Curtiss XBT2C

The Curtiss XBT2C was a one or two seat torpedo and dive bomber developed from the SB2C Helldiver, but which only reached the prototype stage.

In the autumn of 1943 the Navy issued a series of development contracts for new single-seat bomber-torpedo planes, which were to combine the features of the existing dive bombers and torpedo bombers in a single aircraft. Curtiss were given one of these contracts, for the XBTC, but the Navy gave this design a rather low priority, and the first prototype didn’t fly until the start of 1945.

Curtiss were also clearly not too keen on the new design, as in August 1944 they put forward a proposal for a single seat dive/ torpedo bomber, based on their SB2C Helldiver, to be powered by the Wright R-3350 (as used in the Douglas BT2D-1 prototype). The Navy examined this proposal but rejected it. Curtiss were probably already aware that the XBTC was unlikely to enter production,  as the Martin XBTM-1 (later AM Mauler) made its maiden flight on 26 August 1944, and was generally seen as a more advanced design.

Curtiss didn’t give up on the idea, and at the start of 1945 put forward a revised proposal. This time the aircraft would carry a crew of two – the pilot in a cockpit covered by a bubble canopy, and a radar operator inside the rear fuselage. It would have a longer fuselage and a redesigned tail, but keep the basic wing and fuselage structure of the SB2C. This time the Navy was interested, and issued a contract for ten experimental aircraft in February-March 1945. By this point the Martin XBTM had already been ordered into production, and the Douglas XBT2D was close to making its maiden flight. These became the standard post-war attack aircraft as the Martin AM Mauler and Douglas AD Skyraider.

The XBT2C was a fairly standard looking single engined aircraft, with low mounted wings, a simple fuselage with a similar cross section from the engine to just behind the rear crew position. The wing had a straight leading edge and a tapered trailing edge. The engine had a cooling fan mounted on the propeller shaft. It had an internal weapons bay and could also carry weapons under the wings.

The first of these ten aircraft made its maiden flight on 7 August 1945, only six months later, showing the advantage of using as much as possible of the SB2C. However even this was too late, as the rival Douglas and Martin designs had already been ordered into production. The Douglas BT2D entered service as the Douglas AD Skyraider and the Martin XBTM as the Martin AM Mauler. Nine of the ten aircraft were completed (50879-50887) while 50888 was cancelled. These became the last Curtiss aircraft produced for the US Navy.

Engine: Wright R-3350-24 radial engine
Power: 2,500hp
Crew: 2
Span: 47ft 7in
Length: 39ft 2in
Height: 12ft 1in
Empty weight: 12,268lb
Maximum take-off weight: 19,000lb
Max speed: 330mph at 17,000ft
Climb Rate:
Service ceiling: 26,300ft
Range: 1,310 miles
Armament: two 20mm cannon
Bomb load: One 2,000lb bombs or torpedo in bomb bay; two 1,000lb bombs on wing racks

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (25 May 2021), Curtiss XBT2C ,

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