Brewster XA-32 - United States, 1943
Detailing the development and operational history of the Brewster XA-32 Ground Attack / Dive Bomber Aircraft Prototype.
Entry last updated on 5/5/2016; Authored by Staff Writer; Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com
The Brewster XA-32 series was intended as a ground attack aircraft though only two prototypes were ever completed.
The United States Army Air Corps appreciated the tactical scope of the German Luftwaffe Junkers Ju 87 "Stuka" dive bombers and set about to stock a similar aircraft of its own. This charge was given to the Brewster Aeronautical Corporation in 1941. However, Brewster was slow in its response and a mockup was not made ready until the middle of 1942. A functioning prototype (XA-32) was therefore not in play until 1943 and this featured an all-new vertical tail fin design. By this time, America was fully committed to world war along several major fronts and piston-engined technology had advanced by a large margin.
The XA-32 was given a rather conventional design configuration though the implementation of an internal bomb bay generated a rather portly fuselage appearance. At its core, the XA-32 certainly appeared a serviceable mark, with well-rounded mid-set monoplane wings, a forward-set cockpit, front-mounted radial piston engine and conventional tail unit and undercarriage. Power was developed from a single Pratt & Whitney R-2800 series air-cooled radial piston engine driving a four-bladed propeller assembly. Primary armament was to be 8 x 0.50 Browning heavy machine guns. As a bomber, the XA-32 was given provision for 1,000lb bombs under each wing and a 1,000lb munition in the internal bomb bay.
During formal evaluation of the XA-32 in 1943, the aircraft came in underpowered and heavy. An attempt to improved performance was made by fitting of the Pratt & Whitney R-4360 "Wasp Major" air-cooled radial engine of 3,000 horsepower but this did little to circumvent inherently gross problems in the design. The initial prototype managed a cruising speed of less than 200 miles per hour and this was without its intended armament in place. Furthermore, ranges under a combat load were equally limited to just 500 miles - hardly acceptable as a military-minded mount that would be called to attack targets over long distances. A second prototype - the XA-32A - emerged and this was eventually fitted with 4 x 20mm cannons but even this form failed to improved upon the original in any way.
The forgettable XA-32 was officially cancelled in 1944 and the disastrous effort that was the XA-32 ultimately doomed the Brewster Aeronautical Corporation in full - becoming its last foray into aircraft design and development, the company dismantled on April 5th, 1946 after years of utterly terrible management. Its primary claim to fame would forever be the equally-portly "Brewster Buffalo" of the late 1930s/early 1940s which had beaten out the classic Grumman F4F Wildcat as the first US Navy monoplane carrier-borne fighter. The USAAC instead moved forward and procured the North American A-36A "Apache" series in number (500 examples) - a dedicated ground attack version of the famous P-51 Mustang - for its strike/dive bombing needs. This aircraft gave a good account of itself in limited, interim service before they, themselves, were replaced by improved ground-attack-minded P-51 and Republic P-47 Thunderbolt fighter-bombers.