POWER PLANT: One Wright R-2600-20 “Twin Cyclone” radial engine, rated at 1,900 hp
PERFORMANCE: 295 mph at 16,700 ft
COMMENT: The Curtiss SB2C “Helldiver” was developed to replace the Douglas SBD “Dauntless”. It was a much larger aircraft, able to operate from the latest aircraft carriers and carry a considerable array of armament. It featured an internal bomb bay that reduced drag when carrying heavy ordnance. Saddled with demanding requirements set forth by both the U.S. Marines and United States Army Air Forces, the manufacturer incorporated features of a “multi-role” aircraft into the design.
The first prototype made its maiden flight on December 1940. It crashed on February 1941 when its engine failed on approach, but Curtiss was asked to rebuild it. The fuselage was lengthened and a larger tail was fitted, while an autopilot was fitted to help the poor stability. The revised prototype flew again on October 1941, but was destroyed when its wing failed during diving tests on December 1941.
Large-scale production had already been ordered on November 1940, but a large number of modifications were specified for the production model. Fin and rudder area were increased, fuel capacity was increased, self-sealing tanks were added and the fixed armament was doubled to four 12.7 mm machine guns in the wings, compared with the prototype’s two cowling guns. The SB2C-2 was built with larger fuel tanks, improving its range considerably.
The program suffered so many delays that the Grumman TBF “Avenger” entered service before the “Helldiver”, even though the “Avenger” had begun its development two years later. Nevertheless, production tempo accelerated with production at Columbus, Ohio and two Canadian factories.
The U.S. Navy would not accept the SB2C until 880 modifications to the design and the changes on the production line had been made, delaying the Curtiss “Helldiver’s” combat debut until November 1943. Among its major faults, the “Helldiver” was underpowered, had a shorter range than the Douglas SBD, was equipped with an unreliable electrical system, and was often poorly manufactured. The solution to these problems began with the introduction of the SB2C-3 beginning in 1944, which used the R-2600-20 Twin Cyclone engine with 1,900 hp and Curtiss’ four-bladed propeller. This substantially solved the chronic lack of power that had plagued the aircraft
In operational experience, it was found that the U.S. Navy’s Grumman F6F “Hellcat” and Vought F4U “Corsair” fighters were able to carry an equally heavy bomb load against ground targets and were vastly more capable of defending themselves against enemy fighters. The “Helldiver”, however, could still deliver ordnance with more precision against specific targets and its two-seat configuration permitted a second set of eyes. A “Helldiver” also has a significant advantage in range over a fighter while carrying a bombload, which is extremely important in naval operations.
The advent of air-to-ground rockets ensured that the SB2C-4 was the last purpose-built dive bomber produced. Rockets allowed precision attack against surface naval and land targets, while avoiding the stresses of near-vertical dives and the demanding performance requirements that they placed on dive bombers.
Crew nicknames for the aircraft included the “Big-Tailed Beast”, or just the derogatory “Beast” due to its size, weight, and reduced range compared to the SBD it replaced. A total of 7,140 Curtiss SB2C “Helldivers” were produced in World War II (Ref.: 24).
POWER PLANT: One Pratt & Whitney R-2800-6 “Double Wasp” radial engine, rated at 2,000 hp
PERFORMANCE: 306 mph
COMMENT: The original design was not by Consolidated Aircraft, but rather by Vought, who designed the XTBU-1 “Sea Wolf” to a 1939 US Navy requirement. The first prototype flew two weeks after Pearl Harbor. Its performance was deemed superior to the Grumman TBF-1 “Avenger” and the Navy placed an order for 1,000 aircraft.
Several unfortunate incidents intervened; the prototype was damaged in a rough arrested landing trial, and when repaired a month later was again damaged in a collision with a training aircraft. Once repaired again, the prototype was accepted by the Navy. However, by this time Vought was heavily overcommitted to other contracts, especially for the F4U “Corsair” fighter, and had no production capacity. It was arranged that Consolidated Vultee would produce the aircraft as the TBY-1, but this had to wait until the new production facility in Allentown, Pennsylvania was complete, which took until late 1943.
