Would the British FAA have been better off with the Brewster Buffalo?

Discussion in 'Aviation' started by pinsog, Jul 17, 2012.

  1. pinsog

    pinsog Member

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    The FAA suffered from lack of a good fleet fighter early in the war. Would the Brewster Buffalo have been better than any of the early war aircraft they had from 1939-42 until it could have been replaced by the Martlet?
     
  2. Shortround6

    Shortround6 Well-Known Member

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    Probably not. What ever the merits (or demerits) of the Brewster Buffalo as land based fighter it's landing gear suffered from weaknesses than severely limited Usage on US carriers. I doubt it would be any Better on British carriers. Whatever speed and firepower advantages it had don't count for much if the aircraft are unserviceable due to landing gear problems.
     
  3. buffnut453

    buffnut453 Well-Known Member

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    Bit of a "mixed bag" answer to this one - actually, that's pretty much the type of answer you get when asking Buffalo questions, it being something of the curate's egg.

    I think the worst of the undercarriage issues with the Buffalo occurred with the heavyweight F2A-3 variant (not saying there wouldn't have been problems with the earlier variants but probably not as many). It would offer longer range than the Sea Hurricane and better firepower and manoeuverability than the Skua. Also it had a shorter wingspan than the Sea Hurricane which might have made it easier to accommodate onboard the carriers (although I suspect the aircraft lifts would still have presented challenges on some carriers).
     
  4. RCAFson

    RCAFson Well-Known Member

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    The F2A-1 was faster than the Gloster Sea Gladiator, but the SG had 4 x .303MGs.

    F2A-1 = 1 x .5" and 1 x .3", entered service Nov 1939.

    The F2A-1 was faster than the Fulmar I/II but it lacked the Fulmar's folding wings, self sealing tanks and 8 x .303" MG armament. Entered service in June 1940, IIRC.


    F2A-2 = 4 x .5", entered service in Oct 1940

    The fixed wing Sea Hurricane 1B entered Service in March 1941, had 8 x .303MGs and Self Sealing tanks and was probably better than any F2A variant. Rugged and reliable in FAA service.

    F2A-3 = 4 x .5". and armour , (however both -2 and -3 had landing gear reliability issues) entered service in Aug 1941. AFAIK, no SS tanks
     
  5. buffnut453

    buffnut453 Well-Known Member

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    Any FAA Buffalo would have been an adaptation of the F2A-2 but with self-sealing tanks as were specified and built into the B339Es procured for the RAF which were available in Singapore from March 1941. Agree the Sea Hurricane was rugged and capable in FAA service and, based on Brewster's (lack of) quality control, would probably have been more reliable than a Buffalo variant at sea...or at least more available (although cue diatribe on merits/limitations of in-line liquid-cooled engines -vs- air cooled engines). Benefits of 8x.303s -vs- 4x.50s are debatable although 6x.50s would be better - I'd probably give the Hurricane the edge on the armament front. As for airborne performance, a trial in India in 1942 between a weary ex-67 Sqn Buffalo and a Hurricane indicated up to 15,000ft the Buffalo had the advantage but above that altitude the Hurricane had the advantage. I'd need to go through the record cards for the F2A-2 to see how many undercarriage failures occurred although I accept that, with the extra weight of self-sealing tanks and armour plate, would have increased the likelihood of failure.
     
  6. oldcrowcv63

    oldcrowcv63 Well-Known Member

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    #6 oldcrowcv63, Jul 18, 2012
    Last edited: Jul 18, 2012
    The F2A-1 was designed to accomodate 4 HMGs as shown by the Finn experience. The 44 B-239's that provided Finland such good service during the Continuation war (1941-44) were simply denavalized F2A-1 whose USN brethren (the first 11 off the assembly line) were already serving in a fleet squadron including carrier deployment. The landing gear issues were evidently beginning to appear, but had not yet become epidemic until the arrival of the F2A-3. IMO, I believe the FAA would have done very well with the F2A-1 especially during the Norwegian campaign, except that getting them into service in time to make a difference would have been a herculean (probably insurmountable) task. Assuming that the 44 F2A-1s had gone to the FAA in December 39- January 40, it might have been able to enter service and see combat off RN CVs by perhaps May, 1940, at the earliest and even that is a mighty stretch. I believe the (undelivered French order of Martlets began arriving in Britain during the early Fall of 1940, (the first land based a/c seeing combat in December, 1940) their season of greatest utility would have been brief. The Fulmar which would have been arriving a few months after the F2A, was undergoing its own accelerated introduction schedule that had it in combat by September, 1940. Fulmar had a number of service and handling advantages to recommend it, yet I believe that even a small number of F2A-1s would have made a significant difference in the Med and perhaps even Norway, assuming logistics issues did not pose a problem. The older RN CVs could have accomodated about a dozen F2A-1s but the lifts on the newer carriers (Illustrious and Formidable) were too small to accomodate their wing span. 44 F2As spread among the old girls of the fleet would have been more than enough to equip them as they were notoriously short of fighter a/c at the beginning of the war. The FAA was desparate enough to try and use a B-339B export Buffalo without an arrestor hook in the med as late as March 1941. As might be expected the trial wasn't a success, but neither was the B-339B. It would have been interesting to see F2A-1's in the hands of the very capable FAA Pilots whom I think would have done very well with it. As to the newer carriers, I think the adoption of the sea Hurricane forced the RN to adopt a permanent deck park for the first time, so its conceivable that a change in doctrine could have occurred, if they proved successful. I suspect, the F2A-2 would have been a welcome addition although I am sure its performace would have sufffered somewhat from added armor. The RN, given a choice between adopting a new Fairey aircraft into the fleet and one built in the USA and especially by Brewster... well that seems an easy choice whatever the F2As performance advantages.
     

