Curtiss XP-46

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Curtiss XP-46 (USAF photo)
Role Fighter
Manufacturer Curtiss-Wright Corporation
Designer Don R. Berlin
First flight 15 February 1941
Primary user United States Army Air Corps (intended)
Number built 2
Developed from Curtiss P-40
Developed into Curtiss XP-53

The Curtiss XP-46 was a 1940s United States prototype fighter aircraft. It was a development of the Curtiss-Wright Corporation in an effort to introduce the best features found in European fighter aircraft in 1939 into a fighter aircraft which could succeed the Curtiss P-40, then in production.

Design and development

A United States Army Air Corps (USAAC) specification based upon a Curtiss proposal was the basis for an order placed in September 1939 for the XP-46. The requirements called for a single-engine, low-wing aircraft, slightly smaller than the P-40, and with a wide-track, inward-retracting landing gear. The selected powerplant was a 1,150 hp (858 kW) Allison V-1710-39 V-12 engine. The planned armament included two .50 in (12.7 mm) synchronized machine guns in the forward fuselage and provisions for eight .30 in (7.62 mm) wing-mounted guns. The USAAC later added requirements for self-sealing fuel tanks and 65 lb (29 kg) of armor, the weights of which were to adversely affect performance.


In 1940 the British Purchasing Commission placed an order for the P-46 as a replacement for the P-40.[1]

However, the USAAC asked Curtiss in July 1940 – while the XP-46 prototypes were under construction – to prioritize an upgraded P-40, featuring the engine intended for the XP-46. This would also avoid disruptions to the production line caused by any switch to a new airframe. The British order was later cancelled.[1]

Two prototypes, designated XP-46A, were nevertheless delivered to the USAAC; the first flight occurred on 15 February 1941. The type's performance during trials was found to be inferior to the then-contemporary P-40D. As the P-46 offered no significant improvement on the P-40, the program was cancelled.[2]

A myth claims that work on the XP-46 was the basis of the North American NA-73X – the prototype P-51 Mustang. While North American Aviation (NAA) purchased technical aerodynamic data on the P-40 and XP-46 from Curtiss, for $56,000 and there are certain design similarities in the radiator/oil-cooler configuration of the two types, North American had already made significance on its design.[3] NAA engineers had also made use of British research regarding the Meredith effect – the ability of an embedded ventral radiator to provide thrust.

Specifications (Curtiss XP-46A)

Data from Curtiss Aircraft 1907–1947[4]

General characteristics


  • Maximum speed: 355 mph (309 knots, 571 km/h) at 12,200 ft (3,720 m)
  • Range: 325 mi (283 nmi, 523 km)
  • Climb to 12,300 ft (3,750 m): 5 min


  • Guns:
    • 2 × .50 in (12.7 mm) synchronized machine guns in the forward fuselage
    • Provision for 8 × .30 in (7.62 mm) wing-mounted guns

See also



  1. 1.0 1.1 Engel, Leonard. "Half of Everything: An American's Survey of Orders Placed in the United States." Flight, 5 December 1940, p. 472.
  2. Berliner 2011, p. 18.
  3. Baugher, Joe. "North American NA-73." USAAC/USAAF/USAF Fighter and Pursuit Aircraft: North American P-51 Mustang, 29 August 1999. Retrieved: 10 August 2010.
  4. Bowers 1979, p. 436.


  • Berliner, Don. Surviving Fighter Aircraft of World War Two: Fighters. London: Pen & Sword Aviation, 2011. ISBN 978-1-8488-4265-6.
  • Bowers, Peter M. Curtiss Aircraft, 1907-1947. London: Putnam & Company Ltd., 1979. ISBN 0-370-10029-8.
  • Green, William. War Planes of the Second World War, Volume Four: Fighters. London: MacDonald & Co. (Publishers) Ltd., 1961 (Sixth impression 1969). ISBN 0-356-01448-7.
  • Green, William and Gordon Swanborough. WW2 Aircraft Fact Files: US Army Air Force Fighters, Part 1. London: Macdonald and Jane's Publishers Ltd., 1977. ISBN 0-356-08218-0.

External links