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  • Brewster F2A (Buffalo) Monoplane Fighter

    The F2A Buffalo fought valiantly in the first Battle of Midway, where losses were heavy.

     Updated: 5/5/2016; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ¬©www.MilitaryFactory.com

    Brewster Aeronautical Corporation managed a few notable designs for its time in American military aviation history - existing mainly during the period encompassing World War 2 (1939-1945). There were the SBN and SB2A "Buccaneer" scout bombers of 1941 and the failed XA-32 ground attacker of 1943 - Brewster's final entry in the field. The company also produced, under license, the classic American naval fighter F4U "Corsair" in its F3A-1 variant form. The company went defunct in April of 1946 after the war had ended.

    Perhaps Brewster's greatest in-house achievement was its pre-war F2A which was developed to a U.S. Navy (USN) specification calling for a carrier-based fighter of monoplane configuration. This aircraft went on to become the service's first-ever monoplane and was one of the first to incorporate several features that allowed it to operate effectively on carrier decks - namely the inclusion of an arrestor hook for landing actions.

    Design of the aircraft emerged from work undertaken at Brewster by Dayton T. Brown and R.D. MacCart in 1936. The basic model, known internally as "B-139", incorporated a single-seat, single-engine monoplane arrangement with all-metal construction - certainly very modern qualities for the period. USN authorities liked what they saw and ordered a prototype - the "XF2A-1" - on June 22nd, 1936. The aircraft went airborne for the first time on December 2nd, 1937 and was powered by a Wright XR-1820-22 "Cyclone" air-cooled radial piston engine of 950 horsepower.

    The aircraft faced off in 1939 - and won - against the aircraft that would become the F4F "Wildcat" offered Grumman, therefore taking the claim as the Navy's first true operational monoplane fighter (the Wildcat would go on to have its own notable career in due time). The F2A was selected to succeed the aging and outmoded line of Grumman F3F fighters and its performance was markedly better than the competing Grumman offering at the time.

    The Brewster design featured a large radial engine fitted in the nose driving a three-bladed propeller unit. The engine's size forced the aircraft to be given a deep fuselage which was also short in length - providing the fighter with a very stout appearance. The pilot's cockpit was covered over in a framed, sliding (rearward) canopy and the undercarriage was wholly retractable - thoguh the legs remained exposed against the sides of the forward fuselage underside when in flight. The wing mainplanes were set along the midway point of the fuselage sides, were straight in their general appearance, and showcased clipped tips. The tail unit relied on a single vertical tail fin and low-mounted horizontal planes.

    The U.S. Navy ordered 54 of the type based on the XF2A-1 prototype though with Wright R-1820-34 engines of 940 horsepower instead. Original armament was 1 x 0.30 caliber machine gun and 1 x 0.50 caliber machine gun firing over the nose and 2 x 0.50 caliber machine guns in the wings (one per wing). The F2A-1, as the first production models were marked, arrived in U.S. Navy hands during June 1939.

    However, of the 50+ aircraft ordered, just eleven would ever make it to the USN inventory as 43 of the line - deemed "surplus" - were sold to Finland where their single 0.30 caliber machine guns were given up in favor of a fourth 0.50 caliber weapon for a heftier frontal "punch".

    Following a March 1939 request by the U.S. Navy, Brewster installed a Wright R-1820-40 radial engine of 1,200 horsepower output into its prototype along with a new electrically-driven propeller unit (the original one was hydraulically-powered) and a revised fuel system. These changes were enough to warrant redesignation of the prototype to "XF2A-2" which began testing during July 1939. Then followed an order for 43 aircraft to this standard as the "F2A-2" (with the original mixed machine gun armament) to cover the USN's loss of the F2A-1 stock that left for Finland. Service entry of the F2A-2 models was in September of 1940 and, from the 30th example on, the aircraft's armament suite was reworked to carry 4 x 0.50 caliber systems as in the Finnish models and armor protection and self-sealing fuel tanks were standard.

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    Brewster F2A-3 Technical Specifications

    Service Year: 1939
    Type: Monoplane Fighter
    National Origin: United States
    Manufacturer(s): Brewster Aeronautical Corporation - USA
    Production Total: 509

    Structural (Crew Space, Dimensions and Weights)

    Operating Crew: 1
    Length: 26.35 feet (8.03 meters)
    Width: 35.01 feet (10.67 meters)
    Height: 12.07 feet (3.68 meters)

    Weight (Empty): 4,729 lb (2,145 kg)
    Weight (MTOW): 7,165 lb (3,250 kg)

    Installed Power and Standard Day Performance

    Engine(s): 1 x Wright R-1820-40 "Cyclone" air-cooled radial piston engine developing 1,200 horsepower.

    Maximum Speed: 321 mph (517 kph; 279 knots)
    Maximum Range: 966 miles (1,555 km)
    Service Ceiling: 33,202 feet (10,120 meters; 6.29 miles)
    Rate-of-Climb: 2,440 feet-per-minute (744 m/min)

    Armament / Mission Payload

    1 x 0.30 caliber machine gun in nose
    1 x 0.50 caliber machine gun in nose
    2 x 0.50 caliber machine guns in wings (one per wing).

    2 x 0.50 caliber machine guns in nose
    2 x 0.50 caliber machine guns in wings (one per wing).

    British Marks:
    4 x 7.7mm Browning machine guns

    Global Operators / Customers

    Australia; Finland; Netherlands (East Indies); New Zealand; United Kingdom; United States

    Model Variants (Including Prototypes)

    F2A - Base Series Designation

    XF2A-1 - Original prototype

    F2A-1 - Fitted with Wright R-1820-34 engine; for USN service; 11 examples.

    F2A-2 - Wright R-1820-40 engine; for USN and USMC service; 43 examples.

    XF2A-4 - Single prototype example converted from F2A-3.

    B-239 - Finnish export model; Wright R-1820-G5 engine; 4 x 12.7mm machine guns; 44 examples

    B-339B - Belgian export model; 40 examples (two delivered).

    B-339C - Dutch export model; Wright GR-1820-G-105 engine; 24 examples.

    B-339D - Dutch export model; Wright R-1820-40 engine; 48 examples (47 delivered).

    B-339E (Buffalo Mk.I) - RAF export model; Wright GR-1820-G-105 engine; 170 examples.

    B-339-23 - Dutch export model; Wright GR-1820-G205A engine; 20 examples.