Question: America’s first swept-wing fighter was
A) J.W. Dunne’s D.5 tailless swept wing biplane
B) the Curtis-Wright XP-55 Ascender
C) an Allied version of the Messerschmitt P.1101
D) the North American F-86 Sabre
It’s choice B. Although the first aircraft with swept wings were those designed by the British designer John William Dunne actually by 1910, it wasn’t a fighter but a rather spindly looking (as were most aircraft back then) biplane (image at upper left). The P.1101 in choice C (lower left) never flew; by the time an American infantry unit discovered the German Oberammergau complex in April 1945, the prototype was still not complete. A characteristic feature was that the sweep of the wings could be changed before flight (further developed in later variable-sweep aircraft such as the Bell X-5). Now most of us have heard of the F-86 Sabre (lower right), which first flew in October 1947. However… although it wasn’t successful and never flew in combat, the XP-55 (upper right) first flew in July 1943. A highly unusual design for its time, it had a canard configuration, a rear mounted pusher engine, swept wings of course, and two vertical tails. Because of its pusher design, it was sarcastically referred to as the “Ass-ender”. It had tricycle landing gear, uncommon in those days. Also, it had four 50-caliber machine guns in the nose.