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A-17 / Nomad
Northrop A-17
Role Ground attack
Manufacturer Northrop
Designed by Jack Northrop
Introduced 1935
Primary users United States Army Air Corps
Swedish Air Force
Royal Canadian Air Force
South African Air Force
Number built 446
Developed from Northrop Gamma

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 US Army Air Corps.


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 a new semi-retractable undercarriage. It was delivered to the United States Army Air Corps for tests on 6 October 1934, and after modification, including fitting with a conventional fixed undercarriage, was accepted by the Air Corps.[1] 110 aircraft were ordered as the A-17 in 1935.[2]

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

Northrop developed a new undercarriage, 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

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]

In 1939 [6], 93 ex-USAAC aircraft were purchased by France and given new engines. Not having been delivered before the fall of France, 61 were taken over by the British Purchasing Commission for the RAF and given the name Nomad. They were assessed as being obsolete and sent to South Africa for use as trainers.[7] The remaining thirty two aircraft from the French order were transferred to Canada, where they were also used as advanced trainers.[8]

The last remaining A-17s, used as utility aircraft, were retired from USAAF service in 1944.[9]

The Republic of China Air Force received a mixed shipment of forty-five Northrop Gamma 2E and A-17 aircraft, along with two C-19 Alpha. The Gamma 2E and A-17 were used extensively in combat to attack Japanese shipping lines at Shanghai by the 1st and 2nd Groups, before being retired from front line service to training duties.[citation needed]


Initial production for USAAC. Fixed undercarriage, powered by 750 hp (560 kW) Pratt & Whitney R-1535-11 Twin Wasp Jr engine. 110 built.
Revised version for USAAC with retractable undercarriage 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 undercarriage. 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.
Model 8A-2
Version for Argentina. Fitted with fixed undercarriage, 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.


A-17A 36-0207
  • 8A-3P 4??, ex-31o Escuadron de Ataque y Reconocimiento. On display at the FAP museum, Peruvian Air Force Base [10][11]


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 front line service until replaced by the I.Ae. 24 Calquin, continuing in service as trainers and reconnaissance aircraft until their last flight in 1954.[8][12]
  • Grupo "A" de la Escuela de Aplicación de Aviación based at BAM El Palomar
  • Regimiento Aéreo Nº3 (Air Regiment No.3) de Bombardeo Liviano (Light Bombing) based at BAM El Plumerillo
  • Royal Canadian Air Force received 32 ex-French aircraft serialled 3490 to 3521 - designated Nomad - all assigned to 3rd Training Command.[5]
 China[citation needed]
  • French Air Force ordered 93 aircraft but when France fell all were delivered to Great Britain and Canada.
Iraq purchased 15 Model 8A-4s, in 1940. They were destroyed in the Anglo-Iraqi War in 1941.[13]
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.[14]. In his 1975 book on Dutch aviation history Vermetele vliegende Hollanders (Daring flying Dutchmen), Dutch aviation historian and illustrator Thijs Postma lists these planes as Douglas 8A.
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 Norwegian Training unit in Canada, which became known as Little Norway.[15] 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.[16]
Peru ordered 10 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.[17] The survivors of these aircraft were supplemented by 13 Model 8A-5s from Norway, delivered via the United States in 1943. These remained in service until 1958.[17]
 South Africa
Sweden purchased a licence for production of a Mercury powered version, building 63 B 5Bs and 31 B5Cs, production taking place from 1938 to 1941. They were replaced in service by SAAB 17s from 1944.[18] The Swedish version was used as dive bomber and as such it featured prominently in the 1941 film 'Första Divisionen'.
 United Kingdom
  • Royal Air Force received 61 ex-French aircraft redesignated as Nomad I but 57 were handed over to South Africa. British Nomads were serialed AS440 to AS462, AS958 to AS976 and AW420 to AW438.[5]
 United States

Specifications (A-17)

General characteristics

  • Crew: two (pilot and gunner)
  • Length: 32 ft (9.8 m)
  • Wingspan: 47 ft 9 in (14.6 m)
  • Height: 11 ft 10½ in (3.61 m)
  • Empty weight: 4,874 lb (2,210 kg)
  • Loaded weight: 7,447 lb (3,377 Kg)
  • Max takeoff weight: 2,420 lb (1,100 kg)
  • Powerplant:Pratt & Whitney R-1535-13 Twin Wasp Jr double row radial air-cooled 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

1939 Crash

Related development

Comparable aircraft

Related lists




  1. ^ Pelletier Air Enthusiast May-June 1998. p.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. p.64-65.
  5. ^ a b c d e Fact Sheet - A-17A National Museum of the USAF. Retrieved 12 February 2008
  6. ^ Northrop A-17 - Chapter 2
  7. ^ Donald 1995, p.212.
  8. ^ a b Pelletier Air Enthusiast September/October 1998, p.2.
  9. ^ Pelletier Air Enthusiast May-June 1998. p.67.
  10. ^ FAP 8A-3P
  11. ^ 8A-3P on display
  12. ^ Sergio Bontti Serie Fuerza Aerea Argentina Nro. 8 Oct, 2003, p.21.
  13. ^ Pelletier Air Enthusiast September/October 1998, p.3.
  14. ^ Pelletier Air Enthusiast September/October 1998, p.3-4.
  15. ^ Pelletier Air Enthusiast September/October 1998, p.4.
  16. ^ Baugher, Joseph F. Douglas 8A-5 for Norway, A-33 July 8, 2000. Retrieved 12 February 2008
  17. ^ a b Pelletier Air Enthusiast September/October 1998, p.6.
  18. ^ Pelletier Air Enthusiast September/October 1998, p.12-13.
  19. ^ Fact Sheet - A-17, Part III National Museum of the USAF. Retrieved 1 March 2008


  • Donald, David (ed). American Warplanes of World War II. London:Aerospace. 1995. ISBN 1 874023 72 7.
  • Pelletier, Alain J. "Northrop's Connection: The unsung A-17 attack aircraft and its legacy - Part 1". Air Enthusiast No 75, May - June 1998. Stamford, Linconshire: Key Publishing. Page 62-67. 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. Stamford, Linconshire: Key Publishing. Page 2-15. ISSN 0143 5490.
  • Widfeldt, Bo and Hall, Åke. B 5 Störtbombepoken (in Swedish). Nässjö, Sweden: Air Historic Research AB U.B., 2000. ISBN 91-9716-057-1.
  • Sergio Bontti. Serie Fuerza Aérea Argentina #8 Northrop 8A-2. Jorge Nuñez Padin (editor) October 2003.

External links


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