Vought-Sikorsky SB2U Chesapeake (Vought Vindicator)
Chesapeake AL924/K of 811 Fleet Air Arm squadron 1941


The American Vought SB2U (Vindicator) was named the Chesapeake in Royal Navy service. It combined old-fashioned biplane technology and structure with a monoplane layout. It was underpowered and vulnerable, quickly relegated to training tasks.
In 1934-35, Vought was sent an order for two prototypes from the US Navy. One prototype, the XSB2U-1, was a monoplane and the other, the XSB3U-1, was a biplane. They were both tested to meet the new requirement for a USN carrier-based scout bomber in 1936. The monoplane proved superior and production started on 26, October, 1936. The SB2U-1 was basically an SBU with retractable landing gear and an all-metal frame.
It was a very important advance for the USN when it entered service in 1937, at that time it was the US Navy's first low wing monoplane that featured retractable landing gear, the space saving feature of folding wings, affording the higher performance of monoplanes without reducing numbers of aircraft aboard a carrier.
SB2U armament consisted of a flexible rear-firing machine gun and one fixed firing-forward machine gun. Bomb displacing gear consisting of a cradle was provided to ensure bomb/propellor clearance in a steep dive. A reversible propellor designed to limit dive speed was never employed. Instead, the SB2U dived with its landing gear extended, using a lesser dive angle. It was already obsolete in 1940, partly because the additional weight of combat equipment had very adverse effects on the performance of the SB2U. Some were nevertheless used in WWII, with little success.
Of the SB2Us in USN service about 30% of the SB2Us were lost in combat while about 50% were casualties associated with accidents during operational training and carrier deck landing on Lake Michigan. By the end of 1942, US Fleet SB2Us had been replaced by the Douglas SBD "Dauntless" dive bomber. Over the period May 1938-July 1941, 169 SB2Us (54 SB2U-1s, 58 SB2U-2s and 57 SB2U-3s) were produced. Service was with US Navy, Fleet Air Arm, France, and Germany.

The Fleet Air Arm received 50 of the SB2U dive bomber, an original order of the         Vought-Sikorsky V-156-B1 from the US to France but transferred to Britain in October 1940 after the German invasion earlier in that year. They were erected 37MU Burtonwood, and sent for performance, fighter tactics to Worthy Down in October 1941 and fighter tactics with FDU (eg AL930).

The first to be delivered to a squadron was AL908 to 786 squadron in Crail in June 1941. The complete order had been delivered between June-August 1941 to the A & AEE Boscombe Down and to second-line squadrons (786, 778, 770) at Lee, Arbroath, Donistbristle, Strabane and Crail. One front line unit, 811 squadron received 14 Chesapeake I in July 1941. The Chesapeake was proved inadequate for the role it was destined to play in torpedo-bomber reconnaissance duties on escort carriers -  as the take off run proved too long on a carrier's deck. The squadron replaced the Cheseapeake with Swordfish IIs in November 1941 before embarking on the escort carrier HMS Biter early the next year.

The last Chesapeake in Royal Navy service was AL911 of 770 Fleet Requirement squadron which was recorded at Dunino till June 1944.

           Fleet Air Arm history

           Total FAA 1939-1945:             50
            First delivered to RN:             1941
            First squadron 1939-1945:       786 squadron
            Operational squadrons:            811 squadron in July 1941
            Last served with RN               1944

Aircraft Type:
Vought-Sikorsky SB2U Chesapeake 
(Vought SB2U-1 Vindicator)
Primary Role:
Carrier based reconnaissance and dive-bomber
First Flight: 
1941 Chesapeake
1936 prototype. 1938 Vindicator
Date operating with FAA squadrons:
One 825hp Pratt-Whitney R-1535-02 engine
 Wing Span: Length: Height: Wing Area: 
Wingspan        : 12.87 m
Length          : 10.34 m
Empty Weight: Max.Weight:
Empty Weight (kg): 2121
 Maximum Take Off Weight (kg): 3301



Speed: 402km/h 
Ceiling: 8075m
Range: 2165km
One fixed forward firing 0.3in gun,
One flexible 0.3in gun inrear cockpit
1000lb bombload
Battle honours:
None with the FAA
Additional references and notes:

Battle Honours and Operational History

The Chesapeake saw no operational service with the Fleet Air Arm, although aircraft from the same export order saw limited action with the French Navy.

US SB2U Vindicators in flight

In the United States, the SB2U-3s were only assigned to first-line Marine VMSB squadrons and were destined to be the only version to see combat duty. Approximately 30% of the SB2Us were lost in combat while about 50% of those stricken from the records were casualties associated with accidents and general attrition of operational training.


Chesapeake in French Fleet Air Arm markings 1940

Surviving aircraft and relics
The only SB2U believed to exist in the world is in the National Museum of Naval Aviation (USA). The Museum's SB2U-2 (Bu.No 1383) was recovered from Lake Michigan and  subsequently restored by Museum personnel and volunteers.

Vindicator BU No1383 preserved at the NMNA Museum in the US

Associations and reunions
No information
Chesapeake web product overview information in website of Vought aircraft industries
Olivier warbirds, Le site sur l'aviation de la Seconde guerre mondiale History and technical details of the SB2U [In French]
Sturtivant, R. & Burrow, M (1995)  'Fleet Air Arm Aircraft 1939 to 1945'  Published by Air Britain (Historians) Ltd, 1995 ISBN: 0 85130 232 7 
Created 3-4-1999, Modified 3-4-2000


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