The production TBY-2’s were radar-equipped, with a radome under the right-hand wing. The first aircraft flew on 20 August 1944. By this time though, the Grumman TBF-3 “Avenger” equipped every torpedo squadron in the Navy, and there was no need for the “Sea Wolf”; in addition, numerous small problems delayed entry into service so the aircraft never saw combat. Orders for 1,000 aircraft were cancelled after production started, and the 180 built were used for training only (Ref.: 24).
POWER PLANT: One Pratt & Whitney R-1830-56 radial engine, rated at 1,350 hp
PERFORMANCE: 320 mph
COMMENT: Grumman’s F4F “Wildcat” production ceased in early 1943 to make way for the newer F6F “Hellcat”, but General Motors/Eastern Aircraft continued producing “Wildcats” for both U.S. Navy and (British) Fleet Air Arm use. At first, General Motors produced the FM-1 (identical to the F4F-4, but with four guns). Production later switched to the improved FM-2 (based on Grumman’s XF4F-8 prototype, informally known as the “Wilder Wildcat”) optimized for small-carrier operations, with a more powerful engine, and a taller tail to cope with the increased torque.
From 1943 onward, “Wildcats” equipped with bomb racks were primarily assigned to escort carriers for use against submarines and attacking ground targets, though they would also continue to score kills against Japanese fighters, bombers and kamikaze aircraft. Larger fighters such as the “Hellcat” and the Vought F4U “Corsair” and dedicated dive bombers were needed aboard fleet carriers, and the “Wildcat’s” slower landing speed and its size made it more suitable for shorter flight decks of escort carriers.
General Motors / Eastern Aircraft produced 5,280 FM-1 and FM-2 variants out of total production of 7,860 “Wildcats” (Ref.: 24).
POWER PLANT: Two Westinghouse J30-WE-20 turbojet engines, rated at 725 kp each
PERFORMANCE: 479 mph at sea level
COMMENT: In early 1943, aviation officials at the United States Navy were impressed with McDonnell’s audacious XP-67 “Bat” project. McDonnell was invited by the Navy to cooperate in the development of a shipboard jet fighter, using an engine from the turbojets under development by Westinghouse Electric Corporation. Three prototypes were ordered on August 1943 and the designation XFD-1 was assigned. Under the 1922 United States Navy aircraft designation system, the letter “D” before the dash designated the aircraft’s manufacturer. The Douglas Aircraft Company had previously been assigned this letter, but the USN elected to reassign it to McDonnell because Douglas had not provided any fighters for Navy service in years.
McDonnell engineers evaluated a number of engine combinations, varying from eight 24 cm diameter engines down to two engines of 48 cm diameter. The final design used the two 48 cm engines after it was found to be the lightest and simplest configuration. The engines were buried in the wing root to keep intake and exhaust ducts short, offering greater aerodynamic efficiency than underwing nacelles and the engines were angled slightly outwards to protect the fuselage from the hot exhaust blast. Placement of the engines in the middle of the airframe allowed the cockpit with its bubble-style canopy to be placed ahead of the wing, granting the pilot excellent visibility in all directions. This engine location also freed up space under the nose, allowing designers to use tricycle gear, thereby elevating the engine exhaust path and reducing the risk that the hot blast would damage the aircraft carrier deck. The construction methods and aerodynamic design of the “Phantom”, as the aircraft was assigned, were fairly conventional for the time; the aircraft had unswept folding wings. Adapting a jet to carrier use was a much greater challenge than producing a land-based fighter because of slower landing and takeoff speeds required on a small carrier deck. When the first XFD-1was completed in January 1945, only one Westinghouse was available for installation. Ground runs and taxi tests were conducted with the single engine, and such was the confidence in the aircraft that the first flight on 26 January 1945 was made with only the one turbojet engine. During flight tests, the “Phantom” became the first naval aircraft to exceed 500 mph. With successful completion of tests, a production contract was awarded on March 1945 for 100 FD-1 aircraft. With the end of the war, the “Phantom” production contract was reduced to 30 aircraft, but was soon increased back to 60.
The first prototype was lost in a fatal crash on November 1945, but the second and final “Phantom” prototype was completed early the next year and became the first purely jet-powered aircraft to operate from an American aircraft carrier, completing four successful takeoffs and landings on 21 July 1946, from USS CV-42 “Franklin D. Roosevelt”. At the time, she was the largest carrier serving with the U.S. Navy, allowing the aircraft to take off without assistance from a catapult (Ref. 24).
