The Douglas Company began production of the SBD Dauntless in the early part of 1940: The plane completed its first flight on May 1, 1940. The US Military entered the “Dauntless” into service first with the Marines as the SBD-1, followed by the Navy’s activation of the aircraft in 1941 which flew the SBD-2 version of the Dauntless as a carrier-based fighter. Among some differences between the two aircraft was the SBD-2 s’ larger fuel tanks. Upgrades and other modifications of the plane continued at a steady rate with increasingly larger fuel tanks, fuselage upgrades for protection against enemy fire, and additional armament.
One of the most common versions of the SBD Dauntless is the SBD-5. It was equipped with a larger 1,200 hp engine and further improvements to armament. More than 2,400 of the SBD-5 aircraft were produced, some of which were sold to Mexico, New Zealand, and the Royal Navy. The final version of the SBD Dauntless was the SBD-6. As with many of the previous modifications, it again had larger fuel tanks as well as a more powerful engine. U.S. Army versions of the SBD were the A-24, A-24A, and the A-24B. The total number of SBD Dauntless aircraft manufactured was 5,936.
The most unique feature of the SBD Dauntless was its dive brake system. It worked by using flaps with large holes in them. By relying on the dive brakes, the Dauntless pilots could drop into a steep dive and accurately deliver its bomb on target before pulling up and away.
The Dauntless served almost entirely in the Pacific theatre and even saw action at Pearl Harbor when the Japanese made their surprise attack on the American fleet. The aircraft also served valiant airmen in the Battle of the Coral Sea, sinking four Japanese aircraft carriers. Before the war’s end, SBD Dauntless airplanes were responsible for destroying six enemy carriers and a battleship.
Here are some interesting facts about the SBD:
Maximum speed: 252 mph
Cruise speed: 185 mph
Range: 1,205 miles
Ceiling: 27,100 feet
Length: 33 feet
Wingspan: 41 feet 6 inches
Height: 12 feet 11 inches
Maximum weight: 9,353 pounds
Empty weight: 6,535 lbs.
Engine(s): one 1,200 hp Wright R-1820-60 engine
Rate of climb: 1,700 ft per minute
Armament: 2,250 lbs bombs, two .50-caliber machine guns, and one to two .30-caliber machine guns.
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