Naval Aviation’s Latest Posts
✈ 18/03/2023 Curtiss SBC “Helldiver” (1936)
The Curtiss SBC Helldiver, first of the name (the forgotten one). Last biplane dive bomber of the USN, this 1936 model was still operational in 1940 when the Douglas SBD Dauntless started to replace it (before being replaced ultimately with the SB2C of the same name). The SBC Helldiver, unlike its successor, was quite appreciated at a time dive bombing tactics were still a work in progress. They still served with the USMC until 1943, but also with the RAF (as Cleveland Mark.1) and French Armee de l’Air in 1940. With 257 built and 4 versions, the last were training crews still in 1944. https://bit.ly/3yNklPT
#usnavy #curtiss #curtisshelldiver #sbchelldiver #biplane #interwar #usaircraftcarrier #divebomber
✈ 2023 Nakajima C6N Sauin “Myrt” (1943)
The Nakajima C6N Saiun was a carrier-based reconnaissance aircraft used by the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service in World War II. Advanced for its time, it was the fastest carrier-based aircraft put into service by Japan during the war. The Allied reporting name was Myrt. The 彩雲 (“Iridescent Cloud”) first flew on 15 May 1943, and was produced and introduced from September 1944 on the few surviving carriers. Allied reporting name “Myrt” (M for reconnaissance models). Only 463 were delivered in six main and two sub-versions on a short production span. It was not a dogfighter but more Mosquito-like in some ways. No fighter of the USN or USAAF could catch the Saiun in WW2. #IJN #imperialjapanesenavy #nakajima #saiun
✈ 18/10/2021 (completed 15 January) Grumman FF (1936)
The Grumman FF, soon nicknamed “Fifi”, was the very first model proposed by Grumman to the USN. (Planned Post)
✈ 24 December 2022 Gourdou-Lesseure GL-800 series (1926)
The Gourdou-Lesseure serie of floatplanes secured its place on French cruisers, as main spotter and reconnaissance floatplane of the French Navy in the interwar. The serie comprised L2, L3, GL-810, 811, 812, 813, 830, 831, 832 HY, the last being built in 1936. They saw action for some in WW2 (like at the Battle of Khoh Chang in 1941), and evolved as the serie progressed, but most were replaced by the Loire 130, the “French Walrus”. This post tries to shed some light on a little known salty bird. (Scheduled Post)
✈ 03 December 2022 Grumman TBF Avenger (1941)
The massive Grumman Avenger was adopted as soon as presented to the USN in order to replace in emergency the now obsolete Douglas Devastator as main carrier-based torpedo bomber. Built at first by Grumman as the TBF and then by General Motors and Ford as the TBM, the Avenger, designed in a few weeks and ordered even before the first flight, impressed everyone by its ruggedness and versatility. Nearly 10,000 were built in about forty variants, some stille flying in numerous navies in 1960. (Scheduled Post)
✈ November, 18, 2022 Kaman SH-2F Seasprite (1974)
The Kaman SH-2 Seasprite was for decades the main ASW and SAR helicopter onboard most ships of the USN. The prototype first flew in 1959, and it was adopted from 1966, the SH-2D/F LAMPS I version being the first deployed from december 1971. Later the 2F was developed (Plane Encyclopedia Post)
✈ 12/11/2022 Fairey Seafox (1936)
The Fairey Seafox was designed and built by Fairey Aviation to be catapulted from light cruisers. It entered service in 1937 and stayed active until 1943 with just 66 produced, in service with 11 naval air squadrons. This biplane was powered as pet an admiralty request by the air-cooled Napier Rapier H engine, and was used both for observation and artillery spotting. Among others it played an important role during the battle of Rio de la Plata between Sturdee’s cruisers and KMS Grav Von Spee and from HMS Emerald, Neptune, Orion, Ajax, Arethusa and Penelope, plus the MACs HMS Pretoria Castle, Asturias and Alcantara. (Planned Post)
✈ 30/10/2022 Cold War Naval Aviation (1947-90)
The development of aviation, which had a formidable confirmation in WW2, wen haywire in the cond war era. For 44 years, jets and turprops, missiles and electronics, plus the jet age revolutionize the art of air warfare. This was the end of seaplanes, now solidly complemented by land-based patrol planes, helicopters which took a multitude of roles and replaced former floatplanes present on all cruisers and battleships. Air power could now be not only carried by traditional fleet carriers, but also missile destroyers or even frigates and corvettes, amphibious assault ships and helicopter carriers.
