Brewster Buffalo vs. CAC Boomerang

Discussion in 'Aviation' started by Clay_Allison, Aug 28, 2009.

  1. Clay_Allison

    Clay_Allison Active Member

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    Perhaps the most maligned fighter in the U.S. inventory, the Buffalo rose from dismal failure in the South Pacific to shocking success in Finland.

    The least pedigreed fighter in the Allied inventory, the Boomerang was a trainer-based emergency fighter designed and built on the spur of the moment to defend Australia from the Japanese until Curtiss P-40s arrived from the USA. Later it found its niche as a ground pounder operating from unimproved forward airstrips in close air support.


    My question is: If you needed to fight the Japanese in 1942 and had these two to pick from, which would you prefer?
     
  2. FLYBOYJ

    FLYBOYJ "THE GREAT GAZOO"
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    Interesting camparison.

    One thing about the comment "the Buffalo rose from dismal failure in the South Pacific to shocking success in Finland." We know what happened at Midway, not only out performed but tactics played a major part as well. Read Bloody SHambles" and some posts by JoeB. The RAF and Dutch Buffalos really didn't do that bad considering what they were up against.

    Anyway on with the comparison. From Wiki

    Data from The Great Book of Fighters

    CAC Boomerang
    General characteristics

    Crew: 1
    Length: 25 ft 6 in (7.77 m)
    Wingspan: 36 ft 0 in (10.97 m)
    Height: 9 ft 7 in (2.92 m)
    Wing area: 225 ft² (20.9 m²)
    Empty weight: 5,373 lb (2,437 kg)
    Loaded weight: 7,699 lb (3,492 kg)
    Powerplant: 1× Pratt Whitney R-1830 Twin Wasp radial engine, 1,200 hp (895 kW)
    Performance

    Maximum speed: 305 mph (265 knots, 491 km/h) at 15,500 ft (4,730 m)
    Range: 930 mi (810 nm, 1,500 km)
    Service ceiling: 29,000 ft (8,800 m)
    Rate of climb: 2,940 ft/min (14.9 m/s)
    Wing loading: 34.2 lb/ft² (167.1 kg/m²)
    Power/mass: 0.16 hp/lb (256 W/kg)
    Armament

    Guns:

    2× 20 mm (0.787 in) Hispano or CAC cannons
    4× 0.303 in (7.7 mm) Browning machine guns
    Bombs: Could be fitted when the large drop tank was not carried

    Specifications (F2A-3)
    General characteristics

    Crew: One, pilot
    Length: 26 ft 4 in (8.03 m)
    Wingspan: 35 ft (10.7 m)
    Height: 12 ft 1 in (3.68 m)
    Wing area: 208.9 ft² (19.408 m²)
    Empty weight: 4,732 lb (2,146 kg)
    Max takeoff weight: 6,321 lb (2,867 kg)
    Performance

    Maximum speed: 284 mph at sea level, 321 mph at 16,500 ft (457 km/h, 516 km/h)
    Cruise speed: 171 mph (275 km/h)
    Range: 1,680 mi (2,703 km)
    Service ceiling: 30,000 ft (9,144 m)
    Rate of climb: 2,440 ft/min[5] The initial rate of climb would be further reduced with completely full petrol tanks.</ref> (744 m/min)

    Armament
    2 × 0.50 in (12.7 mm) nose-mounted M2 machine guns
    2 × 0.50 in (12.7 mm) wing-mounted M2 machine guns
    2 × 100 lb (45 kg) underwing bombs
     
  3. FLYBOYJ

    FLYBOYJ "THE GREAT GAZOO"
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    "In early 1940, the British Purchasing Commission ordered a total of 170 Model 339Es in two separate contracts under the British designation Buffalo Mk. I. This was a major turnaround, since as recently as October of 1939 the British Air Ministry had declared the Brewster fighter as unsuitable for RAF use. However, they were deemed suitable for use in the Far East.

