US Navy & Marines

F4U-1 Corsair Carrier Fighter

The Vought F4U Corsair was one of the greatest combat aircraft of WWII. Designed in 1938, the Corsair made its first flight in May 1940. The prototype was the first single engine US warplane to exceed 400 mph and outperformed all other American aircraft at that time. The XF4U-1 prototype had the biggest and most powerful engine, largest propeller and largest wing on any fighter up to that time. The Corsair's aerodynamics was an advance over those of contemporary naval fighters. Production began in 1942 and lasted until 1952, the longest production run of any American aircraft. Some 12,571 Corsairs came off the production line and the Corsair served with the US Navy and Marines throughout WWII and the Korean War into the late 1950s. Action with land based Marine squadrons began in the Solomon Islands in 1943 and from then on the Corsair swiftly gained air supremacy over the Japanese with an 11:1 kill ratio. By the end of the war Corsairs were ashore on Okinawa and also were flying from fleet and escort carriers performing strikes with bombs, napalm, rockets and Bat glide bombs along with fighter missions. The Corsair flew 64,051 sorties during the war and shot down 2,140 enemy aircraft. The F4U Corsair was armed with 6 .50 cal. M2 Browning machineguns and could carry 8 5 inch rockets and 4,000 lbs of bombs. Several smaller air forces used the Corsair until the late 1960s with the last combat missions being flown in 1969 during the Football War between Honduras and El Salvador when both sides flew Corsairs. Corsairs flew with the US Navy, US Marines, Fleet Air Arm, Royal New Zealand Air Force, French Navy, Argentine Air Force, El Salvadorian Air Force and the Honduran Air Force This model shows a F4U Corsair flying with the US Marine Corps in mid 1943. Also see here for a Korean War Marine version and here for the prototype.

Vought F4U-1 Corsair Carrier Fighter

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F6F-6 Hellcat Carrier Fighter

Lessons learned in combat against the Japanese Zero lead to the development of the Grumman F6F Hellcat carrier fighter. Even though the Hellcat resembled the Grumman F4F Wildcat, it was a totally new, larger more powerful design. First flying on July 30, 1942, the Hellcat entered service in February 1943 aboard the USS Essex. The Hellcat entered combat against the Japanese on September 1, 1943 when fighters off the USS Independence shot down a Kawanishi H8K Emily flying boat. From then on the Hellcat was involved in practically all of the battles against the Japanese in the Pacific. The F6F accounted for 75% of all aerial victories recorded by the US Navy in the Pacific and flew 66,530 combat sorties (45% of all fighter sorties) and destroyed 5,163 enemy aircraft (56% of all USN / USMC victories) at a cost of only 270 Hellcats (19:1 kill ratio). 305 pilots became aces flying the Hellcat. The Hellcat also served with the British Fleet Air Arm and in actions in the European theater proved to be a match for the Messerschmitt ME-109 and Focke-Wulf FW-190. Production of the F6F Hellcat ended in November 1945 with a total of 12,275 produced. The Grumman F6F Hellcat also flew with the French Navy who used them in Indochina and the Uruguayan Navy who flew them until the early 1960s. After the war the Hellcat was replaced by the F8F Bearcat but remained in service as late as 1954 as a night fighter. The F6F-5 Hellcat was armed with six .50 cal. M2 Browning machine guns and could carry six 5 in. HVAR rockets or two 11¾ inch Tiny Tim unguided rockets, a 2,000 lb. bomb or a Mk.13-3 torpedo on the centerline and 4,000 lbs. of bombs under the wings. This model shows a Grumman F6F-5 Hellcat flown by VF-12 flying from the carrier USS Randolph in 1945.