✈ 22/10/2022 Kawanishi E7K “Alf” (1933)
The Kawanishi E7K “Alf” first flew in 1933, and the E7K-1 fitted with an inline-engine was soon replaced by the a reliable Radial. This E7K-2 became the main production model, deployed from 1936 over China, first line until 1943, some ending as kamikaze in 1945. It was often compared to the Nakajima E8N, but the latter was used for artillery spotting on capital ships. In contrast, the E7K was based on cruisers, and became the staple of maritime reconnaissance before countless engagements. It even motivated the conversion of entire cruisers like the Mogami as hybrid seaplane carriers, or construction of the Tone class. https://bit.ly/3fR99LV #IJN #imperialjapanesenavy #ww2 #japanesenavy #kawanishi #floatplane
✈ 30/09/2022 Tupolev TB-1P (1932)
The Tupolev TB-1P was a specialized floatplane variant of the famous 1930 all metal two-engin bomber, first great success of aviation legend Andrei Tupolev. This variant built to around 60 or more models which production started after the bomber production stopped equipped several units of the Baltic and Black sea but a few were still operational in a training unit in 1941.
✈ IMAM RO 43
The IMAM Ro.43 was Regia Marina’s main onboard catapulted observation biplane floatplane (1934-43), 193 were delivered, but production stopped in 1943, its fighter version RO.44 was a failure and its replacement the Reggiane Re. 2000 was not even a floatplane. (1934-43)
✈ Mitsubishi A6M Zero (1940)
After seeing its main allied opponents, the Wildcat and Hellcat, it was logical to see their nemesis: A legenday fighter introduced in 1940 in the #imperialjapanenavy. Just named colloquially “zero”, still popularly known as such today, “Mitsubishi Navy Type 0 carrier fighter” or A6M was probably the most famous creation of aviation designer Jiro Horikoshi. A superb dogfighter, mass-produced more than any Japanese model in history, and combined with perhaps the best trained naval fighter pilots in the world in 1942. However, it was stretched to the limit and obsolete by 1944, soldiering on until the end due to the lack of its planned replacement. https://bit.ly/3PVEfOX #IJN #IJNA #mitsubishizero #a6m #japanesenavy #ww2 #pacificwar #rabaul #midway #leyte.
✈ Blackburn Skua (1937)
The Blackburn Skua was developed as the first Fleet Air Arm model all-metal monoplan dive bomber. Innovative for its time it was however slow and vulnerable, but very active until its gradual replacement from 1941, completely obsolete by then. In practice the Skua, less doubtful as the related Roc, was replaced in the Navy by the Fairey Barracuda from 1943, a long gap for which no modern dive bomber was in service.
✈ Grumman F6F Hellcat (1942)
The legendary 16:1 navy butcher bird. The Grumman Hellcat would be forever associated with the second phase of the Pacific war. It replaced the hard-pressed F4F Wildcat on board all USN fleet carriers (the F4F would continue operating on escort carriers until 1945). Still barrel-like like all previous Grumman fighters, it was far more powerful and resilient than its nemesis, the Zero…
✈ Shavrov Sh-2 (1930)
The “sea sabot”, or Shavrov Sh-2 is a now somewhat forgotten Soviet flying Boat designed at young age by the Sovit engineer and later aviation historian BV Shavrov in 1928-1930. It had an amazing longevity, the last of these transport parasol wing amphibious models discarded the later 1950s or 1960s after its development lasted until 1955. #ww2 #sovietaviation #russianaviation #flyingboat #interwar #shavrov
✈ Blackburn T.5 Ripon (1926)
Forgotten today, this predecessor of the Swordfish was the standard carrier-based torpedo bomber of the Royal Navy until 1933. Designed to replace the Blackburn Dart, it was developed from the Air Ministry Specification 21/23, winning against the Handley Page Harrow and Avro Buffalo, served in the Fleet Air Arm in 1930-1935, before being withdrawn and replaced by the improved Blackburn Baffin, and seeing action with the Finnish Air Force in the winter war of 1939.
✈ Austro-Hungarian Naval Aviation (1912-18)
The K.u.K. Seefliegerkorps, or Austro-Hungarian naval aviation was created in 1915 and shared resources and manufacturers with the regular air force, or Kaiserliche und Königliche Luftfahrtruppen. Yet, the Austro-Hugarian Navy (KuK Kriegsmarine) independent air force called the K.u.K. Seeflugwesen (Imperial and Royal Naval Air Corps), operated many models above the Adriatic, Hansa-Brandenburg, Fokker, Aviatik, Albatros and Phönix models as well as Lohner seaplanes.
