Curtiss' Model 43 was their first aircraft designed expressly for the Navy, rather than a modified Army type. While clearly a descendant of the P-1 Hawk, its wings were constant-chord rather than tapered, and the upper wing had a slight sweepback. The engine was a 450 hp (340 kW) Pratt & Whitney R-1340-B Wasp radial. Entirely fabric-covered, the top wing was framed with spruce, while the fuselage was built from a combination of aluminum and steel tubing, sufficiently strong to serve as a dive bomber as well as a fighter.
The prototype XF7C-1 first flew on 28 February 1927. After some modification demanded by the Navy (such as the wing sweepback), 16 production aircraft F7C-1 Seahawks were built, and entered service in the USMC's VF-5M at Quantico. In 1930 VF-9M organized the Marine's first aerobatic stunt team, "The Red Devils", with F7Cs featuring red painted noses. They continued in service until 1933.