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Curtiss P-36 Hawk

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With the United States in need of modern fighter aircraft during the 1930s, the P-36 was developed to fill this gap. However, by the Second World War, the aircraft was obsolete and being replaced. Its only combat with the United States Army Air Force occurred during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, with the Curtiss P-36 Hawk claiming three aircraft.

Quick Facts
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First flight
6th May 1935
Entered service
April 1938
Total built

Front view
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Side view
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Rear view
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Curtiss-Wright had decided to develop a monoplane fighter as a private venture as they hoped the United States Army would order the aircraft to replace the Boeing P-26 Peashooter currently in service. Called the Curtiss Model 75, it featured an enclosed cockpit and retractable landing gear.

The Model 75 prototype flew for the first time on the 6th May 1935 and was powered by the 900-hp Wright XR-1670-5 engine and on the 27th May 1935 was flown to Wright Field to compete in the United States Army Air Corps contest to find a new fighter aircraft. The Model 75 was to be evaluated against a number of other aircraft, but issues with these aircraft meant the contest was postponed by eleven months, until April 1936. Curtiss took the delay as an opportunity to fit a new engine to their design, with the introduction of the 950-hp Wright XR-1820-39 Cyclone, and the aircraft 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 Y1P-36s on the 16th June 1936, which would be powered by a 1,050-hp Pratt & Whitney R-1830-13 Twin Wasp engine. As well as the new engine a number of cockpit modifications had been made and a retractable tailwheel was added. Service testing of the aircraft impressed the United States Army Air Corps, leading to an order for 210 P-36As on the 7th July 1937.

The P-36A was powered by the 1,050-hp Pratt & Whitney R-1830 engine which gave the aircraft a top speed of 313 mph, range of 825 miles with a service ceiling of 32,700 ft. Armament was one 0.50-in machine gun and one 0.30-in machine-gun. 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 (1939 - 1945) the aircraft was obsolete and being replaced.

P-36s were stationed at Pearl Harbor and during the Japanese attack on the 7th December 1941 five P-36s, comprised from the 46th Pursuit Squadron, Wheeler Field and the 47th Pursuit Squadron, Haleiwa Fighter Strip, were scrambled. During the combat the P-36s claimed two Mitsubishi A6M Zeros and one Aichi D3A Val, for the loss of one aircraft. This would be the sole use of the type by the United States Amy Air Force in combat.

A sole P-36A, powered by a 1,000-hp Pratt & Whitney R-1830-25 engine would be converted to become the XP-36B. The final thirty one P-36As were fitted with the 1,200-hp Pratt & Whitney R-1830-17 engine and designated P-36C. These would have a top speed of 311 mph, range of 820 miles with a service ceiling of 33,700 ft. Armament was one 0.50-in machine gun and three 0.30-in machine-guns.

Three P-36As would be fitted with different armament. One would become the XP-36D with one 0.50-in machine-gun and four 0.30-in machine-guns, another the XP-36E with two 0.50-in machine-guns and six 0.30-in machine-guns. The XP-36F was the final converted P-36A and this was fitted with two 23mm Madsen cannons. Norway would also use the type, which were given the designation P-36G.

An export version of the aircraft, known as the Hawk 75, was built by Curtiss and users of this type included the Armee de l'Air and Royal Air Force.

In total 1,115 examples were built.

Technical Details

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Top Speed Range Service Ceiling Armament
P-36A 313 mph 825 miles 32,700 ft one 0.50-in machine-gun
one 0.30-in machine gun
XP-36B P-36A fitted with a 1,000-hp Pratt & Whitney R-1830-25 engine, one converted.
P-36C 311 mph 820 miles 33,700 ft one 0.50-in machine-gun
three 0.30-in machine-guns
XP-36D Modified P-36A with one 0.50-in and four 0.30-in machine-guns.
XP-36E Modified P-36A with two 0.50-in and six 0.30-in machine-guns.
XP-36F P-36A fitted with two 23mm Madsen cannons.
P-36G Hawk 75A-8s exported to Norway.


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See This Aircraft

(C) = Cockpit only exhibit. (F) = Fuselage only exhibit. (R) = Remains of an aircraft.

P-36C Imperial War Museum, Duxford

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