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A single-seat, all-metal braced monoplane fighter with an open cockpit and retractable landing gear in its fairings. It was designed by the design office of the Boeing Company. The XP-936 (Model 248) prototype made its first flight on 20 March 1932. The aircraft was accepted for service with the USAAC under the designation of P-26А. Full-scale production was started at the Boeing plant in Seattle in December 1933. The first production P-26А (Model 266) got off the ground in January 1934.

The P-26А had a 550 hp Pratt & Whitney R-1340-27 nine-cylinder, air-cooled engine equipped with a Hamilton Standard two-bladed, controllable-pitch metal propeller.

The P-26А's armament consisted of two synchronous 7.62 mm Browning M1 machine guns with 500 rounds each. The machine guns were mounted below the forward fuselage, and they fired through the arc of the spinning propeller. A C-3 gun sight was fitted in front of the cockpit. A G-4 gun camera could be installed over the right wing's centre section.

Under the centre wing sections, an A-3 bomb rack that could carry either two 100 lb (45 kg) high-explosive bombs or five 30 lb (14 kg) fragmentation bombs could be mounted.

Externally, production P-26Аs differed from prototype machines in their wing panels with elliptical tips and short landing gear fairings. Changes were introduced into the wing design, and a radio set was installed. An antenna mast was mounted on the starboard side, in front of the cockpit.

The first P-26А fighters were transferred to the 20th Fighter Group located at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana. The P-26 was nicknamed the Peashooter by pilots.

Operational pilots praised the fighter's great flight characteristics, such as its rate of climb and excellent maneuverability. Pilot complaints included poor forward visibility during taxiing and takeoff, as well as by landing difficulties. Taxiing out to the start line in the S-curve became a standard Peashooter maneuver to reduce the takeoff accident rate.

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