✈ Nakajima B5N “Kate” (1940)
The Nakajima B5N was completely unknown by US Intel before 1941, and vastly underrated (like most Japanese aviation, seen as mediocre western copies). Little was known that this model, albeit of the same generation, vastly outperformed the Douglas TBD Devastator, its rival at the time, which in all western publications was proudly accumulating records and “world’s firsts”. The B5N was simply faster and more capable overall. For some authors it was even the world’s best carrier-borne torpedo bomber when WW2 broke out. Best proof of that, the “Kate”, much like the “Val” was soon much feared in the early phase of the Pacific Campaign, never truly replaced and fighting on the frontline to the end. #pacific #midway #WW2 #imperialjapanesenavy
✈ Consolidated TBY Seawolf (1941)
When good enough beats better: The TBY Sea Wolf was a 1940 designed USN carrier-borne torpedo aircraft from Vought as the TBU, unlucky contender and contemporary to the Grumman TBF Avenger. Its development dragged on and its production went to Consolidated in 1943, redesigned as the TBY-2. It never saw battle with the last cancelled in September 1945 after 180 were completed. The Seawolf was the ultimate “what if”, an arguably better alternative to the legendary Avenger and now largely forgotten. #WW2 #USNavy
✈ Mitsubishi F1M “Pete” (1936)
The IJN customary had two reconnaissance/spotter floatplanes in service, one for battleships, and one for cruisers, the latter model bing mostly used for reconnaissance. The F1M (WW2 allied code “pete”) was the last biplane ever designed by Mistubishi. It was a replacement planned in 1935 for the Nakajima E8N (“Dave”) as main catapult-launched navy spotter from cruisers, reliable but slow and underpowered. It first flew in 1936 and introduced in 1941, in service until 1945 and produced up to 944 machines. #WW2 #ImperialJapaneseNavy
✈ Curtiss SO3C Seamew (1939)
The Curtiss SO3C was supposed to be the main reconnaissance and spotting floatplane in service on board capital ships, cruisers and aircraft carriers of the US Navy in 1940, in its convertible versions. However it was a such mediocre seabird, that the production was cut short aft 800 delivered, and it was often replaced by the previous SOC Seagull and Kingfisher on battleships. It nevertheless served from 1942 to 1944 mostly from cruisers.
Beriev BE-2 (KOR-I) (1936)
The Beriev BE-2 was the first soviet navy dedicated catapult-launched observation and reconnaissance floatplane. It first flew in April 1936 and was introduced in 1938, but produced to just 12 machines, with a land-based version, and retired in 1942.
✈ Loire Nieuport 40 (1938)
The “French Stuka” as it was called, was an attempt by the Navy to acquire a modern dive bomber to be based on the aircraft carrier Béarn and coastal units. It was a rugged, inline engine model which initial development started in 1934, but when introduced in 1939 with the Béarn already at sea, they served on land and were mostly destroyed in action by May 1940.
✈ Ryan FR-1 Fireball (1945)
The Ryan FR Fireball was the sole US Navy mixed-power (piston and jet-powered) fighter aircraft, designed by Ryan Aeronautical during WW2, hence it’s classification here. It was one of these numerous projects never completed in time to take part in WW2, but it’s purpose was defeated by its experimental value. But it has at least the distinction of being Navy’s first jet aircraft. Only 66 were built before Japan surrendered in August, just enough to fill a single squadron, training and not seeing any combat. It proved that structural strength was required for aircraft carriers operations, as well as it’s transitional, uneasy nature, and was withdrawn quickly, in mid-1947.
✈ Aichi D3A “Val” (1936)
The standard dive bomber of the Imperial Japanese Navy in WW2, until replaced in 1943 by the “Judy”, the famous D3A “Val” was the terror of the US Navy in 1941-42, starting with Pearl Harbor and the battles of the Coral Sea, Midway and the Solomons Campaign. Slow, but deadly accurate, this dive bomber was also quite agile.
✈ Brewster SB2C Buccaneer (1941)
The Brewster Buccaneer was an ill-fated scout bomber designed in 1940, which first flew in 1941, but was plagued by so much problems and manufacturing issues, that it was soon retired from active units, sent to mechanics training only, or scrapped altogether on arrival (British ones); It caused an abrupt cancellation of the contract, followed after the war, by a full commission of enquiry on the company. It is a solid contender for the title of worst plane of WW2, for all categories.
Supermarine Walrus (1933)
The most common WW2 catapulted amphibious reconnaissance seaplane of the Royal Navy, on board cruisers and battleships, but also aircraft carriers, was the Supermarine Walrus. It was a slow pusher biplane, but innovative for its time, very sturdy, with a fully retractable carriage and foldable wings… Its contribution to the war has been considerable, although often overlooked by another product from Supermarine also designed by Mitchell, the Spitfire…
✈ Vought O2U/O3U (1927)
The name “corsair” in the USN for an aircraft has a long legacy. The cold war LTV A-7 Corsair II produced by Vought through Ling-Temco-Vought is now retired, but modern drones are likely to retake the name, first granted to a Vought plane back in 1928. This was the original one, before the legendary WW2 fighter-bomber. From the 1926 Vought XO-26 prototypes to the production O2U Corsair, the Navy had its standard biplane scout and observation aircraft, both usable with floats or interchangeable wheeled undercarriage.
It was used notably on virtually all interwar USN aircraft carriers in wheeled version, being only retired in 1939 on these (O3U), and was also standard on most interwar US Battleships and cruisers. That very long legacy did not ended in WW2, as no fewer than 141 Corsairs were still serving with the US Navy and Marines, and the type was still used by many countries outside the US, notably for training. It saw action in China, in the Colombia-Peru war, and by the Thai air force against France in 1941. It became iconic in the last scene of 1933 classic “King Kong” as well. The “Corsair” despite its age, was licenced-built and largely exported, seeing plenty of action before and during WW2.