    The 339E was basically a denavalized variant of the F2A-2, powered by an export-approved Wright R-1820-G105 Cyclone engine of 1100 hp. A number of changes were made to bring the aircraft up to current European combat standards: a British-built Mark III reflector gunsight replaced the ring-and-bead arrangement, armor plate was provided for the pilot, and armored glass was added to the wind screen. The Curtiss Electric cuffed propeller was replaced with a 10-foot one-inch Hamilton Standard propeller. The 339E was the only Buffalo variant to feature an internal gun camera. The small retractable naval-type tail wheel was replaced by a larger fixed tail wheel.

    These changes brought the gross weight to 6500 pounds, almost a thousand pounds heavier than the standard F2A-2. The maximum speed was lowered to 330 mph and the rate of climb was lowered to only 2600 feet per minute. In addition, this increased weight raised the wing loading, increased the landing speed, and adversely affected the maneuverability. Another problem was that the Buffalo Mk. I did not use the same fuel line pressurization system as the F2A-2, and fuel starvation problems were often experienced above 18,000 feet.

    The Wright Cyclone R-1820-G105 engine installed in the Buffalo Mk. I had been selected in part because there were sufficient numbers of this engine available at the time to meet the first British contract. However, when the second contract was issued, there were not enough new Cyclone engines available, and Brewster was forced to purchase used Cyclone engines from commercial airlines which had been using them to power their Douglas DC-3 airliners. These used engines were returned to Wright, which remanufactured them to -G105 standards.

    The first three production Model 339Es were sent to Great Britain in April of 1941 for trials. The remaining Buffalos of the British order were shipped directly to the Far East to serve with units in Malaya, Singapore and Burma. The first Buffalos arrived in Singapore in the spring of 1941.

    Five Commonwealth squadrons were formed around the Buffalo -- Nos. 67 and 243 Squadrons, RAF; Nos. 21 and 43 Squadrons of the RAAF; and No. 488 Squadron of the RNZAF. No. 67 Squadron was based in Burma and the other four were stationed at bases near Singapore. Each squadron was issued with 15 aircraft. A shortage of pilots prevented the formation of additional squadrons, and many Buffalos were placed in storage. Many of the pilots in the Commonwealth Buffalo squadrons were relatively new and inexperienced, and some 20 Buffalos were lost in training accidents during the autumn of 1941.

    War in the Burma/Malaya theater began on December 8, 1941 with a Japanese landing on the Malayan coast. The Brewsters did experience some initial successes against Japanese Army Air Force Ki-27s and Ki-43s, and there were at least three Commonwealth pilots who became aces during this period. However, when the Japanese Navy A6M Reisen (Zero Fighter) appeared, the Buffalo was completely outclassed. The Zero was faster, more maneuverable and had a heavier armament. In an attempt to improve the Buffalo's performance, ground crews removed all unnecessary equipment to lower the weight, sometimes replacing the 0.50-inch machine guns with lighter 0.303-inch guns and reducing the ammunition and fuel load. However, these modifications did not even come close to closing the performance gap between the Buffalo and the Zero.

    The situation in Malaya rapidly deteriorated as the Japanese advance gained momentum, and Commonwealth squadrons were forced to withdraw to Singapore Island. Attrition and combat losses took their toll, and by February of 1942 there were only a few airworthy Buffalos left. These were withdrawn to the nearby islands of the Netherlands East Indies. When the British evacuated the aircrews to Australis, at least four Buffalos were turned over to Dutch squadrons.

    In Burma, No. 67 Squadron flew alongside the 3rd Squadron, American Volunteer Group (the famous 'Flying Tigers') in the defense of Rangoon. No. 67 Squadron had some initial successes against attacking Japanese bomber formations. However, attrition and the lack of spare parts steadily eroded the squadron's strength, and by the time that Rangoon fell, only six Buffalos were still airworthy. The surviving No. 67 Squadron Buffalos were evacuated to India, along with a few Hawker Hurricanes that had been rushed to Rangoon's defense. Some of the Buffalos that made it to India were taken on strength by No. 146 Squadron, RAF. There are even reports that at least one Buffalo was transferred to the Indian Air Force.

