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Curtiss SB2C Helldiver

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Taking its name from an earlier Curtiss type, the Helldiver was a powerful, modern dive-bomber designed to undertake a variety of combat missions. It was also tentatively required by the US Marines and the Army Air Forces which compromised the SB2C, giving the manufacturers the demanding task of creating a 'multi-role' aircraft in the middle of a war. There was no time to perfect the requirement and when the Army did not order the aircraft in quantity, it was left to the Navy to sort out the teething troubles. A long list of 'fixes' was required, which delayed the Helldiver's deployment for some months.

But the job was done and from November 1943 when Helldivers pounded the Japanese island garrison of Rabaul until the end of the war the Navy used the Helldiver in every major surface action as an integral part of its carrier air groups. Cannon armament, a relatively rarity on World War II American aircraft, was fitted to the SB2C-1C, the last suffix indicating the heavier, more powerful guns. One of the most effective models was the SB2C-4 which introduced the distinctive 'cheese grater' split flaps to aid stability during a dive.

Disadvantage from the start by having to replace the highly capable SBD Dauntless, the Helldiver never quite won a similar place in the hearts of US naval aviators. It took time to prove itself in action and eventually became an effective carrier-launched dive and torpedo bomber in the war against the Japanese. But the SB2C did not win the reliability battle soon enough for some commanders and picked up the derogatory nickname 'Beast'.


Curtiss SB2C Helldiver

Big bird of the Curtiss SB2C Helldiver Curtiss SB2C Helldiver hook down to land Curtiss SB2C Helldiver three seat dive and torpedo bomber
The Curtiss SB2C Helldiver was a hard-hitting aircraft which gained many combat successes. Ready to land, this SB2C pilot has lowered the tail hook of his aircraft. When landing, Helldivers often revealed their poor handling to careless pilots. The Royal Navy tested the Helldiver, but rejected it immediately because of its appalling handling, which was said to be even worse than the Fleet Air Arm's Barracuda.

Curtiss SB2C Helldiver (Technical Specification)
Role Three seat dive or torpedo bomber
Manufacturer Curtiss
Maximum Speed 452 kmh (294 mph)
Maximum Range 1,786 km (1,200 miles)
Ceiling 7,530 meters (29,100 feet)
Maximum Takeoff

4,990 kg (10,978 lbs)
7,550 kg (16,610 lbs)
Wing Area

15.20 meters (49 ft 6 in)
11.20 meters (36 ft 8 in)
5.10 meters (13 ft 2 in)
39.20 square meters (422 sq ft)
Engines One Wright R-2600-8 Cyclone air cooled engine providing 1,268-kW (1,900 hp)
Armament Two 20 mm (0.79 in) cannon or four 12.7 mm (0.50 cal) machine guns in wings
Two 7.62 mm (0.30 cal) machine guns in rear cockpit; up to 907 kg (2,000 lb) of bombs in internal bay

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