The Curtiss F7C Seahawk was designed in response to a 1927 contest to produce a naval fighter, but despite being placed into production was only ever used by the Marines at Quantico.
The F7C was designed in response to a Navy fighter contest for an aircraft powered by an air cooled radial engine (the Navy having decided not to use inline engines on carrier aircraft). Despite partly sharing the Hawk name the F7C was a new design, and not a development of the P-1/ P-6/ F6C Hawk family, although it did share many features with those aircraft. The wings resembled those of the O-1 Falcon, with a straight equal chord lower wing and an upper wing with a straight central section and swept back outer panels. The fuel tanks were built into the sides of the fuselage, outside the main structure. The aircraft had sturdy divided main wheels, designed with the stresses of carrier operations in mind.
The F7C was the first Curtiss fighter designed from scratch for use from aircraft carriers. Curtiss had some previous experience of producing carrier fighters, having built most of the Navy TS-1 scouts earlier in the 1920s, but that aircraft had been designed by the Bureau of Aeronautics.
The prototype F7C was built as a private venture by Curtiss. It made its maiden flight on 28 February 1927 and was tested by the Navy as a land plane and a sea plane with a single float. At this stage Curtiss called it the Curtiss Navy Fighter while the Navy unofficially called it the XF7C-1 although it had no Naval serial number. The prototype originally had smaller wings than the production aircraft, but these were replaced with the standard wings after a crash.
The Navy decided to buy seventeen F7C-1s, to be used as shore-based landplanes by the US Marines. These aircraft were delivered between December 1928 and January 1929, with the serial numbers A7654-A7670. The prototype was retrospectively given the serial number A7653.
The F7C was used by Marine Corps Squadron VF-5M at Quantico, where it remained in use until 1933.
The F7C was produced at the same time as the more numerous F6C-4, the first version of the Navy's Curtiss Hawk to use an air-cooled radial engine. The F6C-4 was followed by the F11C Goshawk in the early 1930s, also a radial powered version of the Hawk fighter.
Engine: Pratt & Whitney R-1340-B Wasp radial
Span: 30ft 8in
Length: 22ft 7.25in
Height: 9ft 8.5in
Empty weight: 2,038lb
Loaded weight: 2,782lb
Max speed: 155mph
Climb Rate: 2.6 min to 5,000ft/ 1,860ft/ min
Service ceiling: 22,100ft
Normal range: 330 miles
Armament: Two .3in machine guns