The Curtiss BF2C was the first service version of the standard Hawk fighter to have a retractable main undercarriage, but suffered from excessive vibration and was withdrawn from service after only a year.
The 5th production F11C-2 was used as the basis of the XF11C-3 prototype. The lower-front of the fuselage was extended to make space for the retracted wheels, which were raised and lowered using a chain drive powered by the pilot. The prototype retained the wooden framed wings of the production F11C-2 and used a 700hp Wright R-1820-80 Cyclone engine. It was delivered to the US Navy on 27 May 1933, and a production order for twenty-seven F11C-3s soon followed.
In March 1934 these aircraft were delivered with the new designation of BF2C-1 (second bomber-fighter from Curtiss), with the first production aircraft making its maiden flight in September 1934. The production aircraft had metal framed wings and used the more recent R-1820-04 engine (the engine designations having 'gone around the clock'). The BF2C-1 entered service with Squadron VB-5B on the USS Ranger (CV-4), but it would have a very short service career. It soon became clear that the change of wings and engine should have been tested before production began. When flying at cruising power the new engine set off vibrations in the metal wings that made the aircraft almost un-flyable. The metal wings were shown to be at fault by the success of the Curtiss Hawk III, which was almost identical to the BF2C-1 but had a wooden framework for the wings.
Curtiss and Navy attempted to fix the problem by adding weights to the wings in an attempt to alter the frequency at which the wings vibrated and tried tightening the inter-wing rigging to prevent the vibration. The obvious solution was to replace the metal wings with wooden ones, and this was tested on one BF2C-1, but the navy decided that it wasn't worth the cost. The BF2C-1 was withdrawn from service between October 1935 and February 1936 as replacement aircraft became available. The BF2C-1s were grounded until 1937 when they were scrapped.
Engine: Wright R-1820-04 Cyclone
Span: 31ft 6in
Length: 23ft 0in
Height: 10ft 10in
Empty weight: 3,370lb
Loaded Weight: 4,555lb
Maximum take-off weight:
Max speed: 225mph at 8,000ft
Climb Rate: 2,150ft/ min
Range: 570 miles
Armament: Two 0.3in Browning machine guns
Bomb load: One 474lb or four 116lb bombs