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Curtiss-Wright CW-21 & CW-22

The St. Louis Airplane Division of Curtiss-Wright Corporation developed the Curtiss-Wright Model 21, which was also referred to as the Curtiss-Wright Model 21 Demonstrator, the Curtiss-Wright CW-21 Interceptor, and the Curtiss-Wright CW-21 Demon.

This American fighter-interceptor was created during the 1930s.

The CW-21 prototype was delivered to China for evaluation by the Chinese Air Force.

The Chinese officials were impressed by the CW-21’s performance, leading to negotiations for a potential Chinese purchase.

During these negotiations, the CW-21 prototype was utilized in combat against Japanese bombers targeting Chongqing.

Curtiss test pilot Bob Fausel successfully claimed the downing of a Fiat BR.20 bomber on 4 April 1939.

Subsequently, in May 1939, a contract was finalized, with China acquiring the prototype along with three fully assembled examples manufactured by Curtiss, in addition to kits for 27 more aircraft.

The assembly of these aircraft was designated to be carried out by the Central Aircraft Manufacturing Company (CAMCO) located in Loiwing, near the China-Burma border.

These aircraft were intended to be equipped with two .50 in (12.7 mm) and two .30 in (7.62 mm) machine guns.

Three aircraft manufactured by Curtiss were transported to China in May 1940 and later transferred to the 1st American Volunteer Group (Flying Tigers) with the purpose of engaging high-altitude Japanese reconnaissance planes.

Unfortunately, these aircraft crashed and were rendered inoperable during a flight from Rangoon to Kunming on December 23, 1941, due to poor visibility.

Despite efforts to assemble 27 more aircraft by CAMCO, none were finished before the company had to relocate its Loiwing factory to India in 1942 as a result of the advancing Japanese forces.

Curtiss subsequently developed an enhanced variant of the CW-21, known as the CW-21B.

The primary modification entailed the incorporation of a novel undercarriage featuring inward-retracting mainwheels and a partially retractable tail wheel, which had been initially devised for the Curtiss-Wright CW-23-armed trainer.

Additionally, the CW-21B boasted other alterations, such as the implementation of hydraulically operated flaps.

Despite its increased weight, the CW-21B exhibited a noteworthy improvement in speed, surpassing the original CW-21 by 18 mph (29 km/h), albeit at the expense of a reduced rate of climb.

In April 1940, the Dutch Army Aviation Brigade Luchtvaartbrigade, faced with an urgent need for contemporary combat aircraft, promptly commissioned 24 CW-21Bs from Curtiss-Wright.

However, following the Battle of the Netherlands, which culminated in the Dutch Army’s capitulation to the invading German forces on May 15, 1940, the order for the CW-21Bs (alongside several Curtiss Model 75 fighters and Curtiss-Wright CW-22 trainers) was transferred to the Dutch East Indies government (now known as Indonesia) for the Military Aviation of the Royal Netherlands East Indies Army.

In February 1941, the 24 CW-21Bs were brought together at Andir airfield, located in Bandung, Java.

These aircraft were assigned to Vliegtuiggroep IV, Afdeling 2, also known as “Air Group IV, No. 2 Squadron” or 2-VLG IV.

However, the lightweight design of the Curtiss-Wrights posed certain challenges, leading to structural issues.

As a result, a number of aircraft were grounded due to cracks in the undercarriage.

Unfortunately, these grounded planes were still awaiting repair when the war with Japan commenced on 8 December 1941.

The CW-21B, with its light construction, radial engine, low wing loading, limited pilot protection, and absence of self-sealing fuel tanks, closely resembled the Japanese fighters it faced.

Among the Allied fighters, it was the most similar to its Japanese counterparts.

In terms of performance, the CW-21B boasted a superior rate of climb compared to the Nakajima Ki-43-I (“Oscar”) and Mitsubishi A6M2 Zero.

While it possessed firepower similar to the “Oscar,” it fell short in comparison to the cannon-armed Zero.

During the Netherlands East Indies campaign, 2-VLG IV managed to claim four aerial victories.

However, the ML-KNIL (Royal Netherlands East Indies Army Air Force) was ultimately overwhelmed by the overwhelming number of Japanese aircraft.

Consequently, nearly all of its fighters were either lost in combat or destroyed on the ground.


Model 21 Interceptor.

One prototype was built in 1938 (C/N 21-1 / NX19431).

Three production units and a total of 27 sets of components shipped to the Republic of China to be assembled by CAMCO.

Easily identifiable by the Seversky P-35 type of main undercarriage fairings.

Model 21A Interceptor.

Proposed design to use the Allison V-1710.

Model 21B Interceptor.  

A total of 24 built for the Netherlands East Indies, easily identifiable by the inward retracting main landing gear, this eliminated the need for the undercarriage fairings notable on the Model 21.


The primary recipient of the aircraft featuring the Wright R-975 Whirlwind air-cooled radial engine was the Royal Netherlands East Indies Army Air Force, with a total of 36 units being exported.

Due to the encroaching Japanese forces, the aircraft had to be transported to the Dutch in Australia.

A more advanced variant, known as the CW-22B, was purchased by Turkey (50 units), the Netherlands East Indies (25 units), and in limited quantities in South America.

Several of the Dutch planes were seized and utilized by the Imperial Japanese Army Air Force.

Both the CW-22 and CW-22B were equipped with two machine guns, one of which was fixed.

The United States Navy was presented with a demonstration of an advanced training version called CW-22N, which was unarmed.

In order to address the growing demand for training, the Navy placed an order for 150 aircraft in November 1940.

Subsequent orders increased the total number of aircraft to 305, and these were designated as SNC-1 Falcon.

Curtiss undertook the conversion of a CW-19 into a CW-22 demonstrator with the intention of selling it to China.

However, the aircraft was acquired by the Burma Volunteer Air Force and later utilized by the Royal Air Force in India.

Unfortunately, it was ultimately dismantled in 1946.




Production armed variant for the Royal Netherlands East Indies Army Air Force.


Improved armed variant.

SNC-1 Falcon


United States Navy designation for the CW-22N.





27 ft 0 in (8.23 m)


35 ft 0 in (10.67 m)


9 ft 11 in (3.02 m)

Wing area

173.7 sq ft (16.14 m2)


Curtiss CW-19 Special

Empty weight

2,736 lb (1,241 kg)

Gross weight

3,788 lb (1,718 kg)


1 × Wright R-975-28 Whirlwind 9-cylinder air-cooled radial piston engine,

450 hp (340 kW) for take-off;

420 hp (310 kW) max continuous.


2-bladed variable-pitch metal propeller


Maximum speed

198 mph (319 km/h, 172 kn) at sea level


780 mi (1,260 km, 680 nmi)

Service ceiling

21,800 ft (6,600 m)

Rate of climb

1,650 ft/min (8.4 m/s)



1x fixed forward-firing synchronised 0.300 in (7.6 mm) machine-gun


1x flexibly mounted 0.300 in (7.6 mm) machine-gun in the rear cockpit.


Curtiss Aircraft 1907-47-Peter M Bowers.

Curtiss Company Profile 1907–1947-Martyn Chorlton.

The Official Monogram US Navy & Marine Corps Aircraft Color Guide-1940-1949-John M Elliot.

Curtiss Fighter Aircraft: A Photographic History, 1917-1918-Francis H. Dean & Dan Hagedorn.

The 1943 Aircraft Year Book (ACCA).

The Concise Guide to American Aircraft of WW2-David Mondey.

Combat Colours, Pearl Harbor And Beyond Dec 41-May 42-H C Bridgwater & Peter Scott.


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