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Beechcraft XA-38 Grizzly / Destroyer

United States (1944)
Picture of Beechcraft XA-38 Grizzly / Destroyer Tactical / Heavy Attack Aircraft Prototype
Picture of Beechcraft XA-38 Grizzly / Destroyer Tactical / Heavy Attack Aircraft Prototype Picture of Beechcraft XA-38 Grizzly / Destroyer Tactical / Heavy Attack Aircraft Prototype
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The Beechcraft XA-38 Grizzly heavy fighter would have been a potent ground-attack component to the Allied cause of World War 2 had it been adopted by the Americans.


Detailing the development and operational history of the Beechcraft XA-38 Grizzly / Destroyer Tactical / Heavy Attack Aircraft Prototype.  Entry last updated on 3/27/2018. Authored by Staff Writer. Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com

The XA-38 was a developmental twin-engine heavy fighter produced by the Beech Aircraft firm. By all accounts, she was a stable and fast aircraft comparable to even the single engine speedsters of her day. As promising as her design was, her potential was never realized as the engines slated for the type were reserved for the four-engined Boeing B-29 Superfortress heavy bombers taking precedence. As such, only two XA-38 prototypes were ever built with the project ultimately shelved at the end of the war. Should she have flown in quantity, she might have presented the Empire of Japan with a formidable adversary capable of engaging tanks, vehicles, ships and submarines with equal - and lethal - fervor.

The United States Army Air Forces (USAAF - forerunner to the United States Air Force) entered into a contractual agreement with Beech Aircraft in December of 1942 after considering the company's Beechcraft Model 28 system. The contract called for two initial prototypes to be built as the XA-38 to fulfill a requirement that involved replacing the Douglas A-20 Havocs then in service. This new aircraft would have to exceed in all areas the A-20 excelled at wile making for one truly potent ground attack component vital to eliminating the dug-in Japanese foes throughout the Pacific Theater. The A-20, itself, had its origins in 1939 design and was introduced into operational service in 1941. Its armament and light bombing capabilities allowed the Havoc to make a name for itself in the early years of the war, eventually being fielded by the United States, French, British and Soviet forces. Production of the type finally ended on September 20th, 1944 and a need for its replacement was inevitable. The XA-38 achieved first flight on May 7th, 1944 with Beech test pilot Vern Carstens at the controls, launching from the Beech Aircraft airfield in Wichita, Kansas. It was then flown to Elgin Field in Florida to undergo testing with the US Army.

Design of the XA-38 centered around the large 75mm cannon armament mounted in the nose. The cannon was positioned as such that the barrel protruded from the nose cone assembly of the clean all-metal airframe. The fuselage was of a conventional design featuring a forward cockpit area and a rear gunner station and fit together as four main sections for ease of maintenance and repairs. Wings were mid-mounted monoplane assemblies (based on the airfoil of the NACA-2300 series) joining the fuselage to each side of the cockpit and designed with a heated leading edge and surfaces to prevent ice from forming at higher altitudes. On the wings were fitted twin Wright R-3350-53 series air-cooled radial piston engines capable of delivering an astounding 2,700 horsepower each while driving three-bladed, constant speed Hamilton Standard propellers. Cooling was provided for through specially-designed circular cowlings and controlled via automatic flaps. The engine nacelles were fitted to the wing leading edges and protruded some, nearly to the extension length of the fuselage nose. The empennage was conventional and featured a horizontal tailplane with two vertical tail fins. The undercarriage was a typical "tail dragger", with two forward single-wheeled landing gears and a single-wheeled tail system - all fully retractable via hydraulics with a backup pneumatic emergency system. Crew accommodations amounted to the pilot and a gunner housed under in separate glazed canopies. The gunner sat in a dorsal position on the empennage.


Picture of the Beechcraft XA-38 Grizzly / Destroyer Tactical / Heavy Attack Aircraft Prototype
Picture of the Beechcraft XA-38 Grizzly / Destroyer Tactical / Heavy Attack Aircraft Prototype


While the primary armament of the XA-38 was its nose-mounted 75mm cannon (the entire forward nose section was hinged to open upwards for easy access to the cannon), this was further augmented by no fewer than 6 x .50 caliber Browning air-cooled heavy machine guns. Two were fitted to the lower forward nose section in a forward-firing fixed position while the remaining four were placed in dorsal ad ventral General Electric-brand remote-controlled turrets (two machine guns to a turret). These turrets were traced via periscope sights by the gunner in his rear cabin. Additional external stores would have been conventional drop bombs, a torpedo, smoke bombs, depth charges, chemical tanks and drop tanks. With its accessible hinged nose assembly, the XA-38 was envisioned to fit other adaptable armament systems on-the-fly.

Performance-wise, the XA-38 shined based on reports of the test pilots and servicemen that had the privilege of flying her. She posted stable flight characteristics but was most notable for her top speed. Her speed was comparable - or better in some cases - to the top-flight single-engine fighters of her day. In one such trial, a chase plane sent up to monitor the XA-38 was found lagging behind the twin-engined beauty. Other impressive performance feats showcased the XA-38's ability to take-off and land in shorter distances at low speed than even her contemporary single-engined brethren. Her powerplants and airframe undoubtedly proved reliable in subsequent evaluations.

A maximum speed of 376 miles-per-hour was recorded along with a service ceiling topping 27,800 feet with twin Wright 2,700 horsepower engines and a crew of two. Comparatively, the A-20 Havoc sported a top speed of 339 miles-per-hour with a service ceiling of 23,700 feet with twin Wright 1,700 horsepower engines and a crew of three.

