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Northrop A-17

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Title: Northrop A-17  
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Northrop A-17

A-17 / Nomad
Northrop A-17
Role Ground attack
Manufacturer Northrop
Designer Jack Northrop
Introduction 1935
Primary users United States Army Air Corps
Swedish Air Force
Royal Canadian Air Force
South African Air Force
Number built 411
Developed from Northrop Gamma
Variants Douglas A-33

The Northrop A-17, a development of the Northrop Gamma 2F was a two-seat, single-engine, monoplane, attack bomber built in 1935 by the Northrop Corporation for the U.S. Army Air Corps. A-17s used by air forces of the British Commonwealth designated the aircraft as the "Nomad."

Development and design

The Northrop Gamma 2F was an attack bomber derivative of the Northrop Gamma transport aircraft, developed in parallel with the Northrop Gamma 2C, (of which one was built), designated the YA-13 and XA-16. The Gamma 2F had a revised tail, cockpit canopy and wing flaps compared with the Gamma 2C, and was fitted with new semi-retractable landing gear. It was delivered to the United States Army Air Corps for tests on 6 October 1934, and after modifications which included fitting with a conventional fixed landing gear, was accepted by the Air Corps.[1] A total of 110 aircraft were ordered as the A-17 in 1935.[2]

The resulting A-17 was equipped with perforated flaps, and had fixed landing gear with partial fairings. It was fitted with an internal fuselage bomb bay that carried fragmentation bombs and well as external bomb racks.

Northrop developed a new landing gear, this time completely retractable, producing the A-17A variant. This version was again purchased by the Army Air Corps, who placed orders for 129 aircraft.[3] By the time these were delivered, the Northrop Corporation had been taken over by Douglas Aircraft Company, export models being known as the Douglas Model 8.

Operational history

A-17A cockpit

United States

The A-17 entered service in February 1936, and proved a reliable and popular aircraft.[4] However, in 1938, the Air Corps decided that attack aircraft should be multi-engined, rendering the A-17 surplus to requirements.[5]

From 14 December 1941, A-17s were used for coastal patrols by the 59th Bombardment Squadron (Light) on the Pacific side of the Panama Canal.[6]

The last remaining A-17s, used as utility aircraft, were retired from USAAF service in 1944.[7]

Other countries


Argentina purchased 30 Model 8A-2s in 1937 and received them between February and March 1938. Their serial numbers were between 348 and 377. These remained in frontline service until replaced by the I.Ae. 24 Calquin, continuing in service as trainers and reconnaissance aircraft until their last flight in 1954.[8][9]


Peru ordered ten Model 8A-3Ps, these being delivered from 1938 onwards. These aircraft were used in combat by Peru in the Ecuadorian-Peruvian war of July 1941.[10] The survivors of these aircraft were supplemented by 13 Model 8A-5s from Norway (see below), delivered via the United States in 1943 (designated A-33). These remained in service until 1958.[10]


The Swedish government purchased a licence for production of a Mercury-powered version, building 63 B 5Bs and 31 B 5Cs, production taking place from 1938 to 1941. They were replaced in service with the Swedish Air Force by SAAB 17s from 1944.[11] The Swedish version was used as a dive bomber and as such it featured prominently in the 1941 film Första Divisionen.

The Netherlands

The Netherlands, in urgent need of modern combat aircraft, placed an order for 18 Model 8A-3Ns in 1939, with all being delivered by the end of the year. Used in a fighter role for which they were unsuited, the majority were destroyed by Luftwaffe attacks on 10 May 1940, the first day of the German invasion.[12]


Iraq purchased 15 Model 8A-4s, in 1940. They were destroyed in the Anglo-Iraqi War in 1941.[13]


Norway ordered 36 Model 8A-5Ns in 1940. These were not ready by the time of the German Invasion of Norway and were diverted to the Norwegian training camp in Canada, which became known as Little Norway.[14] Norway decided to sell 18 of these aircraft as surplus to Peru, but these were embargoed by the United States, who requisitioned the aircraft, using them as trainers, designating them the A-33. Norway sold their surviving aircraft to Peru in 1943.[15]

Great Britain

In June 1940, 93 ex-USAAC aircraft were purchased by France, and refurbished by Douglas, including being given new engines.[13] These were not delivered before the fall of France and 61 were taken over by the British Purchasing Commission for the British Commonwealth use under the name Northrop Nomad Mk I.

South Africa

The RAF assessed the Northrop Nomad Mk Is as "obsolete" and sent them to South Africa for use as trainers, serialed AS440 to AS462, AS958 to AS976 and AW420 to AW438.[5][16]


The Royal Canadian Air Force received 32 Nomads that had been part of a French order of 93 aircraft. When France fell in 1940, this order was taken over by Great Britain who transferred 32 of the aircraft to Canada where they were used as advanced trainers and target tugs as part of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan.[5][17] These were serialed 3490 to 3521; all were assigned to No. 3 Training Command RCAF.[8]


