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The Republic P-43 Lancer was a development of the Seversky P-35 design, the most significant alteration being the fuselage was modified to allow the installation of a turbocharger. During the design process Alexander Seversky was ousted from the company by the board of directors and the name of the company was changed to Republic Aviation. While the design met USAAC specifications, it was soon outpaced by contemporary European designs.
The Lancer was powered by a Pratt & Whitney R-1830 radial which developed 1,200 hp with the supercharger. It was armed with two .50 caliber machine guns in the nose and one .30 caliber in each wing. The wing was a “wet” design which also served as fuel tanks. Initially these were plagued with leaks until effective internal coatings could be developed. The wing was thin, there was insufficient volume to make the wings self-sealing in case of damage, and there was no armor provided in the first examples.
A fine shot of a P-43 in formation with the other USAAC fighters of the day, the P-40, P-39, and P-38. The P-43 had an excellent Oxygen system, and the turbocharger made it fast at altitude. It was ordered into production mainly to keep Republic’s assembly halls operating while the promising P-47 Thunderbolt was being designed.
This 55th Pursuit Group Lancer has nosed over at Portland Oregon, displaying the obvious family resemblance to the subsequent Thunderbolt. Early war markings are on full display, as is the paint wear at the wing root.
Another 55th Pursuit Group mishap. This one gives us a fine view of the underside showing the turbocharger installation, flap details, and wheelwell interiors. Note that the inner doors to the wheelwells are closed.
A total of 272 Lancers were produced. In the P-43A variant the armament was increased to four .50 caliber machine guns and pilot armor was provided. Performance was roughly comparable to the P-40B at lower elevations, but the P-43 had an advantage at altitude.
The Royal Australian Air Force operated a total of eight P-43s with the No. 1 Photo Reconnaissance Unit, based at Coomalie Creek, Northern Territory. They were operational over Timor and New Guinea providing reconnaissance of Japanese airfields in the area. They served from November 1942 through 1943, when the six surviving aircraft were returned to the USAAF.
The underside of a P-43 in flight revealing the camera ports. While only mediocre as a fighter, its speed and ceiling made it valuable for the photo reconnaissance mission.
The Lancer was shipped to China where it operated with both the Chinese Air Force and the USAAF. Here one from each service share the ramp at Kunming. At one point the P-43 was intended to equip the Third Group of the American Volunteer Group, and pilots of the AVG flew Lancers on reconnaissance missions. This photograph was taken by AVG pilot R. T. Smith.