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Curtiss A-18 (Shrike II)

United States (1936)
Picture of 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.


Detailing the development and operational history of the Curtiss A-18 (Shrike II) Ground Attack Aircraft.  Entry last updated on 3/7/2016. Authored by Staff Writer. Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com

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was, itself, outpaced by newer designs - the A-18 never materialized into a long-term USAAC solution as it was quickly superseded by more advanced forms.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.

Any available statistics for the Curtiss A-18 (Shrike II) Ground Attack Aircraft are showcased in the areas immediately below. Categories include basic specifications covering country-of-origin, operational status, manufacture(s) and total quantitative production. Other qualities showcased are related to structural values (namely dimensions), installed power and standard day performance figures, installed or proposed armament and mission equipment (if any), global users (from A-to-Z) and series model variants (if any).






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 Rating
Hi: 300mph
Lo: 150mph
    This entry's maximum listed speed (249mph).

    Graph average of 225 miles-per-hour.
City-to-City Ranges
NYC
 
  LON
LON
 
  PAR
PAR
 
  BER
BER
 
  MOS
MOS
 
  TOK
TOK
 
  SYD
SYD
 
  LAX
LAX
 
  NYC
Graph showcases the Curtiss A-18 (Shrike II)'s operational range (on internal fuel) when compared to distances between major cities.
Aviation Era
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Useful in showcasing the era cross-over of particular aircraft/aerospace designs.
Unit Production Comparison
Comm. Market HI*: 44,000 units
Military Market HI**: 36,183 units
13
13


  * Commercial Market High belongs to Cessna 172.

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


Altitude Visualization
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  Compare this entry against other aircraft using our Comparison Tool  
National Flag Graphic
Origin: United States
Year: 1936
Type: Ground Attack Aircraft
Manufacturer(s): Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company - USA
Production: 13
Global Operators:
United States
Historical 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 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 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
* Ribbons not necessarily indicative of actual historical campaign ribbons. Ribbons are clickable to their respective campaigns/operations.
Measurements and Weights icon
Structural - Crew, Dimensions, and Weights:
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.

Operational
CREW


Personnel
2


Dimension
LENGTH


Feet
41.01 ft


Meters
12.5 m


Dimension
WIDTH


Feet
59.55 ft


Meters
18.15 m


Dimension
HEIGHT


Feet
11.48 ft


Meters
3.5 m


Weight
EMPTY


Pounds
9,414 lb


Kilograms
4,270 kg


Weight
LOADED


Pounds
13,173 lb


Kilograms
5,975 kg

Engine icon
Installed Power - Standard Day Performance:
2 x Wright R-1820-47 air-cooled radial piston engines developing 850 horsepower each.

Performance
SPEED


Miles-per-Hour
249 mph


Kilometers-per-Hour
400 kph


Knots
216 kts


Performance
RANGE


Miles
652 mi


Kilometers
1,050 km


Nautical Miles
567 nm


Performance
CEILING


Feet
27,461 ft


Meters
8,370 m


Miles
5.20 mi

Supported Weapon Systems:

Graphical image of an aircraft medium machine gun
Graphical image of an aircraft conventional drop bomb munition
Armament - Hardpoints (2):

STANDARD:
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

OPTIONAL:
Up to 400 lb of conventional drop bombs held in wing bays.
Up to 200 lb of conventional drop bombs held underwing
Variants: 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