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  7. yulzari

    yulzari Active Member

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    If the FAA had taken on the Buffalo then what might have been sent to Malaya in lieu? Old Hurricanes, Mohawks, Gladiators? Given the choice I would opt for the Mohawk but were there enough? Tomahawks were reserved for UK and Middle East.
     
  8. oldcrowcv63

    oldcrowcv63 Well-Known Member

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    How about 44 Mohawks to Finland to replace the 44 F2A-1 ssent to the FAA. Unless you are talking strictly about renavalizing the B-339Bs, and Es?
     
  9. Juha

    Juha Well-Known Member

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    #9 Juha, Jul 18, 2012
    Last edited: Jul 18, 2012
    Hello Yulzari
    there were 195 Mohawks in UK already on 16 Oct 40 and 9 more on the way (and 32 Belgian order Buffalos + 1 on the way) so there would have been enough Hawks for Malaya


    The problem with F2A would have been the availability. If on the other hand the Finnish Gov would have taken the opportunity of an US loan in early 39 to purchage some 30-60 Hawk 75As (leftish parties and the head of Central Bank/the Bank of Finland opposed the loan), maybe then the F2A-1s would have been available to FAA in very early 40. The armament of F2A-1 was one .5 + one .30 in nose plus an optional .5 in each wing. IIRC USN didn't take the optional wing armament until early 40, but FAA would probably have taken the option as was FiAF, so IMHO the FAA fighters would have had an adequate armament. FiAF had only a few landing gear failures even if we installed a back armour for the pilot.

    Juha
     
  10. Shortround6

    Shortround6 Well-Known Member

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    Something to consider is that the 1939/early 1940 Browning .50 cal fired at about 600rpm at best on test stands. Long belt drags/high lift, pulling with G loads acting on the belts all slowed the guns down. And that is without synchronization. When synchronized the rate of fire could be as low as 450rpm. A four gun Wildcat in 1942 could be firing 3000-3200rpm A four gun Buffalo in 1940 could be firing 2000-2100rpm. (two at 500rpm and two at 550rpm). Now perhaps the FAA armorers could tweak the guns up a bit but??

    The Early Brewster fighters carried 200 rounds per .50 cal gun. By the F2A-3 the wing guns had 400rpg ( if carrying full ammo) and the fuselage guns were carrying more ammo than the early planes ( books are not near me now). The F2A-1 had a 950hp engine compared to the 1100 hp engine used in the British Buffaloes. The Fins did add a bit of armor but there is going to be a definite limit as to how much "stuff" you can add to an F2A-1.

    I am not saying that the four guns in the Brewster are worse than eight .303s in a Fulmar but the difference is a lot closer than the four guns in a Wildcat and a Fulmar.

    The carrier landings are going to take a higher toll on average than non-carrier landings. The arrested landings tending to slam the aircraft onto the deck.
     
  11. Juha

    Juha Well-Known Member

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    Hello Shortround6
    The Finnish B-239s originally had 400rpg to the 2 wing hmgs, 200 rpg to the fuselage HMG and 600 rpg for the fuselage .30.

    IIRC Fulmar Mk I didn't have any armour and F2A-1 was faster and climbed better and I bet had clearly better manoeuvrability. Against Italian bombers 8 x .303 might well have been more destructive but against He 111s I bet that F2A-1s armament would have been more effective (based on Finnish experience with .303s and .5s against DB-3s/DB-3Fs)

    Juha
     
  12. RCAFson

    RCAFson Well-Known Member

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    #12 RCAFson, Jul 18, 2012
    Last edited: Jul 18, 2012
    The F2A-1 was faster than the Gloster Sea Gladiator, but the SG had 4 x .303MGs.

    F2A-1 = 1 x .5" and 1 x .3" (as noted these are synchronized and have a very low RoF), entered service Nov 1939.

    Is the F2A-1 superior to the GSG? It is faster, but more poorly armed.

    The F2A-1 was faster than the Fulmar I/II but it lacked the Fulmar's folding wings, self sealing tanks and 8 x .303" MG armament. Entered service in June 1940, IIRC.