✈ Nakajima E8N (1935)
The Nakajima E8N was the standard catapult-launched observation and artillery spotting floatplane onboard all battleships and heavy cruisers of the IJN from 1936 to 1941. The type saw heavy action over China and soldiered on until the battle of Midway, before being sidelined. It was reliable, versatile, sturdy enough to be used as a dive bomber, agile enough to dogfight, but slow and weakly armed.
✈ Fairey Fulmar (1940)
The Fairey Fulmar was a British carrier-borne reconnaissance and fighter aircraft developed and manufactured by Fairey Aviation in 1939-40. Named after the northern fulmar, British Isles seabird it became one of the most used Fleet Air Arm (FAA) model during WW2. Production ceased in 1943 as the new, much more powerful Firefly came into service. Looking superficially to the underpowered RAF Fairey Battle, the Fulmar never had any chance to compete as a fighter against the Bf 109, but still scored many victories and played many important roles until gradually replaced as a fighter by the Sea Hurricane, Martlet and Seafire, and as a general purpose model by the Firefly and later the Firebrand.
✈ Yokosuka B4Y “Jean” (1936)
The Yokosuka B4Y, also called Navy Type 96 Carrier Attack Bomber was the specialized torpedo bomber of the IJN, and last biplane of that type before the arrival of the B5N “Kate”. Introduced in servive from 1936, it equipped all IJN aircraft carriers and was still in use by 1943 in China, in second line and training units. The B4Y replaced the Mitsubishi B2M2 as the last operational biplane by the IJN. It was known by the Allies as “Jean”.
✈ Mitsubishi A5M “Claude” (1936)
The Mitsubishi A5M (first flight 1935) was the first Imperial Japanese Navy monoplane fighter, derived from the Ka-14 gullwings prototype. It soon appeared to have outstanding performances and was adopted as the A5M1, seeing combat debut in China. The A5M2 and A5M4 mostly served in China when WW2 broke out, but also in the home island and some pacific outposts. It was copied by the Army with the Ki-27 “Nate” and was replaced from 1940 by the legendary A6M “Zero”.
✈ Fairey Seal (1930)
With 90 built and exported also to Argentina, Peru and Chile, the Fairey Seal was a naval plane usable with undercarriage or floats, derived from the Fairey IIIF. It operated from the deck of all British aircraft carriers before its replacement by the Swordfish in 1936-38. The last one still trained pilots in 1943.
✈ Aichi D1A/D2A “Susie” (1934)
The Aichi D1A/D2A “Susie” was a reliable, modern dive bomber biplane in service with the IJN from 1935 to 1940 (1942 with Mandchukuo). It was the direct predecessor of the D3A “Val” monoplane of WW2 fame, and still served in many units in China while replaced in the fleet from 1940. Two models were developed, the D1A1 and D1A2, mostly used in China.
✈ F4F wildcat (1940)
Rarely fighters in history had been so hard-pressed in desperate situations and proved up to the task than the Grumman Wildcat in 1942-43. When the F4F-3 was chosen for production after a long development going back to 1937, there was a fighter neither pretty nor supremely agile, but it was sturdy yet light and reliable. From 1941 to 1945 it became a staple of USN and Fleet Air arm naval fighters even though better models appeared in between.
✈ Nakajima A4N (1935)
The Nakajima A4N was the main Japanese naval biplane fighter during the 1937 Sino-Japanese war and until the arrival of the Mitsubishi A6M Zero in 1941. It fought alongside its precedessor the A5M “claude”, which was a monoplane, and was still operating in 1940 from many bases throughout China.
✈ Fairey III (1917-27)
Fairey Aviation became as indispensable to the British Naval Aviation as Grumman was to the USN or Mitsubishi to the IJN: Probably its most bespoke model was not the Swordfish, but one model going back to 1917: The legendary Fairey III. Derived from the Campania, through its various iterations (A to F), the Fairey III made the near-impossible feat of staying active until WW2 and generating a tree of new models, including the Gordon, Seal, Swordfish and its successors.
✈ Macchi M3 (1917)
The #Macchi M3 and its fighter variant, the M5, were an important part of the Italian involvement in the Adriatic campaign of WWI. Derived from a captured Austro-Hungarian Lohner, the M3 and M5 soon appeared as among the best entente naval fighters of the war. The name Macchi was soon associated with excellent seaplanes and its Schneider Cup rivalry with Supermarine. The M5 was also tested by the USN and USMC, and on it, Charles Hammann received the first Medal of Honor awarded to any United States naval aviator. #ww1 https://bit.ly/3nD05L5.
