Brewster buffalo question

Discussion in 'Aviation' started by Salim, Jun 12, 2006.

  1. Salim

    Salim Member

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    Hello once again.

    It's been a very long time since I posted here and so I decided to come here and ask a question.

    Now we all know about the F2A buffalo aircraft, one that is unfairly considered to be the worst fighter of world war 2 (there were actually many factors leading towards its failure in the pacific, and most of them not being limited to the obsolesance of the fighter), but one thing which interested me in the production of the aircraft is the fact that many buffalos had inferior engines installed into them, and there comes the Brewster company, which bears the distinction of being the only defense contractor that went bankrupt during World War 2 (the company just didn't have the capability to produce the aircraft that was being ordered from it on time).

    So here are two questions about the buffalo.

    1: the engine was supposed to have a Wright Cyclone R-1820-60 or so engine producing around 895 kW (1,200 hp), but many ended up with the inferior -34 engine that made only 708 kW (950 hp). We all know how important engine power is to an airplane, and the fact that later models of the F2A were heavier with more fuel capacity and armor meant a reduction in performance if the engine wasn't improved.

    So here's my question: Since the Wright Cyclone R-2600 engine was first produced in 1937, what would have been the difference had it been outfitted with that engine. Let's assume that it was the -3 model of the R-2600 that produced around 1,194 kW (1,600 hp)? I once heard some pilots claim that they would not have taken an F2A-3 buffalo into combat because it was too heavy and the engine power not enough (despite some others perfering it over the F4F wildcat). I know that the R-2600 was larger and heavier, so I guess that the Buffalo would need a redesign to get it to fit right. Still, what do you guys think?

    2: What would have happened had Brewster had plenty of industrial capability? Since the biggest woes of the company were its inefficent plants and management, what would have happened if these problems didn't exist? And all contracts were met with in good time?

    Well, what do you folks think?
     
  2. FLYBOYJ

    FLYBOYJ "THE GREAT GAZOO"
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    Good question...

    More than likely the 1820 was decided upon not only by Brewster but also some in the Navy. Unfortunately sometimes procurement pukes have a say in things like this because once the product is out in the fleet it has to be supported; if a propulsion system is chosen, spares are needed and if the engine is plentiful (like the 1820) their job is easier. Additionally the airframe may of had systems all ready set up for the 1820 with little room for going to the R2600. That extra HP might not have been designed into the airframe as well as the extra weight of the engine. There are many other things to look at but I think this is a start....

    Had Brewster been run better and not had all the problems with products, well its hard to tell. If it was profitable it might of been bought up by its major competitor (Grumman).
     
  3. Salim

    Salim Member

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    Hmm, I suppose the availablity and ease of production would have been important when the R-1820 was chosen. But then again, the USN had a reputation for pushing technology to the limits (in 1938, when the F4U was first design, the engine they had in mind didn't even exist yet!), but I guess it isn't always that way. To top it all, the depression economy in the 1930's would have had a lot to do with it -- the army and navy fought bitterly over what little funds were given to aviation programs of the time.
     
  4. FLYBOYJ

    FLYBOYJ "THE GREAT GAZOO"
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    Yep - which boiled down to costs. the B-17 was almost cancelled becuase it cost too much....
     
  5. Soundbreaker Welch?

    Soundbreaker Welch? Active Member

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    Well did they need the "Queen" later on!
     
  6. Salim

    Salim Member

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    What's the queen?
     
  7. Marshall_Stack

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    Salim,

    Good thread. I am always wondering about such scenarios with planes such as the Buffalo, P-39 and others. If only the underdog plane had a bigger engine, a turbocharger, etc...
     
  8. Twitch

    Twitch Member

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    I don't think that actual overall lousy quality of the Buffalo was the key factor in making it poor. It was overwhelming superiority of the Zeros and the far and away excellent training and experience of its pilots that totally eclipsed the "flying barrel."
     
  9. FLYBOYJ

    FLYBOYJ "THE GREAT GAZOO"
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    Very true Twitch....
     
  10. Salim

    Salim Member

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    You should read this story about he P-39. It seemed to me that the reason why it was so bad had a lot to do with the modifications that the USAAF did to it rather than Bell's original intentions.

    http://home.att.net/~C.C.Jordan/XP-39.html

    It was originally designed to have a two-stage, two-speed supercharger, along with other features that were all good and well and could have made it a fine fighter, enough to tackle the Japanese and German air arms well. Unfortunately, this was not to be due to the reasons mentioned in the article.

