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, e-mail, 20.12.2017 22:38

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.


Mark lane, e-mail, 12.06.2020 Gene McManus

Is your dad still alive ? Would like to talk to him or find someone that was involved with this. My grandfather was chief engineer at Curtiss Wright for 28 years and I know the true story behind this and info to back it up. All these websites that have info seem to just copy and paste the same info that is not accurate.
It’s a shame.


Matthew Moss, e-mail, 24.07.2020 Mark lane

Hi Mark, I'm a historian my current project is and I was planning on writing an article and making a video about the XF-87 and have been doing some research into the Blackhawk and also noticed a lot of the information is identical so would be interested to hear from you.


Klaatu83, e-mail, 16.04.2013 15:17

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, e-mail, 02.10.2011 07:55

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, e-mail, 23.12.2010 08:30

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, e-mail, 06.04.2010 02:32

Beautiful plane. . . pity it never entered production.


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