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Curtiss-Wright XP-87 / XF-87 Blackhawk

United States (1948)

Detailing the development and operational history of the Curtiss-Wright XP-87 / XF-87 Blackhawk Interceptor / Night-Fighter Aircraft.

 Entry last updated on 10/25/2017; Authored by Staff Writer; Content ©

  Curtiss-Wright XP-87 / XF-87 Blackhawk  
Picture of Curtiss-Wright XP-87 / XF-87 Blackhawk Interceptor / Night-Fighter Aircraft

The end of the Curtiss XP-87 Blackhawk project signaled the end of Curtiss-Wright as an aircraft-maker.

The XF-87 was a failed proposal attempted by the Curtiss-Wright aircraft design bureau to meet an Air Force requirement for the world's first dedicated radar interceptor aircraft crewed by two personnel and operating under jet propulsion. The system was developed into prototype type form, ordered for production but was promptly cancelled in favor of a competing Northrop design in the F-89 Scorpion. The cancellation of the XF-87 effectively signaled the end of Curtiss-Wright as a prominent player in the military aircraft market, becoming the Aeroplane Division's final flyable aircraft.

The Curtiss-Wright company was already a well-established name in the realm of military aviation, accounting for such memorable aircraft designs as the Curtiss "Jenny" and the Curtiss P-40 "Warhawk". With the XA-43 attack platform version already developed to some extent, the XP-87/XF-87 was a further development of that system. The aircraft proved rather large by conventional thinking and featured a side-by-side two-man cockpit. With turbojet technology in its relative infancy at this stage, the XP-87 was propelled by no fewer than four Westinghouse jet engines mounted near the wing roots, capable of up to 3,000 pounds of thrust each. Top speed was reported to be about 585 miles per hour with a ceiling of over 40,000 feet.

The original XA-43 design produced by the Curtiss-Wright company was designed to an altogether different specification, calling for a single-seat, twin-engine fighter platform available for all-weather and high-altitude service. With a requirement change, the XA-43 developed into the XP-87, or the more accurately the XF-87, and offered up in two prototype S/N identifiers as the 45-59600 and the 46-522. The 46-522 was modified to become the single XF-87A production system.
Design of the XF-87 was quite traditional, painted in all black for optimal night time operation. Wings were of the mid-mount variety with a standard "T" type tail assembly and a tricycle landing gear system. The nose was to contain a proposed battery of 4 x 20mm cannons in a remote-controlled turret with variable angle of attack. Though promising, this armament was never fitted into the first flyable prototype. A second prototype, to be know as the "Blackhawk", was under consideration and was to be fitted with two improved-power turbojets in place of the four found in the base XF-87 design.

In the end, the cancellation of the XP-87 spelled doom for the Curtiss-Wright company. The XP-87 effectively became the last aircraft production attempt for the firm and had a lot riding on its success. The Nighthawk and its Blackhawk counterpart were later be scrapped, ending one of the more glorious chapters in the life of one of America's founding aircraft design firms. Some 58 F-87A models were on order, along with 30 reconnaissance RF-87 variants when the project was officially cancelled.
Curtiss-Wright XP-87 / XF-87 Blackhawk Specifications
National Flag Graphic
United States
Year: 1948
Status: Cancelled
Type: Interceptor / Night-Fighter Aircraft
Manufacturer(s): Curtiss-Wright - USA
Production: 2
Supported Mission Types
Ground Attack
Close-Air Support
Airborne Early Warning
Electronic Warfare
Aerial Tanker
Passenger Industry
VIP Travel
Business Travel
Special Forces
Crew: 2
Length: 62.04 ft (18.91 m)
Width: 60.04 ft (18.30 m)
Height: 20.01 ft (6.10 m)
Empty Weight: 25,981 lb (11,785 kg)
MTOW: 50,023 lb (22,690 kg)

Installed Power
4 x Westinghouse XJ34-WE-7 turbojet engines developing 3,000lb of thrust each.

Standard Day Performance
Maximum Speed: 585 mph (941 kph; 508 kts)
Maximum Range: 1,000 mi (1,609 km; 869 nm)
Service Ceiling: 40,026 ft (12,200 m; 7.58 mi)
Rate-of-Climb: 2,535 ft/min (773 m/min)

4 x 20mm cannons in nose-mounted powered turret

Operators List
United States (cancelled)

Series Model Variants
• XA-43 - Early Attack Variant Design Designation on which the XP-87 was derived from; redesignated to the XP-87.
• XF-87 - 2 Prototype Examples Produced.
• XF-87A - Prototype Model Designation modified from the second XF-87 prototype design.
• F-87A - Proposed Fighter Designation based on the XF-87A prototype design.
• RF-87A - Proposed Reconnaissance Model Variant of the base F-87A.

Supported Weapon Systems
Graphical image of an aircrat automatic cannon