Grumman F6F-5 Hellcat Carrier Fighter

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OS2U-3 Kingfisher Floatplane

The Vought OS2U Kingfisher was the U.S. Navy's first catapult launched monoplane observation plane. First flying in July 1938 the Kingfisher entered service aboard the battleship USS Colorado in early 1940. Equipping almost all of the US Navy’s battleships and cruisers the Kingfisher was also used for training, scouting, bombing, towing aerial gunnery targets, chasing practice torpedoes, antisubmarine warfare, general utility and air-sea rescue. The Kingfisher also came in a land-based configuration. One of the most famous Kingfisher mission was the rescue of Captain Eddie Rickenbacker, who ditched in the Pacific in a B-17 in 1942. A Kingfisher picked up Rickenbacker and two other crew members but the Kingfisher could not take off because the load was too great. The pilot taxied on the surface over 40 miles to make the nearest landfall with everyone aboard. The Kingfisher was also used during and well after WWII by the U.S. Coast Guard, the Royal Navy, Australia, the Soviet Union, Uruguay, Chile, Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Cuba, Argentina and the Netherlands. The Kingfisher had a maximum speed of 164 mph and was armed with 1 .30 cal forward firing machinegun, 1 .30 cal rear firing machinegun and 2 100 lb. Bombs or 2 325 lb. depth charges. This model shows an OS2U-3 Kingfisher flying off of the battleship USS North Carolina at Truk Atoll in April 1944.

Vought OS2U-3 Kingfisher Float Plane

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F2A-3 Buffalo Carrier Fighter

The Brewster F2A Buffalo first flew on December 2, 1937 and early test results showed it was far in advance of the biplanes the Navy was flying. Testing began in January 1938 and production began in June. The Buffalo became the Navy’s first monoplane fighter. While the F2A was highly maneuverable, by 1940 it was realized that it was rapidly becoming obsolete. Shortly after taking delivery of the last Buffaloes, the Navy decided to eliminate the type altogether. Now considered a second line aircraft, some were transferred to the USMC and used as land based fighters and some continued flying from carriers until a replacement arrived. Most of the surviving Navy Buffalos were sent to training squadrons as soon as possible. In spite of the Buffalo's shortcomings, they were pressed into service as WWII began. The F2A flew with the Royal Australian Air Force, Finnish Air Force, Militaire Luchtvaart KNIL, Royal New Zealand Air Force and the Royal Air Force, with almost universally poor results. During the Battle Of Midway, USMC FG VMF-221 operated a mixed group of 20 Brewster Buffaloes and six Wildcat fighters. All 20 aircraft went in against the first Japanese air raid on Midway Island. All 20 Buffaloes were either shot down, crash landed or landed with engine trouble or battle damage that put them out of action. Only in Finland was the Buffalo a success. The Finnish version of the Buffalo arrived in Finland in February 1940 and began combat operations against the Soviet Union during the Winter War. In the end, the Brewster Buffalo gained a reputation in Finnish Air Force service as one of their more successful fighter aircraft. Between 1941 and 1945 Buffaloes claimed 477 Soviet Air Force warplanes destroyed, with the combat loss of just 19 Buffaloes; a victory ratio of 26:1. 36 aces were produced by the Finnish Air Force while flying Buffaloes. The last Brewster Buffalo flew in the Autumn of 1948 and all were scrapped in 1953. This model shows a Brewster F2A-3 Buffalo flying with USMC FG VMF-221 out of Midway Island in 1942.

Brewster F2A-3 Buffalo Carrier Fighter

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SB2C-1 Helldiver Carrier Dive Bomber

