Close-Air Support (CAS) / Ground-Attack Aircraft
The EKW C-36 was developed as a ground-attack platform for the Swiss Air Force in the run-up to World War II - 175 of the type were produced in all.
Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited:
Discussions centered around the air war of World War 2 (1939-1945) will nearly always exclude developments appearing in Switzerland mainly due to its neutral stance in the conflict. However, its aero-industry was not resting on its laurels as Europe burned around it. EKW, the Federal Construction Works, was arranged by the state to equip the Swiss military through local measures rather than rely on foreign support when at all possible. Under this brand label, and against the backdrop of war spilling across its borders, the concern made good on a few aircraft designs during the wartime period.
The C-36 was one such product, a low-monoplane attack platform taken into service by the Swiss Air Force in 1942 with procurement reaching 175 total units before the end. The design came from a 1935 Swiss Air Force requirement calling for a new attack platform to succeed an aging stock of Fokker C.V-E biplanes in same role. This led the service down a variety of paths - attempt to modernize the in-service Fokkers, procure a design of foreign origin, or accept a solution of local, all-new design - the C-36.
When the first two paths led nowhere, it was decided to fulfill the requirement through local means by way of an indigenous design. The C-36 was drawn up with a conventional design arrangement for the time, seating its sole engine in the nose, tandem seating for two at midships, and featuring a twin vertical tailfin arrangement. A first-flight in prototype form (as the C-3601) was recorded on May 15th, 1939. This model sported a fixed tail-dragger undercarriage and was powered by the Hispano-Suiza 12YVrs engine of 860 horsepower. The C-3601 was eventually lost to a crash during testing on August 20th, 1939 (the fault resolved as excessive 'wing flutter').
This led to development of a second prototype as the C-3602 which was refitted with a Hispano-Suiza 12 Y-51 engine of 1,000 horsepower which improved performance specs. The design evolved into the initial production version designated C-3603 which carried the same powerplant. Armament was now a part of the combat aircraft's make-up as a single 20mm Oerlikon automatic cannon was seated in the engine block firing through the propeller hub. Accompanying this weapon were a pair of 7.5mm machine guns, one fitted to each wing mainplane member. Furthermore, and to protect the attack plane's more vulnerable 'six', the rear-facing crewmember was charged with management of a trainable gun mount fitting 2 x 7.5mm machine guns.
From this design form was spawned the C-3603-0 which were used in service trials. Ten were completed and these differed in having 48.6 foot-long wingspans. Nine of them were later converted to the C-3603-1 standard.
The C-3603-1 had 45 foot wingspans and became the definitive production version of the C-36 line. A total of 142 airplanes were built to the standard of which another six were built up from available spares in the post war period (during 1947 into 1948) to help strengthen available numbers. In time, about twenty of the lot were relegated (and appropriately modified) as target tugs for training.
The C-3603-1 Tr designated a pair of advanced trainers. The C-3604 carried a Saurer YS-2 engine of 1,245 horsepower for improved performance. In addition to this, 20mm automatic cannons were added to the wings (one per wing) to enhance the aircraft's offensive punch. Twelve production-quality aircraft were born from the sole prototype completed.
The C-3605 became the final notable entry into the C-36 line. These were differentiated by the installation of Lycoming T53 turboprop engines which resulted in a more powerful, higher-performance aircraft reaching near-300mph speeds in the process. Twenty-four C-3603-1 airframes were converted to the new standard.
The C-36 was never exported beyond Swiss borders, leaving the Swiss Air Force as the only global operator of the type. While not seeing heavy combat use in the war relative to its contemporaries, the C-36 was used as an effective airspace deterrent for the neutral country during the tumultuous war years. Beyond this, they fell to training circles before being expended as targets. The series was given up in 1988.