Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Brewster F2A-3 Buffalo

Brewster F2A Buffalo

Brewster F2A-3 Buffalo

First Flight:          1937, December

Power:                 Wright R-1820-40 Cyclone
                                Radial piston engine
                                1200 hp

Armament:         12.7 mm / 0.05 caliber mg x 4

Wingspan:            10.67m / 35 ft
Wing area:          19.41m2 / 208.9 sq ft
Length:                   8.03m / 26 ft 4 in
Height:                    3.68m / 12 ft 1 in

Empty:                  2146kg / 4723lb
Max. take-off:        3247kg / 7159lb

Max. speed:            517kph / 321mph
Ceiling:                 10,120m / 33,200ft
Range:                  1553km / 965 miles
Climb:                       935m / 3070ft per minute

The Buffalo came with a tail-hook but mishaps happened

The U.S. Navy left the biplane era and chose the Brewster F2A Buffalo as its first monoplane fighter.  The stubby plane designed for carrier duty was to be a disappointment.  Introduced in 1939 the Buffalo proved to be obsolete by late the following year.  It was both underpowered and it lacked the maneuverability of contemporary fighters built by Germany, Japan and Britain. 
The United States was slow to arrive on the world stage with a world-class fighter or tank or any one of a number of military weapons.  Why should they be otherwise?  Americans felt comfortably secure with neighbors like Mexico and Canada on their borders and two oceans separating them from the militaristic societies of Germany and Japan.  There are so many worthwhile places to invest your money when you don’t feel the need to purchase a gun to protect your life.

Unreliable landing gear was among Navy complaints 

The Wright Cyclone engine that came with the plane wasn’t half bad so long as the Buffalo was stripped to its essentials.  But then you need armor to line the pilot’s cockpit and self-sealing fuel tanks and sturdier landing gear for those brutal carrier landings.   Before you know it your plane has an asthmatic climb rate and Mitsubishi Zeros and German Messerschmitt’s are literally flying circles around your gasping craft.  To lighten the load you make use fabrics for your control surfaces and you cut back on those heavy .50 caliber machine guns, maybe substituting some with .30 calibers.  Now you've wound up with a fighter with less precise maneuvering and armament that requires both a good deal of luck and skill to knock and opponent from the sky.  The truth is you can’t turn a poorly designed plane into a great fighter with a few well-considered tweaks.  You admit your mistake, write off your losses, pick a different design and start over.  This is what the Navy did when they switched to the Grumman F4F as the fighter that would defend their fleet going into World War II.  The Brewster isn’t a total loss.  It has a forgiving nature so you make it a trainer to be used by aspiring Navy pilots to cut their teeth on formation flying and dogfight aerobatics.  This is what the Navy did.

An F2A-3 Navy training squadron 

RAF Buffalo MK 1 overheated in tropical climates

The RAF purchased Brewsters to supplement a shortage of aircraft.  They were found unacceptable for the European theater and were sent to the British colonies in the Far East where they did fared poorly when up against the Japanese Zero and the region’s tropical heat.  The Netherlands bought the aircraft to help defend the Dutch East Indies.  Their experience with it was no different from the British.  Only the Finns were happy with their purchase.  They developed techniques that made the Finnish Buffalo quite successful in dogfights with Soviet fighters.

Several Finnish pilots made Ace flying the Buffalo

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