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Curtiss XP-46

The Curtiss XP-46 was a 1940s American prototype fighter aircraft.

It was an attempt to introduce the best features found in European fighter aircraft in 1939 into a fighter aircraft which could succeed the Curtiss P-40, then in production.

A United States Army Air Corps (USAAC) specification based upon a Curtiss proposal was the basis for an order placed in September 1939 for the XP-46.

The requirements called for a single-engine, low-wing aircraft, slightly smaller than the P-40, and with a wide-track, inward-retracting landing gear.

The selected powerplant was a 1,150 hp (858 kW) Allison V-1710-39 V-12 engine.

The planned armament included two .50 in (12.7 mm) synchronized machine guns in the forward fuselage and provisions for eight .30 in (7.62 mm) wing-mounted guns.

The USAAC later added requirements for self-sealing fuel tanks and 65 lb (29 kg) of armour, the weights of which were to adversely affect performance.

In 1940 the British Purchasing Commission placed an order for the P-46 as a replacement for the P-40, the name ‘Kittyhawk’ being allocated by the Air Ministry in anticipation of receiving the aircraft.

However, the USAAC asked Curtiss in July 1940, while the XP-46 prototypes were under construction, to prioritize an upgraded P-40, featuring the engine intended for the XP-46.

This would also avoid disruptions to the production line caused by any switch to a new airframe.

The British order for the P-46 was later cancelled, and the ‘Kittyhawk’ name subsequently applied to the upgraded P-40.

Two prototypes, designated XP-46A, were nevertheless delivered to the USAAC; the first flight occurred on 15 February 1941.

The type’s performance during trials was found to be inferior to the then-contemporary P-40D.

As the P-46 offered no significant improvement on the P-40, the program was cancelled.

A myth claims that work on the XP-46 was the basis of the North American NA-73X, the prototype P-51 Mustang.

While North American Aviation (NAA) purchased technical aerodynamic data on the P-40 and XP-46 from Curtiss for $56,000, and there are certain design similarities in the radiator/oil-cooler configuration of the two types.

North American had already made significant progress on its design.






30 ft 2 in (9.19 m)


34 ft 3.75 in (10.4585 m)


10 ft 1 in (3.07 m)

Wing area

208 sq ft (19.3 m2)



NACA 23016.5


NACA 23009

Empty weight

5,625 lb (2,551 kg)

Gross weight

7,665 lb (3,477 kg)


1 × Allison V-1710-39 V-12 liquid-cooled piston engine,

1,150 hp (860 kW)


3-bladed constant-speed propeller


Maximum speed

355 mph (571 km/h, 308 kn) at 12,200 ft (3,700 m)


325 mi (523 km, 282 nmi)

Time to altitude

12,300 ft (3,700 m) in 5 minutes



2 × 0.50 in (13 mm) synchronized machine guns in the forward fuselage.


Provision for 8 × 0.30 in (7.6 mm) wing-mounted guns.

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