Douglas BTD Destroyer
Torpedo / Dive Bomber Aircraft
The end of World War 2 in 1945 signaled the end of Destroyer production, ending with 30 examples with none seeing combat service.
Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited:
The awkward-looking Douglas BTD Destroyer was developed by the Douglas Aircraft Company for use on American carriers in World War 2. The type was intended to succeed the SBD Dauntless (another Douglas product) and the Curtiss SB2C Helldiver torpedo bombers in the same role. Due to the end of the war in August of 1945, total production of BTD Destroyers was limited to 30 examples, signaling the end of the program as well as many others currently in development or fulfilling massive production orders. Its introduction was in 1944 to which the type was quickly retired in 1945 amidst changing U.S. Navy requirements of its carrier-based aircraft.
The BTD Destroyer was born in the XSB2D-1 prototype commissioned by the United States Navy in June of 1941. Design was attributed to successful aviation engineer Ed Heinemann who lent his talents to the development of the A-20 Havoc, A-26 Invader, A-1 Skyraider and several more light and medium mounts. He is perhaps remembered for heading the A-4 Skyhawk jet fighter design. The XSB2D-1 offered up many novel design qualities including a powered tricycle undercarriage, a pair of remote-controlled machine gun-armed turrets and an inverted gull wing arrangement (similar to the Vought F4U Corsair fighter).
The fuselage was well-streamlined and highly tubular in its shape with the engine mounted to the extreme front-end of the aircraft powering a three-bladed propeller through a conical spinner. The cockpit was fitted aft of the engine and covered amidships with the crew of two under a framed canopy assembly. The fuselage tapered to the rear to which a distinct vertical tail fin was affixed. Horizontal tail planes were traditional and mounted as such. The main wing sections, mid-mounted along the fuselage sides, were cranked upwards at mid-chord, providing the Destroyer with a most unique appearance. Armament included 2 x 20mm cannons in the wings (inboard of the bend) as well as 4 x .50 caliber heavy machine guns mounted across two remote-controlled turrets (two guns to a turret). The latter armament was intended for self-defense while the former could be used effectively for strafing ground targets or suppressing anti-aircraft guns. A torpedo would be mounted into the internal bomb bay.
The basic role of the torpedo bomber at this point in the war was to fly in level flight several hundred feet from the water line, loosing the torpedo (fish) load when in range of the target vessel. Vessels were usually approached from the broadside to present the largest target possible and crews had to operate under intense fire from enemy anti-aircraft defenses - machine guns and cannon - that stocked all naval warships.
The TBD Destroyer was first flown on April 8th, 1943 and its qualities proved rather sound with strong performance gains over existing types. Such was the promising nature of the design that the USN placed a procurement order for 358 aircraft under the "SB2D-1" designation.
Despite the inherent qualities of the proven XSB2D-1 prototype, and in keeping with US military habit of reworking its requirements during critical portions of aircraft development periods, the USN returned with a very different set of needs a short time late. The requirement now called for a single-seat dive bomber lacking any costly and complicated defensive-minded armament. The new aircraft would be more fighter-like in its approach, field a simplified fuselage built around power and still deliver torpedoes in its primary role with dive bombing as secondary. The aircraft was still be well-armed and armored and provide the USN with a more cost-friendly alternative that could be produced in a shorter amount of time and require the training of a single pilot.
With the new requirements in hand, Douglas revised their initial plans and came up with the "BTD-1", a sleeker refined form still retaining an internal bomb bay, tricycle landing gear, gull wings, large vertical tail fin and radial piston engine. The engine now powered a more impressive four-bladed propeller system which promised performance gains through use of the smaller airframe. 2 x 20mm cannons were fitted to the wing's leading edges in the same way as featured in the XSB2D prototype. The wings were mid-mounted along the fuselage sides. The pilot resided under a glazed canopy which slid rearwards for access. Views out of the cockpit were generally good for an aircraft of this class.
The US Navy accepted the revised Destroyer design as the BTD-1 and production began in earnest. The first example was available on June of 1944 and followed by 27 more units. However, this is all that stood when the Japanese Empire surrendered on August 15th, 1945. In all, some 30 airframes would be completed and quickly retired from service, never to see combat action against their intended foe in the Pacific.