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