The Brewster F2A Buffalo was a single seat carrier-capable fighter used during the early years of World War II.
Development and Testing
The Buffalo was designed by Dayton T Brown and R D MacCart in response to a 1936 United States Navy requirement for a carrier based fighter. The Buffalo prototype was ordered on 22 June 1936, and made its first flight, as the XF2A-1 (B-139), in December 1937. 54 examples designated F2A-1 (B-239), each powered by a 940 hp R-1820-34 radial engine, and armed with one 7.62mm and three 12.7mm machine guns, were ordered on 11 June 1938, ahead of competing designs from Grumman and Seversky,
Known to Brewster as the B-339, this was an improved version of the F2A-1, with a more powerful engine driving an improved propeller, and improved flotation gear. The US Navy received 43 examples.
An improved version of the F2A-2, with additional armour and a bullet proof windscreen, 108 examples of the F2A-3 were built under an order placed by the US Navy on 21 January 1941. Following completion of the final export B-339, the order was primarily intended to keep the assembly line open. Armament consisted of four fixed M2 Machine Guns - two in the upper cowling and one in the leading edge of each wing - supplemented by a pair of 100 lb (45 kg) bombs under the wings. One example of the F2A-3 was fitted with a pressurised cockpit, and flown as the XF2A-4.
Deliveries of the F2A-1 to the US Navy began in June 1939,[N 1] with operations commencing aboard the carrier USS Saratoga. These were followed from September 1940 by the 43 F2A-2 and 108 F2A-3 aircraft, which were assigned to Navy squadrons VF-2 and VF-3, and USMC squadron VFM-221, with surviving Navy aircraft being passed to the USMC by August 1942. The F2A-3s were delivered between July and December 1941, but performance was adversely affected by the increase in loaded weight, resulting in the F2A-3 seeing relatively brief USN/USMC service. The last US Navy unit to fly the Buffalo was VF-3, which retained the type at least until March 1942.
The first Buffalo fighters to enter Finnish service were the F2A-1s deemed surplus to requirements by the US Navy. These fighters, re-designated to their factory title of B-239, started to arrive in May 1940, and received registrations BW-351 to BW 394. These soon had the 7.62 mm gun replaced with a fourth 12.7mm gun. By 2 July 1941, 35 B-239s remained in Finnish service - 34 with LeLv 24 and 1 with LeLv 28. Some examples in Finnish service were fitted with M63 engines captured from the Soviet Union. Finland continued to operate the F2A until at least 1944, with a Finnish B-239 making it's last flight on 14 September 1948.
The British Purchasing Commission ordered 170 B-339E aircraft early in the war, supplementing them with most of the 40 B-339B aircraft which had been ordered by Belgium, but not delivered due to that country's occupation by Germany. Designated Buffalo Mk I in British service, the aircraft were delivered from July 1940, only for trials to reveal that their performance was inadequate for deployment in Europe. Apart from a small number of aircraft from the Belgian order, which were passed to 805 and 885 squadrons of the Fleet Air Arm, the Buffalos were sent to the Far East, and assigned to RAF squadrons 67, 146, 243, 453 and 488, as well as RAAF 21 Squadron, to provide air defence for Singapore and the Straits Settlements.[N 2]
- The US Navy only received the first 11 examples from the original 54 aircraft order. The other 43 were deemed surplus to requirements and passed to Finland, who replace the 7.62 mm gun with a forth 12.7mm gun.
- Like most export versions, these aircraft were of F2A-3 standard with carrier specific equipment deleted.
- Green, William and Gordon Swanborough. Complete Book of Fighters. Salamander Books. 2001. ISBN 1-84065-269-1 Page 90
- Aircraft of the World Card Collection. 1996 - 1998. Group 11 Card 33 (American aircraft of World War II - Brewster F2A Buffalo)
- World Aircraft Information Files Aviation Partwork. Midsummer Books Ltd. File 890 Sheet 84
- Green, William and Gordon Swanborough. Pages 90-91
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- Neulen, Hans Werner. 2000. Page 203
- Neulen, Hans Werner. 2000. Page 204