The entrance of the P-35 into the US Army Air Corps marked two significant firsts. It was the first single seat all-metal fighter with retractable landing gear and an enclosed cockpit to enter Air Corps service. It was also the first front line military aircraft design from Seversky, and the beginning of the road that would lead to the P-47 Thunderbolt (by which time Seversky had changed its name to Republic).
The Seversky company was the creation of Alexander De Seversky, a Russian émigré who had defected to the United States in 1918 after a career as a fighter pilot. During the 1920s he had been closely associated with General “Billy” Mitchell, and served as a consulting engineer with the US War Department. In 1931 he founded the Seversky Aircraft Corporation, based at Farmingdale, Long Island. At the same time he hired Alexander Kartveli, another Russian, and a very skilled aviation engineer.
The P-35 evolved from their second aircraft design, the SEV-2XP, a two-seat fighter aircraft. This then developed into the SEV-1XP, a single seat fighter powered by a Wright R-1829 radial engine. This aircraft was entered in the USAAF's 1935 Fighter competition. None of the entrants in this contest were awarded a contract. Seversky then re-engined the SEV-1XP with the Pratt & Whitney R-1830 Twin Wasp engine, theoretically giving 850hp.
The Seversky aircraft won the 1936 fighter contest, beating the Curtiss Hawk 75 to gain a contract for 77 aircraft. The initial P-35s were powered by the 950 hp Pratt & Whitney R-1830-9 Twin Wasp 14-cylinder radial engine. It was badly under-armed, carrying two machine guns in the nose – one .30 calibre and one .50 calibre – at the instance of the Air Corps. It could also carry ten small 30lb bombs externally.
Seversky secured an export order for the P-35, under the designation EP-1. This was a distinct improvement on the P-35, powered by a 1,050 hp Twin Wasp and armed with four machine guns, two .50s in the nose and two .30s in the wing roots. Sweden placed an order for 120 EP-1s, but after sixty were delivered President Roosevelt imposed an arms embargo on Scandinavia (10 June 1940). The remaining sixty entered US service as the P-35A.
When the P-35 entered service it was greeted enthusiastically. It was after all the most modern fighter in the USAAF. However, when the Second World War broke out in Europe combat reports began to reach America. They made it clear that the P-35 was already outdated. It lacked armour protection, did not have self sealing fuel tanks, and had some nasty flying characteristics. The RAF tested the P-35 in 1940, at a time when every aircraft was needed, and rapidly rejected it.
The P-35A had a short combat career. Fifty of them equipped the 20th Pursuit Squadron of the 24th Pursuit Group based at Clark Field on the Philippines. The P-35 would be one of many allied aircraft swept from the skies in the Japanese onrush at the end of 1941.
The P-35 was more significant as the first in a line of aircraft that would result in the P-47 Thunderbolt. The last P-35 was used as the basis of the next Seversky aircraft, the XP-41, while lessons learnt from the P-35 would be used in the development of the P-43 Lancer.
Engine: Pratt & Whitney R-1830-45 Twin Wasp
Max Speed: 310 mph at 14,300ft
Range: 950 miles
Span: 36ft 0in
Length: 26ft 10in
Armament: two .50in machine guns in the nose, two .30in machine guns in the wing roots.