The Curtiss XP-10 was designed and built under an Army contract dated June 18, 1928, which called for a new pursuit aircraft having good maneuverability and high speed at high altitude.
The upper wing of the XP-10 had a gull form, and was joined directly to the fuselage. By eliminating the wing center section in front of and above the cockpit, the traditional upward and forward blind spot for the pilot was removed, and exceptionally good pilot visibility was anticipated. In the pursuit of higher speed, Curtiss decided to readopt the old PW-8 style surface radiators for the XP-10, and these were fitted to the upper and lower surfaces of the inner half of the top wing. The fuselage was of steel tube construction with fabric skinning. The wings were of wood, enveloped in the special "Curtiss ply" covering. The powerplant was a 600-hp Curtiss V-1570-15 Conqueror liquid-cooled engine. The Conqueror was mounted inside an extremely tight-fitting and well-streamlined cowling, made possible by the use of the wing-mounted radiators. The two-bladed propeller was capped with a spinner which faired neatly into the engine cowling. The result was an airplane with extremely clean and attractive lines.
The XP-10 (Ser No 28-387) was delivered to the Army at McCook Field, Ohio in April 1930. It made its first flight one month later. As expected, the pilot visibility was excellent. However, the performance of the XP-10 was rather disappointing, being only marginally better than the Army's contemporary Hawk models powered by the same Conqueror engine. The major fault with the P-10 was with the old PW-8 style surface wing radiators. These proved to be quite as troublesome as they were for the PW-8, and were the principal reason for the Army's rejection of the design. In addition, these radiators would have been quite vulnerable to combat damage had the P-10 ever entered service.
During tests, the XP-10 attained a maximum speed of 191 mph at sea level and 215 mph at 12,000 feet. Initial climb was 1650 ft/min and service ceiling was 26,500 feet. Range was 461 miles. Weights were 3040 lb. empty, 3975 lbs gross. The XP-10 was armed with two 0.30-cal machine guns in the upper fuselage cowling, synchronized to fire through the propeller arc.
The XP-10 was surveyed by the Army in August 1931 after only ten hours of flight time. It ended up as a non-flying training aid at a technical school. Thereafter, Curtiss confined its biplane pursuit development to variants of the established Hawk line.