The Curtiss A-12 Shrike was a ground attack aircraft produced for the US Army Air Corps in 1934. The A-12 was a two-seat all-metal monoplane originally designed as the A-8. Forty six A-8s, powered by a liquid cooled inline engine, had been ordered, but at the same time one of the service test aircraft was given an air-cooled radial engine under the designation A-10. It soon became clear that the air-cooled radial engine was better suited to the ground attack role, as it was less vulnerable to ground fire than liquid cooled engines, and the order for A-8s was replaced by one for the same number of Wright Cyclone powered A-12s.
The second major change made to the design of the A-12 saw the gap between the widely separated cockpits of the A-8 eliminated by moving the rear cockpit forward, while the forward cockpit went from being covered to open, a move that was popular amongst pilots of the period. All 46 A-12s were delivered during 1934, they remained in service until 1941.
The A-12 had a short service life on the Continental United States. They arrived in time to take part in the USAAC’s brief involvement in carrying air-mail in February-June 1934, operating alongside a number of observation aircraft. The A-12 was faster than the observation aircraft, making it more suited for use in the long distances in the centre of the United States, but performed less well in the mountains of the Western Zone. At least one A-12 was lost in a crash during this period. The A-12 was used by the 3rd Attack Group during the December 1935 – the first to see every USAAC wing involved – but by February 1936 the first Northrop A-17s had arrived. These aircraft were faster than the A-12, could fly higher and had a longer range, and soon completely replaced the A-12 in the 3rd Attack Group.
The spare aircraft were posted to the 26th Attack Squadron, Hawaii. In September 1939 they were still in use on Hawaii, and in the Panama Canal Department. The last operational American aircraft were based at Pearl Harbor in December 1941, but were never flown in combat. Another twenty A-12s were sold to China in 1936.
Curtiss Model 60 – A-12 Shrike
Engine: Wright R-1820-21 Cyclone
Length: 32ft 3in
Empty Weight: 3,898lb
Gross Weight: 5,756lb
Maximum Speed: 176.7mph
Cruising Speed: 151mph
Climb rate: 1,170ft/ min
Range: 521 miles
Guns: Five .30in machine guns
Bomb load : ten 30lb or four 122lb bombs
Curtiss Aircraft, 1907-1947, Peter M Bowers (Amazon.co.uk)
Curtiss Aircraft, 1907-1947, Peter M Bowers (Amazon.com)