POWER PLANT: Two Wright XR-1820-40/41 “Cyclone” radial engines, rated at 1,200 hp each
PERFORMANCE: 380 mph at 16,500 ft
COMMENT: In 1938 Grumman presented a proposal to the U. S. Navy for a twin engine carrier based aircraft, unlike any other fighter aircraft that had ever been considered. The design was for a light weight fighter powered by two 1,200 hp Wright R-1820 engines, with propellers geared to rotate in opposite directions to cancel out the effects of each engine’s torque, promising high-speed, and an outstanding rate of climb. Designated XF5F-1 “Skyrocket” it was a low wing monoplane with a short fuselage that began aft of the wing’s leading edge with a twin tail assembly that featured a pronounced dihedral to the horizontal stabilizer. The main landing gear and tail wheel were fully retractable. The aircraft flew for the first time on 1 April 1940. Engine cooling problems arose in the initial flights, resulting in modification to the oil cooling ducts. Further modifications were made to the prototype including reduction in the height of the cockpit canopy, redesign of the engine nacelles, and extending the fuselage forward of the wing. Flight tests indicated good flying qualities for the XF5F-1. The counter-rotating props were a nice feature, virtually eliminating the torque effect on take-off the single-engine performance was good, rudder forces tended to be high in single engine configuration. Nevertheless, additional changes were needed after further flight tests that were not completed until 15 January 1942. In the meantime, Grumman began work on a more advanced twin-engine shipboard fighter, the XF7F-1 “Tigercat”, and further testing with the XF5F-1 supported the development of the newer design. The prototype continued to be used in various tests, although plagued by various landing gear problems, until it was struck from the list of active aircraft after it made a belly landing on 11 December 1944.
A land-based development of the Grumman XF5F-1 “Skyrocket” was the Grumman XP-50 “Skyrocket”. It entered into a USAAC contest for a twin-engine heavy interceptor aircraft. A prototype was ordered on November, but the aircraft lost the competition to the Lockheed XP-49 (Ref.: 24).
POWER PLANT: One Wright XR-3350-16 ‘Cyclone’ radial engine, rated at 2,300 hp
PERFORMANCE: 398 mph at 32,000 ft
COMMENT: In early 1941, the Curtiss Aircraft Company proposed the development of a high-performance, heavily-armed fighter designed around a liquid-cooled engine. At that time the US Navy was dedicated to using air-cooled engines, but Curtiss experience with the Curtiss P-40 gave the company good grounds for its faith in the liquid-cooled unit, and on June 1941 it received a Navy contract for two prototypes of such an aircraft, to be designated XF14C-1. The chosen power plant was the still experimental Lycoming XH-2470-4 which was expected to deliver 2,200 hp at sea level, with a normal rating of 2,000 hp at 4,500 ft. With an armament four 20-mm cannon in the wings, the XF14C-1 was expected to have a maximum speed of 374 mph at 17,000 ft and a service ceiling of 30,500 ft. However, wind tunnel testing by Navy engineers during 1942 cast some doubts on the validity of these figures and with development of the XH-2470 engine lagging, the Navy eventually concluded that the performance of the XF14C-1 would be inadequate by the time it was ready to enter service, and the programme was cancelled in December 1943.
As the first airframe was then virtually complete, the Navy suggested it be flown with the air-cooled Wright R-3350 ‘Cyclone’ engine, driving six-blade contra props. In this guise, the Curtiss fighter was redesignated XF14C-2, and the first flight was made in July 1944. Performance again fell below expectation, a speed of 398 mph being reached at 32,000 ft compared with the estimated of 424 mph, and the R-3350 was still suffering from a number of teething problems. Meantime the progress of the Pacific war made further development of the XF14C-2 unnecessary, the programme being cancelled in the early month of 1945 (Ref.: 10).
