The Curtiss SB2C Helldiver was a carrier-based dive bomber aircraft produced for the United States Navy during World War II. It replaced the Douglas SBD Dauntless in US Navy service. Despite its size, the SB2C was much faster than the SBD it replaced. Crew nicknames for the aircraft included the Big-Tailed Beast (or just the derogatory Beast), Two-Cee and Son-of-a-Bitch 2nd Class (after its designation and partly because of its reputation for having difficult handling characteristics).
But since its "teething" came under the scrutiny of wartime, some of the initial deficiencies, were compared to it predecessor, the SBD. Among these criticisms were:
- "weak structure"
- "poor handling"
- "inadequate stability"
- "unacceptable stall characteristics"
- "severe buffeting in dives"
- "sluggish ailerons"
The later models corrected these items which improved its handling, strengthened the structure, larger tail and automatic slots remedied the stall characteristics. Despite its size, the SB2C was much faster than the SBD it replaced. It could keep up with the cruise speed of the fighters. It also had substantially increased range over its predecessor. Unlike the SBD, the SB2C also had the added advantage of having folding wings and twin 20mm cannons. Although production problems persisted throughout its initial combat service, pilots soon changed their minds about the potency of the Helldiver.
The Curtiss aircraft manufacturing company produced 29, 269 aircraft during the war. They also produced 142,840 aircraft engines and 146,468 electric propellers. Among the aircraft it produced were the P-40, the C-46 and 7140 SB2C Helldivers. After WWII, the company never sought any more significant military business, and eventually became a specialty supplier to the aircraft industry.
|Variant||Notes/Key Modifications||Dates||# Curtiss |
|# Fair- |
|# C.C.F. |
|XSB2C-1||R-2600-8 engine, 3-bladed prop, two cowling guns||first flight 12/40||-||-||-||-|
|SB2C-1||Larger fin & rudder, more fuel capacity, Four wing-mounted .50 cal. guns||first flight 06/42||200||50||66||316|
|A25-A||Army version, w/o carrier gear. Incl. 410 SB2C-1A to USMC||-||900||-||-||900|
|SB2C-1C||Two 20mm cannon, first to fly in combat||Rabaul 11/43||778||-||-||778|
|XSB2C-2||float plane experiment||-||-||-||-||-|
|SB2C-3||Dash-20 engine, 4-bladed prop, Incl. SB2C-3E. Max speed 293 MPH||appeared early 1944||1,112||150||413||1,675|
|SB2C-4||Perforated dive flaps, extra wing fittings. Incl. SB2C-4E||appeared mid 1944||2,045||100||270||2,415|
|SB2C-5||Slightly more fuel capacity||delivered Feb. 1945||970||-||86||1,056|
|SB2C-6||Dash-28 engine, longer fuselage||Cancelled, none built||0||-||-||0|
Specifications (SB2C Helldiver)
- Crew: Two, pilot and radio operator/gunner
- Length: 36 ft 9 in (11.2 m)
- Wingspan: 49 ft 9 in (15.2 m)
- Height: 14 ft 9 in (4.5 m)
- Wing area: 422 ft² (39.2 m²)
- Empty weight: 10,114 lb (4,588 kg)
- Loaded weight: 13,674 lb (6,202 kg)
- Max takeoff weight: 16,800 lb (7,600 kg)
- Powerplant: 1× Wright R-2600 Cyclone radial engine, 1,900 hp (1,400 kW)
- Maximum speed: 294 mph (473 km/h)
- Range: 1,200 miles (1,900 km)
- Service ceiling: 25,000 ft (7,600 m)
- Rate of climb: 1,750 ft/min (8.9 m/s)
- 2 × 20 mm (.79 in) cannon in the wings
- 2 × 0.30 in (7.62 mm) M1919 Browning machine guns in the rear cockpit
- Internal bay: 2,000 lb (900 kg) of bombs or 1 × Mark 13-2 torpedo
- Underwing hardpoints: 500 lb (225 kg) of bombs each