New and revolutionary in 1932, by the time World War II started the P-26 was clearly past its time. Yet it still saw combat in a very limited capacity.
After the jump, a look at a little fighter and its combat career.
Boeing’s P-26 was a cutting edge modern design in 1932. Its metal fuselage was considered streamlined, and external bracing was kept to a minimum. The Pratt & Whitney R-1340 engine provided a generous 600 HP. With a top speed over 230 MPH it could outrun anything else in the sky. Landing flaps were added after the prototype because the type touched down so fast there was concern pilots couldn’t handle it.
This would also be the last fighter ever designed by Boeing. Profit margins were always tighter on little fighters, and Boeing was tired of the political process, and contracts being renegotiated; so they decided to focus all efforts on bigger, higher margin aircraft. Boeing was out of the fighter business until they acquired McDonnell-Douglass and the F/A-18 program in 2002.
But in the 1930s the Peashooter did generate some business. 151 were built including prototypes and small orders for China and Spain. This was the “Golden Age” of aviation and technological progress was coming fast. Significantly, the Curtiss P-36 and Hawker Hurricane both flew in 1935. That meant retractible landing gear, enclosed cockpits and no external bracing would become the norm. And the P-26 went from state of the art to anachronism in a matter of months.
In 1938 a number of Peashooters were assigned to American fighter squadrons in the Philippines. At this time the Philippines was still a territory of the United States, but was scheduled to be made an independent nation in 1946. As part of this process a Philippine Army Air Corp was organized. in 1941 the 12 still flyable P-26s were assigned to that new Air Force. Specifically to the 6th Pursuit Squadron under Capt Jesus Villamor.
When the war came in December of 1941 the 6th Pursuit Squadron was the only combat “ready” unit of the Philippine air force. In two weeks of combat the unit scored five kills, including two Zeros and Betty bomber by Capt Villamor himself. But those two weeks spelled the end of that unit as a viable force with the last of their Peashooters being burned to avoid capture. Capt Villamor would continue to fly a Boeing Stearman in a tactical support role almost to the end of the Philippine campaign. Capt Villamor was among the few Philippinos evacuated before the islands fell, but he quickly returned via submarine to coordinate between guerrilla groups. In that role he fought until the islands were finally liberated summer of 1945.
This Philippine Peashooter is from the Hobbycraft kit. It may be among the best kits from that manufacturer, at least to say that brand’s characteristic simplicity serves the little P-26 well.