P6M SeaMaster

P6M SeaMaster

Infobox Aircraft
name= P6M SeaMaster

caption= A P6M-2 SeaMaster on the water at speed.
type= Patrol flying boat
manufacturer= Glenn L. Martin Company
first flight= 14 July 1955
primary user= United States Navy
more users=
number built= 12
variants with their own articles=

The Martin P6M SeaMaster, built by the Glenn L. Martin Company, was a 1950s strategic bomber flying boat for the United States Navy that almost entered service; production aircraft had been built and Navy crews were undergoing operational conversion, with a service entry about six months off, when the program was cancelled on August 21, 1959. Envisioned as a way to give the Navy a strategic nuclear force, the SeaMaster was eclipsed by the Polaris submarine launched ballistic missile. Due to the political situation at the Pentagon, the Navy promoted the P6M primarily as a high speed minelayer. [Piet and Raithel 2001, pg. 148]

Design and development

In the immediate postwar defense climate, the United States Air Force's Strategic Air Command was the linchpin of the United States' security as the sole means of delivery of the nation's nuclear arsenal. The Navy saw its strategic role being eclipsed by the Air Force and knew both its prestige and budgets were at stake. Its first attempt, the USS "United States", a large 'super carrier' to launch Navy strategic bombers from, having been a victim of budget cuts, the Navy chose instead to create a "Seaplane Striking Force" useful for both nuclear and conventional warfare, including reconnaissance and minelaying. Groups of these planes, supported by seaplane tenders or even special submarines, could be located closer to the enemy, and as mobile targets would be harder to neutralize.

The requirement, issued in April 1951, was for a seaplane able to carry 30,000 lb (13,600 kg) of bombs to a target 1,500 miles (2,400 km) away from its aquatic base. The aircraft had to be capable of a low altitude attack run at Mach 0.9 (1,100 km/h), which required an extremely capable aircraft. Both Convair and Martin submitted proposals, and the Martin one was chosen as more promising. An order for two prototypes was issued, which was projected to lead to six pre-production aircraft and a projected twenty-four production planes.

Originally the plane was to have a Curtiss-Wright turbo-ramjet engine, but this ran into problems and a more conventional Allison J71-A-4 turbojet was employed, fitted in pairs in overwing pods to keep the spray out of the intakes. Wings swept at 40° were used; they displayed a notable anhedral (downward slope to the tip) and were designed with tip tanks that doubled as floats on the water. Many features of Martin's XB-51 bomber prototype were used, including an all-flying "T" tail and a rotating bomb-bay—pneumatically sealed against seawater in the P6M.

Operational history

First flights of the XP6M-1 in 1955 showed that the engines were mounted too closely to the fuselage and scorched it when afterburners were used, leading to pointing the engines a little outward in subsequent aircraft. Flight testing was initially successful but on 7 December 1955 a control system fault destroyed the first prototype with the loss of all four lives aboard. Almost exactly a year later, on 9 November 1956, the second prototype was also destroyed, due to Martin's making a change in the horizontal stabilizer control system design without adequate evaluation before test flying the "fix," but this time the crew ejected safely. [ [http://www.vectorsite.net/avcmast.html The Martin SeaMaster & Convair Sea Dart - Greg Goebel] ]

The first pre-production YP6M-1 was completed about a year later, with testing resuming in January 1958.

Five more were built in 1958 when the Navy announced that Harvey Point Defense Testing Facility in Hertford, North Carolina, would serve as the testing grounds for the fleet of Martin P6M Seamaster. These aircraft were fitted with test versions of the full combat equipment suite and were used for bombing, minelaying and reconnaissance evaluations. The P6M-1 test program was mostly successful, however the J71 engines proved far less reliable than necessary. The P6M-1 also had spray ingestion problems at gross weight which would preclude takeoffs except under ideal conditions. [Piet and Raithel 2001, pg. 98] The P6M-1 also had a serious control deficiency due to porpoising under some trim settings. [Piet and Raithel 2001, pg. 107] These deficiencies resulted in the P6M-1 program being cut as it was no longer considered possible for it to be a successful asset. The P6M-1 had been generally successful, the airplane was designed to meet an incredibly demanding set of specifications and had mostly achieved them.