A-17A 36-0207
Initial production for USAAC. Fixed gear, powered by 750 hp (560 kW) Pratt & Whitney R-1535-11 Twin Wasp Jr engine; 110 built.
Revised version for USAAC with retractable gear and 825 hp (615 kW) R-1535-13 engine; 129 built.
Three seat staff transport version for USAAC. Powered by Pratt & Whitney R-1340 Wasp engine; two built.
Model 8A-1
Export version for Sweden. Fixed gear. Two Douglas built prototypes (Swedish designation B 5A), followed by 63 licensed built (by ASJA) B 5B aircraft powered by 920 hp (686 kW) Bristol Mercury XXIV engine; 31 similar B 5C built by SAAB. One 8A-1 was also purchased by Bristol Aeroplane Co. in 1937 which was modified to test its new Hercules radial engine.[18]
Model 8A-2
Version for Argentina. Fitted with fixed gear, ventral gun position and powered by 840 hp (626 kW) Wright R-1820-G3 Cyclone; 30 built.
Model 8A-3N
Version of A-17A for Netherlands. Powered by 1,100 hp (820 kW) Pratt & Whitney R-1830 Twin Wasp engine; 18 built.
Model 8A-3P
Version of A-17A for Peru. Powered by 1,000 hp (746 kW) R-1820 engine; ten built.
Model 8A-4
Version for Iraq, powered by a 1,000 hp (746 kW) R-1820-G103 engine; 15 built.
Model 8A-5N
Version for Norway, powered by 1,200 hp (895 kW) R-1830 engine; 36 built. Later impressed into USAAF service as Douglas A-33.



Operators of the A-17

Specifications (A-17)

Data from McDonnell Douglas Aircraft since 1920[24]

General characteristics
  • Crew: two (pilot and gunner)
  • Length: 31 ft 8⅝ in (9.67 m)
  • Wingspan: 47 ft 8½ in (14.54 m)
  • Height: 11 ft 10½ in (3.62 m)
  • Wing area: 363 sq ft (33.7m²)
  • Empty weight: 4,874 lb (2,211 kg)
  • Loaded weight: 7,337 lb (3,328 kg)
  • Powerplant: 1 × Pratt & Whitney R-1535-11 Twin Wasp Jr two-row air-cooled radial engine, 750 hp (560 kW)


  • 4 × 0.3 in (7.62 mm) fixed forward M1919 Browning machine guns
  • 1 × 0.3 in (7.62 mm) trainable rear machine gun
  • Internal bay for bombs
  • External wing bomb racks (total bomb load 1,200 lb/544 kg)

See also

Related development
Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era
Related lists



  1. ^ Pelletier Air Enthusiast May–June 1998. pp. 63-64.
  2. ^ "A-17/8A Light Attack Bomber." Boeing. Retrieved: 11 February 2008.
  3. ^ Pelletier Air Enthusiast May–June 1998, p. 65.
  4. ^ Pelletier Air Enthusiast May–June 1998, pp. 64–65.
  5. ^ a b c Fact Sheet - A-17A National Museum of the United States Air Force. Retrieved: 12 February 2008.
  6. ^ Conaway, William. "VI Bombardment Command History." Planes and Pilots Of World War Two. Retrieved: 6 August 2011.
  7. ^ Pelletier Air Enthusiast May–June 1998, p. 67.
  8. ^ a b Pelletier Air Enthusiast September/October 1998, p. 2.
  9. ^ Bontti 2003, p. 21.
  10. ^ a b Pelletier Air Enthusiast September/October 1998, p. 6.
  11. ^ Pelletier Air Enthusiast September/October 1998, pp. 12–13.
  12. ^ Pelletier Air Enthusiast September/October 1998, pp. 3–4.
  13. ^ a b c Pelletier Air Enthusiast September/October 1998, p. 3.
  14. ^ Pelletier Air Enthusiast September/October 1998, p. 4.
  15. ^ a b Pelletier Air Enthusiast September/October 1998, pp. 4, 6.
  16. ^ Donald 1995, p. 212.
  17. ^ Northrop A-17 Retrieved: 16 October 2013
  18. ^ "Something Up Its Sleeve." Flight International, 7 October 1937, p. 359.
  19. ^ "36-0207." National Museum of the United States Air Force. Retrieved: 6 August 2011.
  20. ^
  21. ^ "8A-3P on display." Retrieved: 6 August 2011.
  22. ^
  23. ^ Downed Second World War plane recovered from Lake Muskoka
  24. ^ Francillon 1979, p. 222.


  • Bontti, Sergio and Jorge Núñez Padín, eds. "Northrop 8A-2 (in Spanish)". Serie Fuerza Aérea Argentina #8, October 2003.
  • Donald, David, ed. American Warplanes of World War II. London: Aerospace, 1995. ISBN 1-874023-72-7.
  • Francillon, René J. McDonnell Douglas Aircraft since 1920. London: Putnam, 1979. ISBN 0-370-00050-1.
  • Pelletier, Alain J. "Northrop's Connection: The unsung A-17 attack aircraft and its legacy - Part 1". Air Enthusiast, No. 75, May–June 1998, pp. 62–67. Stamford, Lincolnshire: Key Publishing. ISSN 0143-5490.
  • Pelletier, Alain J. "Northrop's Connection: The unsung A-17 attack aircraft and its legacy - Part 2". Air Enthusiast, No. 77, September/October 1998, pp. 2–15. Stamford, Lincolnshire: Key Publishing. ISSN 0143-5490.
  • Widfeldt, Bo and Åke Hall. B 5 Störtbombepoken (in Swedish). Nässjö, Sweden: Air Historic Research AB U.B., 2000. ISBN 91-971605-7-1.

External links

  • National Museum of the United States Air Force
  • , September 1937Popular Mechanics"Bullet Nose Fighter Flies 200 Miles An Hour"
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