Curtiss-Wright CW-21


Back to the Virtual Aircraft Museum
  FIGHTERVirtual Aircraft Museum / USA / Curtiss  

Curtiss-Wright CW-21

In 1938, chief engineer Willis Wells of the St Louis Airplane Division of the Curtiss-Wright Corporation began the development of a single-seat fighter based on the A-19R tandem two-seat military basic trainer. Designated CW-21, the fighter had a Wright R-1820-G5 Cyclone nine-cylinder radial engine rated at 1,000hp for take-off and 850hp at 1830m, and an allmetal stressed-skin structure with a semi-monocoque fuselage. Mainwheels retracted into clamshell-type underwing fairings and armament consisted of two synchronised 12.7mm machine guns. The prototype CW-21 was flown on 22 September 1938, and subsequently shipped to China for demonstration. The prototype was purchased by the Chinese government and a contract placed for three production aircraft and 27 sets of components for assembly by CAMCO. The first production CW-21 was flown on 20 March 1940, and provision was made to supplement the armament with a pair of 7.62mm weapons. All three CW-21s built by the parent company were lost as a result of engine failures (undoubtedly dirty fuel) after taking-off from Lashio while being ferried to Kunming. Assembly of CW-21s by CAMCO at Loi-wing had reached an advanced stage when it was decided to evacuate and, on 1 May 1942, burn the factory to avoid its capture by Japanese forces, the partly-assembled Curtiss-Wright fighters also being destroyed.

Curtiss-Wright CW-21

In April 1939, Curtiss-Wright's St Louis Airplane Division flew the prototype of the CW-23 basic combat trainer which was essentially a tandem two-seat, lower-powered derivative of the CW-21 single-seat fighter. It introduced inward-retracting, fully-enclosed main undercarriage members and hydraulically-actuated rather than manually-operated flaps, and these features were adopted for a new version of the single-seat fighter, the CW-21B. On 17 April 1940, the Dutch government signed a contract for 24 CW-21B fighters (of which there was no prototype) and the first of these was flown the following mid-September. The CW-21B retained the R-1820-G5 Cyclone of the earlier CW-21 and armament comprised two 7.62mm Colt machine guns mounted in the forward fuselage. The CW-21B fighters were shipped to Java during October-December 1940, entering service with the MLKNIL, but their light structure and lack of fuel tank protection was to render them particularly vulnerable when committed to operations against Japanese forces in the early months of 1942, the last combat mission being flown by a CW-21B on 5 March.


  Take-off weight1896 kg4180 lb
  Empty weight1428 kg3148 lb
  Wingspan10.67 m35 ft 0 in
  Length8.03 m26 ft 4 in
  Height2.64 m9 ft 8 in
  Wing area16.20 m2174.38 sq ft
  Max. speed476 km/h296 mph
  Range853 km530 miles

Curtiss-Wright CW-21A three-view drawing (1278 x 922)

TORBJÍRN KAMPE, e-mail, 07.03.2015 23:42

It would be fun to get to know more about CW-21. Flight Performance and more.
Too bad it does not exist as simmular model. So you really mean get to know what it can do in a dogfight.


homer, e-mail, 31.12.2013 17:56

I rem. a plane looking like the 21...but it was called a cw22..sitting in Brayton flying service hangar in St. Louis airport ...1941


Klaatu83, e-mail, 19.03.2011 00:02

This plane was marketed to foreign air forces in poorer nations (the Army Air Corps definitely wasn't interested) as an "interceptor-fighter", and was touted as the fastest-climbing fighter in the world. Unfortunately, however, to achieve that performance it was very lightly built. In addition, like most pre-war combat aircraft, it lacked armor protection for either the pilot or the fuel supply, and had a very light armament of only two .30 caliber machine guns. Faced with the superb Japanese Zero in Java, the CW-21 was simply outclassed.


bob, 01.12.2010 18:24



Sturm, 04.06.2010 04:53

Cool. Nice little story there. Thanks for passing it along.


Bill Leavens, e-mail, 31.12.2009 06:57

Curtiss factory pilot, Bob Fausel, was able to shoot down a Japanese G4M Betty bomber in 1940 prior to the evacuation of Loi Wing when demonstrating the aircraft. Unfortunately, during that first pass his guns jammed and all of his ammunition was quickly spent. He was rewarded $1,000 by Chaing Kai Shek for his efforts.


Do you have any comments?

Name    E-mail


All the World's Rotorcraft

All rhe World's Rotorcraft AVIATION TOP 100 -