Aviation & Aerospace - Airpower 2024 - Aircraft by Country - Aircraft Manufacturers Vehicles & Artillery - Armor 2024 - Armor by Country - Armor Manufacturers Infantry Small Arms - Warfighter 2024 - Small Arms by Country - Arms Manufacturers Warships & Submarines - Navies 2024 - Ships by Country - Shipbuilders U.S. Military Pay 2024 Military Ranks Special Forces by Country

Curtiss F9C Sparrowhawk

Biplane Parasite Fighter Aircraft

United States | 1931

"The Curtiss F9C Sparrowhawk biplane was built to serve as a parasite fighter launched fro USN airships USS Akron and USS Macon."

Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited: 10/08/2020 | Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com | The following text is exclusive to this site; No A.I. was used in the generation of this content.
In between the great World Wars of the 20th Century, aviation advanced at a considerable pace. The canvas-and-wood biplanes of old began to evolve to include metal skinning, spatted undercarriages and more streamlining than ever before. This allowed far-off thinking to be had amongst warplanners and aviation engineers alike and, in tim,e the idea of a "parasite fighter" took hold within the ranks of the United States Navy (USN).

The parasite fighter concept involved a compact, single-seat fighter attached to mothership (an airship or fixed-wing bomber or similar) where the fighter could be launched and retrieved from. This pairing of weapon systems benefited the mothership in several ways - extending its range (particularly in reconnaissance sorties), self-defense or defending contested airspace. More advanced work on the parasite fighter topic was had during the post-World War 2 period and this involved jet-powered fighters and bombers but the concept was never fully accepted in any one form operationally.

Curtiss' F9C "Sparrowhawk" fighter was originally born under a USN requirement for a shipboard fighter and competed against designs from Berliner-Joyce and General Aviation. This requirement sheltered a secretive program for the USN which involved creation of a parasite fighter to field from its fleet of airships - namely USS Akron and USS Macon.

The USN fighter was eventually embodied in the "XF9C-1" prototype and a single example of this aircraft was realized. A second prototype, XF9C-2, was later completed, and this carried a single-strut main undercarriage. Serial production forms eventually totaled six F9C-2 "Sparrowhawk" fightersand used a similar tripod undercarriage as seen in the original prototype. XF9C-2 was eventually taken into the active inventory of the USN and reworked into a production F9C-2 standard fighter.

A first-flight was had on February 12th, 1931.

Article Continues Below Advertisement...
Design-wise the Curtiss aircraft was a traditionally-arrange biplane fighter. There was an upper and lower wing mainplane joined by extensive cabling and N-style struts. Over the midway span of the upper wing was a structure containing the retrieval hook, or "Skyhook", to work in conjunction with the retractable "trapeze" structure to be found under the belly of the airships themselves. The engine was fitted to a forward compartment in the usual way, driving a two-bladed propeller unit, and the fuselage was well-streamlined. The tail unit showcased a single fin and low-mounted horizontal planes as well as a tailwheel. The undercarriage was spatted at the main legs for aerodynamic efficiency and each was also wheeled. The pilot's position was set aft of the upper wing assembly he operated in an open-air cockpit.

The fighter was powered by a single Wright R-975-E3 air-cooled radial piston engine of 438 horsepower and armed through 2 x 0.30 caliber Browning air-cooled machine guns firing through the spinning propeller blades by way of synchronizing gear. The aircraft weighed 960 kilograms empty and 1,260 kilograms gross. It could manage a top speed of 176 miles per hour.

In practice the Sparrowhawk fighters were lowered from their hangar aboard the airship along their already-connected retractable trapeze assemblies. The pilot would then engage his engine and detach after having assessed conditions. The Sparrowhawk could then be used to reconnoiter the terrain far off from the mothership or engage enemy fighters one-to-one. Once the mission was completed, the pilot would return his aircraft to the mothership and, using the hook above the upper wing assembly, reconnect to the airship's trapeze system. The trapeze assembly was then retracted into the airship and Sparrowhawk returned to its hangar. Several Sparrowhawks could be held aboard a single airship.

The fighter series operated from the two aforementioned American airships from the period of 1932 until 1935 and were used in reconnaissance sorties over both American coastlines. However, the program was doomed by the loss of USS Akron in 1933 along the New Jersey coastline and USS Macon in 1935 off the coast of California. Some four Sparrowhawks went down with the Macon when it crashed on February 12th, 1935. A single Sparrowhawk example survived history and is on display at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center near Washington, D.C. and represents an example to have served at one time with USS Macon.

