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Curtiss P-304

Single-Seat, Single-Engine Jet-Powered Fighter Proposal

Curtiss P-304

Single-Seat, Single-Engine Jet-Powered Fighter Proposal


The Curtiss P-304 existed in two proposed forms - both jet-powered - and borrowed heavily from the abandoned XP-55 Ascender program.
National Flag Graphic
ORIGIN: United States
YEAR: 1945
STATUS: Cancelled
MANUFACTURER(S): Curtiss-Wright - USA
OPERATORS: United States (cancelled)

Unless otherwise noted the presented statistics below pertain to the Curtiss P-304-4 (Type I) model. Common measurements, and their respective conversions, are shown when possible.
LENGTH: 33.83 feet (10.31 meters)
WIDTH: 40.03 feet (12.2 meters)
WEIGHT (EMPTY): 9,921 pounds (4,500 kilograms)
WEIGHT (MTOW): 14,473 pounds (6,565 kilograms)
ENGINE: 1 x General Electric TG-180 turbojet engine developing 4,000lb of thrust.
SPEED (MAX): 621 miles-per-hour (1,000 kilometers-per-hour; 540 knots)
RANGE: 500 miles (805 kilometers; 435 nautical miles)
CEILING: 36,089 feet (11,000 meters; 6.84 miles)
RATE-OF-CLIMB: 5,530 feet-per-minute (1,686 meters-per-minute)

4 x 0.50 caliber (12.7mm) heavy machine gun.
Graphical image of an aircraft medium machine gun
Graphical image of an aircraft heavy machine gun

Series Model Variants
• P-304 - Base Series Designation
• P-304-4 (Type I) - First proposal with nose-mounted intake; heavier design with reinforced undercarriage and additional internal fuel stores.
• P-304-5 (Type II) - Second proposal with side-mounted intakes.


Detailing the development and operational history of the Curtiss P-304 Single-Seat, Single-Engine Jet-Powered Fighter Proposal.  Entry last updated on 10/26/2017. Authored by Staff Writer. Content ©
The Curtiss had one of the classic fighters of the World War 2 (1939-1945) era in the P-40 "Warhawk" (detailed elsewhere on this site) but this design was soon superseded by those of greater performance and firepower. Even so, the company attempted to stay relevant before the end of the war arrived in 1945, putting forth several imaginative fighter concepts of both prop- and jet-driven design. One of the latter was actually a dual-proposal under the "P-304" project designation and centered on a design study for a new single-seat, jet-powered fighter form utilizing data collected from Curtiss' earlier XP-55 "Ascender" fighter prototype (detailed elsewhere on this site). The P-304 attempted to better the XP-55 design by implementing a jet powerplant while retaining much of the unique features of the prop-driven Ascender fighter.

The single-seat, single-engine XP-55's arrangement is its best-remembered quality as it seated the engine at the rear of the fuselage, had swept-back wing mainplanes and nose-mounted canards (smaller, forward wings). The pilot's cockpit was situated just forward of midships with the engine to his immediate rear which cleared the nose assembly to hold all of the intended armament - 4 x 0.50 heavy machine guns. A modern tricycle undercarriage was fitted for ground-running and power originated from an Allison inline engine driving a three-bladed propeller in a "pusher" configuration. The wing mainplanes were given vertical planes at their tips for stability and control. Compared to other fighters of the period, the XP-55 certainly may have appeared as the future of combat flying. A first-flight was held on July 19th, 1943.

In the end, however, only three examples came to be and two were lost in crashes. Despite its arrangement, the aircraft could not best the latest prop-driven designs in terms of performance and added little to the mix despite its uniqueness. Jet-powered forms were also beginning to take center stage which further doomed the XP-55 project to history.

From this experience, Curtiss forged ahead with its P-304 beginning in March of 1945. Again a single-seat, single-engine format was used and canards were once again fitted at the nose. The aircraft would retain nose-mounted armament and feature its engine in the aft section of the fuselage behind the pilot. The wing mainplanes were swept-back to promote high- speed flying. The primary difference between the preceding XP-55 and the P-304 was the relocation of the vertical fins from the wingtips to the tail, this now as a single fin.

For intents and purposes, the P-304 proposal was nothing more than the XP-55 fitted with a jet engine with a few changes to suit the new approach. The intended engine was to be the General Electric TG-180 turbojet outputting 4,000lb of thrust.

To improve upon the lackadaisical performance figures encountered when flying the XP-55, the P-304 was drawn up with a turbojet engine powerplant from the beginning but this soon led to the two distinct forms being proposed: the P-304-4, with a nose-mounted intake used to aspirate the engine within the fuselage, and the P-304-5, with side-mounted, underwing intakes. Both designs saw the engine exhaust through a single port at the rear of the fuselage, located just under the vertical tail plane. In addition to this, the swept-back wing mainplanes, which promoted high-speed flight, were shoulder-mounted and set near midships. A tricycle undercarriage would be retained from the XP-55 design and aluminum alloy would be used throughout the construction of both aircraft.

With their new P-304, Curtiss engineers hoped to solve various issues encountered with the XP-55 - namely performance (including operational range) and stability / control. Range would be augmented by the use of wingtip fuel tanks, a common fixture in early jet-powered fighters.

Curtiss engineers estimated a maximum speed between 600 and 622 miles-per-hour depending on altitude with a rate-of-climb of 5,530 feet-per-minute possible. Combat radius was listed at 500 miles. Both aircraft had an overall length of around 33 feet with the P-304-5 being slightly longer by a few inches and the P-304-4 was the heavier of the two by a few hundred pounds due to its longer duct work assembly and strengthened undercarriage required for the special configuration. The P-304-4 would also feature more internal fuel stores to achieve the desired range and offset its weight gains.

Neither the P-304-4 nor the P-304-5 were furthered beyond paperwork and concept art. The end of the war in 1945 and the military drawdown that followed doomed such outlying projects like the P-304 in full - leaving their potential and ultimate influence to the imagination of the reader.


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: 750mph
Lo: 375mph
This entry's maximum listed speed (621mph).

Graph average of 562.5 miles-per-hour.
City-to-City Ranges
Graph showcases the Curtiss P-304-4 (Type I)'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 (0)
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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