Bringing 97 Vintage Aircraft to Life
Home  -  Aircraft Database  -  American Aircraft  -  Curtiss P-36 Hawk

Curtiss P-36 Hawk

 Jump to: Variants : Photos : On Display

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.

Quick Facts
Sorry, no image available
First flight
6th May 1935
Entered service
Total built

Front view
Sorry, no view photo available
Side view
Sorry, no view photo available
Rear view
Sorry, no view photo available

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 bi-planes 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 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


Click on the aeroplane image to view a larger version.

Max Speed Range Service Ceiling Armament
P-36A 313 mph 825 miles 33,000 one 0.30-in machine-gun and
one 0.50-in machine gun
P-36B P-36A fitted with supercharged R-1830-25, 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 autocannons, then converted back to P-36A
P-36G Hawk 75A-8s exported to Norway.


Click on a photo to view a larger version.

On Display

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

Variant Location
P-36C Imperial War Museum, Duxford

Back to American aircraft

Click here to view a range of Spitfire experiences


Spitfire Messerschmitt Fairey Bristol Avro North American Hawker Curtiss Grumman

New on Classic Warbirds

1. Supermarine Spitfire Miscellany

2. Hawker Hurricane Miscellany

3. Bomber Command in the Pacific

4. Bristol Scout profile

5. Miles Magister profile


Spotted an error? Or just have a comment or suggestion about Classic Warbirds? Please let us know.

Click here to view our UK aviation museums map