The Navy and Martin felt that a new version, the P6M-2 would provide a useful aircraft. The first was rolled out in early 1959. Changes included new, more powerful Pratt & Whitney J75 engines, an inflight refuelling probe, improved avionics, and a canopy with better visibility. A "buddy refuelling" drogue kit had also been developed to fit in the bomb bay. Three had been built by summer 1959 and Navy crews were moving them through operational conversion when the program was abruptly cancelled in August of that year.

The P6M-2 was certainly an impressive aircraft; its Mach 0.9 (1,100 km/h) performance "on the deck" could be equalled by few aircraft of the time and not too many more now. The planes were built incredibly tough, with the aircraft skin at the wing roots over an inch (25 mm) thick. The men managing the test program were shocked, however, when the docile and pleasant handling characteristics of the P6M-1 were replaced by some severe compressibility effects above Mach 0.8. These included rapid changes in directional trim, severe buffeting, and wing drop requiring high control inputs to counter. Until those problems were fixed the P6M-2 could not be considered for use by the Fleet. [Piet and Raithel 2001, pg. 117] The problems were caused by the larger engine nacelles required for the J75s. There were also problems on the water including a tendency for the tip floats to dig in, under certain situations, and engine surges. While all of these problems were eventually solved, time had run out for the SeaMaster just as the first crews were training for its operational debut. The major defense budget cuts of the Eisenhower administration were forcing the Navy to make choices. In August 1959 Martin was told to halt operations, program was going to be cancelled. Seaplanes were a small community in Naval Aviation, and the P6M, way over budget and behind schedule, was competing with aircraft carriers for money. The Navy had a far superior system about to come on line to handle the nuclear strike role, the Fleet Ballistic Missile Submarine.

Although the technology of the P6M was phenomenal, in the age of the ICBM and SLBM, the manned bomber was considered an expensive, unreliable way to deliver nuclear weapons. When that manned bomber was also a troubled system only supported by a small part of the greater Navy, it was a doomed system. The P6M program had already cost $400 million (about $2.5 billion in 2004 dollars) and could not be justified without the strategic mission.

All of the aircraft were scrapped. Some tail sections were retained for testing, and one of these is now in the Glenn L. Martin museum, along with some wingtip floats re-used by a Martin employee to build a catamaran.Fact|date=April 2008

Martin tried unsuccessfully to market the technology in the civilian market, but there were no takers, and the company soon abandoned the aircraft business entirely to focus on missiles and electronics. The P6M was the final aircraft constructed by the Glenn L. Martin Company.

pecifications (P6M-2)

aircraft specifications
plane or copter?=plane
jet or prop?=jet
length main=134 ft 0 in
length alt=40.84 m
span main=102 ft 11 in
span alt=31.37 m
height main=32 ft 5 in
height alt=9.88 m
area main=1,900 ft²
area alt=180 m²
empty weight main=91,300 lb
empty weight alt=41,400 kg
loaded weight main=120,000 lb
loaded weight alt=54,000 kg
useful load main=
useful load alt=
max takeoff weight main=176,400 lb
max takeoff weight alt=80,000 kg
engine (jet)= Pratt & Whitney J75-P-2
type of jet= turbojets
number of jets=4
thrust main=17,500 lbf
thrust alt=77.8 kN
max speed main=550 kt
max speed alt=630 mph, 1,010 km/h
cruise speed main=
cruise speed alt=
never exceed speed main=
never exceed speed alt=
stall speed main=
stall speed alt=
range main=1,700 nm
range alt=2,000 mi, 3,200 km
ceiling main=40,000 ft
ceiling alt=12,000 m
climb rate main= ft/min
climb rate alt= m/s
loading main=63 lb/ft²
loading alt=310 kg/m²

* Guns: 2× 20 mm cannon in tail turret
*Bombs: 30,000 lb (14,000 kg)

ee also


similar aircraft=
* P5M Marlin
* Beriev Be-10

* List of flying boats and seaplanes
* List of military aircraft of the United States

see also=
* Stanley Aviation ejection seats



*Stan Piet and Al Raithel (2001) "Martin P6M SeaMaster" Bel Air, Maryland: Martineer Press ISBN 0-9700662-0-2

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