The XF-87 Blackhawk previously known as the XP-87 was an all-weather jet powered fighter-interceptor designed by Curtiss-Wright and would be their final aircraft before the companies aircraft division had shut down and sold it’s assets to North American Aviation.
The origins of the Fighter-Interceptor to be eventually known as the XF-87 Blackhawk starts it’s adventure in 1945 as another project, This project which was for a twin engine jet-powered attack aircraft. The aircraft of this project was called the XA-43 however by November 21st of 1945 the project was shelfed in favour of the Fighter-Interceptor project.
Curtiss-Wright was just one of the many companies in competition for this project which included Bell Aircraft, Consolidated-Vultee, Douglas Aircraft, Northtrop, Goodyear and of course Curtiss-Wright.
With not much luck in the other 1945 projects in particular for their naval aircraft and the SB2C Helldiver production ending in 1945 Curtiss-Wright really needed a new aircraft to keep them going. The XA-43’s concept was put into use as the basis for the XF-87 which Curtiss-Wright was banking on to win the deal and save their company. In August 1945 the initial specifications for the contract was an aircraft that was capable of speeds of 530mph.
After a few years of finalising the design and getting the prototype built the XP-87 was ready for testing on the 5th of March 1948. The design of the aircraft was much larger and bulkier appearance to one of it’s main competitors the Northtrop F-89. The initial engines were four XJ34-WE-7 which provided 12,000 lbf in total which on the initial test flight with Curtiss-Wrights test pilot B. Lee Miller described it’s initial performance as sluggish. There had been plans to produce a 2nd prototype to fit the General Electric J47 engines to the aircraft however this never came to be.
As of June 1948 the US designated their fighters with an F instead of a P so the XP-87 finally became the XF-87, In October 1948 the end was near for the project as by this point the Twin Engine XF-89 was faster than the XF-87 which even though evaluators were in more favour of the XF-87 it’s underpowered engines meant that pilots tended to feel like it was a medium bomber rather than a fighter during test flights alongside the buffeting the aircraft would suffer at low speeds.
The aircraft was intended to have a armament of 4 20mm cannons mounted in a nose as a turret, most sources state that the aircraft was not fitted with during it’s flights however some sources do believe that the aircraft had it’s armaments fitted making it debatable to whether or not the aircraft had it’s 4 20mm’s fitted or not.
The most likely cause for the cancellation of the XF-87 project was the background politics in the aviation industry in the late 1940’s in which some companies fell out of the favour of the people in power although since we won’t know what exactly caused the XF-87 project to loose out in favour of the F-89 the only statement we can go off is that the XF-87 underperformed and had operating difficulties with other designs with a more competitive edge in favour.
In the end Curtiss-Wright’s final project came crashing down and they wouldn’t produce or design anymore aircraft for the industry and would sell their aircraft division assets to North American Aviation.
Crew : 2
Length : 19.15m (62’10 feet)
Wingspan : 18.29m (60’00 feet)
Height : 6.1m (20’00 feet)
Wing Area : 599.98 square feet (55.74 square meters)
Empty Weight : 11762kg (25931lb)
Standard Weight (take off weight) : 22634kg (49899lb)
Maximum Weight : N/A
Engine : 4x Westinghouse XJ34-WE-7 Turbojet engines (2 on each wing) 3,000lbf thrust each (13kN)
Service limit : 12500m (41,000 feet) (7.45mi)
Maximum range : 1600km (1000mi)
Maximum speed : 965.6km/h (600mph)
Cruise Speed : N/A
Rate of climb : 12.9m/s (2535feet/m)
Armaments : 4x 20mm AN/M2 (nose mounted turret)
Hardpoints : None
(footage of the XF-87 from 1948)