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Curtiss A-18 (Shrike II)

Ground Attack Aircraft

Curtiss A-18 (Shrike II)

Ground Attack Aircraft


Limited to thirteen total examples, the Curtiss A-18 managed a short service life for the Americans and was replaced by more potent, advanced forms before the end.
National Flag Graphic
ORIGIN: United States
YEAR: 1936
STATUS: Retired, Out-of-Service
MANUFACTURER(S): Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company - USA
OPERATORS: United States

Unless otherwise noted the presented statistics below pertain to the Curtiss A-18 (Shrike II) model. Common measurements, and their respective conversions, are shown when possible.
LENGTH: 41.01 feet (12.5 meters)
WIDTH: 59.55 feet (18.15 meters)
HEIGHT: 11.48 feet (3.5 meters)
WEIGHT (EMPTY): 9,414 pounds (4,270 kilograms)
WEIGHT (MTOW): 13,173 pounds (5,975 kilograms)
ENGINE: 2 x Wright R-1820-47 air-cooled radial piston engines developing 850 horsepower each.
SPEED (MAX): 249 miles-per-hour (400 kilometers-per-hour; 216 knots)
RANGE: 652 miles (1,050 kilometers; 567 nautical miles)
CEILING: 27,461 feet (8,370 meters; 5.20 miles)

4 x 0.30 caliber Browning M1919 machine guns in fixed, forward-firing positions.
1 x 0.30 caliber machine gun in rear defensive position

Up to 400 lb of conventional drop bombs held in wing bays.
Up to 200 lb of conventional drop bombs held underwing
Graphical image of an aircraft medium machine gun
Graphical image of an aircraft conventional drop bomb munition

Series Model Variants
• A-18 "Shrike II" - Base Series Designation
• YA-14 - Single prototype model
• Y1A-18 - Developmental test forms
• A-18 - Production model designation


Detailing the development and operational history of the Curtiss A-18 (Shrike II) Ground Attack Aircraft.  Entry last updated on 8/8/2018. Authored by Staff Writer. Content ©
In the mid-1930s, the United States Army Air Corps (USAAC) began evaluation of a new twin-engined, twin-seat ground attack aircraft through the Curtiss XA-14 program. The design offered a very modern appearance coupled with exceptional performance for its time, the latter quality allowing the aircraft to outpace even some of the fastest fighters of the period. One test article was completed and this led to the developmental Y1A-18 and, ultimately, the A-18 "Shrike" designation. However total production only ever reached 13 aircraft as the A-18 series was, itself, outpaced by newer designs - the A-18 never materialized into a long-term USAAC solution as it was quickly superseded by more advanced forms.

The ground attack aircraft had increasingly grown in tactical value for warplanners heading into World War 2 (1939-1945). These platforms offered about the same firepower as a medium-class bomber but could also be used in the direct-attack role as a heavy fighter. Such flexibility was highly sought after by air services of the time and the A-18 seemingly fit the bill for the USAAC as its revised its stock of aging aircraft. The service went on to evaluate a small collection of twin-engined, twin-seat types prior to the Grand War.

The A-18 held roots in the original Curtiss Model 76 which was outfitted with a pair of Wright XR-1510 "Whirlwind" radial piston engines of 600hp each and driving two-bladed propellers. A monoplane design form was selected with the engines held in streamlined nacelles along the wing leading edges. The wings and engines straddled the slim fuselage which was aerodynamically refined. The crew of two sat under a relatively long, framed canopy. The tail unit was of a traditional arrangement featuring a sole vertical fin and low-set horizontal planes. The undercarriage was of a typical tail-dragger configuration.

After testing with the Model 76, the aircraft was revised with Wright R-1670-5 "Cyclone" engines of 775 horsepower (each) and driving "constant speed" propellers to help increase performance. Testing resumed which produced evermore slightly evolved models which trialed engines and weapons (including fitting Wright R-1820-47 "Cyclone" radials of 850 horsepower each with three-bladed propellers; cannon calibers as large as 37mm were also tested). Before the end, the design had become the Model 76A ("Shrike II") which was the basis for the definitive A-18 service test form appearing in 1936.

A-18s were delivered to the 8th Attack Squadron, 3rd Attack Group (Barksdale Field, Louisiana) from July to October of 1937 and these teams quickly showcased the aircraft to be an effective gunnery and bombing platform (bombs were carried in compartments within each wing assembly). The A-18 was then used in training for 1940. Despite this showing, there lay several weakness in her design that revealed themselves with operational use. Her undercarriage was prone to collapsing when landing or taking off and her engines led to an underpowered aircraft which, in turn, limited its bomb load capabilities. To further hamper her future reach in service to the USAAC, the design was an expensive investment at about $105,000 USD per single unit. Curtiss attempted to rectify some of her issues including offering the product with Wright R-1830 radials but the damage was done.

Despite its potential at the outset, the operational life of the A-18 proved short as the 8th Attack Squadron moved on adopting the newer Douglas A-20 "Havoc" (detailed elsewhere on this site) from 1941 on. There was also little foreign interest in acquiring the aircraft which held design roots in the mid-1930s - this all but doomed any future the A-18 was expected to have. What few examples of the A-18 remained flew throughout 1942 but the line was completely retired in 1943. None saw combat action in World War 2 but two operated by way of the 108th Reconnaissance Squadron over the Panama Canal Zone where they saw their last days in the sky.

The A-18 proved instrumental to the USAAC observers as the value of larger, heavier twin-engined multi-crew systems had revealed itself. A-20s and Martin A-26 "Invaders" became some of the more classic forms of this aircraft type to see service in World War 2.


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 (249mph).

Graph average of 225 miles-per-hour.
City-to-City Ranges
Graph showcases the Curtiss A-18 (Shrike II)'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 (13)
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
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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