During the 1930s, as carrier aviation continued to develop, naval aviation tacticians looked to maximize the flattop’s capabilities by developing multi-mission platforms. An early example of this effort was a Curtiss-Wright design called the F11C-2 Goshawk, the prototype of which was an aircraft called the Hawk II that was initially built to market to civilian customers. When delivered to the fleet in October 1932, the biplane boasted two .30-in. machine guns, which provided it air-to-air capability, as well as the ability to carry a 500 lb. bomb beneath the fuselage or a quartet of 112 lb. bombs underneath the wing. The latter provided an air-to-ground capability that made the Goshawk the Navy’s first true fighter-bomber.
Official recognition of this fact came in March 1934, when the F11C-2 was redesignated the BFC-2, the new designation noting both the bombing and fighting missions. The BFC-2 featured a partial cockpit canopy to afford the pilot some protection against the elements. Additionally, with the Navy’s evolving development of the tactic of dive-bombing, the Goshawk was equipped with a bomb-cradle beneath the fuselage, its purpose to swing ordnance clear of the propeller during a steep dive.
By the time the F11C-2 was redesignated the BFC-2, Fighting Squadron (VF) 1B, known as the High Hats, its insignia consisting of a top hat that adorned the fuselage of its aircraft, had been flying the airplane for a year. They flew BFC-2s until 1938, having their designation changed from a fighting squadron to a bombing squadron (VB-2B and then VB-3B) during that time to reflect their changing mission. A few examples of the BFC-2 also flew with VB-6.
The final version of the Goshawk, the BF2C-1, entered service in 1934, equipping VB-5B until 1935. Featuring retractable landing gear that improved performance, the airplane was withdrawn from service because of its propensity to vibrate excessively in a dive, which resulted in a massive structural failure on one airplane during one bombing exercise, killing a VB-5B pilot.
The BFC-2 on display was restored over a three-year period by World Wide Aeronautical Industries using some original components. It is displayed in the markings of Bureau Number 9332, which flew with the High Hats from the aircraft carrier Saratoga (CV 3), and later served briefly in VB-6. It was acquired by the museum in 1992.
Specifications for BFC-2 Goshawk
Manufacturer: Curtiss-Wright Corporation
Dimensions: Length: 22 ft., 7 in.; Height: 9 ft., 8 5/8 in.; Wingspan: 31 ft., 6 in.
Weights: Empty: 3,037 lb.; Gross: 4,132 lb.
Power plant: One 700 horsepower Wright R-1820-78 engine
Performance: Maximum Speed: 202 M.P.H.; Service Ceiling: 25,100 ft.; Range: 522 miles
Armament: Two fixed forward-firing .30-in. machine guns and provision for one 500 lb. or four 112 lb. bombs