A-17 file photo


CountryUnited States
ManufacturerNorthrop Corporation
Primary RoleGround Attack Aircraft


In 1932, the first Gamma aircraft entered civilian service. The Gamma aircraft were single-engine all-metal monoplanes were designed by Jack Northrop based on his successful Alpha predecessor. In the civilian market, they were employed by the Trans World Airlines (TWA) of the United States. A small number of them were also used for record-breaking attempts across the continental United States and over Antarctica.

In 1933, the United States military encouraged Northrop to produce a military variant of the Gamma design. The resulting 2C variant, delivered to the US Army Air Corps on 6 Oct 1934, received good reviews. In Feb 1936, these ground attack aircraft entered service under the USAAC designation of A-17. Ultimately 110 A-17 (with fixed landing gears) and 129 A-17A (with retractable landing gears) aircraft were sold to the USAAC. One single example of the 2E variant was sold to the British military for evaluation; it received positive reviews. When US entered WW2 in Dec 1941, a small number of A-17 aircraft remained in service; they were used for coastal patrols by the 59th Bombardment Squadron (Light) to patrol the Pacific Ocean side of the Panama Canal Zone. All A-17 aircraft were retired from US service in 1944.

In 1938, merely two years after their acquisition, USAAC chose to use multi-engined aircraft to serve in ground attack roles. France signed a contract to purchase 93 of them, but because only 32 were delivered before the German conquest of France, the remaining 61 were sold to British and Commonwealth forces instead; in British and Commonwealth service, A-17 aircraft were designated as Nomad Mk I. One single example of the 2D variant was purchased by the Spanish Air Force from TWA; it was used for coastal patrol missions during the Spanish Civil War.

A number of militarized Gamma aircraft were sold to Japan and China in the 1930s. The Japanese Navy purchased two examples of the 2E variant and evaluated them under the designation BXN. In the mid-1930s, the Japanese Navy purchased two more examples, one of 5A variant (redesignated BXN1) and one of 5D variant (given to Manchukuo National Airways of the Japanese-sponsored puppet state of Manchukuo; flew reconnaissance missions over northern China and eastern Russia under the guise of civilian transport). China purchased 25 Gamma 2E aircraft and used them as ground attack aircraft and light bombers; they saw extensive use in the first year of WW2, and were all destroyed by the end of 1938.

Military forces of Argentina, Iraq, the Netherlands, Norway, Peru, and Sweden also purchased various variants of Gamma aircraft. The Peruvian aircraft would see combat during the Ecuadorian-Peruvian War of Jul 1941, most of the Dutch examples were destroyed by the German Air Force (Luftwaffe) on 10 May 1940, and the Norwegians-in-exile used them as trainer aircraft in Canada. Some of the Norwegian Gamma aircraft were later sold to Peru. The Peruvian Gamma aircraft were the last to be retired, having been in service until 1958.

Source: Wikipedia.

A-17 Timeline

2 Jun 1933 Frank Hawks flew Gamma 2A "Sky Chief" from Los Angeles, California, United States to New York, New York, United States in 13 hours, 26 minutes and 15 seconds.
6 Oct 1934 Northrop Corporation delivered the militarized 2C variant of the Gamma aircraft design to the US Army Air Corps for evaluation.
5 Dec 1935 Lincoln Ellsworth and Herbert Hollick-Kenyon failed to fly Gamma 2B "Polar Star" across Antarctica, running out of fuel merely 25 miles (40 kilometers) short of their destination of the camp Little America on the Ross Ice Shelf.


MachineryOne Pratt & Whitney R-1535-13 Twin Wasp Jr. double row radial air-cooled engine rated at 750hp
Armament4x7.62mm M1919 Browning machine guns, 1x7.62mm trainable machine gun, up to 544kg of bombs in internal bay and external wing-mounted racks
Span14.60 m
Length9.80 m
Height3.61 m
Weight, Empty2,210 kg
Weight, Loaded3,377 kg
Speed, Maximum332 km/h
Speed, Cruising274 km/h
Service Ceiling19,400 m
Range, Normal1,127 km


A-17 aircraft at rest, date unknownA-17 aircraft of USAAC 7th Bombardment Group, March Field, Moreno Valley, California, United States, 1930sA-17 aircraft of USAAC 90th Attack Squadron in flight near Barksdale Field, Louisiana, United States, 1936A-17A aircraft of USAAC 8th Attack Squadron at rest, 1936
See all 25 photographs of A-17 Ground Attack Aircraft

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Visitor Submitted Comments

  1. Alan Chanter says:
    13 Dec 2014 09:33:31 AM

    In December 1935 the Northrop Corporation received a contract for an improved A-17A model which introduced a retractable tail-wheel landing gear and the more powerful 825-hp R-1535-13 engine. Some 129 were built, initially by Northrop, but in 1937 Douglas acquired the remaining 49 per cent of Northrop Corporation stock, and it was the Douglas Company which completed production of these aircraft. Of the total, 93 served with the USAAC for just eighteen months, before being returned to Douglas for resale to the United Kingdom and France. The RAF received 60, designating them Nomad Mk I, and these were all subsequently transferred to equip the South African Air Force.

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