The Curtiss SB2C Helldiver was a USN carrier based dive bomber designed to replace the Douglas SBD Dauntless. First flying on December 18, 1940 the Helldiver was plagued by design problems, poor stability and prototype crashes. In spite of the problems large scale production was ordered but with over 800 modifications needed first. This delayed it's combat debut until November 11, 1943. The Helldiver was generally disliked by it's crews due to it's numerous faults. It was underpowered, had a shorter range than the Dauntless, had an unreliable electrical system, poor quality control, required more frequent maintenance, poor longitudinal stability, poor aileron response and poor handling characteristics. In spite of the problems, the Helldiver did give a good account of itself in the last years of WWII in the Pacific. Helldivers fought in the battles of the Marianas, Philippines, Taiwan, Iwo Jima, Okinawa, the Ryuku Islands and Honshu Island, They participated in the sinking of the Yamato and the Musashi. They were also used in the 1945 attacks on airfields, communications, and shipping in Japan. They were also used extensively in patrols during between the dropping of the atomic bombs and the official Japanese surrender and in the immediate pre-occupation period. After WWII the Helldiver remained in active USN service until 1947 and with the naval reserve until 1950. Surplus aircraft were sold to the naval air forces of France, Italy, Greece, Portugal, and Thailand. Greek SB2Cs served in combat in the Greek Civil War and French SB2Cs flew in the First Indochina War from 1951 to 1954. A total of 7,140 SB2Cs were produced. The SBC2 Helldiver was armed with two 20 mm cannons in the wing and two .30 cal. M1919 Browning machineguns in the rear cockpit. It could carry 2,000 lbs. of bombs or one Mark 13-2 torpedo in the internal bay and two 500 lb. bombs on under wing hard points. This model shows a SB2C-1 Helldiver with VB-4 flying off of the carrier USS Hornet in mid 1943.

SB2C-1 Helldiver Carrier Dive Bomber

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SBD-3 Dauntless Carrier Dive Bomber

The Douglas SBD Dauntless began as the Northrop BT-1 in 1935. When Northrop was taken over by Douglas the project continued. By November 1937 the design team lead by Ed Heinemann had the first prototype were ready for testing and the first SBD entered service in 1939. The SBD  first saw action at Pearl Harbor when several arrived from the USS Enterprise while the attack was going on. Several were shot down and more destroyed on the ground. On December 10, 1941 Dauntlesses from Enterprise sank the Japanese submarine I-70. During early 1942 SBDs from the USS Lexington, USS Yorktown, and USS Enterprise raided Japanese bases in the Gilbert Islands, the Marshall Islands, New Guinea, Rabaul, Wake Island, and Marcus Island. The first major combat operation for the Dauntless was the Battle Of The Coral Sea on May 4-6 1942. SBDs and TBD Devastators sank the Japanese carrier Shoho and damaged the carrier Shokaku. During the battle, the SBD was pressed into service on anti-torpedo plane combat air patrol and scored several victories against Japanese aircraft trying to attack the Lexington and the Yorktown. One pilot, Stanley "Swede" Vejtasa, was attacked by three A6M2 Zero fighters. He shot two of them down and cut off the wing of the third in a head-on pass with his wingtip. The Dauntless most important victories were scored in the Battle Of Midway in June 1942 when four squadrons of Navy SBDs sank four Japanese fleet carriers, the Akagi, Kaga, Soryu and Hiryu. They also heavily damaged 2 heavy cruisers. This victory turned the tide of the war in the Pacific. SBDs also played a major role in the Guadalcanal campaign attacking Japanese shipping throughout the campaign and sinking the carrier Ryujo, a cruiser and nine transports. They also damaged 3 more carriers. The June 1944 Battle Of The Philippine Sea was the last major engagement where SBDs made up a significant part of the carrier force. Marine squadrons continued to fly SBDs until the end of the war. Even though the Curtiss Helldiver had a more powerful engine, higher speed and heavier bomb load, many of the dive bomber pilots still preferred the Dauntless. The Dauntless is credited with sinking more enemy shipping in WWII than any other Allied bomber. 5,936 Dauntlesses were produced with production ending on July 21, 1944. During WWII the Dauntless flew 1,189,473 operational hours (25 percent of all operational hours flown off aircraft carriers). The Dauntless accounted for six Japanese carriers, 14 cruisers, six destroyers, 15 transports and hundreds various small craft. Several SBD Dauntless dive bombers still fly today. The Douglas SBD Dauntless was armed with two .50 cal, forward firing synchronized Browning M2 machineguns and two.30 cal. Flexible mounted Browning machine gun in rear. It could carry 2,250 lbs. of bombs  This model shows a SBD-3 Dauntless from VS-5 flying off of the carrier USS Yorktown on June 4, 1942 at the Battle Of Midway. This is one of the planes that attacked and sunk the IJN carriers Soryu &Hiryu. Also see the A-24 A Banshee.

SBD-3 Dauntless Carrier Dive Bomber

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