Beginning in the late 1930s, the USAAC (to become the USAAF during World War 2) was consistently on the lookout for a new tactical attack aircraft capable of delivering a serviceable war load over range. This led to a series of specifications being drawn up around ever-changing requirements that led the various aeroplane makers of the day to ply their trade and deliver a myriad of proposals in turn - many of which failed to see the light of day before, and during, the Second World War.
For the Curtiss Aeroplane Company (Curtiss), this led to a short-lived design known as the "XA-40", centered on a single-seat, single-engined light-class bomber of rather conventional overall configuration. The XA-40 existed as an outcropping of the "XBTC" program (detailed elsewhere on this site) of which two prototypes were built, and eventually flown, for the purpose of selling the American Navy on the product. The XA-40 was to become an Army offering built specifically for the land-based service.
The aircraft would fit its engine in the nose in the usual way and feature a single crewman under a framed canopy just aft. The smoothly-contoured fuselage tapered towards the tail unit which was capped by a single vertical tail fin and low-set horizontal planes - all of the tail surfaces being rounded at their tips. The mainplanes would be seated under the cockpit floor close to midships and a typical tail-dragger undercarriage was to provide the functionality needed for ground-running.
Structural dimensions included a wingspan of 48 feet with an overall running length of 36.3 feet.
Power was to stem from a Wright R-3350-8 "Duplex Cyclone" air-cooled radial piston engine developing between 2,200 and 3,200 horsepower while driving a four-bladed propeller unit behind a large spinner assembly. Estimated performance specs included a maximum speed of 358 miles-per-hour (under 20,000 feet).
Proposed fixed, standard armament was intended to be 6 x 0.50 caliber Browning M2 heavy machine guns or 4 x 20mm autocannons. In addition to this, the aircraft would be rated for a war load of 2,000lb to include the carrying of aerial torpedoes as well as conventional drop bombs.
The XA-40 never materialized beyond the mockup stage and eventually fell to aviation history - disappearing in October of 1943 as wartime requirements changed and interest moved on to other, more capable, products.
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