In the early 1930s, the Navy supported development by Wright of two new liquid-cooled engines, the H-2120 and the V-1800, in a special "high-speed development program." This was undertaken because of concern over growing superiority of foreign airplanes at top speed, especially as demonstrated in the Schneider Trophy contests. The H-2120 was the first of these engines, and proved unsuccessful.
It was derived from the Curtiss H-1640, a very small diameter air-cooled engine. The small diameter of the experimental engine, considered important for drag reduction, proved to be a difficult technology due to excessive angularity of the connecting rods and other problems. Testing and development continued to 1936, when a 100-hour development test was run. The Navy then withdrew support from the project, primarily because it decided to focus on air-cooled engines. Wright, convinced that the design was mechanically very poor, made little effort to persuade the Navy to change its decision and dropped the project.