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Curtiss XP-46 Fighter Aircraft Prototype

The Curtiss XP-46 fighter program would be doomed from the start, effectively dooming the Curtiss company itself.

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

The smallish XP-46 was to be the answer for the deficiencies encountered in the P-40 Warhawk platform. Unfortunately for Curtiss, the XP-46 would be doomed by underperformance and sluggish capabilities - essentially dooming the company itself form ever producing fighters for the military.

The XP-46 was to take everything right about the P-40 and make it better. Along the way, the drawbacks of the 1930s-era system would be ironed out. The result was to be a small nimble fighter capable of a dreamed-up speed of over 400 miles per hour and built in the same vein as the successful Bf 109 and the Supermarine Spitfires - a fighter the American forces could call upon to conduct most any type of operation on any front.

With production of the P-40 Warhawk in full swing, designers at Curtiss had sold the idea of a more powerful successor to the US Army Air Corps, to which two prototypes were ordered. The design called for the system to be powered by an Allison brand liquid-cooled engine capable of 1,150 horsepower fitted into a smallish frame. Armament - proposed but never fitted to either prototype - was consist of eight .30 caliber machine guns mounted in the wings with an additional two .50 caliber systems in the nose.

By the time the second prototype had flown as the XP-46A, the system was already showing clear signs of never really matching even the outdated P-40 it was to replace. Looking every bit like the P-40 itself, the XP-46 proved to be slow-responding for a fighter and the 400mph speed was never close to being reached. The samples were later scrapped and the Curtiss company was finished - leaving the P-40 Warhawk as the single symbol of their fighter-designing days of success behind.

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Curtiss XP-46 Technical Specifications

Service Year: 1941
Type: Fighter Aircraft Prototype
National Origin: United States
Manufacturer(s): Curtiss - USA
Production Total: 2

Structural (Crew Space, Dimensions and Weights)

Operating Crew (Typical): 1
Overall Length: 30.18 feet (9.2 meters)
Overall Width: 34.45 feet (10.50 meters)
Overall Height: 12.99 feet (3.96 meters)

Weight (Empty): 5,624 lb (2,551 kg)
Weight (MTOW): 7,663 lb (3,476 kg)

Installed Power and Standard Day Performance

Propulsion: 1 x Allison V-1710-39 liquid-cooled inline piston engine developing 1,150 horsepower.

Maximum Speed: 355 mph (571 kph; 308 knots)
Maximum Range: 325 miles (523 km)
Service Ceiling: 27,999 feet (8,534 meters; 5.30 miles)
Rate-of-Climb: 2,000 feet-per-minute (610 m/min)

Armament / Mission Payload

8 x 7.62mm machine guns in wings
2 x 12.7mm machine guns in nose

Global Operators / Customers

United States (cancelled)

Model Variants (Including Prototypes)

XP-46 - S/N 40-3053; first prototype sans armament.
XP-46A - S/N 40-3054; second prototype (flyable); no armament fitted.