The early pursuit for aerodynamic perfection - Curtis A8 Shrike

By Willie Bodenstein




The A-8 created a sensation in US aviation circles when it went into service in April 1932. All other standard aircraft were then still of biplane configuration. Photo © commons.wikimedia.org

The Curtiss A-8 monoplane that had its first flight on June 1931 might not have been the prettiest aircraft ever built, but it did introduce a number of first aerodynamic features such as automatic leading-edge slats and trailing-edge flaps for Curtiss. Another novel feature was wheel and undercarriage fairings that served as the mounts of four forward-firing .30 in (7.62 mm) machine guns.

Designed by Curtiss's Don Berlin in response to a 1929 United States Army Air Corps requirement for an attack aircraft, the XA-8 prototype won a competition against the General Aviation/Fokker XA-7, after which 13 service test aircraft were ordered.


A novel feature of the Shrike was the wheel and undercarriage fairings that served as the mounts of four forward-firing. Photo © commons.wikimedia.org.

The A-8 created a sensation in US aviation circles when it went into service with the 3rd Attack Group at Fort Crockett, Texas in April 1932. All other standard aircraft were then still of biplane configuration.

General characteristics:
Crew: 1
Length: 32 ft 0 in (9.75 m)
Wingspan: 44 ft 0 in (13.41 m)
Height: 9 ft 0 in (2.74 m)
Wing area: 256 sq ft (23.8 m2)
Empty weight: 3,910 lb (1,774 kg)
Gross weight: 5,888 lb (2,671 kg)
Powerplant: 1 ◊ Curtiss V-1570-31 Conqueror V-12 liquid-cooled piston engine, 600 hp (450 kW)
Propellers: 3-bladed fixed-pitch propeller

Performance:
Maximum speed: 183 mph (295 km/h; 159 kn)
Cruise speed: 153 mph (246 km/h; 133 kn)
Range: 480 mi (417 nmi; 772 km)
Service ceiling: 18,100 ft (5,500 m)
Rate of climb: 1,325 ft/min (6.73 m/s)
Armament:
Guns:
4 ◊ forward-firing 0.300 in (7.6 mm) M1919 Browning machine guns mounted in the wheel fairings
1 ◊ 0.300 in (7.6 mm) machine gun mounted in the observer's cockpit for rear defence
Bombs: Up to 4 ◊ 122 lb (55 kg) bombs carried under the wings or up to 10 ◊ 30 lb (14 kg) fragmentation bombs in fuselage chutes either side of the main fuel tank.









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