Developed as a private venture to replace the Boeing F2B and F3B with the United States Navy, the Boeing P-12 first flew on 25 June 1928. The new aircraft was smaller, lighter and more agile than the ones it replaced but still used the Wasp engine of the F3B. This resulted in a higher top speed and overall better performance. As result of Navy evaluation 27 were ordered as the F4B-1; later evaluation by the United States Army Air Corps resulted in orders with the designation P-12. Boeing supplied the USAAC with 366 P-12s between 1929 and 1932. Production of all variants totaled 586.
The F4B-1 was built using traditional construction techniques of the day. The fuselage was a steel tube truss design with formers and longerons to define the aerodynamic shape. Wings were of traditional construction and covered by fabric. Ailerons were of a tapered design with corrugated aluminum covering. The Pratt & Whitney R-1340 nine-cylinder radial engine was uncowled and sported prominent cooling fairings behind each cylinder which were later removed in service.
P-12s were flown by the 17th Pursuit Group (34th, 73rd, and 95th Pursuit Squadrons) at March Field, California, and the 20th Pursuit Group (55th, 77th and 79th Pursuit Squadrons) at Barksdale Field, Louisiana. Older P-12s were used by groups overseas: the 4th Composite Group (3rd Pursuit Squadron) in the Philippines, the 16th Pursuit Group (24th, 29th, 74th, and 79th Pursuit Squadrons) in the Canal Zone, and the 18th Pursuit Group (6th and 19th Pursuit Squadrons) in Hawaii.
The P-12 remained in service with first-line pursuit groups until replaced by Boeing P-26s in 1934–1935. Survivors were relegated to training duties until 1941, when most were grounded and assigned to mechanic's schools.
The production runs are shown below with the P-12 designations for Army aircraft and the F4B designations being for the Navy.
The remaining aircraft are civilian or export.
NACA cowl, shorter landing gear, larger wheels
ring cowl, spreader-bar landing gear
semi-monocoque metal fuselage, redesigned vertical tail, some with tailwheels replacing skids
split axle landing gear, ventral bomb rack
spreader bar landing gear, frise ailerons, tailwheel replacing skid
semi-monocoque metal fuselage,
redesigned vertical tail, underwing racks (two 116 lb bombs), last 45 had mod. headrest w/life raft
One F4B-1 converted to unarmed executive transport for the Assistant Secretary of the Navy, fuel tank moved to upper wing centre section.
Boeing Model 223, spreader bar landing gear, frise ailerons, tailwheel replacing skid, 46 built.
Boeing Model 235, as F4B-2 but with semi-monocoque metal fuselage and equipment changes, 21 built.
Boeing Model 235, as F4B-3 but with redesigned vertical tail surfaces, 550 hp R-1340-16 engine, underwing racks for two 116 lb bombs, last 45 built had an enlarged headrest housing a life raft, 92 built and one built from spares.
23 assorted P-12 aircraft transferred from USAAC for use as a radio-controlled target aircraft.
Civil version of the F4B-1 with upper wing tank, four built.
Boeing 100 NX872H
Two-seat civil version for Howard Hughes, later converted to a single-seater, one built.
One Model 100 temporary used as a P-12 demonstrator.
Export version of the P-12E for the Siamese Air Force, two built, one later transferred to the Japanese Navy under the designation AXB.
One civil variant of the P-12F sold to Pratt & Whitney as an engine test bed.
Prototype of the P-12E/F4B-3 variant, after evaluation sold to the Chinese Air Force.
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