    Many official British historical sources blame the loss of Malaya and Singapore largely on the Buffalo's poor performance. However, the picture is not entirely that of an unmitigated disaster, and many Buffalo-equipped units gave a good account of themselves before they were overwhelmed by superior Japanese numbers. Accurate figures on the combat losses of British Buffalos are difficult to come by. Approximately 60 to 70 Buffalos were lost in air combat, 40 were destroyed on the ground, twenty were lost in various non-combat related accidents, four were transferred to the Dutch, and six were evacuated to India. Commonwealth Buffalo squadrons claimed at least 80 kills, and some units may have achieved a 2-to-1 kill ratio."


    Brewster Buffalo Mk I
     
  4. timshatz

    timshatz Active Member

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    Of the two, I'd lean towards the Boomerang.

    While, on paper, they are about the same with a slightly higher climb speed for the Boomerang, in actuality they were probably almost identical when it came to their abilitiy to deal with the competition, which was probably not real good one on one.

    Like the Boomerang because of the two 20MMs cannons. If they adapted tactics similar to that of the Wildcat, that firepower would be a game changer. Granted, the Buffalo has the same situation with regards to tactics but not firepower. It was adequately armed, but not well armed. The Boomerang is well armed.
     
  5. parsifal

    parsifal Well-Known Member

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    Joe

    Several sources give slightly different figures on performance. This site for example:

    CAC Boomerang'

    gives the range as 1600 miles. Other sources give the maximum speed of the CA-12 (the dominant type) as only 300 mph.

    Boomerangs were3 poor performers above 15000 feet, but I believe so too were the Buffaloes.

    I have an obvious parochial bias here, but I honestly believe the Boomerang was the superior ride. I would even go so far as to challenge the early F4f with the Boomerang performance.

    To be fair, the Boomerang, despite the speed of its development, had the benefit of being four years younger than the Buffalo, and 6 years younger than the Wildcat. This gave it a lots of detail advantages IMO, like armour distribution, armament, and comms. I have heard bad stories about the fuel pumps in the buffaloes, but nothing comparable about the Boomernag. I recal some story about pilots having to use a hand pump in the Buffalo to keep the fuel up to it, and stoies about RAAF pilots ripping out guns and armour to get the performace up to some decent level. AFAIK, none of that occurred with the Boomerang. However, I dont believe the Boomerang shot down even a single enemy fighter during its career......
     
  6. FLYBOYJ

    FLYBOYJ "THE GREAT GAZOO"
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    Agree and I too would have to go with the Boomerang. There seems to have been a lot of engineering issues with the Buffalo, probably because of Brewster's lack of foresight and inexperience in producing modern fighters of the period.
     
  7. Clay_Allison

    Clay_Allison Active Member

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    There seemed to be something really really broken about Brewster's quality control. At least with a Boomerang you probably know what you are getting.
     
  8. FLYBOYJ

    FLYBOYJ "THE GREAT GAZOO"
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    From reading Bloody Shambles it wasn't so much quality, but the way the aircraft was engineered and operated. Ammo feeds were poorly designed along with other systems. The aircraft was actually "built" well, designed poorly.

    Now when Brewster built Corsairs, entirely different story. I read the quality of workmanship was poor and it seemed some of the assemblers were poorly trained and managed.
     
  9. Clay_Allison

    Clay_Allison Active Member

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    Doesn't installing the wrong fuel pumps speak to poor quality?
     
