INDEX OF NAVAL AIRCRAFT
||Vought-Sikorsky SB2U Chesapeake
Chesapeake AL924/K of 811 Fleet Air Arm squadron
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US Fleet SB2Us had been replaced by the Douglas SBD "Dauntless" dive bomber.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,
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.
Air Arm history
Total FAA 1939-1945:
First delivered to RN:
First squadron 1939-1945: 786 squadron
811 squadron in July 1941
Last served with RN
(Vought SB2U-1 Vindicator)
reconnaissance and dive-bomber
1936 prototype. 1938 Vindicator
Date operating with
|One 825hp Pratt-Whitney
Wing Span: Length: Height: Wing
: 12.87 m
: 10.34 m
Empty Weight: Max.Weight:
Maximum Take Off Weight (kg): 3301
|One fixed forward
firing 0.3in gun,
One flexible 0.3in gun inrear cockpit
|None with the
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.
BU No1383 preserved at the NMNA Museum in the US
Associations and reunions
Created 3-4-1999, Modified 3-4-2000
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