Brewster F2A Buffalo

Buffalo AS417 of 759 FAA sqdn


The F2A Buffalo was the first monoplane carrier fighter of the USN, designed in response to a requirement issued in 1935 with specifications for a replacement for the Grumman F3F biplane equipping ythe USNs four carriers. Brewster Aeronautical Corporation developed a design for a modern monoplane fighter with an enclosed cabin and retractable landing gear.The F2A had a small barrel-shaped fuselage, small wings, retractable narrow-track landing gear and an enclosed cockpit. The undercarriage was insufficiently strong for carrier operations. Development of the F2A Buffalo began in 1936. The first prototype XF2A-1 flew on 2 December 1937.

Since the aircraft was superior to the Seversky XNF-1 and its chief competitor, the Grumman XF4F-2 (Grumman F4F-2 Wildcat), was not ready, the Buffalo was initially selected as a new fighter for the US Navy. The Navy accepted the XF2A-1 during June of 1938 and ordered series production of the F2A-1 for its carriers. Fifty-nine aircraft had been built by 1939. Altogether, 750 were built.

A total of 27 Buffaloes entered the Fleet Air Arm register. 26 Buffalo Is were diverted from a Belgium contract following the invasion by Germany in 1940. In September 1940, the Royal   Aircraft Establishment at Farnborough tested Brewster serial 430 built for Belgium. Flight testing the Brewster Buffalo These are excerpts from reports from the UK to the USA and   subsequently archived at the National Air & Space Museum.

The first RN delivery was to TOC 804 sqd at Hatston - tested on July 1940-September 1940 (AS422). By March 1941 Buffaloes were serving with 805 squadron based at Dekheila, HMS Eagle and Maleme. The aircraft saw limited action with the Fleet Air Arm.

Early in 1941, as test pilot for the Royal Navy, Capt Eric Brown RN flew scores of aircraft from many nations, including a Belgian-order Brewster 339 at Royal Naval Air Station,     Yeovilton along with a Grumman Martlet. He described them "They were both tubby little   single-seat fighters with a very purposeful air about them,". Brown noted that there were 40 of these planes, acquired when Belgium fell to the Germans, and shipped to Britain aboard HMS Furious. They were assembled at Burtonwood, later an American base.

Of the 27 Buffalo with the FAA only one is known to have been shot down- Aircraft AX813 failed to return from a patrol, after being shot down North West of Sidi Barrani on 17 June 1941 (Lt KL Keith taken POW, died of wounds 26 June 1941).

        With FAA, Australia, US Navy, navy of Finland, Belgium, and Holland

                F2A-1 : first production version
                F2A-2 : upgraded engine, released October 1940
                F2A-3 : improved airframe, upgraded electronics
                B-239 : export version of F2A-1
                B-339 : export version of F2A-2

One of the Belgian Buffalo subsequently entering FAA service

        Fleet Air Arm history

            Total FAA 1939-1945:        27
            First delivered to RN:          1940.TOC 804 sqd Hatston tested 7.40-9.40 (AS422),  8.40
                                                   TOC RN 10.40 (AS413)
            First squadron 1939-1945:    as above and then 805 sqdn at Dekheila/HMS Eagle and
                                                    Maleme 3.41. May 1941 to 759 sqdn Yeovilton
            Operational squadron:           804 sqdn at Hatston 7. 40, and 805 sqdn Dekheila/HMS Eagle and Maleme March 1941
            Last served with RN            1941/1942

Aircraft Type:
Brewster F2A Buffalo 
Primary Role:
Carrier borne Fighter
First Flight: 
prototype was on 2 December 1937
Date operating with FAA squadrons:
Brewster Aircraft Corp.
One 1200 hp Wright R-1820-40 engine
 Wing Span: Length: Height: Wing Area: 
Wingspan: 10.67 m
Length: 8.05 m
Empty Weight: Max.Weight:
Weight: 2957 kg



Max. speed: 518 km/h 
Ceiling : 10000 m
Range: 2400 km
Four 12.7mm guns 
Battle honours:
Additional references and notes:

Battle Honours and Operational History

Although only serving with the Fleet Air Arm for a relatively short time the Buffalo saw combat action in the Mediterranean. Elsewhere, the only US unit to use it in combat was an USMC squadron defending Midway.