Mitsubishi B1M (1924)
The Mitsubishi B1M and its variants was the first Imperial Japanese Naval torpedo bomber, in service from 1924 to 1936. It saw service on Hosho, Kaga, Akagi and Ryujo and formed a generation of flying officers and shaped early Japanese airborne torpedo tactics.
Grumman J2F Duck (1936)
The Grumman J2F Duck (G-15), another “salty bird”. It was a single-engine amphibious biplane used by the USN, Marines, Coast Guard and Air Force from 1937 to the 1950s, notably in air-sea rescue. With its ungainly, unique appearance due to the large float blending under the fuselage, this biplane was sturdy, reliable and had the range needed to perform its mission. Despite a relatively low production (by WW2 standards) of 580 copies, the J2F was a jack of all trades beloved by its pilots, immortalized notably in “murphy’s war” in 1971.
The legendary “stringbag” is perhaps the most famous biplane in WW2 on the allied side (outside training planes like the Tiger Moth). Although it was introduced relatively late, in 1936, it gave invaluable service to the Royal Naval Air Service, sinking many axis vessels or historically instrumental in occasions such as the stopping of KMS Bismarck or the raid on Tarento, which later confirmed the japanese to plan Pearl harbor. Although Fairey planned two replacements for it, the venerable Swordfish soldiered on and was produced practically until the end of the war.
Curtiss SOC Seagull
The Curtiss SOC Seagull first flew in 1934 and was adopted the next year as main observation floatplane onboard battleship and cruisers in the USN. Production stopped in 1938 and it was scheduled for retirement in 1940, replaced by the new Seamew and Kingfisher. However the new curtiss floatplane was an engineering disaster, so much so the SOC Seagull, versed to training, returned to the front line and soldiered on until 1945…
Weekly Naval Aviation ! The 1MF was born in 1919-1920, designed by Herbert Smith, from Sopwith, to equip the newly built IJN Hosho, and later the Kaga and Akagi. They represented the very first IJN fighter, in activity until 1930. It was a starting point up to a whole lineage. The 1MF1 and 2 were prototypes, the MF3 became the production version (around 150) and evolved into the MF4 and MF5 for training. The MF9 and 10 were completely new animals, prototypes for the 1927 and 1933 contest. The #Mitsubishi 1MF was the first Imperial #JapaneseNavy Fighter, equipping the Hosho in 1923 and later the Akagi and Kaga until 1929 #interwar #IJN
Fleet air arms in WW2
An overview of fleets air arms of all belligerents, a portal page resuming the naval air forces of the allies, the USN, British, French, Candian, Soviet, Dutch, etc. and the axis, the Luftwaffe and Regia Aeronautica assets used by the Navy, and the IJN aviation. All the models, organization and tactics.
Douglas SBD Dauntless
Midway special ! – The image is clear now, since the river of history went by, nearly 80 years ago. On 4 June 1942, in a remote corner of the Pacific with no land in sight for hundred of miles, an epic clash turned the tide of the pacific war. It has been told and retold as such, and books tried to moderate the claim, but in the end it still stands strong. No battle was so decisive in its long-term effect. And it was a complex one, with a grand Japanese strategy, a desperate US Navy hang by its fingernails to its last aircraft carriers… and hundreds of courageous pilots. Among these, none but those onboard a handful of Douglas SBD Dauntless had such decisive action at Midway.
Northrop BT (1935)
Northrop is rarely associated with US Naval aviation, albeit being one of the most famous and innovative aviation company in history. Innovation was its trademark, and its contribution to the Navy during WW2 has been tremendous for a single reason. In 1933, Jack Northrop’s firm was a small subsidiary of Douglas aircraft corp with just a few prototypes and civilian planes to its credit. Its first solid contract for the Navy was indeed in 1935 the BT, a dive bomber characterized by… perforated air brakes. With them, controlled dive and accurate bombing was possible. Despite a small production (only 55), the Northrop BT was the direct inspiration by its mother company -Douglas- to develop the mass-produced SBD Dauntless that turned the tables at Midway and altered the course of the war in the pacific…
Grumman F3F (1935)
The Grumman was the last USN biplane fighter indeed, but certainly not the last biplane of the Navy during WW2. Indeed, the Curtiss SBC Helldiver were still around well past 1942, although no longer frontline. It was replaced by the controversial Brewster Buffalo. So before the Wildcat, the frontline USN Fighter onboard all carriers was the Grumman F3F (which never receive its wartime name, although the civilian version was called “Gulfhawk”). In 1939 when WW2 broke out, the Royal Navy also had a biplane fighter, the Gloster sea gladiator. The Japanese had the Mitsubishi A5M, a fixed carriage monoplane, but the superlative A6M just entered service on 1st July 1940, while USN squadrons were just started replacing their F3F by the Brewster F2A. That’s a sobering thought.
