|Primary Role||Dive Bomber|
|Maiden Flight||18 December 1940|
Contributor: C. Peter Chen
The Helldiver dive bombers were designed to replace the SBD Dauntless aircraft as the main dive bombers of the United States Navy. They were built larger to carry heavier armament in terms of both defensive weapons as well as ordnance. On 29 Nov 1940, production on the aircraft began. They first saw action during the carrier raid on Rabaul, New Britain in the Solomon Islands on 11 Nov 1943.
Initially, pilots did not receive the new design with enthusiasm. Part of it was perhaps preference, for many of them had been flying SBD Dauntless aircraft for some time now. Nevertheless, there were solid reasons for the initial dislike. The first SB2C Helldiver aircraft suffered frequent electrical problems, causing headaches for maintenance crews. Furthermore, these large dive bombers were underpowered. US Navy Ensign George Bomberger, pilot of a SB2C Helldiver aircraft aboard USS Franklin, recalled that, with one 1,000-pound and two 250-pound bombs on the aircraft, a full tank of aviation gas, and fully loaded 20-mm ammunition, the aircraft was so heavy that at take off the aircraft often sank below the bow. "Our engine was a good engine," Bomberger said, "but when you had a heavy load like that... it just wasn't one of the best planes for a carrier." He recalled one incident where he nearly crashed:
Gunners, however, tend to prefer SB2C Helldiver aircraft to their predecessors. They enjoyed the heavier armament that could fire 1,200 to 1,500 rounds per minute for each gun, as well as the collapsible "shell back" design in front of the stabilizer that gave them greater fields of fire. "When you compared the SB2C with the SBD Douglass", said Helldiver gunner Abner Harris also of USS Franklin, "there is no comparison, really. It was much bigger and faster, a good flyer, and it flew real smooth."
In addition to naval service, 900 of them were also built for the US Army, which named them A-25A Shrike. They did not play a big role in the US Army, and some were transferred to the Royal Australian Air Force (10 units) and the US Marine Corps (410 units).
The British Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm operated 26 SB2C Helldiver dive bombers. They were not used in combat as their performance did not satisfy British demands.
After WW2, surplus were sold to France, Italy, Greece, Portugal, and Thailand. The last SB2C Helldiver aircraft retired from military service in 1959 with the Italian Air Force.
During the model's production life, 7,140 were built.
Sources: Inferno, Wikipedia.
SB2C Helldiver Timeline
|11 May 1939||The US Navy placed an order for the Curtiss SB2C Helldiver carrier-borne dive-bomber.|
|18 Dec 1940||The Curtiss SB2C Helldiver, US Navy scout-bomber, took its first flight.|
|11 Nov 1943||SB2C Helldiver aircraft saw combat for the first time in the Solomon Islands.|
|3 Jun 1944||Engineers at Curtiss-Wright published an internal memorandum noting the defects of the current generation of SB2C Helldiver aircraft (bell cranks might break during high speed dives) but the company failed to address the issue even for the aircraft built but not yet delivered to the US Navy. A number of aviators would be killed or injured due to this defect for the next month to come or perhaps longer due to this defect.|
|Machinery||One Wright R-2600 Cyclone radial engine rated at 1,900hp|
|Armament||2x20mm cannon, 2x7.62mm machine guns, 900kg bombs or 1xMark 13-2 torpedo, optional 225kg bombs under wing|
|Wing Area||39.20 m≤|
|Weight, Empty||4,588 kg|
|Weight, Loaded||6,202 kg|
|Weight, Maximum||7,600 kg|
|Speed, Maximum||473 km/h|
|Rate of Climb||8.90 m/s|
|Service Ceiling||7,600 m|
|Range, Normal||1,900 km|
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Joachim von Ribbentrop, German Foreign Minister, Aug 1939