The Curtiss XA-14 Shrike was a two-man twin-engined ground attack aircraft designed in 1934 for the US Army Air Corps. It was of all-metal construction with fabric covers on movable control surfaces and the rear part of the wing. In contrast to the earlier A-12 Shrike it had a semi-retractable undercarriage – the wheels folded back and were partly contained within the structure of the aircraft. The resulting aircraft was a slender, rather elegent, flat-sided machine, although the two cockpits were rather too far apart.
The twin-engined configuration offered a number of advantages. The most obvious was improved performance – the Wright engines used in the XA-14 were only 85hp more powerful than those in the earlier Curtiss A-12, while the aircraft was twice as heavy, but between them the two engines provided 1,550hp, giving the XA-14 a top speed of 243mph, 66 mph quicker than the A-12. The second advantage of the twin-engined layout was that it allowed the four forward firing 0.30in machine guns to be concentrated in the aircraft’s nose (as later seen on the de Havilland Mosquito or the P-38 Lightning). The XA-14 also carried a single flexibly mount gun in the rear cockpit. The 600lb bomb load was carried in a fuselage bomb bay.
The XA-14 was first flown in September 1935 by Curtiss as a private aircraft (registration X-15314). At this point it was powered by two Wright R-1670-5 twin-row engines with Curtiss two-position propellers. The aircraft was then tested by the Army at Wright Field, before being returned to Curtiss for further work. This saw the two-position propellers replaced by constant speed types, and a new engine cowling installed. The aircraft was returned to the Army in December 1935, and was accepted as the XA-14.
The Army placed an order for thirteen service test aircraft based on the XA-14, but powered by the Wright Cyclone engine, and with the designation A-18. The XA-14 itself was used to test a number of different 37mm cannon installations, before being scrapping in August 1938.
Curtiss Model 76 XA-14 Shrike
Engine: Two Wright R-1670-5
Power: 775hp each
Span: 59ft 6in
Length: 40ft 6in
Empty Weight: 8,875lb
Gross Weight: 11,656lb
Maximum Speed: 243mph at sea level
Cruising Speed: 222mph
Climb rate: 1,690ft/min
Guns: Four .30in machine guns fixed in nose, one flexible in rear cockpit
Bomb load: twenty 30lb bombs in fuselage bomb bay
Curtiss Aircraft, 1907-1947, Peter M Bowers (Amazon.co.uk)
Curtiss Aircraft, 1907-1947, Peter M Bowers (Amazon.com)