Curtiss-Wright O-52 Owl
Single-engine Two-seat High-wing Heavy Observation Aircraft, U.S.A.

Archive Photos 1

[Curtiss O-52 "Owl" (AF 40-2763) at the National Museum of the United States Air Force, WPAFB, Dayton, Ohio (35mm photo by John Shupek)]

Overview 2

  • Curtiss O-52 Owl
  • Role: Reconnaissance
  • Manufacturer: Curtiss-Wright
  • First flight: 1940
  • Introduction: 1941
  • Primary users: United States Army Air Corps; Soviet Air Forces
  • Number built: 203
  • Unit cost: $31,000

The Curtiss O-52 "Owl" was an observation aircraft used by the United States Army Air Corps before and during World War II.

Design and Development 2

Developed in 1939, the Curtiss O-52 was the last "heavy" observation aircraft developed for the US Army Air Corps. The concept of the two-seat observation aircraft, classed as the "O" series aircraft, dated to World War I, and in 1940, the Army Air Corps ordered 203 Curtiss O-52s for observation duties. By 1941, the O-52 was no match for modern combat conditions.

Operational History 2

Upon delivery, the aircraft was used in military maneuvers with the USAAC, but following America's entry into World War II, the USAAF determined that the aircraft did not possess sufficient performance for "modern" combat operations in overseas areas. As a result, the O-52 was relegated to courier duties within the U.S. and short-range submarine patrol over the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

The O-52 was the last "O" type aircraft procured in quantity for the Air Corps. Following the attack on Pearl Harbor, the "O" designation was discontinued and the "L" series for liaison-type aircraft was adopted instead.

In November 1942, the USSR ordered 30 O-52 Owls through the Lend-Lease program. Twenty-six were shipped, with only 19 delivered as a number were lost on the North Arctic Route. Of these only ten were accepted into service. They were used operationally for artillery fire spotting and general photographic and observation platforms in north and central areas on the Russian Front during spring–summer 1943. One O-52 was shot down by Luftwaffe fighters. The aircraft was generally disliked in Soviet use although some were still flying into the 1950s.

Operators 2

  • Brazil: Brazilian Air Force
  • United States: United States Army Air Corps
  • Soviet Union: Soviet Air Force

Curtiss O-52 Owl Specifications 3

General Characteristics

  • Crew: 2
  • Length: 26 ft 4.25 in (8.0328 m)
  • Wingspan: 40 ft 9 in (12.42 m)
  • Height: 9 ft 11.5 in (3.035 m)
  • Wing area: 210 ft2 (20 m2)
  • Empty weight: 4,231 lb (1,919 kg)
  • Gross weight: 5,364 lb (2,433 kg)
  • Powerplant: 1 × Pratt & Whitney R-1340-51 Wasp 9-cylinder air-cooled radial piston engine, 600 hp (450 kW)
  • Propellers: 3-bladed metal propeller


  • Maximum speed: 220 mph (350 km/h, 190 kn)
  • Cruise speed: 192 mph (309 km/h, 167 kn) at 75% power
  • Time to altitude: 10,000 ft (3,000 m)


  • Guns: 1 × fixed forward-firing 0.30 in (7.62 mm) machine gun and 1 × 0.30 in (7.62 mm) machine-gun on a flexible mount in the rear cockpit


  1. Shupek, John. The Skytamer Photo Archive, photos by John Shupek, copyright © 2??? Skytamer Images (
  2. Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Curtiss O-52 Owl
  3. Bowers, Peter M. (1979). Curtiss Aircraft 1907 — 1947, Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, Maryland, ISBN 0-87021-152-8

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