Published January 25, 2016
The A-17 series was a direct descendent of the pace setting Northrop "Gamma," made famous by the aerial explorer Lincoln Ellsworth. It replaced the Curtiss A-8 and A-12 Shrike and was the last of the pre-World War II single-engine attack aircraft ordered into production by the Army Air Corps.
Caught in the pre-WWII doctrine that emphasized air superiority over ground support, the A-17 was never fully tested in peacetime exercises or in combat. Its fate was sealed in 1938 when the Army Air Corps determined that all future attack aircraft procured would be multi-engine models.
Despite this handicap, the A-17's design and novel features such as split perforated flaps figured prominently in the success of a distinguished line of Douglas aircraft including the Dauntless dive bomber and the post-WWII Skyraider.
The first 109 production A-17s featured fixed, partially enclosed landing gear. One hundred twenty-nine A-17As configured with fully retractable landing gear and a more powerful engine followed between February 1937 and August 1938.
The A-17A could lift over one ton of bombs. The bombs were carried on four external racks and in an internal bomb bay that featured vertical chutes, which held up to 20 30-pound fragmentation bombs. In addition to the bombs, the A-17A was armed with four forward-firing .30-cal. machine guns for strafing, and one flexible mounted .30-cal. gun in the rear cockpit for self-defense.
A-17As saw unit service for less than four years. In June 1940, all but 20 A-17As were sold overseas. The remaining Army Air Forces A-17 and A-17As were used as advanced trainers and squadron support aircraft, most ending up as ground maintenance trainers. The last A-17A was written off of Army Air Forces records in early 1945.
The aircraft on display, Air Corps serial number 36-207, is the only A-17 series aircraft known to exist. It was delivered to the Air Corps and assigned to Barksdale Field, La., on June 25, 1937.
Following a brief stay at Kelly Field, San Antonio, Texas, the aircraft was assigned in April 1940 to Bolling Field, Washington, D.C., and also served as a support aircraft for U.S. Military attaches in Honduras, Guatemala and Haiti. The aircraft was dropped from Army Air Forces records in January 1945.
The aircraft is marked in the colors of the 90th Attack Squadron, 3rd Attack Group, at Barksdale Field in June 1938.
Armament: Four fixed and one flexible mount .30-cal machine guns and up to 1,100 lbs. of bombs
Engine: One Pratt & Whitney R-1535-13 of 825 hp
Maximum speed: 220 mph
Cruising speed: 170 mph
Range: 732 miles
Ceiling: 19,400 ft.
Span: 47 ft. 9 in.
Length: 31 ft. 8 in.
Height: 9 ft. 3 in.
Weight: 7,543 lbs. maximum
Serial number: 36-207
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