POWER PLANT: One Pratt & Whitney R-2800-10W Double Wasp radial engine, rated at 2,000 hp
PERFORMANCE: 380 mph at 23,400 ft
COMMENT: In Mid 1944 an improved and refined version of the famous Grumman F6F-3, the Grumman F6F-5 “Hellcat” rolled out of a brand new factory, especially built for this reason. The Pratt & Whitney engine with water injection was retained, but the cowling was modified and the windshield was improved. Provision was made for 2,000 lb of bombs under the center section and six rockets under the outer wing. Production of this version totalled 6,681 aircraft plus 1,189 F6F-5N’s night fighter with APS-6 radar in the pod of the starboard wing. The aircraft shown here was on board of USS CV-15 “Randolph” in March 1945 (Ref.: 22)
POWER PLANT: One Pratt & Whitney XR-4360-10, rated at 3,000 hp
PERFORMANCE: 432 mph
COMMENT: From the logistical point of view the US Navy was most interested to have only one type of aircraft on board its carriers for all operational tasks. An excellent design for all these duties was the Boeing XF8B, a new class of “five-in-one fighter” (fighter, interceptor, dive bomber, torpedo bomber, or level bomber). Designed around a new designed “power egg”, the Pratt & Whitney XR-4360 with 3,000hp this aircraft embodied a number of innovative features in order to accomplish the various roles. Three prototypes were ordered, but despite its formidable capabilities, with the end of the hostilities in the Pacific area the XF8B-1 was fated to never enter series production.
POWER PLANT: One Pratt & Whitney R-4360-4 Wasp Major, rated at 3,000 hp
PERFORMANCE: 334 mph at 11,600 ft
COMMENT: Throughout the WW II the US Navy used a variety of carrier-based aircraft for attack duties. They were designated “SB” for scout/dive bombers and “TB” for torpedo-bombers. In 1943/44 a change in military tactics required a new role for an attack aircraft. So the US Navy invited proposals for a new multi-purpose bomber and selected four designs in September 1943: the Curtiss XBTC, Douglas XBT2D Skyraider, Kaiser-Fleetwings XBTK and the Martin XBTM. Two prototypes of the Martin design were ordered. The first flight was made in August 1944 and in January 1945 a production order for 750 aircraft was placed. With the end of WW II only 131 production aircraft, now named AM-1 “Mauler”, were delivered, another 651 aircraft were cancelled.
POWER PLANT: One Wright R-3350 Cyclone 18, rated at 2,500 hp
PERFORMANCE: 322 mph at 18,00 ft
COMMENT:The Douglas BT2D-1 Skyraider was an American single-seat piston engines attack aircraft designed during World War II to meet United States Navy requirements for a carrier-based long-range, high performance dive/torpedo bomber, to follow-on from earlier types such as the Curtiss SB2C Helldiver and Grumman TBF Avenger. Designed by Ed Heinemann of the Douglas Aircraft Company, prototypes were ordered on July 1944 as the XBT2D-1. The XBT2D-1 made its first flight on March 1945 and in April 1945, the USN began evaluation of the aircraft at the Naval Air Test Center (NATC). In December 1946, after a designation change to AD-1, delivery of the first production aircraft to a fleet squadron was made to VA-19A.
The low-wing monoplane design started with a Wright R-3350 Duplex-Cyclone radial engine which was later upgraded several times. Its distinctive feature was large straight wings with seven hard points apiece. The Skyraider possessed excellent low-speed maneuverability and carried a large amount of ordonance over a considerable combat radius. The aircraft was optimized for the ground-attack mission and was armored against ground fire in key locations, unlike faster fighters adapted to carry bombs, such as the Vought F4U Corsair or North-American P-5 Mustang.
Shortly after Heinemann began designing the XBT2D-1, a study was issued that showed for every 45 kg of weight reduction, the takeoff run was decreased by 2.4 m, the combat radius increased by 22 mi and the rate-of-climb increased by 18 ft/min. Heinemann immediately had his design engineers begin a program for finding weight-saving on the XBT2D-1 design, no matter how small. Simplifying the fuel system, eliminating an internal bomb bay and hanging external stores from the wings or fuselage, using a new fuselage dive brake; and an older tailwheel design resulted in a reduction ot weight by 820 kg. The first series was initially painted in ANA 623 Glossy Sea Blue, but during its career the color changed depending on its requirements.
The Skyraider went through numerous changes and was built in seven versions, before the Skyraider production ended in 1957 with a total of 3,180 having been built (Ref.: 24).
Scale 1:72 aircraft models of World War II
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