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Curtiss P-6 Hawk

Biplane Fighter Aircraft

Curtiss P-6 Hawk

Biplane Fighter Aircraft


The Curtiss P-6 Hawk biplane fighter saw limited procurement numbers with the United States Army Air Corps primarily due to the Great Depression.
National Flag Graphic
ORIGIN: United States
YEAR: 1929
MANUFACTURER(S): Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company / Curtiss-Wright - USA
OPERATORS: Bolivia; China; Cuba; Dutch East Indies (Netherlands); Imperial Japan; United States

Unless otherwise noted the presented statistics below pertain to the Curtiss P-6 Hawk model. Common measurements, and their respective conversions, are shown when possible.
LENGTH: 25.16 feet (7.67 meters)
WIDTH: 31.50 feet (9.6 meters)
HEIGHT: 8.86 feet (2.7 meters)
WEIGHT (EMPTY): 2,701 pounds (1,225 kilograms)
WEIGHT (MTOW): 3,439 pounds (1,560 kilograms)
ENGINE: 1 x Curtiss V-1570C Conqueror water-cooled inline engine developing 700 horsepower.
SPEED (MAX): 204 miles-per-hour (328 kilometers-per-hour; 177 knots)
RANGE: 286 miles (460 kilometers; 248 nautical miles)
CEILING: 24,705 feet (7,530 meters; 4.68 miles)
RATE-OF-CLIMB: 2,480 feet-per-minute (756 meters-per-minute)

2 x 0.303 caliber (7.62mm) machine guns synchronized to fire through the spinning propeller blade.
Graphical image of an aircraft medium machine gun

Series Model Variants
• XP-6 - Initial Conversion Model of a P-1 aircraft of which the P-6 is derived from featuring tapered wings.
• XP-6A - Second Conversion Model of a P-1 aircraft of which the P-6 is derived from featuring untapered wings base on PW-8 aircraft and fitted with low-drag surface radiators.
• P-6 - Initial Production Model of which 9 were produced; refined fuselage.
• P-6A - Featured Prestone-cooled engines of which nine of this aircraft were produced.
• P-6B
• P-6C - Production Model Cancelled Before Completion.
• P-6D
• P-6E (Curtiss Model 43) - Fitted with V-1570C Conqueror 700hp engine; 46 produced.
• P-6F
• P-6G
• P-6H
• P-3 - Experimental Radial-Engined Version
• P-5 - Experimental Turbo-Charged Version
• P-21 - Experimental Radial-Engined Version
• P-23 - Experimental Turbo-Charged Version
• Hawk I - Export Model
• Hawk II - Export Model featuring Wright Cyclone radial engine.
• F11C-2 - United States Navy Model fitted with Wright R-1820-78 Cyclone Radial generating 700hp; 28 produced.
• BF2C-1 - United States Navy Model with manually-operated landing gears; 27 produced.
• YIP-22 - Original United States Army Designation.


Detailing the development and operational history of the Curtiss P-6 Hawk Biplane Fighter Aircraft.  Entry last updated on 9/9/2016. Authored by Staff Writer. Content ©
Originally based on the existing Curtiss P-1B series of fighter aircraft, the Curtiss P-6 Hawk series became a frontline "pursuit" fighter aircraft for the United States Army Air Corps (USAAC) of the early 1930s. The Hawk became the last of the fighter biplanes to be built in quantity for the Corps and was eventually realized through no fewer than thirteen distinct sub-types that included eight different production models. Though never utilized in combat, the P-6 was to be remembered fondly as one of the best of all the peace-time, piston-engine U.S. Army pursuit aircraft to appear before World War 2 (1939-1945).

During the 1920s, the Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company joined other aviation concerns in producing an evolving class of racing aircraft for national competition. Many of these breeds would go on to influence new generations of high performance aircraft that caught the eye of the American military. With Curtiss' R-6 racer, which incorporated an important and effective engine cooling system, the USAAC became interested in a pursuit fighter form - laying the groundwork for what would eventually become the P-6 "Hawk".

Developed from a line of successful versions embodied through the original R-6 racer and subsequent PW-8 and P-1 fighter biplanes, the P-6 featured modifications to help convince its potential military customer. The P-6 was born through the company Model 34P which became the XP-6 prototype and its Curtiss V-1570-17 "Conqueror" series engine. The XP-6 netted second place at the 1927 National Air Races (Skopane, Washington). Untapered wings and radiators added to these wings produced the company subsequent Model 34K, also known as the XP-6A prototype. The original production model ordered by the USAAC was the P-6A of which eighteen were commissioned for evaluation in 1929 with manufacture beginning that same year. This version featured a revised cowling and deeper fuselage.

