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Radial vs. inline for US Navy

March 12 2012 at 1:38 PM
denizp  (Login denizp)
HyperScale Forums
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Response to Question about engines in WWII-era A/C

Although I don't think there is an official document that describes why the US Navy almost exclusively used radial engines, the overall consensus - from people I talked to that were in the Navy in the 40s and 50s - was the fact that the Navy didn't want to store the extra glycol (not sure if propylene or ethylene) on board the ships for both logistics and probably safety issues - corrosion and explosion. I think there was also a general consensus that the radials were also much easier to maintain than inline engines - probably due to the fact that you could access all the parts of an engine easily even in a confined space like a carrier hangar.
But I think another big factor was the relative lack of investment and experience in inline engines in US vs. Britain or Germany at the time. If you consider that until the appearance of Packard-built Merlins, US did not really have a really good high-performance inline engine, it might be easy to understand why Navy picked radial engines from PW over anything else. If you also recall, Japan had to get the DB601 from Germany and manufacture it under license as they also only invested in radials. This would also explain why Britain was more than willing to use the Spitfire, Hurricane and other exclusively inline-engined aircraft on-board their carriers, as that is what they were good at and had plenty of experience with.
On another note, the Boeing FB-5 Hawk was the last inline engined aircraft used by the US Navy on a carrier

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