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Douglas A-24 Banshee

Dive Bomber / Reconnaissance Aircraft

United States | 1941

"The Douglas A-24 Banshee was the U.S. Army version of the U.S. Navy SBD Dauntless dive bomber with a few changes to suit the service."

Authored By: Dan Alex | Last Edited: 05/25/2021 | Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com | The following text is exclusive to this site; No A.I. was used in the generation of this content.
Flag of Image from the National Museum of the United States Air Force of Dayton, Ohio.
Prior to World War 2 (1939-1945), United States military aviation doctrine centered primarily on gaining complete air superiority over the enemy with a sound stock of "pursuit" fighters meeting the enemy head on. A secondary focus was provided to lightweight bomb delivery platforms and those that did emerge during the prewar period were typically shipped overseas to foreign customers like France, Britain, and the Dutch. However, all that changed when the Germans - through their Blitzkrieg of Western Europe - showcased the dive bomber in terrifying fashion through its shrieking Junkers Ju 87 "Stuka". The aircraft rained ordnance down on key targets and troop formations ahead of the main invading force - softening areas prior to involvement of ground elements. As such, the U.S. Army Air Forces (USAAF) quickly shifted its focus to acquiring strike platforms for the dive bombing role all its own.

Army officials preferred to stay away from more complex twin-engined designs and favored development of a single-engine, monoplane wing form utilizing a crew of two or three. Defensive armament was a must to help defend what would most likely be a slow-moving airplane. Several initiatives were pushed including the Douglas A-17, the Curtiss A-18, and the Vultee A-19 though none were winners in the Army search until the service took on a small stock of U.S. Navy Douglas SBD "Dauntless" dive bombers in July of 1940. With a few revisions - namely the deletion of the carrier deck arrestor equipment and replacement of Navy radio kits - the SBD was reconstituted for the Army in the new A-24 "Banshee" form. While not the complete solution for the Army, the Banshee would suffice until a proper aircraft was adopted. The initial Army mark was the SBD-3 (SBD-3A) model of the Navy as the "A-24" and the Army order was absorbed into the existing Navy order of July 1940. Army versions also replaced the solid tailwheels with pneumatic types for land-based take-offs and landings.

As with other American dive bombers of the period, the aircraft featured perforated dive brakes along its wing trailing edges to slow its drop when attacking. Self-sealing fuel tanks were a must as was armoring for self-preservation of crew and aircraft. As with the SBD before it, the Banshee used a modest machine gun armament as standard: 2 x 0.50 caliber heavy machine guns were fixed into the cowling for operation by the pilot and 1 x 0.30 caliber medium machine gun was added to a flexible mounting at the rear cockpit for protecting the vulnerable "six" of the aircraft. Like the SBD, the Banshee carried a crew of two - pilot and gunner. The aircraft's bombload was set across three available hardpoints - one under fuselage centerline and one under each wing. A typical load was 1 x 500lb / 1,000lb bomb under centerline or 1 x 100lb bomb at each wing station.

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The first Banshees arrived in U.S. Army hands for June of 1941 and these were outfitted with Wright R-1820-52 radial engines of 1,000 horsepower. The Banshee's initial assignment was with the 27th Bombardment Group (Light) of Hunter Field, Georgia and training began in earnest. Three squadrons were ultimately formed during the early part of the war.

With the Philippines under threat from Japanese invasion, A-24s were routed to the islands to help strengthen the American defense there. However, the swift Japanese advance forced the A-24s to be rerouted to Australia for final assembly. When unpackaged, the A-24s were quickly found to be in very used condition from their training period earlier. Australian personnel quickly rebuilt the aircraft and added makeshift fixes to weak spots and even altogether missing components. Such was the condition of these aircraft that some had their worn out aviation tires replaced with standard truck tires!

The 16th, 17th, and 91st Bombardment Squadrons were formed in Australia in preparation for the defense of Java. Fifteen A-24s set out though only seven were combat worthy by the time of their arrival (these also lacked the needed self-sealing fuel tanks and armoring). From this lot, the aircraft fought against the odds and generated a poor early showing - limited operational ranges, lacking appropriate firepower, and becoming fodder to enemy fighters when not provided with escorts. The aircraft did manage several direct hits on enemy ships during the campaign prior to the Allied evacuation of Java. The remaining A-24s in Australia were now formed into the 3rd Bombardment Group and the 8th Bombardment Squadron when assigned to the defense of New Guinea. Losses continued to mount as showcased in a July 1942 sortie which saw seven A-24s launched and only one return home.

