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World War II Fixed-wing Aircraft: Propeller Planes--Naval Attack Aircraft

World War II naval aircrft
Figure 1.--The British Royal Air Force almost entered World War II with biplanes. The Royal Navy did. Britain was one of three countries that deployed aircraft carrietrs in World War II. The British carriers were mostly small and had bipalanes well into the war. The primary aircraft was the Fairey Swordfish, seen heard aboard the carrier 'HmS Glorious'.. While obsolete they scorded notable successes in the European theater, including an attack on ther German battleship 'Bismarck" and Italian battleships. It wa not until the British got advanced American aircraft and the Germans U-boat threat was defeated that the British crriers could be used in the Pacific.

Naval attack planes are similar in function to ground attack planes. Given the constraints of carriers, they had to have special design features. Some planes could be modified for carrier deployment, but most were specially designed for carrier operations. Carrier and ground attack planes both include dive bombers. Naval types include torpedo planes which are often called torpedo planes as they can be fitted with bombs. Unlike dive bombers, these planes made horizontal runs. There is overlap here because fighters can be used for ground attack as well. This was especiallyh the case of American fighters which has large powerful engines. Naval attack aircraft were primarily American and Japanese as these were the countries that deployed powerful carrier forces. The Japanese began the War with the most effective carrier aircraft. They placed a great emphasis on torpedo attack shile the Americans concentrated on dive bombers. The Japanese did not have the industrail and technical capability to upgrade their carrier aircraft during the War. The Americans did. The at the end of the War Japanese were still using the aircraft (with minor modifications) with which they lauched the War. Building larger aircraft with more powerful engines required more raw materials and a greater industrial plant. The Americans deployed a whole new generation of aircraft which reached the maximum performance capabilities of propller capabilities. The British also had carriers, but were so focused on the air war with the Germans gave little attention to carrier aircraft developkment and wereactually using biplanes well into the War. They modified RAF fightrs for carrier use, but for naval attack planes as well as figheers turned to the Americans.

Douglas TBD Devastator

American Douglas SBD Dauntless

Douglas Aircraft turned out one C-47 transport every 5 hours. While Douglas is probably most accociated with the C-47 during the War, it also produced combat aircraft, for both the Army and Navy. Douglas also manufactured the Scout Bomber Douglas (SBD) Dauntless. This little low-wing dive bomber became the U.S. Navy's main carrier-borne scout plane and dive bomber (mid-1940). The punch of the Imperial Navy was its torpedo bombers, for the Americans it was its dive bombers because of the low level attacks need to delver a torpedo was dangerous and American torpedos at the start of the war were unreliable. The Dauntlss is most notable for eipping the heart out of the Japanese Imperial Fleet. sinking four of their six main-line carriers at Midway 6-months after Pearl Harbor (June 1942). And this was accompished before the improved American aicraft types under production began reaching the fleet. The pilots that flew the Dauntless were just that. Besides the physical demands of dive bombing, the pilots and their back gunner flew in skies which the U.S. Navy did nt have air superiority. They could be savaged at any time by Jaoamese Zero fighters. That first year they operated against great odds. And being shot down in the vast Pacific was tantamount to death. And if the Xeros did not get them, there was the deadly flak which got worse the closer they came. And unlike modern aircraft, The Daunless had to delkver their bomb at what might be called point-blank range. The Dauntless SBD Dauntless was the produt of two grat minds. The first was Jack Northrop, thecreator of the 'flying wings'. The scond was engineer/designer Edward H. Heinemann. When it comes performance th Dauntless was not very impressive. No other plane of the war cn credi reversing the course of the War in one single sortee.

American Curtis SB2C Hell Diver

Americanm Grumman TBF Avenger

British Fairey Swordfish

The British Royal Air Force almost entered World War II with biplanes. The Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm did. Britain was one of three countries that deployed aircraft carriers in World War II. The British carriers were mostly small and had biplanes well into the war. The primary naval attack aircraft was the Fairey Swordfish, was a bipalane torpedo bomber, seen here aboard HMS Glorious. It was produced by the Fairey Aviation Company. It was intriduced in 1936. It was affectuinalled called the 'Stringbag'. While basically obsolete by the onset of World War II, the Fleet Air Arm had no monoplanes to repalce it with. And it managed to score some notable successes in the European theater. This included an ait rade on the port of Totanto, sinking one battleship and damaging two others Italian Regia Marina. This critically narroweed the odds for the Royal Navy forces in the Mefiterranean. There was also a notable attack on the German battleship Bismarck. Apparently the German guns failed to destroy any of the attacking Swordfish because they were flying too low and slow. The German guns were pogramed for more modern, faster aircraft. [Stott]

Japanese Aichi D3A

Japanese Nakajima B5N


Stott, Ian G. The Fairey Swordfish Mks. I-IV Aircraft in Profile 212 (Windsor, Berkshire, UK: Profile Publications, 1971).


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Created: 10:20 PM 7/28/2014
Last updated: 11:09 AM 2/26/2022