Curtiss P-6 Hawk (Cont'd)

Biplane Fighter Aircraft

Curtiss P-6 Hawk (Cont'd)

Biplane Fighter Aircraft

The XP-6B prototype existed as a P-1 fighter development with a V-1670 engine installed. The P-6C became a cancelled variant while XP-6D was an XP-6B prototype fitted with a turbocharged V-1570-C engine. The P-6D then followed as converted P-6A models to a new standard which incorporated a Prestone cooling system - during 1932 their engines were revised to a turbocharged V-1570-C. The XP-6E then followed - also known as company Model 35 and Y1P-22 - in July of 1931 to serve as prototype for a new major mark - the P-6E.

The P-6E became the most notable model of the P-6 family line, outfitted with a 700 horsepower Curtiss V-1570C "Conqueror" engine and capable of reaching speeds of 200 miles per hour. Compared to the earlier P-6D production model (which it shared many similarities to), the P-6E incorporated an all-new forward fuselage design which streamlined its appearance to a more pleasing cylindrical shape. Its armament was 2 x .303 caliber machine guns. The undercarriage - carrying faired-over wheels consistent with other interwar period fighter designs - were fixed and the cockpit left open-air. The biplane wings were staggered in profile with the upper unit ahead of the lower, joined by strong parallel struts and cabling. The USN also took on the aircraft but requested a version with manually-retracting legs.

The P-6E became the last biplane fighter to be taken on by the USAAC. Over 45 of the type were ordered in July of 1931.

Something of a transitional design bridging the classic biplanes of World War 1 and the modern all-metal monoplanes of World War 2, the P-6 was given superior performance against any biplane of the period. Procurement of the aircraft was only limited by the restriction set upon military spending during the tumultuous Great Depression years. The line went on to see modest export success, again in limited numbers, around the world with customers in Bolivia, China, Cuba, the Dutch East Indies, and Imperial Japan.

Many experimental marks dotted the history of the Hawk, taking advantage of technology advances of the time including superchargers, multiple machine gun mountings, improved radial piston engines, alloys, and the like. 1932 saw Captain Reuben Moffat flew a modified P-6 from Dayton, Ohio to Washington, D.C. on a record-setting run - reaching 266 miles per hour and an altitude of 25,000 feet.

The P-6 Hawk was still active into the late 1930s which saw the official start of World War 2 though it did not see combat in the conflict.


Our Data Modules allow for quick visual reference when comparing a single entry against contemporary designs. Areas covered include general ratings, speed assessments, and relative ranges based on distances between major cities.

Image of collection of graph types

Relative Maximum Speed
Hi: 300mph
Lo: 150mph
This entry's maximum listed speed (204mph).

Graph average of 225 miles-per-hour.
City-to-City Ranges
Graph showcases the Curtiss P-6 Hawk's operational range (on internal fuel) when compared to distances between major cities.
Aviation Era
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Useful in showcasing the era cross-over of particular aircraft/aerospace designs.
Unit Production (70)
Comm. Market HI*: 44,000 units
Military Market HI**: 36,183 units

  * Commercial Market High belongs to Cessna 172.

  ** Military Market High belongs to Ilyushin Il-2.

Altitude Visualization
Small airplane graphic
Supported Roles
Ground Attack
Aerial Tanker
A2A=Air-to-Air; UAV=Unmanned; CAS=Close Support; ASW=Anti-Submarine; AEW=Airborne Early Warning; MEDEVAC=Medical Evac; EW=Electronic Warfare; SAR=Search-Rescue
In the Cockpit...
Commitments / Honors
Military lapel ribbon for Operation Allied Force
Military lapel ribbon for the Arab-Israeli War
Military lapel ribbon for the Battle of Britain
Military lapel ribbon for the Battle of Midway
Military lapel ribbon for the Berlin Airlift
Military lapel ribbon for the Chaco War
Military lapel ribbon for the Cold War
Military lapel ribbon for the Cuban Missile Crisis
Military lapel ribbon for pioneering aircraft
Military lapel ribbon for the Falklands War
Military lapel ribbon for the French-Indochina War
Military lapel ribbon for the Golden Age of Flight
Military lapel ribbon for the 1991 Gulf War
Military lapel ribbon for the Indo-Pak Wars
Military lapel ribbon for the Iran-Iraq War
Military lapel ribbon for the Korean War
Military lapel ribbon for the 1982 Lebanon War
Military lapel ribbon for the Malayan Emergency
Military lapel ribbon representing modern aircraft
Military lapel ribbon for the attack on Pearl Harbor
Military lapel ribbon for the Six Day War
Military lapel ribbon for the Soviet-Afghan War
Military lapel ribbon for the Spanish Civil War
Military lapel ribbon for the Suez Crisis
Military lapel ribbon for the Vietnam War
Military lapel ribbon for Warsaw Pact of the Cold War-era
Military lapel ribbon for the WASP (WW2)
Military lapel ribbon for the World War 1
Military lapel ribbon for the World War 2
Military lapel ribbon for the Yom Kippur War
Military lapel ribbon for experimental x-plane aircraft
* Ribbons not necessarily indicative of actual historical campaign ribbons. Ribbons are clickable to their respective campaigns/operations.

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