|ALL-WEATHER INTERCEPTOR||Virtual Aircraft Museum / USA / Curtiss|
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.