The XA-38 would go down as a true American "what-might-have-been" story for a top straight-line speed coupled with a lethal armament package made for one successful aircraft in the Second World War. It is believed that the XA-38 would not have disappointed has it been ordered into production and been available in some number. As fate would have it, the system fell by the wayside as the B-29's took her engines, the need for dedicated attack craft dwindles and the war came to its inevitable close a year later.

Regardless, the XA-38 remains an interesting study. The XA-38 went under the name of "Destroyer" but was more popularly remembered as the "Grizzly". It is known that one of the XA-38 prototypes fell the way of the scrap yard while the whereabouts of the other prototype are unknown.






Our Data Modules allow for quick visual reference when comparing a single entry against contemporary designs. Areas covered include general ratings, speed assessments, and relative ranges based on distances between major cities.

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Relative Maximum Speed Rating
Hi: 400mph
Lo: 200mph
    This entry's maximum listed speed (370mph).

    Graph average of 300 miles-per-hour.
City-to-City Ranges
NYC
 
  LON
LON
 
  PAR
PAR
 
  BER
BER
 
  MOS
MOS
 
  TOK
TOK
 
  SYD
SYD
 
  LAX
LAX
 
  NYC
Graph showcases the Beechcraft XA-38 Gizzly's operational range (on internal fuel) when compared to distances between major cities.
Aviation Era
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Unit Production Comparison
Comm. Market HI*: 44,000 units
Military Market HI**: 36,183 units
2
2


  * Commercial Market High belongs to Cessna 172.

  ** Military Market High belongs to Ilyushin Il-2.


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Origin: United States
Year: 1944
Type: Tactical / Heavy Attack Aircraft Prototype
Manufacturer(s): Beechcraft / Beech Aircraft Corporation - USA
Production: 2
Status: Cancelled
Global Operators:
United States
Historical Commitments / Honors:

Military lapel ribbon for Operation Allied Force
Military lapel ribbon for the Arab-Israeli War
Military lapel ribbon for the Battle of Britain
Military lapel ribbon for the Battle of Midway
Military lapel ribbon for the Berlin Airlift
Military lapel ribbon for the Chaco War
Military lapel ribbon for the Cold War
Military lapel ribbon for the Cuban Missile Crisis
Military lapel ribbon for the Falklands War
Military lapel ribbon for the French-Indochina War
Military lapel ribbon for the Golden Age of Flight
Military lapel ribbon for the 1991 Gulf War
Military lapel ribbon for the Indo-Pak Wars
Military lapel ribbon for the Iran-Iraq War
Military lapel ribbon for the Korean War
Military lapel ribbon for the 1982 Lebanon War
Military lapel ribbon for the Malayan Emergency
Military lapel ribbon for the attack on Pearl Harbor
Military lapel ribbon for the Six Day War
Military lapel ribbon for the Soviet-Afghan War
Military lapel ribbon for the Spanish Civil War
Military lapel ribbon for the Suez Crisis
Military lapel ribbon for the Vietnam War
Military lapel ribbon for Warsaw Pact of the Cold War-era
Military lapel ribbon for the WASP (WW2)
Military lapel ribbon for the World War 1
Military lapel ribbon for the World War 2
Military lapel ribbon for the Yom Kippur
* Ribbons not necessarily indicative of actual historical campaign ribbons. Ribbons are clickable to their respective campaigns/operations.
Measurements and Weights icon
Structural - Crew, Dimensions, and Weights:
Unless otherwise noted the presented statistics below pertain to the Beechcraft XA-38 Gizzly model. Common measurements, and their respective conversions, are shown when possible.

Operational
CREW


Personnel
2


Dimension
LENGTH


Feet
51.67 ft


Meters
15.75 m


Dimension
WIDTH


Feet
67.06 ft


Meters
20.44 m


Dimension
HEIGHT


Feet
15.49 ft


Meters
4.72 m


Weight
EMPTY


Pounds
22,481 lb


Kilograms
10,197 kg


Weight
LOADED


Pounds
36,330 lb


Kilograms
16,479 kg

Engine icon
Installed Power - Standard Day Performance:
2 x Wright GR-3350-43 Cyclone radial piston engines developing 2,300 horsepower each driving three-bladed propeller units.

Performance
SPEED


Miles-per-Hour
370 mph


Kilometers-per-Hour
595 kph


Knots
321 kts


Performance
RANGE


Miles
1,625 mi


Kilometers
2,615 km


Nautical Miles
1,412 nm


Performance
CEILING


Feet
28,999 ft


Meters
8,839 m


Miles
5.49 mi

Supported Weapon Systems:

Graphical image of an aircraft medium machine gun
Graphical image of an aircraft heavy machine gun
Graphical image of an aircrat automatic cannon
Graphical image of an aircraft aerial torpedo
Graphical image of an aircraft conventional drop bomb munition
Graphical image of an aircraft external fuel tank
Armament - Hardpoints (2):

STANDARD:
1 x 75mm T15E1 cannon in nose
2 x 12.7mm Browning air-cooled heavy machine guns fixed in lower fuselage nose.
2 x 12.7mm Browning air-cooled heavy machine guns in remote-controlled dorsal turret.
2 x 12.7mm Browning air-cooled heavy machine guns in remote-controlled ventral turret.

OPTIONAL (up to 2,000lbs of external stores):
Conventional Drop Bombs
Fuel Droptanks
Smoke Screen Chemical Tanks
Torpedoes
Depth Charges
Variants: Series Model Variants
• Model 28 - Beechcraft Company Designation
• XA-38 "Grizzly" - Demonstrator Designation