Douglas SBD Dauntless

History: In the spring of 1938, a Northrop dive-bomber designated the BT-1 entered service with the US Navy. Its influence was felt over at the Douglas Company, where a new naval dive-bomber was designed and produced based on the Northrop design. Initially designated the XBT-2, the new design was later called the SBD when Northrop became a division of the Douglas Company. Production began in 1940, and although the SBD had a general likeness to its Northrop predecessor, it was a completely different airplane. Testing of the prototype (with a 1,000-hp Wright Cyclone engine) revealed an exceptionally capable airplane.

In April 1939, the US Marine Corps and US Navy placed orders for the SBD-1 and SBD-2, respectively, the latter having increased fuel capacity and revised armament. The first SBD-1s entered service with the Marines' VMB-2 Squadron in late 1940, and the first SBD-2s joined the Navy in early 1941. The next variant to appear, the SBD-3, entered service in March 1941, and incorporated self-sealing and larger fuel tanks, armour protection, a bullet-proof windshield, and four machine guns. The SBD-4 followed with an upgraded 24-volt electrical system, and a few of these were converted to SBD-4P reconnaissance platforms.

The next, and most produced, variant was the SBD-5, which was built at Douglas's new Tulsa, Oklahoma plant. It had a 1,200-hp R-1820-60 engine and increased ammunition capacity. Over 2,400 SBD-5s were built, and a few were shipped to the Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm, under the designation Dauntless DB.Mk I, but these were never used operationally. Mexico also took delivery of a small number of SBD-5s. The SBD-6, the final variant, had an even more powerful engine and greater fuel capacity.

Meanwhile, the US Army, realizing that it did not have a dive bomber equal in capability to Germany's Ju 87 Stuka, ordered the SBD-3 in 1941, under the designation A-24. This aircraft was identical to the Navy airplanes except it did not have an arresting hook, and its tailwheel had an inflated tire instead of a solid rubber one. The A-24 was never found to be of great use during WWII, as its range and performance were inadequate for service in the South Pacific, and the dive-bombing mission was of little use elsewhere. Nevertheless, the A-24 (and later the A-24A, equivalent of the SBD-4; and A-24B, equivalent of the SBD-5) remained in service with the US Army Air Corps for several years after the war.

Nicknames:  Barge; Clunk; Speedy-D; Speedy-3; Slow But Deadly; Banshee (A-24).

Specifications (SBD-6):

Engine: One 1,350-hp Wright R-1820-66 Cyclone 9-cylinder radial piston engine
Weight: Empty 6,535 lbs., Max Takeoff 9,519 lbs.
Wing Span: 41ft. 6in.
Length: 33ft. 0in.
Height: 12ft. 11in.

Maximum Speed: 255 mph
Cruising Speed: 185 mph
Ceiling: 25,200 ft.
Range: 773 miles

Two forward firing 12.7-mm (0.5-inch) machine guns;
Two 7.62-mm (0.3-inch) machine guns on flexible mounts;
Under-fuselage mountings for up to 1,600 pounds of bombs;
Wing hardpoints for up to 650 pounds of bombs.

Number Built:  5,936

Number Still Airworthy:  3