Douglas TBD Devastator (1936)
First line USN torpedo bomber in 1941-42, the Douglas TBD was caught before its replacement. Ordered in 1934, it entered service in 1937 and at the time, it was not only the most advanced USN aircraft, but possibly the most serious contender for the title of “world’s best carrier-borne TB”. The pace of aircraft development however caught up, and in June 1942 at Midway, the TBD reputation was destroyed while another Douglas, the Dauntless, won the day, in part because of how the events unfolded. Vastly outclassed for speed and agility while facing the Mitsubishi Zero, remaining TBDs were simply wiped out with little torpedo hits to their credits.
Vought OS2U Kingfisher (1938)
The Vought OS2U Kingfisher became the staple of the USN’s battleships and cruisers catapulted spotters/recce models, in the shape of a rugged and dependable floatplane. The Kingfisher lacks the aura of the fighters of that time, but they played a vital role when radar technology was in its infancy, and went on even the latter improved during WW2. The OS2U-3 became the Number one artillery spotter plane for battleships, its main task, while also performing long range reconnaissance and recognition of ships previously spotted on radar. But they also carried personal, recovered downed planes or crews, and even hunted down submersibles. 1,519 were built, which also served in the Royal Navy, Royal Australian Air Force and even the Soviet Navy, and went on well into the cold war under other flags. Its direct competitor, the Curtiss SO3C Seamew, was never as popular.
Brewster F2A Buffalo (1937)
The worst USN fighter ever ? – The Brewster Buffalo has quite a reputation in WW2. For many, it was “the worst fighter of WW2”. That can be analysed in facts and put in relation to the context of its deployment, and compared to the plane’s actual technical issues. But at the end of the day, it started as a naval fighter, ordered by the USN to a young and relatively untested company. Long story short, the Navy tried it, and curtailed the order as soon as reports came in. The production models then were passed onto the “second market” of lend-lease, the British operated it, as did the Dutch in the same theatre of operations, and the Finns. In the hands of the latter it did apparently wonders, which makes the whole case of “worst of WW2” a statement to take with at least a pinch of salt. Now here you go, let’s dive into this model squarely and look at its short career in the US Navy where it started.
Consolidated PBY Catalina (1936)
The PBY Catalina was during WW2 both a spy and vengeful angel of death for U-Boats, and an angel of mercy for their victims. With more than 3,300 produced, perhaps more than 4,000 in all versions, it was the most common flying boat of WW2. Like the Swordfish also one of the most memorable fleet air arm aircraft for its historical significance. A few spotting fleets often decisively, while thousands others just served reliably and without fanfare, far more often saving lives than taking those. The Catalina also had a very long career spanning the cold war and beyond, notably in the civilian market, still in service today, 80 years after its introduction. In ten years from now (2020), some still flying would be 100 years old. Their pilots kept fond memories of these rugged beast of burdens, yet agile and powerful. The Catalina definitely passed into the legends of aviation and easily can be the most underrated US plane of WW2…
Two cantilever monoplan dive bombers were in service in USN carriers in December 1941: The Vought Vindicator and Douglas Dauntless. If the latter gained an immortal fame at Midway, the first faded into obscurity as one of the least appealing planes of the USN ever put into service. Despite of this, it carried great hopes and was ordered as soon as it was available by the French and British, but was so disappointing it was soon completely replaced by the Dauntless for USN carrier service, while the Fleet Air Arm discarded these in 1942 despite having no real alternative available. Why it was so ?
To come next…
✈ 2023 Grumman F8F Bearcat (1944)
The F6F was recoignised as an excellent fighter but was heavy and lacked the necessary speed to be a carrier-borne interceptor. For this, and under a new requirement in 1943, Grumman started work on a completely different animal. Still animated by a powerful engine it was far more lighter, compact than the F6F and achieved its goal. The Bearcat arrived too late to take part in WW2 and was the unfortunate best but last USN frontline piston-engine fighter. It made also a career under other flags until 1960. (Planned Post)
✈ 2023 Douglas AD Skyraider (1945)
Although some of the most prominent WW2 aircraft, such as the F4U Corsair or the P51 Mustang, constantly upgraded, still took part in various combats in the 1970-80s, the Douglas Skyraider is certainly one of these surprises. Known at first as the AD Skyraide this very robust and reliable single-seat attack aircraft was in service from 1946, virtually to the early 1980s, making a remarkably long and successful career for a piston-engined model in turboprop and jet age. For these longevity reasons it was also nicknamed lately the “Spad”, a reference to the French WWI fighter. In the 1960s indeed when it soldiered over Vietnam, there was as much time since its first flight from the Spads in US service. (Planned Post)
✈ 2023 Blackburn Firebrand (1942)
