte)” by Giovanni Masino; Ali Antiche 108 (2012)
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