The Curtiss Hawk III was the export version of the US Navy's Curtiss BF2C-1, but without the metal wing structure that caused such problems for the Navy. The Hawk III was thus similar to the Hawk II, which was based on the F11C-2, but with the manually retractable undercarriage developed on the XF11C-3 and installed on the BF2C-1 (originally ordered as the F11C-3).
The Navy's BF2C-1 used a new metal framed wing, which suffered from serious vibration problems. The Hawk III used a standard wooden wing, with spruce beams and ribs and a plywood web, and avoided these problems. It was powered by a Wright Cyclone which provided the same power as on the Hawk II but at an higher altitude.
The Hawk III sold in larger numbers than the Hawk II but to fewer customers. Turkey bought one in April 1935. Twenty four went to Thailand from August 1935. Argentine bought ten in May-June 1936. The biggest customer was China, which bought 102 aircraft, delivered between March 1936 and June 1938. Of these aircraft ninety were delivered as kits and completed at the Central Aircraft manufacturing Company (CAMCO) at Hangchow
The Hawk III saw combat in Thailand and China, in both cases alongside the Hawk II.
In 1940 Thailand had four fighter squadrons equipped with Hawk IIIs and one with Hawk IIs. These aircraft were used in two short conflicts. The first came late in 1940 after a short border war broke out between Thailand and the French colony in Indochina. During this conflict they were used as dive-bombers, interceptors and as escort fighters.
The second conflict was much shorter. On 7 December 1941 the Japanese invaded Thailand. The Hawks were used against them, but a ceasefire was agreed later on the same day and the fighting stopped.
The Hawk saw most combat during the Sino-Japanese War. In 1937 the Hawk II was used by six fighter squadrons based at Nan-Chang and one at Chu-Jung while the Hawk III was used by three reconnaissance squadrons at Sian and one at Nanking. Both the Hawk II and Hawk III saw combat around Shanghai, and performed quite well against the Japanese biplane fighters in use at the start of the war. Once the monoplane Mitsubishi A5M entered combat the Hawks were quickly outclassed. They were soon replaced by the Polikarpov I-15, I-152 and I-153 and were transferred to training units.
Engine: Wright SR-1820F-53 Cyclone
Power: 785hp at take off, 745hp at 9,600ft
Span: 31ft 6in
Length: 23ft 5in
Height: 9ft 9.5in
Empty weight: 3,213lb
Loaded weight: 4,317lb
Max speed: 202mph at sea level, 240mph at 11,500ft
Climb Rate: 2,200ft/ min
Range: 575 miles
Armament: two .3in machine guns