The FAA followed the same path as the USN concerning single-seat multirole attack aircraft, but sooner, in 1941, when was first planned the Firebrand. Since armoured carriers had a limited air group, the FAA still looked as powerful “jacke of all trades”, and the latest creation of Blackburn was to be its pinnacle. The imposed Napier Saber engine, designed for the Hawker Typhoon made it already dated, and it was slow in development, being only ready by 1945. 200 were manufactured and saw the early cold war before retirement in 1953. (Planned Post)
✈ 2023 Beriev MBR-2 (1941)
Developed as a shore-based patrol seaplane for the Soviet Navy, the Beriev MBR-2 first flew in 1931 and was deployed from 1935. Produced to circa 1,365 models, it was the most prolific in use during WW2 in the northern, Baltic, Black Sea and Pacific fleets. (Planned Post)
✈ 2023 Vought F4U (1940)
36 years of service for the “Gullwing Marvel”. Probably the most famous fighter ever designed for any Navy, arguably, was the Vought F4U Corsair. Not only for its production, which went further than the Hellcat, and went shy of their land rivals, the P51 Mustang and P47 Thunderbolt, but certainly outlived them all but its active service. The very last seeing action in a war zone were 19 Honduran F4U in the 1969 “soccer war” vs El Salvador (they were only retired in 1976). Since the Corsair, second of the name, first flew in 1940, this made for 36 years of service. A rare feat for any WW2 vintage model. (Planned Post)
✈ 2023 Martin AM Mauler (1945)
The Martin AM Mauler was of a generation of successors for both the Helldiver and Avenger, which first flew in 1945. Designed as a single-seat carrier-based attack aircraft it met so many development delays that it failed entering service until 1948 and proved troublesome until 1950, replaced by a former competitor, the reliable Douglas AD Skyraider. The “beast” remained in second line units until 1953, some reequipped woth the AM-1Q EW system. (Planned Post)
✈ 2023 Mitsubishi G3M “Nell” (1935)
The first modern twin-engine Land-Based Bomber of the Imperial Japanese Navy became the staple of its operation in China and the early phased of the Pacific, some of late variants soldiering until 1945 despite the G4M “Betty” designed as successor was officially adopted on 2 April 1941. Among other feats, they sank Force Z off Singapore – Both HMS repulse, Prince of Wales and their escorts in December 1941. (Planned Post)
✈ 2023 Hawker Sea Hurricane (1941)
The Sea Hurricane was developed at first as a Mk.I conversion to serve on CAM ships, catapulted; This was a stopgap measure until enough escort carriers were available. Later, it was modified for carrier service, through four more variants taken from later Marks. In total circa 800 were provided to the FAA, providing the Royal Navy’s aircraft and escort carriers a much needed modern dedicated fighter, sharing task with the Grumman Martlet. The Sea Hurricane was gradually retired from fleet carriers, replaced from 1943 by the Supermarine Seafire, but soldiered on until the end of WW2 from some escort carriers. (Planned Post)
✈ 2023 Curtiss SC-1 Seahawk (1944)
The Curtiss Seahawk was the last onboard reconnaissance/spotting floatplane in service with the US Navy. It was designed to replace the Curtiss SO3C Seamew and Vought OS2U Kingfisher but design development and adoption meant it only arrived in mid-1945, operated by Battleships mostly, still useful for arrtillery spotting at the age of radar. For this reason it spent a short peacetime career until 1947-48, replaced by helicopters. (Scheduled Post)
✈ 2023 Grumman AF Guardian (1945)
First purpose-built anti-submarine warfare (ASW) carrier-based aircraft, it first flew by December 1945 but was only introduced in 1950, built to 389 units and retired by August 1955, early than many modernized and reconverted Avengers. Redesignated as AF-2W (TB3F-1S) and AF-2S (TB3F-2S) for its two versions and commencing service in September 1950 VS-24 and later with VS-25, the 193 AF-2S Guardians built were succeeded in a sense by the 1952 AF-3S (ASW hunter) using a magnetic anomaly detector (MAD) for detection (40 built). The last arrived in March 1953 and they saw action during the Korean War, but was unpopular, both underpowered and heavy on the controls, with a high accident rate. Its replacement came just in time as the twin-engine Grumman S2F Tracker as a combined hunter-killer, making for a quick removal of the Guardian until 31 August 1955, some still active with the ENN Air Reserve until 1957.
✈ 2023 Kawanishi E15K “Shiun” (1942)
The IJN staff drew specs in July 1939 for a high-speed seaplane (14-C), delegated to the seaplane specialist Kawanishi. The company needed to provide 12 of them, less spares to the N136 and N137 C-Class submarines as well as four, less spares for B class cruisers No.132 to 135 (the Agano class). As specified they needed a top speed of 518.5 kph (280 knots) and 3,700 km (2,000 nautical miles) range a 370 kph (200 knots). The first prototype called K-10 flew on December 5, 1941, using a single center float and underwing floats swiveling shut under the wings. This was supposed to lower the drag inflight, but was also the main source of issues with this model. On October 7, 1942 many modifications has been done and the first two prototypes were put into service as type 2 high-speed reconnaissance seaplane. By August 1943, the new model’s shortcomings and accidents being delaying production were officially introduced as the Kawanishi E15K1 “Siun” (model 11). But more problems reports had the production discontinued in February 1944 with only nine more delivered. It was lambasted for its low speed, excessive float drag, weak armament, and poor protection.
