Curtiss A-12 (Shrike) Strike Aircraft
The Curtiss A-12 Shrike was never used in combat and led a short production life.
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The A-12 was an inter-war product of the Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company first appearing in 1933. The type became the first quantitative monoplane aircraft in service with the United States Army Air Corps upon its inception. Only 46 production examples of the Shrike appeared and several of these were present at the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Its 1930s-era design philosophy quickly made it obsolete with many in the product line being grounded or relegated to training units after the attack. Many fell to the scrapyard after their effective use.
Origins of the A-12 lay in the original A-8 Curtiss production model. The A-8 was the result of a 1920's US Army requirement to replace the Curtiss A-3 Falcon biplane. Atlantic-Fokker Company (General Aviation) and Curtiss both submitted low-wing monoplane designs (known as XA-7 and XA-8 respectively) of all-metal construction and fitting the Curtiss V-1570 Conqueror V-12 liquid-cooled inline piston engine. After an evaluation period, the Curtiss submission was chosen over the Atlantic-Fokker design. Several test aircraft were ordered under the YA-8 designation and eventual production aircraft became the A-8.
The first YA-8 was set aside and reused in a feasibility test in which a air-cooled radial engine was installed in place of the liquid-cooled inline. By the early 1930;s, the US Army Air Corps had developed a belief that air-cooled engines should be made the norm on all of their future aircraft products. Their reasons lay in the vulnerability of liquid-cooled engines when exposed to enemy ground fire as a single random hit could very well render such an engine, associated aircraft and its pilot inoperable. Another school of thought placed the operational costs and level of maintenance in favor of air-cooled engine types over that of inline-engine types. These two reasons led to the selection of a Pratt & Whitney powerplant as the engine of choice to replace the original Curtiss-based Conqueror.
With the new engine in place, the YA-8 was now redesignated as the YA-10 to signify the conversion. The conversion itself was accomplished by September of 1932 and the completed aircraft yielded comparable performance statistics to the original A-8 platform. All remaining A-8B's on order (some 46 total) with their Conqueror liquid-cooled engines were now changed to include the replacement Pratt & Whitney radial powerplant. The new production designation of A-12 was then assigned to mark these models. Though often designated with the "Shrike" name, the aircraft was formally known simply as the "A-12" in USAAC nomenclature. Shrike was an official Curtiss company name assigned to its A-12 product.