Curtiss 18

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Curtiss 18-T Wasp
Role twoseat fighter triplane
Manufacturer Curtiss Engineering Corporation
Designer Charles B. Kirkham
First flight 7 May 1918
Introduction February 1919
Primary user United States Navy
Unit cost

The Curtiss 18T, unofficially known as the Wasp and by the United States Navy as the Kirkham,[2] was an early American triplane fighter aircraft designed by Curtiss Engineering for the US Navy.

Design and development[edit]

The Curtiss 18T was intended to protect bombing squads along the French coast, and a primary requisite for this job was speed. Speed was not the triplane's only salient feature: an 18T-2 set a new altitude record in 1919 of 34,910 ft (10,640 m).[3] The streamlined and very "clean" fuselage contributed to the aircraft's performance. The basic construction was based on cross-laminated strips of wood veneer formed on a mold and attached to the inner structure. The technique was a refinement of that used on the big Curtiss flying boats.[4]

Operational history[edit]

Flown by Roland Rholfs, the 18T achieved a world speed record of 163 mph (262 km/h) in August 1918 carrying a full military load of 1,076 lb (488 kg).[5]

The Model 18T-2 was an improved version of its predecessor, boosting 50 additional horsepower. The wings of the new model were swept back. It was also 5 ft (150 cm) longer with a 9 ft (270 cm) longer two-bay wing, though its flight ceiling was 2,000 ft (610 m) lower.

After World War I, it was employed as a racing plane: an 18T-2 nearly won the Curtiss Marine Trophy Race in 1922 (limited to U.S. Navy pilots), but pilot Sandy Sanderson ran out of fuel just before the finish line.[6]

Curtiss Engineering followed the success of the Model 18T with the launch of the Model 18B, unofficially known as the "Hornet", built to otherwise similar specifications.


The 18T-1
Model 18T or 18T-1
Two-seat fighter triplane with single-bay wings, powered by a 400-hp (298-kW) Curtiss-Kirkham K-12 piston engine. Referred to by the US Navy as the "Kirkham". Originally designated 18T, the type was redesignated the 18T-1 when the prototype was modified to a new configuration designated 18T-2 (see below).
Model 18T-2
18T with longer-span two-bay wings. Could be fitted with floatplane or landplane landing gear.
Model 18B
Biplane fighter version, known unofficially as the "Hornet". Sole flying prototype of Curtiss 18B, USAAS 40058, 'P-86', crashed early in flight trials at McCook Field, Dayton, Ohio, summer 1919. Type not ordered into production. One non-flying prototype also delivered for static testing.[7]


 United States

Specifications (T-1)[edit]

Data from Curtiss Aircraft 1907–1947[8]

General characteristics

  • Crew: 2
  • Length: 23 ft 4 in (7.11 m)
  • Wingspan: 32 ft 10 in (9.75 m)
  • Height: 10 ft 2 in (3.09 m)
  • Wing area: 288 sq ft (26.75 m2)
  • Empty weight: 1,980 lb (898 kg)
  • Loaded weight: 3,050 lb ()
  • Powerplant: 1 × Curtiss K-12 water-cooled 12-cylinder vee engine, 400 hp (298 kW)



  • Guns:
Primary: 2 × forward-firing synchronized .30 in (7.62 mm) Marlin guns
Secondary: 2 × rear-cockpit .30 in Lewis guns on a Scarff ring, 1 × Lewis gun firing through aperture in aircraft's belly[9]


  1. ^ Angelucci 1987, pp. 114–115.
  2. ^ PART 2 Test of Strength 1917­1919 Archived December 3, 2010, at the Library of Congress Retrieved: 13 January 2011.
  3. ^ Naval investigation, hearings before the subcommittee of the Committee on Naval Affairs. Washington: United States Senate, 66th Congress, 2d session, 1921. Retrieved: 13 January 2011.
  4. ^ "Curtiss # to J." Retrieved: 13 January 2011.
  5. ^ "Aviation History Facts: August 1." Archived 2007-09-30 at the Wayback Machine. Centennial of Flight, 2003. Retrieved: 13 January 2011.
  6. ^ Berliner, Don. "A Concise History of Air Racing." Society of Air Racing Historians, 9 January 2007. Retrieved: 13 January 2011.
  7. ^ Green, William, and Swanborough, Gordon, "Fighter A To Z", Air International, Bromley, Kent, UK, February 1976, Volume 10, Number 2, page 98.
  8. ^ Bowers 1979, p. 143.
  9. ^ Bowers 1979, p. 139.

External links[edit]