Seversky P-35A

Last revised June 12, 1999




The success of the P-35 inspired efforts to develop versions intended for export.

The Seversky corporation developed a two-seat fighter intended for export based on the design of the P-35. Designated 2PA-L, it was powered by a Wright R-1820 engine of 1000 hp. The sole 2PA-L was sold to the Soviet Union in March of 1938. An amphibian two-seat fighter similar to the 2PA-L but powered by a 850 hp Wright R-1820-G2 engine was acquired by the Soviet Union in the same month, along with a license for its manufacture. In the event, the Soviet Union never took up the option for the manufacture of the 2PA-L.

Twenty two-seat fighters similar to the 2PA-L were sold to Japan. Designated 2PA-B3 by the company, they were operated briefly by the Japanese Navy under the designation of Navy Type S Two-Seat Fighter or A8V1. The Japanese found the Seversky s to be heavier and less-maneuverable than many of the existing aircraft that they had in service. These planes participated in combat during the second Sino-Japanese war, but had been phased out of operation by the time the Pacific War began. Nevertheless, they were assigned the code name Dick by the Allies.

Since Major de Seversky had made somewhat of a pariah of himself in the USA by selling combat aircraft to Japan, the Army ordered no more P-35s from Seversky. Major de Seversky had always been a better pilot than he was a businessman, and by early 1939, his company had gotten itself into some deep financial doo-doo. In April of 1939, while Major de Seversky was out of the country on a business trip, the board of directors of his company voted him out of office as CEO, and changed the name of the company to Republic. The newly-formed Republic company then recapitalized itself and Alexander Kartveli was appointed as vice president and technical director. Major de Seversky, having been forced into an involuntary early retirement, spent the rest of his life writing and consulting, and Kartveli and the Republic company went on to design and produce the famed P-47 Thunderbolt.

It was only in its export incarnation that the Seversky fighter was to see any combat in American hands. Seversky had actively sought out export contracts for the P-35 fighter, the export version of the P-35 being designated EP-1 by the company. On June 29, 1939, a couple of months after Major de Seversky had been thrown out of the company he had founded, the Swedish government placed an order from the new Republic company for 15 examples of the export version of the P-35. The actual model ordered by Sweden was designated EP-106 by the company. The EP-106 was quite similar to the P-35 but was fitted with the more-powerful 1050 hp Pratt & Whitney R-1830-45 radial and had two nose-mounted 0.50-in guns and two 0.30-in guns in the wings. The EP-106 had a maximum speed of 310 mph at 14,300 feet. Initial climb rate was 1920 ft/min. Service ceiling was 31,400 feet. Maximum range was 950 miles. Weights were 4575 lbs empty and 6118 lbs normal loaded.

The Swedish government later supplemented the order to bring the total up to 120 planes. By June, 1940, Sweden had taken delivery of sixty of its EP-106 fighters. These served under the designation J-9 with the Flygvapnet (Royal Swedish Air Force), replacing ageing Gloster Gladiators. However, in that month the United States government placed an embargo on all arms that were not destined for Britain, and Sweden was to receive no more EP-106 fighters.

In spite of the embargo, Republic continued production of the EP-106, the undelivered aircraft of the Swedish order being placed in storage at the Seversky factory. On October 24, 1940, President Franklin Roosevelt signed an executive order requisitioning all the undelivered EP-106 aircraft and impressing them into the USAAC. These were designated P-35A by the Army, and were assigned serial numbers 41-17434/17493. Also seized were 50 2PA two-seat versions of the EP-1, also destined for Sweden. The USAAC did not perceive any combat role for these two-seaters, so they took them on force as advanced trainers. These planes were redesignated AT-12 Guardsman, and were assigned the serial numbers 41-17494/17543.

Some of the P-35As were ceded to the Ecuadorean Air Force, but most of them (40 planes) were sent to the Philippines during 1941 to bolster the islands' defenses. These planes served with the 34th and 21st Fighter Squadrons of the 4th Composite Group based at Luzon. These units later took them out of service and they were then flown by the 34th and 21st Fighter Squadrons.

On December 8, 1941, when the Japanese launched the first air attacks on the Philippines, the P-35A fighters were an important part of the first line of defense of these islands. They were completely inadequate for the task. By late 1941 standards, the P-35A was hopelessly obsolescent. It was too lightly armed and lacked either armor around the cockpit or self-sealing fuel tanks. Consequently, the P-35A stood little chance against the Zero fighters and were badly mauled. Most of the P-35As were quickly shot down in combat or else were destroyed on the ground. By December 12, there were only eight airworthy P-35As left.

Surviving P-35As were redesignated RP-35A in October 1942, the R prefix indicating that they were to be restricted from combat use. The EP-106 fighters which reached Sweden served with the Flygvapnet until 1944.

Sources:

  1. War Planes of the Second World War, Fighters, Volume Four, William Green, 1964.

  2. United States Military Aircraft Since 1909, Gordon Swanborough and Peter Bowers, Smithsonian Institution Press, 1989.

  3. The Thunder Factory-An Illustrated History of the Republic Aviation Corporation, Joshua Stoff, Motorbooks International, 1990.