    In my own opinion, the Buffalo could probably have been a match for the Zero as the F4F did in 1942 (but it would have had to be replaced with the F6F and F4U eventually, anyway), had they had the proper tactics and training for it.

    The Buffalo pilots over midway did manage to shoot down a decent amount of planes (over 8 bombers before their escorts showed up) but not only were the marine flyers caught at a tactical disadvantage (which would ALWAYS result in heavy losses for the defending side) the pilots attempted to engage the highly menuverable Zeroes in a World War 1 style turning dogfight. The Buffalo was actually quite menuverable, but the Zero was the most menuverable airplane in the world at that time and nothing (and I mean NOTHING) could outmaneuver it, not even the spitfire.

    This resulted in disasterous losses and it gained the Buffalo its infamy.

    In my own opinion, had the F2A had a stronger engine, better trained pilots, and perhaps some 20mm cannons on the wings (and some Buffalos were made as such) I would say it would have been able to serve well.

    Speaking of the armament. I heard that the RPG were 200 rounds for the guns firing through the propeller and 400 for the guns on the wings. How many rounds of 20mm hispano do you think it could have held when some were modded to put 20mm cannons instead of .50 machineguns on the wings?
     
  11. FLYBOYJ

    FLYBOYJ "THE GREAT GAZOO"
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    Good points Salim - I know we brought up the Finns record with the export version (although it was a few hundered pounds lighter than the F2A). Again it boiled down to pilot training...

    I think a bigger engine might of helped a little, the aircraft was still very obsolete in other areas...
     
  12. Twitch

    Twitch Member

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    The original Bell XP-39 had a B-5 turbo-supercharger and attained 390 MPH at 20,000 feet. This was without armament however. I look to the P-63 to see what the P-39 was sort of supposed to be. The water injection gave some punch to a later version work up of the Allison too giving the P-63A-10 a 43,000-foot ceiling. The P-63C-5 put out 1,800 HP with the water injection.

    The difference is that the P-39 was a pre-war crate from 1936 and the P-63 was a 1942 machine.

    The P-400 export model with the Hispano 20 mm carried only 60 rounds. But this was a seemingly adeqaute magazine in the thinking of the time. Most contempory planes had 60 round drum mags fro their 20 mms too. No doubt wing mount would have used 60 round drums too.

    The P-39 pilots I have talked to all hated the plane for a variety of reaasons. One of which was the fact that the 37 mm cannon invariably jammed after a just a few rounds of use.

    Standard armament of the P-39D was ample considering its opponents- unarmored Japanese fighters. Just the 4- .30 and 2 .50s were sufficient. The P-39Q mounted 4 .50s and that was plenty of punch for the Japanese tin.

    I don't truly know why the F2A was so crappy but the same distain for the crate was noted by every Navy guy I talked to just like the P-39s. ??

    Part of aircrafts' legends are borne out of epic battles. Over Guadalcanal Joe Foss and the Cactus Air Force did wonders with the F4F Wildcat, but make no mistake the Zeros were potent.

    The Buffaloes that Sakai, Nishizawa, Takasuka, Ota and Sasai met around the Philippines and the Dutch East Indies over Surabya were simply shredded. Is that due to the fact that the absolute best contingent of experienced Imperial Navy pilots were manning the Zeros? Certainly that helped. Sakai's description of a combat with Dutch Buffaloes reflected his boredom with such unworthy opponents.


    Was it the Dutch pilots' inadequacies? 31 American F2As at Midway were immediately destroyed by carrier-based Zekes as well.

    Could Foss and company have performed as well as they did but in Buffaloes? Could they have stood up to Sakai and his mates even in Wildcats? Lots of good questions to ponder but no easy answers.
    [​IMG]
     
  13. Marshall_Stack

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    Even if Brewster was able to put out a better Buffalo, I wonder if they could have mass produced it in the quantity desired by the USN. The Navy shut down Brewster while they were trying to make Corsairs under license because of "bad management".

    I have read that the Pre-WWII Army Air Force didn't make high altitude performance a priority for their fighters (except fot the P-38 and P-47). Was this true of the USN?
     
  14. FLYBOYJ

    FLYBOYJ "THE GREAT GAZOO"
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    That's another side of the story - Brewster wasn't run well and had continually union problems...
     
  15. Salim

    Salim Member

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    And this is one of the questions that I brought up on this thread. :) What if that problem didn't exist?