  10. Graeme

    Graeme Well-Known Member

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    Parsifal, do you have a copy of Stewart Wilson’s “Wirraway, Boomerang and CA-15?” There’s a good summary of comparative handling trials between the Boomerang, Kittyhawk, Airacobra and the Buffalo on pages 114 to 119. The trials were conducted at Mildura late 1942 by the No.2 Operational Training Unit.
    The Boomerang was outmanoeuvred by the Buffalo.
    Wing Commander Peter Jeffery, who with others, flew approximately 400 hours in the Boomerang during the trials had this to say…
     
  11. FLYBOYJ

    FLYBOYJ "THE GREAT GAZOO"
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    #11 FLYBOYJ, Aug 28, 2009
    Last edited: Aug 28, 2009
    Not really - "production quality" involves how the aircraft is built - how the rivets look after installation, how the fabric surfaces are finished, how the paint looks (runs), if the aircraft is built per the blueprints developed by engineers, how many repairs had to be undertaken because of mistakes by assembly personnel - for examples. Equipment that is to design but don't function with the rest of the aircraft "system" is an engineering problem - poor design. The assembly folks and mechanics who install these components just follow a blue print - the folks who dictate things like pumps and electric motors are engineers.

    The overall quality of the aircraft is affected by poor design, but the aircraft could be built perfectly - 100% per the engineering drawings. At the same time you could have a top fighter built like crap, poor workmanship.

    Engineering Quality

    Production Quality

    See the difference?
     
  12. vikingBerserker

    vikingBerserker Well-Known Member

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    I think the variance between the Buffalo models was pretty wide.

    IMHO I would pick the Buffalo Model 239 (Finnish) over the Boomerang, but would pick the Boomerang over the US Navy F2A-3. The Buffalo also had the advantage of carrying a small bomb load.


    Interestingly, according to Australia in the War of 1939-1945, The Role of Science and Industry:

    "At 10,000 ft, the Boomerang was more maneuverable then the Kittyhawk and could turn inside of it."

    It is correct however, the the Boomerang never scored an aerial victory.



    For those interested in reading more onthe Boomerang: http://www.scribd.com/doc/4665212/Aircraft-Profile-178-Commonwealth-Boomerang
     
  13. Graeme

    Graeme Well-Known Member

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    G'day VB!

    The Buffalo used in the trials was ex-Dutch (A51-6). They loaded it to what they thought at the time matched the Zero's wing loading-24lb/sq.ft. Combat was staged around 8,000ft.

    All true. According to the reports it was more manoeuverable than the Kittyhawk (A29-129) from 10,000 to 25,000ft. The trials between the Airacobra and Kittyhawk showed the advantage was with the former.
     
  14. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

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    It appears to me the P-40s need to arrive from Britain. They received over 2,500 P-40 aircraft produced during 1940 and 1941. Compared to 250 x CAC Boomerangs produced beginning in late 1942.

    P-40 deliveries to Britain.
    US Warplanes
    1940 140 x Tomahawk Mk I.
    1941 86 x Tomahawk Mk IIA. (the 24 sent to Canada and Russia have been subtracted from the total)
    1941 635 x Tomahawk Mk IIB (the 295 sent to China and Russia have been subtracted from total)
    1941 560 x Kittyhawk Mk I
    1941 1,500 x Kittyhawk Mk IA
     
  15. vikingBerserker

    vikingBerserker Well-Known Member

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    Hiya Graeme!

    Never having studied a whole lot beyond the basics of it, I have to admit in the amount of time it took to design and build the prototype (something like 16 weeks) and what resulted is pretty dam impressive. It's a shame it did not score any aerial victories.
     
  16. parsifal

    parsifal Well-Known Member

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    Hi Graeme

    I havent see that publicatiuon, but I have seen secondary sources that make reference to it. This one by Francillon for example:

    Aircraft Profile #178. Commonwealth Boomerang

    Relevantly it says this

    Flight tests proved that the aircraft had remarkable performances and, in particular, a rate of climb of 900m per minute was demonstrated. However, since the maximum speed of the aircraft was only slightly superior to that of the Buffalo, an aircraft which had not achieved much success against Japanese fighter aircraft in Malaya, there was naturally some hesitation on the part of the Government and comparative trials between the first Boomerang, a Kittyhawk (Curtiss P-40E) and an Airacobra (Bell P-39D) were arranged by the Department of Air. Comparative performance figures and an excerpt of the trial report, published in "Australia in the War of 1939-1945, The Role of Science and Industry" edited by the Australian War Memorial are quoted:

    "At 10,000 feet, the Boomerang is more manoeuvrable than the Kittyhawk and can turn inside it. The Kittyhawk's speed advantage is not sufficient for it to dictate the type of combat and, although it gains more in a dive, the Boomerang's greater manoeuvrability with pull out and superior climb finds it level with the Kittyhawk at the top of the ensuing zoom. The Kittyhawk's only manoeuvre is to dive through a great height and break off the combat; the speed advantage is not sufficient for it to fly away at the same height without becoming vulnerable once combat is joined with the Boomerang.

