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The Curtiss SB2C Helldiver

The Curtiss SB2C Helldiver

A carrier-based dive bomber aircraft produced for the US Navy during WW II, the Curtiss SB2C Helldiver was a replacement for the Douglas SBD Dauntless. The SB2C was much faster than the SBD and the crew nicknames for the aircraft included the Big-Tailed Beast or just the derogatory Beast, Two-Cee, and Son-of-a-Bitch 2nd Class, (after its designation and partly because of its reputation for having difficult handling characteristics).

Delays marred its production, by the time the A-25 Shrike variant for the USAAF was deployed in late 1943, the Army Air Forces no longer wanted a thoroughbred dive bomber. Poor aircraft handling was another factor that hampered its introduction, both the British Royal Navy and the Royal Australian Air Force cancelled their substantial orders.

The Navy would not accept the SB2C until some 880 design modifications and changes had been made. Ultimately, the Curtiss Helldiver’s combat debut wasn’t until November 1943 with the VB-17 squadron on the USS Bunker Hill. They went on to attack the Japanese-held Port of Rabaul on the island of New Britain, north of Papua, New Guinea. The first version of the SB2C-1 was kept stateside for training purposes, its various development problems leading to only 200 being built. The first deployment model of the Helldiver was the SB2C-1C.

The SB2C-1 could deploy slats to aid lateral control at low speeds. They were mechanically linked with the landing gear actuators that extended from the outer third of the wing leading edge. The early prognosis of the “Beast” was unfavorable and it was strongly disliked by aircrews due to its size, weight, and reduced range compared to the SBD it replaced.

In the Battle of the Philippine Sea, 45 Helldivers, most of which had been deliberately launched from extreme range, were lost when they ran out of fuel while returning to their carriers.

Updated: January 16, 2020 — 4:40 PM

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