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-war single-engine attack
aircraft ordered into production by the Army Air Corps.
Caught in the pre-World
War II 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 World War II
The first 109
production A-17s featured fixed, partially enclosed landing gear. One
hundred and 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 twenty 30 lb. fragmentation bombs. In addition to the bombs, the
A-17A was armed with four forward firing .30-caliber machine guns for
strafing, and one flexible mounted .30-caliber gun in the rear cockpit
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.
Span: 47 ft. 9 in.
Length: 31 ft. 8 in.
Height: 9 ft. 3 in.
Weight: 7,543 lbs. maximum
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.
Crew: Two - Pilot and Gunner
Serial Number: 36-207
Maximum speed: 220 mph
Cruising speed: 170 mph
Range: 732 miles
Service Ceiling: 19,400 ft.