✈ 2023 Nakajima B6N Tenzan “Jill” (1942)
The Nakajima B6N Tenzan was the Imperial Japanese Navy’s standard carrier-borne torpedo bomber during the final years of World War II and the successor to the B5N “Kate”. Due to its protracted development, a shortage of experienced pilots and the United States Navy’s achievement of air superiority by the time of its introduction, the B6N was never able to fully demonstrate its combat potential.
✈ 2023 Yokosuka D4Y Suisei “Judy” (1942)
The Yokosuka D4Y Suisei was a two-seat carrier-based dive bomber made by Yokosuka Naval Air Technical Arsenal to replace the Aichi D3A for the Imperial Japanese Navy, operated from 1942 to 1945, but which development started in 1938. The was complete in November 1940, flying in December, and made its combat debut on IJN Sōryū at the Battle of Midway in 1942. It only was more largely fielded from March 1943 and the first has a liquid-cooled Aichi Atsuta engine (DB 601 copy) and later a radial Mitsubishi MK8P Kinsei. It was agile, but lacked both armor and self-sealing fuel tanks. Being one of the fastest dive bombers of the war, especially the D4Y4, it was used until the end, notably through kamikaze attacks.
✈ 2023 Fairey Barracuda (1942)
The replacement for the Fairey Albacore, itself replacing the venerable Swordfish. This unusual high-wing monoplane was fitted with a set of large Fairey-Youngman flaps doubling as dive brakes to perform both the roles of torpedo carrier and dive bomber to replace the obsolete Skua. Underpowered at first, the main production versions swapped on the RR 1,640 hp (1,220 kW) Merlin 32, which was good all around but had no supercharger for high altitude missions. Deployed from early 1943 on FAA Carriers, it took part notably in Operation Mascot and Operation Goodwood agains Tirpitz, but was also deployed with the British Pacific Fleet at the end of the war, not replaced by the Firefly which was a long range fighter/attack aircraft. It should have been replaced by the Blackburn Firebrand. They formed the backbone of the 11th ACS from June 1945, each with onboard the same single Barracuda and single Corsair squadrons. They were preferred over the Avenger which mostly served with armoured carriers.
✈ 2023 Fairey Firefly (1942)
The Firefly was the replacement for the 1940 triple cap Fairey Fulmar. It was a long range fighter/reconnaissance/ASW patrol aircraft which could double as attack aircraft with 4 × 20 mm (0.787 in) Hispano Mk.V wings cannons, 16x RP-3 60 lb (27.2 kg) rockets and up to two 1,000 lb (454 kg) bombs. Introduced from March 1943, about at the same time as the Barracuda, it was fast and powerful, way superior to the Fulmar. Proving very sturdy, long-ranged and docile it was declined into nine main variants and over 1700 were built, seeing also action in the cold war and with seven other countries aside the Commonwealth.
✈ 2023 Vought F8 Crusader (1955)
Nicknamed “the last gunslinger” and adored by its pilots for its speed and agility, this was the only recent successful venture of Vought for the USN after the lackluster results of the Pirate and Cutlass. Both had been failures with little production and quick retirement. However with the Crusader, the company revived this trust. The record-breaking interceptor anihilated the US Air Force F-100 supersabre and stole the show at the time in aviation circles. It really imposed its will during the Vietnam war, but performing -unlike it’s reputation- a single kill with guns, and all the rest were sidewinder missile victories. Nevertheless, it had the best kill/loss ratio in the USN and earned the final nickname of “mig master”.
✈ 2023 McDonnell Douglas Phantom II (1958)
The multirole, strange looking McDonell Douglas Phantom II (since the first of the name already served in the USN in the 1950s), was a mach 2 fighter bomber which was not the most agile (compared to the Crusader especially) but certainly the most versatile, with a lot of raw power and an amazing payload capacity. It was used as a “missile truck” as well as bomber, carrying all sorts of ordnance in Vietnam, shooting more MIgs than any other models, and leading to constant upgrades and variants during it’s very long international career, where it became the most produced NATO and US modern military jet ever.
✈ 2023 Douglas A4 Skyhawk (1954)
The Douglas A4 Skyhawk was a small jet designed to replace the Skyraider, a sturdy piston-engine model from 1945. The latter would continue to serve nevertheless for decades, while the Skyhawk nevertheless soon cemented its place as an ideal design for a multirole model on small carriers, notably those of the Colossus/Majestic class of WW2. It served for most of the cold war, a much appreciated asset for its general performances and payload in the USN.
✈ 2023 North American A5 Vigilante (1958)
The North American A5 Vigilante was for its time, the largest and fastest bomber in service in any navy. It would be handled only by the largest “supercarriers” and made its combat debuts on USS Enteprise (CVAN-65). However the inter service rivalry eventually condemned the innovative bird to only perform reconnaissance missions, which it did for decades.