With the United States in need of modern fighter aircraft during the 1930s the P-36 Hawk was developed with the intention of filling this gap. However by the outbreak of World War 2 the
Curtiss P-36 Hawk was obsolete and being replaced by other aircraft.
Curtiss-Wright had decided to develop a monoplane fighter as a private venture in the belief the US Army would be prepared to see it as a replacement for the Boeing P-26 Peashooter, and
it would be called the Curtiss Model 75. With its enclosed cockpit and retractable landing gear the design was in good company as other fighters of similar design, such as the
Messerschmitt Bf 109 and Supermarine Spitfire, were showing improved performance over biplanes and open cockpit designs. The P-36 however would not achieve the same success as these
planes, one reason for this was that designers of the era had not yet worked out how to get the best out of radial air-cooled engines. Efforts were made to improve the aircraft's
performance but despite the introduction of the Allison V-1710 turbocharged inline engine the performance of the Curtiss P-36 was still disappointing.
The P-36 prototype flew for the first time on the 6th May 1935 and was powered by the 900-hp Wright XR-1670-5 radial engine and during the same month was flown to Wright Field, Ohio to
compete in the US Army Air Corps' contest to find a new fighter aircraft. It was intended for Curtiss's design to compete against the Seversky P-35 however the plane crashed on its way
to the contest, meaning the contest was postponed by eleven months till April 1936. Curtiss took the delay as an opportunity to fit a new engine to their design with the introduction of
the 850-hp Wright XR-1820-39 Cyclone radial and the plane was now known as the Model 75-B.
When the competition did eventually take place it was the Seversky P-35 which won although an order was placed for three P-36's which would be powered by a derated version of Pratt &
Whitneys 1,050-hp R-1830-13 Twin Wasp radial engine and this would be designated Y1P-36. As well as the new engine a number of cockpit modifications had been made and a retractable
tailwheel was added. Service testing of the new plane was successful and 210 were ordered on the 7th July 1937.
During April 1938 deliveries of the new aircraft began, with the 20th Pursuit Group at Barksdale Field receiving the first, but by the time the United States entered the Second World War the plane was obsolete and by this time the Curtiss P-40 Kittyhawk
superseded it, but it did see some action in the early part of the war against Japan when five P-36s stationed at Pearl Harbour took off during the Japanese attack and shot down two
Mitsubishi A6M Zero's for the loss of one P-36, before being used in a training role.
A XP-36B appeared powered by a 1,000-hp Pratt & Whitney R-1820-25 engine and the final thirty one Curtiss P-36 were fitted with a Twin Wasp engine and thus designated P-36C. Three
more types were produced, although with differing armament and purely experimental and they were designated XP-36D, XP-36E, XP-36F.
With a total of 1,115 built in different guises the P-36 was used by a number of different air forces including the French Armeede L'Air who used a number of export Hawk 75As
designated as 75A-1, 75A-2, 75A-3 and 75A-5 but with the fall of France a number of these aircraft went to the UK and re-designated as Mohawk Mk I, II, III and IV respectively.
Also see: Curtiss Hawk 75