Pacific War, WW2
Naval Aircraft, 1942
The naval air service had just graduated from biplane aircraft in the 1936 fighter contract competition. The second wing had allowed the extra lift traditionally needed for carrier take off and Grumman F3F bi-planes were delivered through May 1938. An upgraded design by Grumman, an F4F, another bi-wing, was rejected before
the competiion and it was hurriedly redesigned with a wing removed as the F4F-2.
The 1936 completion was between the Brewster F2A and the Grumman F4F-2
The single wing F2A Buffalo
won the competion and units were introduced to frontline service starting June 1939.
War had started in Europe; much of the production order was sent to Finland.
A second batch went to the RAF and to the Netherlands East Indies. A renewed
completion awarded a contract for an improved single wing version of the Grumman
F4F-3 Wildcat. That model was being introduced to fleet service at the time of
Pearl Harbor. F2A Buffalos were in service at Pearl Harbor, in the Philippines,
and Wake Island and Midway -- where no allied planes were a match for the Japanese
There were 140 Grumman F2F and F3F bi-planes serving as fighter pilot trainers in December of 1941.
Grumman continued development with the F4F-4 where production was provided by General Motors
under the designation FM-1. The F4F-8 was produced by General Motors as the FM-2.
Meanwhile Grumman concentrated on the next generation fighter, the F6F Hellcat,
that entered service in late 1942 and qualified pilots entered combat in Aug 1943.
The Japanese introduced a new fighter in 1940 to the fighting in China.
Reports as to its specifications were not believed in Washington, preferring
to believe that it was Chinese incompetence, rather than a superior Japanese fighter
that was causing Chinese losses. 78 Zeros flew in the attack on Pearl Harbor.
|Designation||F2A -Buffalo||F4F-3 -Wildcat ||A5M-Claude ||A6M2-Zero, Zeke
|Contracted||1934 ||1938||1935 ||July 1940|
|Flew ||Dec 1937 ||Mar 1939||Feb 1935||Apr 1939|
|Engine - hp||1200||1200||710 ||925|
|Max Speed - mph||320||318||280||346|
|Guns - caliber||4-.50||4-.50||2-.30||2-.30,2-20mm|
|Range - miles||965||770||746||1,120|
|Weight - pounds||4,723||5,760||2,680||4,178|
American torpedoes were defective in 1942, while other nations had great success with
torpedo attacks in the Mediterranean and, of course, at Pearl Harbor. The Douglas TBD
Devastator was the first US single wing, metal, enclosed cockpit torpedo bomber.
It was contracted in 1934 and introduced in 1937. 130 were built and it was the
fleet torpedo bomber until mid-1942. The TBD served in the attacks on Lea and Tulagi
and at the Battle of Coral Sea. At Midway, a month later, the slow TBD's were decimated
in uncoordinated attacks, 35 out of 41 deployed did not return.
The Navy awarded contracts for competition for a new torpedo bomber in 1940:
Grumman, TBF, and Vought, TBY. Each flew in Aug 1941. The Grumman design won and went on
to production with such demand that General Motors, as the TBM, continued production while Grumman
concentrated on fighter production. The new TBF "Avenger" was just reaching the fleet by mid-1942
and the Battle of Midway, but pilots had not yet been carrier qualified in it.
Six flew from land bases with 5 of the 6 shot down by Zeros before reaching their targets.
Forty Japanese Nakajima B5N "Kate"s were used at Pearl Harbor were as torpedo bombers ; 103 were used as
horizontal bombers. During 1942, Kates also stopped Lexington, Yorktown and Hornet.
|Manufacturer||Douglas ||Grumman/General Motors||Nakajima|
|Name ||Devastator ||Avenger ||"Kate"|
|Flew ||Apr 1935||Aug 1941|
|Engine ||900 hp||1700 hp||1,000 hp|
|Number Produced||130||2,293 / 7,546||1,149|
The dive-bomber did prove effective, much as the Stuka did in the European theater,
but only in mass attacks with significant air protection. The hit rate was low;
112 carrier sorties by navy and marine dive bombers at
the Battle of Midway made only 13 bomb hits. A dive-bomber could maneuver
with a ship and carry its bombs to the ship without requiring the bomb run and
long free fall period of a high altitude horizontal bomber. The dive bomber,
with its 2-man crew, was also the US carrier-borne scouting aircraft.
