INDEX OF NAVAL AIRCRAFT
|Curtiss SBW-1B Helldiver
(Curtiss SB2C Helldiver)
The SB2C designated as Curtiss SBW-1B Helldiver for the Royal Navy was built to combine a powerful engine and a large weapons load in a small airframe, as required for carrier operations. The SB2C was compact and dense, and its fuselage was inordinately small compared with the large wings and tail. The bad handling characteristics earned this dive bomber uncomplimentary nicknames. Its performance was little better than that of the older SBD Dauntless which it had been designed to replace.
Despite its initial lacklustre showing the SB2C served as the sole shipborne dive-bomber of the US Navy from late 1944 until the end of the war, and inflicted huge damage on enemy shipping and installations.
Original warime colour photograph of the Helldiver prototype XSB2C-1 BuNo1758 on its maiden flight 18 December1940
The Fleet Air Arm ordered 26 Helldivers under Lend-Lease Contract No. NXs-LL139 requisition No. N-5. This British version of the Helldiver, serialed JW100-125, was given the designation SBW-1B. This particular model were built by the Canadian Car & Foundry Factory for the Royal Navy. The first, JW120, was delivered to the RN in December 1943. The main operational Helldiver unit, 1820 squadron, started receiving its Helldivers in April 1944 at Brunswick, USA.
The 'Son of a Bitch Second Class' (SB2C-1C) Helldiver I was regarded
as the ugly duckling of the Fleet Air Arm. Although, some would say that
the Fairey Barracuda could claim that title. Needless to say, the Royal
Navy was not impressed with 'The Beast' and the aircraft, never saw
active combat with the FAA.The last Helldiver, JW115, to serve with the
Fleet Air Arm was payed off in December 1945 with 700 squadron at MiddleWallop.
Fleet Air Arm Helldiver of 1820 squadron 1944/45
Battle Honours and Operational History
The career of the Helldiver was a series of successes and failures. In the Fleet Air Arm it equiiped one operational squadron but never saw action. However, the US navy used it and inflicted huge damage on enemy shipping and installations. In a raid on Rabaul a carrier-based squadron of "Beasts" sank two cruisers and a destroyer. During carrier raids on Truk, the same squadron sank 176,000 tons of Japanese shipping in 36 hours with the loss of only one plane to enemy action. Conversely, only five of fifty SB2Cs returned safely from an attack against the Japanese Fleet during the first Battle of the Phillipine Sea with the majority ditching for lack of fuel. Of the SBDs launched on the same attack, only two failed to return safely - one to enemy fire and the other crashed on landing.
Three helldivers are known to be preserved in museums around the world, and only one in airworthy. None of the Fleet Air Arm Helldivers have survived. The survivors are at the Hellenic Air Force Museum (Greece), the National Naval Aviation Museum (USA) and the Confederate Air Force Ghost Squadron (USA). The National Naval Aviation Museum's SB2C-5 (BuNo 83479) has been on loan from the National Air and Space Museum since 1976.
Helldiver SB2C-5 BuNo 83479 preserved at the NNAM (USA)
Helldiver SB2C-5 preserved in Greece
Associations and reunions