In October 1939 Seversky changed its name to Republic. The P-43 Lancer was the first aircraft to enter mass production under the new company name. Republic’s chief designer, Alexander Kartveli, had originally hoped to produce an aircraft with a very tightly cowled engine and full spinner on the propeller, to reduce the drag caused by large radial engines, but this project had failed due to overheating and so he had been forced to revert to the normal open cowl. Despite this, a combination of increased power and an otherwise clean design meant that the P-43 outperformed both current USAAF fighters, the Seversky P-35 and Curtiss P-36, and on 12 May 1939 a pre-production order was placed for 13 aircraft.
The first of those aircraft arrived a year later, by which time the P-43 had been made obsolescent by events in Europe. Even before the first YP-43 was ready, it had been replaced on Republic’s order books by the projected P-44 Rocket. However, in September 1940 this aircraft was cancelled in favour of the P-47 Thunderbolt. All existing production reverted to the P-43 standard. Over the next year a total of 272 P-43s were built.
These aircraft fell into three batches. The first 54 were powered by the Pratt & Whitney R-1830-35, giving them a top speed of 351 mph. Next came 80 powered by the R-1830-49, under the designation P-43A. Finally 125 were built powered by the R-1830-57, and designated P-43A-1. These aircraft had a top speed of 356 mph.
The P-43 Lancer had a limited career in US service. During 1940 it was generally used as the enemy in air exercises. After that most remaining P-43s were converted to photo reconnaissance aircraft. Even then they saw little active service. However, sixty did see combat with the Chinese Air Force in their war against Japan.
Engine: Pratt & Whitney R-1830-49 Twin Wasp
Max Speed: 355 mph at 20,000ft
Service Ceiling: 26,000ft
Range: 800 miles
Span: 36ft 0in
Length: 28ft 6in
Armament: two .50in machine guns in the wings, two .30in machine guns in the nose.
Payload: Six 20lb bombs or two 200lb bombs