Allison V-1710

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The Allison V-1710 aircraft engine was the only indigenous US-developed V-12 liquid-cooled engine to see service during WWII. A sturdy and trustworthy design, it unfortunately lacked an advanced and efficient mechanical centrifugal supercharger. Versions with a turbosupercharger gave excellent performance at high altitude in the twin-engined Lockheed P-38 Lightning, and turbosuperchargers were fitted to experimental single-engined fighters with the same excellent results. The preference for turbosuperchargers, arguably to the neglect of mechanical supercharger development, reflected US Army philosophy, and not the inherent qualities of the Allison engine.

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Design and development

The Allison Division of General Motors began developing the ethylene glycol-cooled engine in 1929 to meet a US Army need for a modern, 1,000 hp (750 kW), engine to fit into a new generation of streamlined bombers and fighters. To ease production the new design could be equipped with different propeller gearing systems and superchargers, allowing a single production line to build engines for everything from fighters to bombers.

The U.S. Navy purchased the first V-1710s, the B model (the only V-1710 that did not have a gear driven supercharger) in 1931 and installed them on the airships Akron and Macon. The U.S. Army Air Corps purchased its first V-1710 in December 1932. The Great Depression slowed development, and it was not until December 14, 1936 that the engine next flew in the Consolidated XA-11A testbed. The V-1710-C6 successfully completed the Army 150 hour Type Test on April 23, 1937 at 1,000 hp (750 kW), the first engine of any type to do so. The engine was then offered to aircraft manufacturers where it powered the Curtiss X/YP-37. All entrants in the new pursuit competition were designed around it, powering the Lockheed P-38, Bell P-39 and Curtiss P-40. When North American Aviation was asked to build the P-40, they instead responded with an improved design, using the V-1710 in their P-51A.

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