    You can't seriously propose that the F2A-1 was superior to a Fulmar I and 1 x .5" and 1 x .3" doesn't equal 8 x .303. Any fixed wing fighter is going to have severe draw backs in actual service, and if a fixed wing fighter is required, the logical choice is the Sea Hurricane.


    F2A-2 = 4 x .5", entered service in Oct 1940, with no SS tanks, or armour; both of which were present on the Sea Hurricane 1B.

    I found this series of RAF/FAA evaluations of the Buffalo:
    http://www.warbirdforum.com/eagle.htm

    Note the severe critiscism of the wing design, and the flight test versus a Hurricane. Also note that in the Hurricane/Buffalo test, the Buffalo had no armament, so the maneuverability of the Buffalo would have been greatly enhanced due to the lighter weight, and the article notes this in when reviewing level speed.
     
  13. Juha

    Juha Well-Known Member

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    #13 Juha, Jul 18, 2012
    Last edited: Jul 18, 2012
    Hello RCAFSon
    if you don't know it, B-239 was the de-navalised F2A-1, as its armament, you have already quoted my earlier message.
    FiAF also had 30 Gladiator Mk IIs, so we knew very well its weak and strong points and B-239 was clearly superior to it and had clearly better armament, at least according to all FiAF pilots I knew. FiAF B-239 didn't have SS tanks but it had a pilot back armour and it needed only ½ of the time that Fulmar Mk I needed to climb to 4500m to climb to 6000m.

    FiAF also had 11 Hurricanes, 10 Mk Is and 1 Mk II and Finnish pilots thought that B-239 was clearly better. VVS also used many Hurricanes against Finns and there were several air combats between FiAF B-239s and VVS Hurricanes and as I wrote B-239 pilots were not impressed by Hurricane.

    Juha
     
  14. RCAFson

    RCAFson Well-Known Member

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    Yes, but we are talking about fully navalized F2As, which were ultimately found to be unsuited for carrier use. The Goster SG did have inferior armament to the F2A-2 ( 4 x .5") but not to the F2A-1 which was its USN counterpart.

    The point I have trying to make, is that at every stage of F2A development, it had no clear superiority over an existing FAA fighter and that the changes required for FAA service would have added so much weight that it's performance and reliability would have suffered greatly.
     
  15. buffnut453

    buffnut453 Well-Known Member

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    It had a huge range advantage over any FAA fighter except the Skua...and it beat that hands down in terms of performance. The F2A-2 could have been available pretty early on in 1940 had it been ordered (one Belgian airframe was captured in France) and it certainly would have been better than anything on the books at that time, although the Martlet arrived towards the end of that year. Even into 1941 when the Sea Hurricane arrived on the scene, it probably would have been effective for the types of opposition the FAA faced. I'm not disagreeing with questions of reliability, although Jim Maas believes the undercarriage problems in the F2A-2 were pretty much resolved (the F2A-3 was a totally different question). So I reckon the F2A-2 could have been effectively used...but it wouldn't have been a war-winner by any stretch, just a useful stop-gap until more capable aircraft were available.
     
  16. Juha

    Juha Well-Known Member

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    Now F2A-1 had the option for the wing guns, if you look its wings you will see the bulges for the rear ends of .5s were there already in F2A-1s. So its only a question whether one wanted to install the guns or not, and I'm pretty sure that FAA would have chosen to install them if it had got the planes.

    Juha
     
  17. Glider

    Glider Well-Known Member

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    I recognise that the versions are different but on Crete of the navy fighters present the Buffalo was the one they wanted over the Gladiator and the Fulmar.

    An interesting aside is that the RN knew they were in trouble re fighters. In Feb 1940 they asked for 50 folding wing Spitfires but it was calulated that this would prevent the production of 150 Spits for the RAF. At a time when the RAF were trying to build up their strength this wasn't considered practical.
     
  18. RCAFson

    RCAFson Well-Known Member

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    Yes, and then they could also watch as the aircraft's LG folded up after carrier landings, especially with armour and/or SS tanks added. The F2A-3/3 had strengthened LG, IIRC, and they still couldn't handle the extra weight.
     
  19. RCAFson

    RCAFson Well-Known Member

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    The Fulmar I had 155IG internally versus 135IG for the F2A. The Fulmar II began production in Jan 1941 and it had 155IG internally and a 60IG drop tank. It's doubtful that the useful range of the F2A was any better than a Fulmar.
     
  20. Juha

    Juha Well-Known Member

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    Hello RCAFson
    Gladiator didn't have SS tanks nor pilot armour either, so maybe FAA would have satisfied with a F2A-1 without them, especially because the self-sealing of F2A-1 tanks would have been very difficult. Fulmar Mk I didn't have armoured windscreen, which was bad for so slow fighter (usually forced to attack from rear while slowly overtaking the target) and anyway it had vulnerable liquid cooled engine. Even if Cyclone wasn't super reliable it was robust.

    Juha
     
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