Curtiss XF-87
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Curtiss XF-87

The Curtiss XF-87 Blackhawk fighter was an eye-catching and truly graceful all-black aircraft which attracted plenty of attention in flights over the California desert. The XF-87 resulted from studies by the manufacturer in a last-ditch effort to compete in the jet era. Curtiss had obtained tentative approval to build a twin-jet ground-attack aircraft, the XA-43. On 21 November 1945, this project was redirected towards completion of the Blackhawk fighter, a huge, mid-wing, four-engine craft with a two-man crew in side-by-side seating and with impressive fuel capacity. Powered by four 1360kg thrust Westinghouse XJ34-WE-7 turbojets, the sole XF-87 was belatedly flown at Muroc Dry Lake, California, on 1 March 1948 following long delays in its development and shipment from the company's plant (later sold to North American) in Columbus, Ohio.

The XF-87 proved to be underpowered. In the expectation that a different powerplant arrangement would make the Blackhawk more competitive, the twin-engine scheme was resurrected. On 10 June 1948, the USAF awarded a contract to Curtiss for 57 production F-87As to be powered by two 2722kg thrust each General Electric J47-GE-7 engines. A further order was placed for 30 RF-87A reconnaissance aircraft.

The F-87 Blackhawk or company model CW-29A would have been fitted with an extraordinary nose turret developed by the Glenn L. Martin Company which revolved in a 60-degree arc enabling four 20mm guns to be fired at any angle from zero to 90 degrees from the centre-line.

Though the Blackhawk was able to overcome teething troubles in flight tests and seemed to offer promise as an all-weather intercep tor, it was the misfortune of this beautiful aircraft that Curtiss was suffering from management difficulties and Northrop was developing an interceptor with solid potential, the F-89 Scorpion. On 18 October 1948, the USAF cancelled the F-87 Blackhawk programme in favour of the F-89. A second prototype which would have evaluated the twin J47 installation was never completed. It was to be the last Curtiss fighter.

Curtiss XF-87A three-view drawing (1276 x 804)

    Take-off weight22600 kg49825 lb
    Empty weight11760 kg25926 lb
    Wingspan18.29 m60 ft 0 in
    Length19.15 m63 ft 10 in
    Height6.1 m20 ft 0 in
    Wing area55.74 m2599.98 sq ft
    Max. speed965 km/h600 mph
    Ceiling12500 m41000 ft
    Range1600 km994 miles
 ARMAMENT4 x 20mm cannon in nose turret planned

Curtiss XF-87

Gene McManus, 20.12.2017

My Dad, Bob McManus was at Muroc with the XF-87 during testing in the late 48-49 time frame. He worked for Curtiss-Wright then.

Klaatu83, 16.04.2013

I always thought this looked like an over-sized and slightly angular Gloster Meteor. Not surprisingly the Air Force chose the more fighter-like Northrop F-89 instead.

macc, 02.10.2011

With the failure of this airplane to go into production, Curtiss sold its aviation division to North American. Interesting to note however that Curtiss-Wright built more aircraft including the forerunner to the Bell-Boeing V-22. The Blackhawk was a beautiful airplane, and graced the skies one more time for the great Curtiss Corporation.

macc, 23.12.2010

The Curtiss XP-87 Blackhawk suffered from underpowered Westinghouse engines, and a design flaw that caused the airplane to " buffet " at speeds in excess of 200 mph. The Northrup Scorpion was clearly superior and the production order for the Curtiss Blackhawk was cancelled. There were plans to replace the 4 Westinghouse engines with 2 General Electric engines, but this never materialized as the "buffeting" problem was never resolved.

gray Stanback, 06.04.2010

Beautiful plane. . . pity it never entered production.

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