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Curtiss-Wright XF-87 Blackhawk

The Curtiss-Wright XF-87 Blackhawk (previously designated the XP-87) was a prototype American all-weather jet fighter-interceptor, and the company’s last aircraft project.

Designed as a replacement for the World War II–era propeller-driven P-61 Black Widow night/interceptor aircraft, the XF-87 lost in government procurement competition to the Northrop F-89 Scorpion.

The loss of the contract was fatal to the company; the Curtiss-Wright Corporation closed down its aviation division, selling its assets to North American Aviation.

The aircraft started life as a project for an attack aircraft, designated XA-43.

When the United States Army Air Forces issued a requirement for a jet-powered all-weather fighter in 1945, the design was reworked for that request.

The XP-87 was a large mid-wing aircraft with four engines paired in underwing pods, with a mid-mounted tailplane and tricycle undercarriage.

Two crew members (pilot and radar operator) sat side by side under a single canopy.

Armament was to be a nose-mounted, powered turret containing four 20 mm (0.79 in) cannon, but this was never fitted to the prototypes.

Instead the aircraft was armed with four fixed forward firing 20mm cannon.

The first flight of the XF-87 Blackhawk was on 5 March 1948.

Although the top speed was slower than expected, the aircraft was otherwise acceptable, and the newly formed (in September 1947) United States Air Force placed orders for 57 F-87A fighters and 30 RF-87A reconnaissance aircraft just over a month later.

Since the performance problems were due to lack of power, the four Westinghouse XJ34-WE-7 turbojets of the prototypes were to be substituted for two General Electric J47 jets in production models.

One of the two XF-87 prototypes was to be modified as a test bed for the new engines.

At this point, the USAF decided that the Northrop F-89 Scorpion was a more promising aircraft.

The F-87 contract was cancelled on 10 October 1948, and both prototypes were scrapped.



First flight was March 5, 1948


Redesignated XP-87


Production fighter version



Reconnaissance variant






62 ft 10 in (19.15 m)


60 ft 0 in (18.29 m)


20 ft 0 in (6.10 m)

Wing area

600 sq ft (56 m2)

Empty weight

25,930 lb (11,762 kg)

Gross weight

49,900 lb (22,634 kg)


4 × Westinghouse XJ34-WE-7 turbojet engines, 3,000 lbf (13 kN) thrust each


Maximum speed

600 mph (970 km/h, 520 kn) at sea level


1,000 mi (1,600 km, 870 nmi)

Service ceiling

41,000 ft (12,000 m)

Time to altitude

35,000 ft (11,000 m) in 13 minutes 48 seconds



4 × 20 mm (0.787 in) AN/M2 cannon in the nose.

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