Vultee XA-41 Dive Bomber / Low-Level Attack Aircraft
Originating as a dive bomber, the Vultee XA-41 was evolved into an attack platform until passed on by the United States Army.
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It was during September of 1942 that the United States Army commissioned the Vultee Aircraft concern to develop a viable single-engine, single-seat dive bombing platform. The dive bomber has proven its worth in the opening stages of World War 2 (1939-1945) through the exploits of the German Luftwaffe though its vulnerability began to show through once Allied airpower rose up to the challenge. Vultee engineers returned with the "Model 90" based around the massive Pratt & Whitney R-4360 Wasp Major engine of 3,000 horsepower. The Model 90 sufficiently impresses Army authorities as an order for two prototypes followed on November 10th, 1942.
While originally envisioned as a dive bomber, the changing war situation in Europe soon showcased the inherent vulnerabilities of dive bomber types like the German Junkers Ju 87 Stuka line. This led to a rethinking on the part of the Army to request a low-level attack-minded platform instead and this only led to the inevitable delays witnessed time and again throughout a myriad of American World War 2 aircraft projects whose type was consistently changed over the course of development - usually to the detriment of entire programs.
A new developmental contract was signed and work on the first XA-41 proceeded into the latter half of 1943. However, by this time, the war in Europe began to showcase original fighter designs like the North American P-51 Mustang and Republic P-47 Thunderbolt increasingly taking on the role of fighter-bombers and ground attack, leading many in the Army to believe that there served no purpose in putting the time and money into a specialized aircraft like the XA-41. This led to a termination of the contract and essentially an end to the XA-41 as a possible operational aircraft.
However, there were some in the Army that had originally pushed for the aircraft and worked to secure some future for it. Material Division was granted a single example for the continued testing of the Wasp Major engine in conjunction with new technologies that may perhaps be featured elsewhere. This finally led to a first flight for the prototype on February 11th, 1944. Subsequent tests revealed a rather solid, if unspectacular, aircraft and only minor modifications were enacted to the design over its test phase.