The one operation Fleet Air Arm squadrom with Buffalo, 805 Squadron formed in February 1941 with 12 Fairey Fulmar two-seat fighters, carrier capable, to support a planned invasion of Rhodes, off the coast of Turkey, held by Italians. Based at Maleme in northeastern Crete. Three Buffaloes (AS419, AS420, AX814) along with 6 more Fulmars flew in from Dekheila. The Buffalo flight commanded by Lt. Rupert Brabner, formerly Member of Parliament for Hyth. "The Buffalo was a delight to fly--very maneuverable (compared to the Fulmar). It would have been an excellent fighter but the guns could not be fired because the ends of the wires which were part of the interrupter gear, failed and 805 did not have the necessary spares."

On 18th March, Lt. Brabner had his first skirmish, chasing a Ju88 without catching it--while flying a Fulmar, perhaps indicative of his opinion of the Buffalo. He was up again next day, mounted on AS419, only to turn back because of engine trouble. He crash- landed short of the airfield, and the Brewster flipped over on its back, fortunately without injury to the MP. A photograph shows it resting very sturdily on its plexiglass canopy. That seems to have been the Brewster's only sortie from Crete. By the end of April: "The two remaining Buffalos were also totally unservicable now." When German paratroopers over-ran Crete at the end of May, the Brewsters were apparently left in the boneyard. German photographers delighted in photographing their planes landing over the hulk of a derelict Brewster. Christopher Shores et al: Air War for Yugoslavia Greece and Crete 1940-41 (London: Grub Street 1987)

Belgian Brewster Buffalo wreckage at Darmstadt during the war.

Photograph of the wreckage of one of the three Belgium machines delivered to Bordeaux-Mérignac airfield after occupation by the Germans in 1940. Two were assembled and most probably at least one was taken to Germany for evaluation purposes, dutring which time this photograph of a Belgian Brewster Buffalo was taken at Darmstadt during the war.

Surviving aircraft and relics
There are no complete Brewster Buffaloes in the world. One wreck has been found and recovered for future restoration, from a lake in Russian Karelia, Brewster model 239 fighter BW-372 of the Finnish Air Force. See the Quicktime movie clips of the Buffalo recovery from a lake in Karelia in 1998

Brewster model 239 fighter BW-372 of Finnish Air Force lifted from a lake in Russian Karelia

© 1998 Press department in The Ministry of The Interior, Republic of Karelia

Information as of 23 March, 2000, about the status of the recovered Finnish Buffalo, BW-372.

BW-372 at Shannon, Ireland 1998

Associations and reunions

            Brewster Buffalo Association

Annals of the Brewster Buffalo A page of resources about the Brewster F2A Buffalo fighter, which fared so poorly against the Japanese in the Pacific but was a star in the hands of Finnish pilots fighting against Russia. This page is owned by the Brewster Buffalo Association and maintained by Dan Ford and Ben Schapiro. 
Warbird Alley Technical specifications and info re survivors 
Brewster model 239 fighter BW-372 of Finnish Air Force by Seppo Sipilä Website about the Brewster model 239 fighter BW-372 of Finnish Air Force lifted from a lake in Russian Karelia
The Last Flight of BW-372 by Details of the Buffalo with a series of photos of the recovery of the solo surviving Buffalo
Finnish Air Force Brewster BW-372 Story: The last Brewster - Fighter Tactics Academy The website of the Finnish Air Force Brewster BW-372 Story: The last Brewster 
Olivier warbirds, Le site sur l'aviation de la Seconde guerre mondiale Brewster F2A Buffalo details [in french]
Buffalo in Belgium Belgian Government belatedly ordered 40 Brewster B-339 Buffalo fighters
Brewster Fighter Production, 1939-1942 Production, 1939-1942
WSAM*(Worlds Smallest Air Museum) of Paper Airplane Models  History of the Buffalo and paper models
Wings of the Weird and Wonderful Recollections of the Buffalo by test pilot Capt Eric Brown RN
Sturtivant, R. & Burrow, M (1995) Fleet Air Arm Aircraft 1939 to1945'  Published by Air Britain (Historians) Ltd, 1995 ISBN: 0 85130 232 7 
Created 3-4-1999, Modified 3-4-2000


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