Brewster Aeronautical Corporation had startled the world when its rotund Buffalo won the first Navy monoplane fighter competition in favour over Grumman's entry.
The company continued to design and produce lacklustre aircraft, and the XA-32, despite a sound layout, became a compendium of management-induced faults. Missing production deadline dates and constant changes to the design jeopardized a promising design (at least on paper).
Initially designed in 1941, the XA-32 was grossly overweight, at almost 20,000 lb (9,100 kg), similar to the Douglas A-20 Havoc. The drag induced by its bulbous shape was amplified by careless detail design, which left it festooned with bumps and lumps. One disastrous characteristic was that the exhaust scoops that ringed the cowling nearly blinded the test pilots during night flying; the backfiring at low power settings resulted in flames engulfing the nose of the aircraft.
The first flight of the XA-32 prototype was not until May 22 1943, two years after the design was proposed; and almost every aspect of performance fell short of the specifications. Devoid of weapons load, the XA-32 could only reach 279 mph (242 kn; 449 km/h) and although handling was adequate, as soon as armament and external stores were added, the performance dropped drastically and more seriously, the disturbed airflow "set up severe buffeting at its top speed." The firm was in such management shambles that it drew the wrath of Congress and actually went out of the aircraft manufacturing business following the debacle of the XA-32.
Only two examples were built, the XA-32 (S/N 42-13568) and XA-32A ( S/N 42-13569), both of which were scrapped at the conclusion of flight testing.
Length: 40 ft 7 in (12.37 m)
Wingspan: 45 ft 1 in (13.74 m)
Height: 11 ft 3 in (3.44 m)
Gross weight: 13,500 lb (6,123 kg)
Powerplant: 1 × Pratt & Whitney R-2800-37 Double Wasp radial engine, 2,100 hp (1,600 kW)
Maximum speed: 311 mph (501 km/h; 270 kn)
Cruise speed: 196 mph (170 kn; 315 km/h)
Combat range: 500 mi (434 nmi; 805 km)
Service ceiling: 26,000 ft (7,925 m)
Armament: Guns: 8 x .50-cal. machine guns or 4 x 37mm gun
Bombs: 1,000 pounds (450 kg) in an internal fuselage bomb bay and 2,000 pounds (910 kg) underwing