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

The Curtiss 18T, unofficially known as the Wasp and by the United States Navy as the Kirkham,[1] was an early American triplane fighter aircraft designed by Curtiss for the US Navy.

Design and development

The Curtiss 18T was intended to protect bombing aircraft over France, 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).[2] 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.[3]

Operational history

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).[4]

The Model 18T-2 was an improved version of its predecessor, with 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) larger two-bay wing, though its operational 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 the pilot, Lt. Sanderson ran out of fuel just before the finish line.[5]

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

The 18T-1
The 18T-1
Curtiss 18-B
Curtiss 18-B


Model 18T or 18T-1
Two-seat fighter triplane with single-bay wings, powered by a 400 hp (300 kW) Curtiss 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.[6]


 United States

Specifications (18T-1 Wasp)

Data from Curtiss Aircraft 1907–1947[7]

General characteristics



Primary: 2 × forward-firing synchronized 0.300 in (7.62 mm) Marlin Rockwell M1917/M1918 machine-guns
Secondary: 2 × 0.300 in (7.62 mm) Lewis guns on a Scarff ring in the rear-cockpit plus 1 × Lewis gun firing through an aperture in the aircraft's belly


  1. ^ PART 2 Test of Strength 1917-1919 Archived December 3, 2010, at the Library of Congress Web Archives Retrieved: 13 January 2011.
  2. ^ 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.
  3. ^ "Curtiss # to J." Retrieved: 13 January 2011.
  4. ^ "Aviation History Facts: August 1." Archived 2007-09-30 at the Wayback Machine Centennial of Flight, 2003. Retrieved: 13 January 2011.
  5. ^ Berliner, Don. "A Concise History of Air Racing." Society of Air Racing Historians, 9 January 2007. Retrieved: 13 January 2011.
  6. ^ Green, William, and Swanborough, Gordon, "Fighter A To Z", Air International, Bromley, Kent, UK, February 1976, Volume 10, Number 2, page 98.
  7. ^ Bowers, Peter M. (1979). Curtiss aircraft, 1907-1947. London: Putnam. pp. 138–143. ISBN 0370100298.
  8. ^ Lednicer, David. "The Incomplete Guide to Airfoil Usage". Retrieved 16 April 2019.