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Curtiss XP-42 Prototype Fighter Aircraft

The Curtiss XP-42 was a further development of the P-36 product, though it lost out to the XP-40 after competition trials.

 Updated: 6/26/2017; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ¬©

The Curtiss XP-42 was a further development of the Curtiss P-36 Hawk model though it would share some initial outward similarities to Curtiss' most well known aircraft - the P-40 Warhawk. Later in its development, the XP-42 would see a series of changes that would liken it back to its P-36 roots. The system was modified from a P-36A and given the S/N of 38-004 and was featured in a series of tests designed to reduce drag qualities of radial piston engines. As such, this P-36A featured a redesigned nose and an entirely new powerplant operating a three-blade propeller.

The aircraft featured an air scoop under the engine while the carburetor scoops were mounted at top. In an interesting design feature, a long shaft was developed to properly reach and drive the propeller system. The resulting aircraft proved to be faster than the P-36A but it also faced cooling issues for the engine, serious vibration problems inherent in the propeller shaft system and the XP-42 would never prove faster than the P-40. As a result, the XP-42 gave way to the P-40 Warhawk series of aircraft, which would nab the available Army production orders and become one of America's classic warfighters of its time.

Only a single P-36A was modified as an XP-42. The system was powered by a Pratt & Whitney R-1830 radial series engine generating an impressive 1,050 horsepower. The system was crewed by one personnel and the entire project was officially ended by 1947, to which the aircraft was scrapped for parts.

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Curtiss XP-42 Technical Specifications

Service Year: 1939
Type: Prototype Fighter Aircraft
National Origin: United States
Manufacturer(s): Curtiss - USA
Production Total: 1

Structural (Crew Space, Dimensions and Weights)

Operating Crew (Typical): 1
Overall Length: 28.22 feet (8.6 meters)
Overall Width: 37.07 feet (11.30 meters)
Overall Height: 8.20 feet (2.50 meters)

Weight (Empty): 4,817 lb (2,185 kg)
Weight (MTOW): 5,648 lb (2,562 kg)

Installed Power and Standard Day Performance

Propulsion: 1 x Pratt & Whitney R-1830-31 radial engine developing 1,050 horsepower.

Maximum Speed: 250 mph (402 kph; 217 knots)
Maximum Range: 830 miles (1,336 km)
Service Ceiling: 37,198 feet (11,338 meters; 7.05 miles)

Armament / Mission Payload

2 x 7.62mm machine guns above nose section

Global Operators / Customers

United States

Model Variants (Including Prototypes)

P-36A - Initial Model on which the XP-42 was based on.
Model 75S - Curtiss Company Model Designation
P-42 - Base Model Series Designation
XP-42 - USAAC Designation