    One interesting thing that I'd like to mention is the fact that the most of the Buffalos in the Far East were destroyed on the ground, not on the air. To top it all, I don't think all of the 31 F2As were destroyed at Midway. They lost quite a bit when attacking a large flight of Japanese aircraft, but not as much as you claim.

    And yes, it actually had a lot to do with the Dutch flyers, since most of them were fresh from training and many of them were not used to airplanes as advanced as the Buffalo. To top it all, the Japanese had a numerical advantage in addition to superior fighters, and as I mentioned earlier is that most Buffalos were destroyed on the ground and not in the air. Some Dutch and New Zealand pilots actually gave a good account of themselves in the Buffalo (many of them would later go on to become aces). You should not forget that even the vaunted Spitfire and Hurricane couldn't match the Japanese Zeroes and KI-43s, either.

    Also, the lack of information about Japanese fighters caused a lot of tactical errors. They had no idea what the Zero could and could not do, and as such they went blindly into battle against a superior foe and fought on THEIR terms, which would obviously cause them to lose.

    May I know what those areas were? It always interests me to know just how two aircraft, developed at the time interval and yet one of them pops to become obsolete faster than the other for some reason or the other. Oh yes, and that 'other' airplane I'm refering to is the F4F Wildcat.

    EDIT: Oh yes, and one little thing that I should bring up. The Buffalos powered by the 950 hp engine were done so because of shortages of the more powerful version of the Wright Cyclone R-1820 engine. I mention this since it was brought up earlier in the discussion. The R-1820 wasn't that plentiful, it seemed...
     
  16. FLYBOYJ

    FLYBOYJ "THE GREAT GAZOO"
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    Aside from the less powerful engine, it had a 12V electrical system, telescopic gun site, cartridge starter, no cowl flaps, no armored fuel or oil tanks, it had a low pressure hydraulic system (1000 psi), it's canopy wasn't jettisonable, and it had a Curtiss electric propeller which in my opinion were way inferior to Hamilton Standard, especially in the 1940 time frame and it's wing guns only carried 200 rounds per wing. And let's not forget fabric covered control surfaces, although featured on many WW2 aircraft were just obsolete in terms of maintainability and durability....

    BTW, some of this I knew, some of this info was gathered from this site. The site features a downloadable British Buffalo POH (Pilot's Notes).

    http://www.warbirdforum.com/britdifs.htm
     
  17. Salim

    Salim Member

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    Hmm, it seems that the variants of the Buffalo did have some big differences.
     
  18. Salim

    Salim Member

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    OK, I got some time to make an actual response this time.

    This makes want to start a whole new thread about those things you've just brought up. Anyway, I do have some questions to ask about these.

    1: What exactly is the 12V electrical system? Does it mean 12 volts? If so, how is it a disadvantage and what system do you think would have been good?

    2: What is a cartridge starter?

    3: What are the cowl flaps?

    4: About the propeller... well, let's just say that I really know nothing about propellers, so I guess all I can ask is, can you give me information about both those props you mentioned? Also, why do you believe the hamilton standard is the superior?

    I guess I'd better get to doing more research on this matter, eh? :) Thanks in advance for any answers.
     
  19. FLYBOYJ

    FLYBOYJ "THE GREAT GAZOO"
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    No problem, I been in aviation 28 years and am still learing, Glad to answer your questions....

    With a 12 V (volts) system you're limited in power capacity to run things like radios and lights. 24 or 28V systems are better as system amperage could be higher with little load drop off when you turn on all electrical stuff....

    A cartridge starter is a gas starter that has a device like an empty shotgun shell that blows compressed gas into a starting unit which turns the engine - this saves weight but is a major pain when starting in cold or when starting a fuel injected engine when it's hot.

    Cowl flaps are those "flappers" you see on radial engine cowls and are used to direct air into or away from the engine. When it's cold you want to keep your cowl flaps closed, the opposite for when it's hot....

    The Ham Standard propeller runs off of engine oil (or it's own oil supply) and is not subjected to going into flat pitch during an electrical failure. If a hydraulic propeller fails it will go into low pitch and stay there.

    Any other questions?
     
  20. Marshall_Stack

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    Whenever cartridge starters are brought up, I think of "Flight of the Phoenix" where they had only a few cartridges to use to get their new airplane to work.

    Interesting thread. I could always stand to learn more about aircraft, especially the ones with the bad rap.
     
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