Despite the emerging combat record, the Army committed to the A-24 with another order in July 1942 - primarily because their order for A-25 "Shrike" aircraft (the Army version of the Navy's Curtiss SB2C "Helldiver") was running into delays. March 1943 saw further A-24s added to the Army stock as some were pulled from the existing U.S. Navy inventory - these forms were designated as A-24A and were equivalent to the SBD-4A with increased bomb-carrying capacity and an additional rear cockpit machine gun (2 x 0.30 caliber machine guns on the flexible mount). 170 pf this newer mark were procured in all, joining the original 168 A-24 models. The final Banshee form was the A-24B which was the SBD-5A and its Wright R-1820-60 radial engine of 1,200 horsepower. The Army optimistically contracted for 1,200 of these aircraft but netted only 615 from the order by the middle of 1943 as the service began a departure from the need for a dedicated dive bombing platform - fighter-bombers and medium bombers seemed more than up to the task for the USAAF. Final Banshee deliveries occurred in December of 1943.

A-24Bs were flown against the Japanese at the Gilbert Islands and these provided much better results than previously seen with the line. By the end of their service tenures, A-24s served in the training role for pilots and gunners and were further used as tow aircraft for aerial targets. The USAAF passed on some of its A-24 stock to the USMC who could make proper use a direct bombing platform in the Close Air Support (CAS) role. Foreign operators of the Banshee went on to become Chile (A-24B model, 12 examples), France (Free French Forces, as many as 50 examples), and Mexico (28).

As an interesting aside regarding the A-24, the U.S. Army tested a "shrieking" system (by Chrysler) to mimic the terrifying diving sound generated by attacking German Stukas over Europe. Needless to say, this feature was not implement into production A-24s.

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Power & Performance
Those special qualities that separate one aircraft design from another. Performance specifications presented assume optimal operating conditions for the Douglas A-24A Banshee Dive Bomber / Reconnaissance Aircraft.
1 x Wright R-1820-52 air-cooled radial piston engine developing 1,000 horsepower driving three-bladed propeller unit at the nose.
250 mph
402 kph | 217 kts
Max Speed
26,001 ft
7,925 m | 5 miles
Service Ceiling
949 miles
1,528 km | 825 nm
Operational Range
City-to-City Ranges
Operational range when compared to distances between major cities (in KM).
The nose-to-tail, wingtip-to-wingtip physical qualities of the Douglas A-24A Banshee Dive Bomber / Reconnaissance Aircraft.
32.8 ft
10.00 m
O/A Length
41.6 ft
(12.68 m)
O/A Width
12.1 ft
(3.69 m)
O/A Height
5,523 lb
(2,505 kg)
Empty Weight
10,199 lb
(4,626 kg)
Design Balance
The three qualities reflected below are altitude, speed, and range. The more full the box, the more balanced the design.
Available supported armament and special-mission equipment featured in the design of the Douglas A-24 Banshee Dive Bomber / Reconnaissance Aircraft provided across 3 hardpoints.
2 x 0.50 caliber M2 Browning heavy machine guns in nose
1 OR 2 x 0.30 caliber M1919 Browning medium machine guns on flexible mount at rear cockpit.

Between 1,200 lb and 1,600 lb (model dependent) of externally-held ordnance (conventional drop bombs) at centerline and underwing hardpoints.

Hardpoints Key:

Not Used
Notable series variants as part of the Douglas A-24 Banshee family line.
A-24 "Banshee" - U.S. Army variant of the USN SBD-3; sans arrestor equipment; 168 examples.
A-24A - U.S. Army variant of the USN SBD-4; 170 examples.
A-24B - U.S. Army variant of the USN SBD-5; 615 examples.
Global customers who have evaluated and/or operated the Douglas A-24 Banshee. Nations are displayed by flag, each linked to their respective national aircraft listing.

Total Production: 953 Units

Contractor(s): Douglas Aircraft Corporation - USA
National flag of Chile National flag of France National flag of Mexico National flag of the United States

[ Chile; France (Free French); Mexico; United States ]
Relative Max Speed
Hi: 300mph
Lo: 150mph
Aircraft Max Listed Speed (250mph).

Graph Average of 225 MPH.
Era Crossover
Pie graph section
Showcasing Aircraft Era Crossover (if any)
Max Alt Visualization
Small airplane graphic
Production Comparison
Entry compared against Ilyushin IL-2 (military) and Cessna 172 (civilian) total production.
MACH Regime (Sonic)
RANGES (MPH) Subsonic: <614mph | Transonic: 614-921 | Supersonic: 921-3836 | Hypersonic: 3836-7673 | Hi-Hypersonic: 7673-19180 | Reentry: >19030
Aviation Timeline
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Image of the Douglas A-24 Banshee
Image from the National Museum of the United States Air Force of Dayton, Ohio.
2 / 3
Image of the Douglas A-24 Banshee
Image from the National Museum of the United States Air Force of Dayton, Ohio.
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Image of the Douglas A-24 Banshee
Image from the National Museum of the United States Air Force of Dayton, Ohio.

Mission Roles
Some designs are single-minded in their approach while others offer a more versatile solution to airborne requirements.
Some designs stand the test of time while others are doomed to never advance beyond the drawing board; let history be their judge.
Developments of similar form-and-function, or related, to the Douglas A-24 Banshee Dive Bomber / Reconnaissance Aircraft.
Going Further...
The Douglas A-24 Banshee Dive Bomber / Reconnaissance Aircraft appears in the following collections:
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