Content ©MilitaryFactory.com; No Reproduction Permitted.
Power & Performance
Those special qualities that separate one aircraft design from another. Performance specifications presented assume optimal operating conditions for the Curtiss F9C Sparrowhawk Biplane Parasite Fighter Aircraft.
1 x Wright R-975-E3 radial piston engine developing 415 horsepower and driving a two-bladed propeller in the nose.
176 mph
283 kph | 153 kts
Max Speed
19,193 ft
5,850 m | 4 miles
Service Ceiling
295 miles
475 km | 256 nm
Operational Range
1,700 ft/min
518 m/min
City-to-City Ranges
Operational range when compared to distances between major cities (in KM).
The nose-to-tail, wingtip-to-wingtip physical qualities of the Curtiss F9C Sparrowhawk Biplane Parasite Fighter Aircraft.
20.6 ft
6.27 m
O/A Length
83.7 ft
(25.50 m)
O/A Width
35.8 ft
(10.92 m)
O/A Height
2,116 lb
(960 kg)
Empty Weight
2,778 lb
(1,260 kg)
Design Balance
The three qualities reflected below are altitude, speed, and range. The more full the box, the more balanced the design.
Available supported armament and special-mission equipment featured in the design of the Curtiss F9C Sparrowhawk Biplane Parasite Fighter Aircraft .
2 x 0.30 caliber (7.62mm) Browning machine guns synchronized to fire through the spinning propeller blades.
Notable series variants as part of the Curtiss F9C Sparrowhawk family line.
XF9C-1 - Initial Prototype Model; tripod strut undercarriage; scrapped during 1936.
XF9C-2 - Secondary Prototype Model; single-strut undercarriage; later reworked to F9C-2 production standard for active service.
F9C-2 - Production Model Designation; six examples completed to the XF9C-1 design; four lost with USS Macon crash.
Global customers who have evaluated and/or operated the Curtiss F9C Sparrowhawk. Nations are displayed by flag, each linked to their respective national aircraft listing.

Total Production: 7 Units

Contractor(s): Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company - USA
National flag of the United States

[ United States ]
Relative Max Speed
Hi: 200mph
Lo: 100mph
Aircraft Max Listed Speed (176mph).

Graph Average of 150 MPH.
Era Crossover
Pie graph section
Showcasing Aircraft Era Crossover (if any)
Max Alt Visualization
Small airplane graphic
Production Comparison
Entry compared against Ilyushin IL-2 (military) and Cessna 172 (civilian) total production.
MACH Regime (Sonic)
RANGES (MPH) Subsonic: <614mph | Transonic: 614-921 | Supersonic: 921-3836 | Hypersonic: 3836-7673 | Hi-Hypersonic: 7673-19180 | Reentry: >19030
Aviation Timeline
1 / 8
Image of the Curtiss F9C Sparrowhawk
Image copyright www.MilitaryFactory.com; No Reproduction Permitted.
2 / 8
Image of the Curtiss F9C Sparrowhawk
Image copyright www.MilitaryFactory.com; No Reproduction Permitted.
3 / 8
Image of the Curtiss F9C Sparrowhawk
Image copyright www.MilitaryFactory.com; No Reproduction Permitted.
4 / 8
Image of the Curtiss F9C Sparrowhawk
Image copyright www.MilitaryFactory.com; No Reproduction Permitted.
5 / 8
Image of the Curtiss F9C Sparrowhawk
Image copyright www.MilitaryFactory.com; No Reproduction Permitted.
6 / 8
Image of the Curtiss F9C Sparrowhawk
Image copyright www.MilitaryFactory.com; No Reproduction Permitted.
7 / 8
Image of the Curtiss F9C Sparrowhawk
Image from the Public Domain.
8 / 8
Image of the Curtiss F9C Sparrowhawk
Image from the Public Domain.

Mission Roles
Some designs are single-minded in their approach while others offer a more versatile solution to airborne requirements.
Some designs stand the test of time while others are doomed to never advance beyond the drawing board; let history be their judge.
Developments of similar form-and-function, or related, to the Curtiss F9C Sparrowhawk Biplane Parasite Fighter Aircraft.
Going Further...
The Curtiss F9C Sparrowhawk Biplane Parasite Fighter Aircraft appears in the following collections:
Disclaimer | Privacy Policy | Cookies

2024 Military Pay Scale Military Ranks U.S. DoD Dictionary Conversion Calculators Military Alphabet Code Military Map Symbols US 5-Star Generals WW2 Weapons by Country

The "Military Factory" name and MilitaryFactory.com logo are registered ® U.S. trademarks protected by all applicable domestic and international intellectual property laws. All written content, illustrations, and photography are unique to this website (unless where indicated) and not for reuse/reproduction in any form. Material presented throughout this website is for historical and entertainment value only and should not to be construed as usable for hardware restoration, maintenance, or general operation. We do not sell any of the items showcased on this site. Please direct all other inquiries to militaryfactory AT gmail.com. No A.I. was used in the generation of this content.

Part of a network of sites that includes Global Firepower, WDMMA.org, WDMMW.org, and World War Next.

©2024 www.MilitaryFactory.com • All Rights Reserved • Content ©2003-2024 (21yrs)