Curtiss F11C Goshawk

The Curtiss F11C Goshawk was the last version of the Hawk biplane fighter to be produced for the US Military, and was similar to the earlier F6C but with a Cyclone engine in place of the Wasp engine used on the older fighter. A version of the F11C with a retractable undercarriage was developed, but it entered service as the Curtiss BF2C.

Curtiss F6C-4 Hawk as Training Aircraft, c.1930
Curtiss F6C-4 Hawk
as Training Aircraft, c.1930

In the spring of 1932 the US Navy bought two quite similar prototypes from Curtiss. The first was a fairly standard Curtiss Hawk II or Goshawk, which was ordered early in 1932. It was given the BuNo serial number 9213, but the designation XF11C-2. The XF11C-2 was a fairly standard Curtiss Hawk, with single bay staggered tapered wings built around a wooden frame and fabric covered tail surfaces. It was powered by a 600hp Wright SR-1820F Cyclone nine-cylinder single row radial engine and had a two-blade propeller. It used small diameter low pressure wheels and had long single struts for the main wheels. The XF11C-2 was designed to serve as a vertical dive bomber, and could carry a 500lb bomb on the centre line on a bomb rack that swung away from the fuselage to prevent the bomb dropping straight into the propeller (this was originally installed on the XF11C-1 but was soon added to the -2). The XF11C-2 had quite a short active career and was lost in a crash in August 1932.

In April 1932 the Navy ordered a new aircraft, which became the XF11C-1 (BuNo 9217). This retained the general configuration of the Hawk family, with single bay staggered tapered wings, but the wings now used a metal frame in place of the wooden structure on previous aircraft. The ailerons and tail surfaces also had a metal frame and were also metal covered. The aircraft was powered by a 600hp Wright SR-1510-98 two-row radial engine, with a NACA cowling and a three blade propeller. The propeller had 8ft 6in blades, shorter than normal, and so the XF11C-1 was able to use a quite short single strut main undercarriage. This aircraft made its maiden flight in October 1932 and it soon became clear that the engine tended to overheat. The cowling was modified, a longer two blade propeller was installed (requiring the addition of longer legs for the landing gear), and the aircraft effectively became a test machine. In March 1934 it was re-designated as the XBFC-1 and was used by NACA for researching into engine cooling.

Curtiss F11C-2 Goshawk of VF-1B, 1933-34
Curtiss F11C-2 Goshawk of VF-1B, 1933-34

The XF11C-2 made its maiden flight in March 1932, before the XF11C-1 had even been ordered. After testing both aircraft the Navy decided to issue an order for twenty-eight F11C-2s. These retained the mixed construction and Cyclone engine of the XF11C-2, and were rather old fashioned aircraft for the early 1930s. They were very similar to the prototype although had larger 30 x 5.00 wheels. Deliveries began in February-March 1933 and went on into 1934.

Early in 1934 the F11C-2s were modified in the field using kits provided by Curtiss. They were given a higher rear turtleback rear deck and a partially sliding canopy which covered the rear half of the open cockpit. In March 1934 the modified aircraft were re-designated as the BFC-2 (bomber-fighter, Curtiss).

The F11C-2 entered service with Navy Squadron VF-1B (the High Hat squadron) on the USS Saratoga in February 1933. In the spring of 1934 they underwent a series of modifications and became the BFC-2 (bomber-fighter class). They remained with the same squadron after the re-designation, while the squadron became VB-2B and later VB-3B.

The fifth production aircraft was used by Curtiss as the basis of the XF11C-3. This saw a manually powered retractable undercarriage added to the basic Hawk fighter. The lower front fuselage was modified to create space for the wheels, which were pulled up using a chain drive. The system had been developed by Grumman, and was used on their FF-1 and F2F-1 fighters. Although it added nearly 400lb to the weight of the aircraft the reduced drag meant that its top speed rose from 205mph to 216mph. 

The XF11C-3 was delivered under that designation, but in March 1934 was redesignated as the XBF2C-1 Bomber-fighter. Twenty seven production F11C-3s were ordered, but by the time the first made its maiden flight in September 1934 they had been redesignated as the BF2C-1 (March 1934). The production aircraft used the metal framework of the XF11C-1 prototype and an R-1820-04 Cyclone engine and the combination would cause great vibration problems and limit the service career of the BF2C.

F11C-2/ BFC-2 (as fighter)
Engine: Wright R-1820-78 Cyclone single row radial
Power: 700hp
Crew: 1
Span: 31ft 6in
Length: 25ft 0in
Height: 10ft 7.25in
Empty weight: 3,037lb
Normal loaded weight: 4,120lb
Max speed: 202-205mph
Climb Rate: 2.6 mins to 5,000ft
Range: 560 miles
Armament: Two .3in Browning machine guns
Bomb load: One 500lb or four 112lb bombs

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (7 January 2013), Curtiss F11C Goshawk , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_curtiss_F11C_goshawk.html

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