Ryan FR-1 Fireball / Model 29
In December 1942, nine US aircraft manufacturers received a Request for Proposals from the Bureau of Aeronautics for a single-seat shipboard fighter combining piston engine and turbojet, the former to be the main power source and the latter to provide boost in climb and combat. The Ryan Model 28, designed by Benjamin T Salmon and William T Immenschuh, was selected as winning contender by the Bureau and three prototypes were ordered on 11 February 1943 as XFR-1s.
A low-wing, cantilever monoplane of classic design, the XFR-1 was the first carrier aircraft designed from the outset to use a laminar-flow aerofoil and the first US Navy aircraft to have an entirely flush-riveted exterior and metal-skinned movable control surfaces. Power was provided by a 1,350hp Wright R-1820-72W Cyclone nine-cylinder air-cooled radial and, in the rear fuselage, a 726kg General Electric I-16 (later redesignated J31) turbojet. Proposed armament consisted of four 12.7mm machine guns with provision for a 454kg bomb under port inboard wing panel. Other features were hydraulically-folding outer wings and a tricycle undercarriage.
A contract for 100 production FR-1s was placed on 2 December 1943, the first XFR-1 flying seven months later, on 25 June 1944, with only the piston engine installed. The turbojet was added a few days later. Initial flight tests led to the major redesign and enlargement of the vertical tail and lowering of the horizontal tail. On 31 January 1945, by which time a number of series FR-1s had been completed and were under test, a contract was placed for 600 FR-2s which were to differ in having the R-1820- 74W engine of 1,500hp with water injection. In the event, neither the FR-2 nor the XFR-3 was to be built, the latter being intended to mate the 907kg General Electric I-20 turbojet with the -74W piston engine.
The XFR-4 entered flight test in November 1944. Utilising the 19th FR-1 production airframe, this replaced the J31-GE-3 turbojet with a 1542kg Westinghouse J34-WE-22, discarded the wing root intakes of the FR-1 in favour of flush inlets in the sides of the forward fuselage, and had the aft fuselage extended by 20cm. It was found, however, that the thrust of the J34 was too great to permit efficient use of both engines and the XFR-4 programme was discontinued accordingly.
Due to its (relatively) high-speed dash capability, the Fireball was considered for use in defence against kamikaze attacks. The war ended just as the first squadron was becoming operational. .Deliveries of the FR-1 to the US Navy began in March 1945, the Fireballs equipping one squadron (VF-66) and completing carrier qualification in May (aboard the USS Ranger). After VJ-Day, the 34 FR-1s remaining to be delivered were cancelled, together with all 600 FR-2s. On 18 October 1945, VF-66 was de-commissioned and its FR-1s transferred to VF-41 (redesignated VF-1E on 15 November 1946) which continued to fly them until mid- July 1947. Only 17 of the 66 FR-1s built saw squadron usage, the remainder being assigned for various test programmes.
Engines: 1 x GE J31-GE-3 turbojet, 1600 lbs (726 kg) thrust & 1 x Wright Cyclone R1820-72W, 1425 hp piston.
Wingspan: 12.19 m / 40 ft 0 in
Length: 9.85 m / 32 ft 4 in
Height: 4.24 m / 14 ft 11 in
Wing area: 25.54 sq.m / 274.91 sq ft
Max take-off weight: 5285 kg / 11651 lb
Empty weight: 3488 kg / 7690 lb
Max speed: 370 kts, (piston power only: 255 kts).
Range: 1658 km / 1030 miles
Ryan FR-1 Fireball