Curtiss A-8 Shrike

The Curtiss A-8 Shrike was a ground attack aircraft developed for the US Army Air Corps and which would eventually enter service as the A-12. The A-8 was an odd mix of the modern and the obsolete. It was the first Curtiss military aircraft to be a monoplane, to have all-metal construction and full-span leading edge slats and the first to be designed with enclosed cockpits and a streamlined undercarriage. However it used wire-braced wings, last seen on military monoplanes in the First World War, but a feature that briefly reappeared on the A-8 as well as the Douglas O-31 and Boeing P-26.

The A-8 was designed in 1930 to fulfil an Army requirement for a two-seat ground attack aircraft. The name Shrike was used by Curtiss, but not by the US Army, and would reappear on a whole series of Curtiss attack aircraft (A-10, A-12, A-14 and A-18). On the A-8 the two cockpits were rather too widely separated, a feature that would be modified on the production version (the A-12). The aircraft was armed with five 0.30in machine guns – one on a flexible mounting in the rear cockpit and four fixed forward firing guns located in the undercarriage fairings. These guns fired under the propeller arc, removing the need for synchronisation gear and increasing their rate of fire. The A-8 could carry 400lb of bombs or chemical tanks on racks under the wings.

XA-8 Model 59

The prototype XA-8 made its first flight in June 1931. It was powered by a 600hp liquid cooled Curtiss V-1570C engine and used a fixed pitch three-bladed propeller. The XA-8 was competing against the Fokker XA-7 for a production order, and performed well enough to win Curtiss an order for thirteen YA-8 service test machines. The XA-8 itself was used during the 1933 exercises, and was scrapping in March 1937.

YA-8 (Model 59A)

Five of the thirteen YA-8s ordered were eventually built. They differed from the XA-8 in using Prestone-cooled V-1570-31 engines, and were heavier and 14mph slower than the XA-8. The five YA-8s entered Army service in June 1932. The first of them was used to produce the YA-10, powered by an air-cooled radial engine, while the rest became standard A-8s after the service testing ended. The remained eight YA-8s were built as the Y1A-8 (indicating that they were purchased from F-1 funds, an alternative source of development money available to the Air Corps). Of these the last became the Y1A-8A, while the remaining seven became standard A-8s at the end of the test period.


The sole Y1A-8A was produced by equipping the last Y1A-8 with a 675hp geared V-1570-57 engine. The wing was also revised. The geared engine increased the gross weight of the A-8 to 6,287lb, an increase of 400lb on the Y1A-8. Despite this top speed only dropped by 3mph.


The US Army placed an order for 46 A-8Bs powered by V-1570-57 geared engines, but none of these aircraft were delivered. Tests on A-10 proved that air-cooled radials were better suited to use on ground attack aircraft than liquid cooled in-line engines, and the order was modified to one for 46 radial-powered A-12s. The only aircraft to receive the A-8 designation were the four remaining YA-8s and seven Y1A-8s. 





Curtiss V-1570C








32ft 8in




Empty Weight



Gross Weight



Maximum Speed



Cruising Speed



Climb rate







472 miles

480 miles


Five .30in machine guns

Bomb load

Ten 30lb or four 122lb bombs

Suggested Reading
Curtiss Aircraft, 1907-1947, Peter M Bowers (
Curtiss Aircraft, 1907-1947, Peter M Bowers (

Air War Index - Air War Links - Air War Books

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (6 October 2008), Curtiss A-8 Shrike ,

Help - F.A.Q. - Contact Us - Search - Recent - About Us - Privacy