The dedicated attack aircraft achieved an ever more prominent role before, and during, World War 2 (1939-1945). For the United States, this led to a plethora of design studies that began in the mid-to-late 1930s and evolved along with combat doctrine and technology by war's end. One clear war-winning example of this type of aircraft became the A-26 "Invader" produced by Douglas Aircraft. This sleek twin-engine aircraft went on to see production reach 2,503 units and operators reached a global scale ranging from Angola and Biafra to Turkey and the United Kingdom.
Curtiss drew up plans for their own dedicated attacker with light bomber traits through the "P-241" project aircraft. Like others in the category, this design included a twin-engine arrangement, multiple machine gun positions, an internal bomb-carrying capability, and a multi-person crew.
The selected powerplant was the in-house Wright R-3350 "Duplex Cyclone" air-cooled radial piston engine, a pair to be seated end-to-end in the rounded fuselage. This allowed the wings to be exceptionally thin with reduced-area nacelles sporting the needed propeller units. The engine units were connected via a one-to-one ratio transmission system with shafts driving power to the propeller units supported by the wings. A chief physical trait of the engine arrangement was the pair of twin-bladed contra-rotating propeller units set in a "pusher" configuration. Therefore each wing member was home to two propeller units for four total blades. The blades extended out some distance from the wing trailing edge.
The wing mainplanes were of a unique Curtiss-Wright-developed design with the intention that the members would be able to address flight at higher speeds than normal, namely countering issues with compressibility. These members were of an elliptical overall shape when viewed from the top down and were mid-mounted along the fuselage sides and fitted slightly forward of midships. With its tricycle undercarriage arrangement, each wing mainplane was home to a single-wheeled main leg. A single-wheeled nose leg was fitted under the forward section of the fuselage.
The fuselage itself was rounded from nose to tail and tapered elegantly while heading aft. The cockpit was of a stepped nature and the nose section heavily glazed over for viewing. Hinged, automobile-style doors were positioned at the nose and near the cockpit. Other crew positions were held further aft in the design and a second fuselage door was fitted after the mainplanes.
The tail unit comprised a twin vertical plane arrangement with each given their own horizontal plane support. The vertical planes were well-rounded and of noticeably small surface area.
Armament was to comprise up to 4 x 0.30 caliber machine guns, remotely-operated and placed throughout the aircraft - the nose, the tail, and at the wings. Beyond this was a modest internal bomb-carrying quality in which up to 2,000lb of conventional drop stores could be hauled.
All told, the aircraft was sleek and certainly unique for its time if a little unconventional in parts. Some facets of its design was wholly unproven while others were either operational-level additions or proven through testing done by Curtiss-Wright on other airframes. Known dimensions included a length of 59.2 feet and a wingspan of 70 feet. Weight would reach around 20,000lb under full load.
At any event, the P-241 did not interest USAAC/USAAF authorities enough to warrant additional development and eventually fell to naught - joining a long list of proposed forms during the period.
(OPERATORS list includes past, present, and future operators when applicable)
✓Ground Attack (Bombing, Strafing)
Ability to conduct aerial bombing of ground targets by way of (but not limited to) guns, bombs, missiles, rockets, and the like.
✓Close-Air Support (CAS)
Developed to operate in close proximity to active ground elements by way of a broad array of air-to-ground ordnance and munitions options.
✓X-Plane (Developmental, Prototype, Technology Demonstrator)
Aircraft developed for the role of prototyping, technology demonstration, or research / data collection.
59.2 ft (18.05 m)
70.0 ft (21.35 m)
22,046 lb (10,000 kg)
(Showcased structural values pertain to the base Curtiss-Wright P-241 production variant)
2 x Wright R-3350 "Duplex-Cyclone" air-cooled radial piston engines developing between 2,200 and 3,500 horsepower driving 2 x Two-bladed contra-rotating propeller units in pusher arrangement.
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