129 "Val" bombers were in the attack on Pearl Harbor. "Val"s later
sank HMS Hermes, Cornwall and Sorsetshire April 1942 off Ceylon.
|Designation||SB2U - Vindicator.||SBD - Dauntless . ||D3A - "Val"
|Flew ||Jan 1936 ||April 1939 ||1939|
|Service ||1937-1942||1941-1945 ||1940-1944|
|Engine hp||825||1,350 ||1,000|
|Max Speed||243 mph||255 mph ||267 mph|
|Cruise Speed||185 mph ||183 mph|
|Range ||1,120||773 miles ||913 miles|
|Weight ||5,635||6,535 lb ||5,309 lbs|
|Number Produced||170||4,000+ ||1,500|
|Crew ; Guns||2 ; 3-.50||2 ; 2-.50, 2-.30||2 ; 3- .30|
The US had no specific, carrier based horizontal bombers, torpedo bombers could and did
act in the role over land targets as well as to carry anti-submarine bombs and depth charges.
The Japanese first wave at Pearl Harbor used 40 "Kates" as torpedo bombers and
49 Kates as horizontal bombers.
The second wave had 54 "Kates", all as horizontal bombers.
The Japanese Navy also had a shore based air component,
that had access to all of the carrier plane types as well twin-engine bombers.
The U.S. later incorporated multi-engine bombers as patrol planes with an attack capability.
Scout Float Planes. Two to four float planes were carried by cruisers and battleships
to search for enemy fleets and submarines, to provide gunnery spotting, rescue and
other services. These were launched from catapults atop gun mounts or from crains amidships of WWI era ships
and from the fantail of WW2 build ships. On return, the seaplane was hoisted
aboard and repositioned on it's catapult or hanger.
Curtiss SOC Seagull in service from 1935 to 1946.
Vought OS2U Kingfisher Aug 1940 - end
Reconnaissance Bombers - Flying Boats.
The Consolidated PBY Catalina was an all-purpose, air, sea, land flying-boat with wheels. As a long range
reconnaissance plane, it could range 2,545 miles and patrol for over 20 hours. It dropped bombs
on shipping, depth charges on submarines. It carried out the only successful torpedo attack
at Midway, damaging an oiler, 11June 42. PBY Catalinas, operating from the seaplane
tender Gillis in Nazan Bay, Atka Island, hit ships and enemy positions on Kiska in an
intense 48-hour attack which exhausted the gasoline and bomb supply aboard the Gillis
but was not successful in driving the Japanese from the Island. As effective as it was
in reconnaissance and attack, it sometimes carried two lifeboats under its wings;
rescue was an important part of the job.
Reconnaissance Bombers - Land Based.
Long Range Bombers resulted in an
Army-Navy controversy over coast protection. Traditionally the Navy provided coastal protection
beyond the range of Army shore based artillery. The Army Air Corp, BGen Billy Mitchell,
made dramatic displays that it could fly long ranges, could find ships far at sea,
and could destroy armored warships from the air. The Navy considered
all coast defense that was beyond the range of artillery to be their domain. Air power
aficionados considered the Navy outdated and motivated by self-preservation.
European air attacks early in the war showed that massed land based air power could
destroy ships at sea. However the American experience was far from convincing,
primarily because there were not have enough aircraft to make massive attacks.
A single B-17 bomber could carry a lethal bomb load, but had to attack
from high altitude to escape shipborn antiaircraft fire. At high altitudes,
a strategic bomber could not hit a maneuvering target. A bomber had to fly
straight and level to the target to align the bombsight with where the bombardier
thought the target would be after the bombs made a long fall. During that period,
as the bomber was committed, a ship could maneuver for several
minutes to confuse the airplane and to avoid the falling bombs.
The army B-17 was sold for coast defense before the war. The press was primed for B-17 success and reported splashes as hits. In fact, in all of 1942, one Japanese destroyer was sunk, and it was stopped to pick up survivors from a ship sunk by carrier planes. B-17's did damage several warships and sank several transports in harbor or convoy. 1943 saw another DD, a seaplane carrier, and more transports.
See Naval aircraft lists - all types in 1942.
This is before the period of American dominance with the:
- Chance Vought F4U Corsair - first combat with USMC on Guadalcanal 13Feb43
with 12,570 built.
- Grumman F6F Hellcat - first combat from Yorktown 31Aug43 with 4,423 built.
- Curtiss SB2C Helldiver - first combat in the second strike on Rabaul 11Nov43
with 6,000 built.
The year 1943 saw Japan lose 6,203 planes (4,824 airmen), three times more
than had to start the war and, strangely, Japan did not have an adequate
replacement training program.
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Last updated on July 31, 2010. Add SB2U vindicator, correct crew Val
Updated on Feb 8, 2005. Fix data on Val
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