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Curtiss P-304

United States (1945)
Picture of 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.


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 ©www.MilitaryFactory.com

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of the World War 2 (1939-1945) era in the P-40 "Warhawk" (detailed elsewhere on this site) but this design was soon superseded by those of greater performance and firepower.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.

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Relative Maximum Speed Rating
Hi: 750mph
Lo: 375mph
    This entry's maximum listed speed (621mph).

    Graph average of 562.5 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 P-304-4 (Type I)'s operational range (on internal fuel) when compared to distances between major cities.
Aviation Era
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Unit Production Comparison
Comm. Market HI*: 44,000 units
Military Market HI**: 36,183 units
0
0


  * Commercial Market High belongs to Cessna 172.

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


Altitude Visualization
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Origin: United States
Year: 1945
Type: Single-Seat, Single-Engine Jet-Powered Fighter Proposal
Manufacturer(s): Curtiss-Wright - USA
Production: 0
Status: Cancelled
Global Operators:
United States (cancelled)
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 P-304-4 (Type I) model. Common measurements, and their respective conversions, are shown when possible.

Operational
CREW


Personnel
1


Dimension
LENGTH


Feet
33.83 ft


Meters
10.31 m


Dimension
WIDTH


Feet
40.03 ft


Meters
12.2 m


Weight
EMPTY


Pounds
9,921 lb


Kilograms
4,500 kg


Weight
LOADED


Pounds
14,473 lb


Kilograms
6,565 kg

Engine icon
Installed Power - Standard Day Performance:
1 x General Electric TG-180 turbojet engine developing 4,000lb of thrust.

Performance
SPEED


Miles-per-Hour
621 mph


Kilometers-per-Hour
1,000 kph


Knots
540 kts


Performance
RANGE


Miles
500 mi


Kilometers
805 km


Nautical Miles
435 nm


Performance
CEILING


Feet
36,089 ft


Meters
11,000 m


Miles
6.84 mi


Performance
CLIMB RATE


Feet-per-Minute
5,530 ft/min


Meters-per-Minute
1,686 m/min

Supported Weapon Systems:

Graphical image of an aircraft medium machine gun
Graphical image of an aircraft heavy machine gun
Armament - Hardpoints (0):

PROPOSED:
4 x 0.50 caliber (12.7mm) heavy machine gun.
Variants: 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.