First introduced in 1935, the A-17’s fate was quickly brought to an end in 1938 when the Army Air Corps determined that all future attack aircraft procured would be multi-engine models.
Used by 10 nations, the Northrop A-17 was not really a successful design, but served as an important stepping stone for later more advanced aircraft such as the Douglas SBD Dauntless.
First introduced in 1935, the A-17’s fate was quickly brought to an end in 1938 when the Army Air Corps determined that all future attack aircraft procured would be multi-engine models. This was also because, pre-World War II doctrine emphasized air superiority over ground support, so an attack bomber like the A-17 was never fully tested in peacetime exercises or in combat.
Built by Northrop Corporation for the U.S. Army Air Corps, the A-17 was a direct descendent of the Northrop Gamma 2F. It replaced the Curtiss A-8 and A-12 Shrike and was the last of the pre-World War II single-engine attack aircraft ordered into production by the Army Air Corps.
The first 109 A-17s had partially enclosed landing fixed gear, but the A-17As were upgraded to have more powerful engines and fully retractable landing gear. An A-17A had a length of 9.67 m, a wingspan of 14.54 m, a height of 3.62 m, an empty weight of 2.2 tons, and a Gross weight of 3.3 tons.
The A-17A could lift over one ton of bombs. The bombs were carried on four external racks and in an internal bomb bay with vertical chutes, which could hold to 20 30-pound fragmentation bombs. The A-17 also had 4 x .30cal M-1919 Forward Firing Machine guns in the wings and a .30 cal defensive gun for a gunner in the rear.
All but 20 A17s were sold overseas in 1940. The aircraft was exported to Great Britain, South Africa, Norway, Sweden, Iraq, and many other countries. The British acquired these aircraft from France and flew under the name Northrop Nomad MK1, acquired by the British Purchasing Commission,These aircraft were refurbished by Douglas.
The Dutch used the A-17 as a fighter but most of it was lost during the invasion of the Low Countries. These aircraft were lost on May 10th 1940,the first day of the German invasion. It is clear that it was not suitable for use as a fighter.
The Swedish used them as a dive bombers, naming them the B-5. The Swedish B-5s were replaced by SAAB B-17s in 1944. The Norwegians ordered the upgraded version of the A-17, called the A-33, But the A-33s were sent to Canada after the Occupation of Norway. They were used as training aircraft in the Little Norway Training camp.
From the 14th of December, 1941, the US Army Air Forces A-17s were stationed in Panama for coastal patrols on the Pacific side of the canal under the control of the 59th bomb group. They were used as utility aircraft until being retired in 1944. Other countries that operated A-17s were South Africa, Peru, Iraq, Canada, and Argentina.