Hughes P21 Jmk11 Devastator

The first commercial design from the then-fledgling Hughes Aviation firm, the Devastator was widely derided as too radical by skeptics; one review called the Devastator "the product of a fevered imagination". The tailless fuselage and pusher prop were considered too experimental, and many predicted that Hughes’ first effort would quite literally crash and burn. To Hughes’ delight (and the pundits’ chagrin) the Devastator outperformed every other combat aircraft in the skies, in speed, armament and maneuverability.

Originally equipped with a 12-cylinder Wright Cyclone engine (under-powered by modern standards, but quite robust for the day) gave the aircraft a top speed of 230 m.p.h. In 1934, Hughes redesigned the Devastator to reflect advancements in aviation technology; a Tornado G450 engine with 1,468 horsepower replaced the Cyclone, increasing the plane’s top speed to 270 m.p.h.

The Devastator is armed with a quartet of United Munitions .40-caliber machine guns and features eight external ordnance points for rockets, bombs or external fuel tanks. The relative ease with which the craft’s weapon load can be altered has prompted several custom configurations, making the Devastator one of the least predictable aircraft in the sky.

The Devastator is now a somewhat dated combat aircraft (particularly when faced with modern fighters like the Bloodhawk). Still, the plane is still widely used as a fighter-bomber, where its lack of speed is not a problem and its agility and firepower are above average. The versatile Devastator seems likely to remain in service for a number of years.

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