Boeing F4B-4
United States — USMC biplane fighter

Archive Photos

Boeing F4B-4 (BuNo 9241) c.2004 at the National Air & Space Museum, Washington, DC (Photo by Jim Hough)


  • Boeing P-12/F4B
  • Role: Fighter aircraft
  • Manufacturer: Boeing Aircraft Company
  • First flight: 1928
  • Introduced: 1930
  • Retired: 1941
  • Primary users: United States Army Air Force, United States Navy, Philippine Army Air Corps, Royal Thai Air Force
  • Produced: 1929-1932
  • Number built: 586 (366 P-12, 187 F4B, 33 demonstrators and exports)

The Boeing P-12 or F4B was an American pursuit aircraft that was operated by the United States Army Air Corps and United States Navy.

Design and Development

Boeing developed the aircraft as a private venture to replace the Boeing F3B and Boeing F2B with the United States Navy. 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 totalled 586.

Operational History

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 "Peashooter" in 1934-35. Survivors were relegated to training duties until 1941, when most were grounded and assigned to mechanics's schools.


  • Model 83
    One prototype with spreader bar landing gear and 425-hp Pratt & Whitney R-1340-8 engine, later designated XF4B-1 for Navy evaluation.
  • Model 89
    One prototype with split-axle undercarriage and provision for a 500 lb bomb on ventral rack, later designated XF4B-1 for Navy evaluation.
  • P-12
    Model 102, Army version of the F4B-1 with a 450-hp R-1340-7 engine, 9 built.
  • XP-12A
    10th built P-12 with NACA cowl a 525-hp R-1340-9 engine and shorter undercarriage, one built.
  • P-12B
    Model 102B, as P-12 with larger main wheels and improvements tested on XP-12A, 90 built.
  • P-12C
    Model 222, as P-12B with ring cowl and spread-bar undercarriage, 96 built.
  • P-12D
    Model 234, as P-12C with a 525-hp R-1340-17 engine, 35 built.
  • P-12E
    Model 234, as P-12D with semi-monocoque metal fuselage, redesigned vertical tail surfaces, some were later fitted with tail wheels instead of skids, 110 built.
  • P-12F
    Model 251, as P-12E with a 600-hp R-1340-19 engine, 25 built.
  • XP-12G
    P-12B modified with a R-1340-15 engine with side-type supercharger, 1 converted.
  • XP-12H
    P-12D modified with a GISR-1340E experimental engine, 1 converted.
  • P-12J
    P-12E modified with a 575-hp R-1340-23 engine, and special bomb sight, 1 conversion.
  • YP-12K
    P-12E and P-12J re-engined with a fuel injected SR-1340E engine, seven temporary conversions.
  • XP-12L
    YP-12K temporary fitted with a F-2 supercharger, 1 converted.
  • A-5
    Designation for proposed use of P-12 as a radio-controlled target drone (cancelled)
  • XF4B-1
    Designation given to two prototypes for Navy evaluation, the former Model 83 and the former Model 89.
  • F4B-1
    Boeing Model 99 for the United States Navy, split axle landing gear and ventral bomb rack, 27 built.
  • F4B-1A
    One F-4B-1 converted to unarmed executive transport for the Assistant Secretary of the Navy, fuel tank moved to upper wing center section.
  • F4B-2
    Boeing Model 223, spreader bar landing gear, frise ailerons, tailwheel replacing skid, 46 built.
  • F4B-3
    Boeing Model 235, as F4B-2 but with semi-monocoque metal fuselage and equipment changes, 21 built.
  • F4B-4
    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.
  • F4B-4A
    23 assorted P-12 aircraft transferred from USAAC for use as a radio-controlled target aircraft.
  • Model 100
    Civil version of the F4B-1, four built.
  • Model 100A
    Two-seat civil version for Howard Hughes, later converted to a single-seater, one built.
  • Model 100D
    One Model 100 temporary used as a P-12 demonstrator.
  • Model 100E
    Export version of the P-12E for the Siamese Air Force, two built, one later transferred to the Japanese Navy under the designation AXB.
  • Model 100F
    One civil variant of the P-12F sold to Pratt & Whitney as an engine test bed.
  • Model 218
    Prototype of the F-12E/F4B-3 variant, after evaluation sold to the Chinese Air Force.
  • Model 256
    Export version of the F4B-4 for Brazilian Navy, 14 built.
  • Model 267
    Export version for Brazil with an F4B-3 fuselage and P-12E wings, 9 built.


  • Brazil
  • China: Chinese Nationalist Air Force
  • Philippines: Philippine Army Air Corps
  • Spain:
  • Thailand: Royal Thai Air Force operated Boeing 100E variant.
  • United States: United States Army Air Corps, United States Navy

Specifications (F4B-4)

General Characteristics

  • Manufacturer: Boeing Airplane Company, Seattle, Washington.
  • Type: Carrier-borne biplane fighter
  • Accommodation: Pilot only
  • Power Plant: One 550-hp Pratt & Whitney R-1340-16.


  • Wing Span: 30 ft 0 in
  • Length: 20 ft 1 in
  • Height: 9 ft 4 in
  • Wing Area: 227.5 ft²


  • Weight (empty): 2,354 lb
  • Weight (gross): 3,611 lb


  • Max speed: 188 mph @ 6,000 ft
  • Initial climb rate: 2.7 min to 5,000 ft
  • Service ceiling: 26,900 ft
  • Range: 370 st miles
  • Armament: Two fixed forward-firing 0.30-in guns


  1. Photos: Jim Hough
  2. Wikipedia. Boeing P-12, 5 December 2009
  3. Swanborough, Gordon and Bowers, Peter M. “United States Navy Aircraft since 1911”, Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, MD, 19767, ISBN 0 87021 792 5, pp. 78

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