    The Airacobra has a greater speed advantage over the Boomerang than has the Kittyhawk but is outmanoeuvred at the same height in concentric attack (turning circles). When first attempted the Airacobra was able to dictate terms of combat to the Boomerang by its superiority in dive and zoom which allowed it to gain the extra


    Though the Boomerang was not successful as a fighter (in the sense that there were no aircraft in the locality that it was deployed), it did find a niche as a close support aircraft, where its relatively heavy armemnt (it could carry a bomb incidentally....its incorrect to say that Boomerangs could not carry bombs....just a bit rare). According to that Link I posted its trainer roots stood it in good service, because of its high manouverability due to its trainer origins.

    Finally, the poor performance of the type at altitude was due, I think to its lack of a turbocharger, but this was rectified in the next mark, the CA-14, of which only one was built. By the time the type was ready, superior supercharged US British types were available, and ther simply was no need to produce this otherwise successful aircraft.
     
  17. Wildcat

    Wildcat Well-Known Member

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    Just to expand on this, there were three Boomerang squadrons deployed in the interceptor role, 83, 84 and 85 squadrons. Of these squadrons 83 never came into contact with enemy aircraft and the other two had a total of four engagements, all inconclusive:-

    16 May 43 - 2 Boomerangs of 84sqn intercept 3 Betty bombers over Merauke. One boomerangs guns fail to fire and the second only gets off a short burst before the Betty's find cloud cover.

    20 May 43 - 2 Boomerangs of 85sqn attempt a night interception with nil sightings.

    21 May 43 - 2 Boomerangs of 85sqn are scrambled to intercept a night raid. One Boomerang is able to find an enemy bomber but just as he is in position to open fire his starboard fuel tank cuts out. On switching to the fuselage tank the engine fails to pick up. After rectifying the problem, the pilot just manages to reach base after gliding and using lean fuel settings.

    9 Sep 43 - 4 Boomerangs of 84sqn attempt to intercept 17 Betty's and 15 Zero's, however the Boomerangs are unable to close with the enemy.

    As you can see, luck was against the Boomerang in most of these cases! As for the other two squadrons to fly the Boomerang, No's 4 and 5 squadrons were Army co-op units and I only know of two occasions when Boomerangs met enemy aircraft.

    6 Sep 43 - A46-112 went missing after it was last seen engaging enemy fighters in New Guinea.

    26 Nov 43 - two Boomerangs on a TAC-R mission are shot down after being engaged by seven Zero's.

    One can only speculate how the Boomer would have faired against the Japanese if it they had of been in a position to engage the Japanese on a regular basis, mind you I wouldn't want to be going up against Zero's! I always thought a good role would have been to use the Boomerang against the Japanese bombers at Darwin while the Spitfires took on the Zero's, certainly would've made interesting reading!
     
  18. parsifal

    parsifal Well-Known Member

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    Thanks wildcat. You guys sure have knowledge i can only dream about
     
  19. fibus

    fibus Member

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    I knew a US Naval aviator that flew both the earliest models Buffalo and Wildcat. Earliest meaning not developed and the lightest.
    He said the Buffalo was superior in speed and manueverability.
    Ultimate conclusions seem to suffer in comparison.
     
  20. Clay_Allison

    Clay_Allison Active Member

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    I see the difference, but it seemed like from at least one account I read that it wasn't the airframe design but the use of a ton of substandard parts (remanufactured airliner engines, wrong fuel pumps) that made a lot of them perform way below expectations. Seems like it isn't the design's fault when it was designed to use good parts and gets built with bad ones.
     
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