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The Vultee XA-41 was ordered in November 1942 as a dive bomber, but in the spring of 1943, the order was amended to change the role from dive bomber to low-level ground attack. The experience gained by the Army Air Corps in combat showed the dive bomber to be ineffective and vulnerable to enemy attack without heavy escort. The twin-engine attack bomber (i.e. Douglas A-20) was the favored aircraft for light bombing and ground attack. Combat experience also showed high altitude fighters adapted for ground attack were well suited to the role. In particular, the Republic P-47 was an outstanding light ground attack aircraft.
The Vultee engineers decided early in the design process to build the XA-41 (company Model 90) around the huge Pratt & Whitney R-4360 Wasp Major four-row, 28-cylinder radial engine with 3,000 hp. Initially, two prototype aircraft were ordered, but only one was completed. Orders for combat aircraft were greatly reduced late in World War II and since the XA-41 wouldn't have been ready for combat until late 1944 or early 1945, the production program was canceled along with construction of the second prototype.
The first XA-41 made its first flight on Feb. 11, 1944, and showed relatively good performance. Because the production program was canceled, the aircraft was used primarily as an engine test bed for the large Pratt & Whitney radial. After Army testing was completed, the XA-41 was evaluated by the U.S. Navy and later still used by Pratt & Whitney for various engine test programs.
Large dive bomber prototype
TECHNICAL NOTES: Armament: Designed for four .50-cal. machine guns fixed in the wings, and four fixed 37mm cannons in the wings, plus up to 6,400 lbs. of bombs Engine:Pratt & Whitney XR-4360-1 Wasp Major radial of 3,000 hp Maximum speed: 363 mph Cruising speed: Approx. 300 mph Combat range: 800 miles Service ceiling: 29,300 ft. Span: 54 ft. 0 in. Length: 48 ft. 8 in. Height: 13 ft. 11 in. Weight: 24,188 lbs. gross Crew: One (pilot) Serial numbers: 43-35124 (43-35125 ordered but canceled before construction began); Consolidated-Vultee (Convair) Model 90