The Curtiss P-36A was the main US Army Air Corps version of the Curtiss Model 75. After failing to win an April 1936 fighter contest with the Model 75B, Curtiss was awarded a control to produce three pre-production Y1P-36s. This aircraft won the 1937 fighter contest, and Curtiss were given a contract to produce 210 P-36As, the largest American order for military aircraft since the Second World War.
Like the Y1P-36 the P-36A was powered by the 1,050hp Pratt & Whitney R-1820-12 or 13 engine, but with engine cowling flaps. It was armed with one .30in and one .50in machine guns firing through the engine cowling, and with bulbous covers. The production aircraft also had modified view panels behind the cockpit.
Deliveries began in April 1938, and by 1939 the P-36A was the standard Air Corps fighter, but it was already beginning to look outdated compared to the Spitfire or Bf 109, and by the time the United States entered the war at the end of 1941 it had almost been replaced by the P-40. A number of P-36As saw combat at Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941, but after that the type soon moved to training units, while ten were given to Brazil in March 1942.
176 of the first 178 aircraft were completed as P-36As. Two early aircraft were taken from the production lines and completed as experimental aircraft. The fourth aircraft, 38-4, become the XP-42, while the tenth aircraft, 38-10, become the XP-40 (Model 75P) and the prototype for the entire P-40 Warhawk family.
Five aircraft completed as P-36As were later used for experiment purposed. 38-20 became the P-36B. 38-85 became the prototype P-36C. 38-175 became the XP-36D, 38-147 the XP-36E and 38-172 the XP-36F, each used to test different configurations of wing guns. Aircraft 38-179 and above were completed as P-36Cs.
Engine: Pratt & Whitney R-1830-13 or 17
Power: 1,050hp at 10,000ft
Wing span: 37ft 4in
Length: 28ft 6in
Empty Weight: 4,567lb
Gross Weight: 5,470lb
Max Speed: 313mph at 10,000ft
Service Ceiling: 33,000ft
Range: 825 miles at 270mph at 10,000ft
Armament: One .50in and one .30in machine guns in nose