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Beechcraft XA-38 Grizzly / Destroyer


Tactical / Heavy Attack Aircraft Prototype


United States | 1944



"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."



Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited: 05/14/2019 | Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com | The following text is exclusive to this site; No A.I. was used in the generation of this content.
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.

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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.

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Power & Performance
Those special qualities that separate one aircraft design from another. Performance specifications presented assume optimal operating conditions for the Beechcraft XA-38 Gizzly Tactical / Heavy Attack Aircraft Prototype.
2 x Wright GR-3350-43 Cyclone radial piston engines developing 2,300 horsepower each driving three-bladed propeller units.
Propulsion
370 mph
595 kph | 321 kts
Max Speed
28,999 ft
8,839 m | 5 miles
Service Ceiling
1,625 miles
2,615 km | 1,412 nm
Operational Range
City-to-City Ranges
Operational range when compared to distances between major cities (in KM).
NYC
 
  LON
LON
 
  PAR
PAR
 
  BER
BER
 
  MOS
MOS
 
  TOK
TOK
 
  SYD
SYD
 
  LAX
LAX
 
  NYC
Structure
The nose-to-tail, wingtip-to-wingtip physical qualities of the Beechcraft XA-38 Gizzly Tactical / Heavy Attack Aircraft Prototype.
2
(MANNED)
Crew
51.7 ft
15.75 m
O/A Length
67.1 ft
(20.44 m)
O/A Width
15.5 ft
(4.72 m)
O/A Height
22,481 lb
(10,197 kg)
Empty Weight
36,330 lb
(16,479 kg)
MTOW
Design Balance
The three qualities reflected below are altitude, speed, and range. The more full the box, the more balanced the design.
RANGE
ALT
SPEED
Armament
Available supported armament and special-mission equipment featured in the design of the Beechcraft XA-38 Grizzly / Destroyer Tactical / Heavy Attack Aircraft Prototype .
STANDARD:
1 x 75mm T15E1 automatic 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 2,000lb of external stores):
Conventional Drop Bombs.
Fuel Drop Tanks.
Smoke Screen Chemical Tanks.
Torpedoes.
Depth Charges
Variants
Notable series variants as part of the Beechcraft XA-38 Grizzly / Destroyer family line.
Model 28 - Beechcraft Company Designation
XA-38 "Grizzly" - Demonstrator Designation
Operators
Global customers who have evaluated and/or operated the Beechcraft XA-38 Grizzly / Destroyer. Nations are displayed by flag, each linked to their respective national aircraft listing.

Total Production: 2 Units

Contractor(s): Beechcraft / Beech Aircraft Corporation - USA
National flag of the United States

[ United States ]
Relative Max Speed
Hi: 400mph
Lo: 200mph
Aircraft Max Listed Speed (370mph).

Graph Average of 300 MPH.
Era Crossover
Pie graph section
Showcasing Aircraft Era Crossover (if any)
Max Alt Visualization
Small airplane graphic
Production Comparison
2
36183
44000
Entry compared against Ilyushin IL-2 (military) and Cessna 172 (civilian) total production.
MACH Regime (Sonic)
Sub
Trans
Super
Hyper
HiHyper
ReEntry
RANGES (MPH) Subsonic: <614mph | Transonic: 614-921 | Supersonic: 921-3836 | Hypersonic: 3836-7673 | Hi-Hypersonic: 7673-19180 | Reentry: >19030
Aviation Timeline
EarlyYrs
WWI
Interwar
WWII
ColdWar
Postwar
Modern
Future
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Image of the Beechcraft XA-38 Grizzly / Destroyer
Image from the Public Domain.
2 / 5
Image of the Beechcraft XA-38 Grizzly / Destroyer
Image from the Public Domain.
3 / 5
Image of the Beechcraft XA-38 Grizzly / Destroyer
Image from the Public Domain.
4 / 5
Image of the Beechcraft XA-38 Grizzly / Destroyer
Image from the Public Domain.
5 / 5
Image of the Beechcraft XA-38 Grizzly / Destroyer
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.
CLOSE-AIR SUPPORT
ANTI-SHIP
X-PLANE
Recognition
Some designs stand the test of time while others are doomed to never advance beyond the drawing board; let history be their judge.
Going Further...
The Beechcraft XA-38 Grizzly / Destroyer Tactical / Heavy Attack Aircraft Prototype appears in the following collections:
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