Vought-Sikorsky OS2U-3 Kingfisher


The Vought-Sikorsky OS2U Kingfisher was the US Navy's first catapult-launched monoplane observation floatplane aircraft, with a big central float and small stabilising floats. It came in both float and land-based configurations, and served as observer aircraft, anti-submarine aircraft, and rescue aircraft.

The first XOS2U-1 prototype flew on 20 July, 1938. The aircraft entered production in April 1940. The USS Colorado was the first ship to be equipped with OS2Us. The OS2U was a neat, compact mid-wing monoplane, with a big central float and small stabilising floats. Performance was modest, because of its light engine. The OS2U could also operate on fixed, wheeled landing gear.

The most famous incident involving a Kingfisher was the rescue of Captain Eddie Rickenbacker, who ditched in the Pacific in a B-17 during 1942. A Kingfisher picked up Rickenbacker and two other crew members (who still remained following a rescue the previous day) but the Kingfisher could not take off because the load was too great. The OS2U pilot taxied on the surface over 40 miles to make the nearest landfall with everyone aboard.

A total of 1519 Kingfisher were built. The OS2U not only served on the battleships and cruisers of the USN, but also with the Royal Navy and the USCG. The Kingfisher saw service with USN, FAA, armed forces of Chile, Argentina, the Netherlands, Uruguay.


        OS2U-1 : the first production version
        OS2U-3 : armored seats and fuel tanks.

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Kingfisher OS2U by CWWright

The Fleet Air Arm ordered a total of 100 Vought-Sikorsky OS2U-3 Kingfisher under Lend-Lease Contract No LL76493. Requisition No 7951, with serial numbers ranging from  FN650-FN749. The first batch of aircraft started to arrive not long after they were accepted into the US Navy in March 1942 and just 2 months later 21 were delivered to the UK at Lockheed Speke in May 1942, thence forwarded to 778 squadron at Arbroath the same month. The Kingfisher was also delivered to the RAE A Flight and 787 squadron at Duxford in June 1942, and 789 squadron at Wingfield in November 1943.
13 Kingfisher were also delivered to Scottish Aviation Limited, Prestwick/Largs  and Greenock in May 1942, thence including to 765 squadron based at Sandbanks.
Another 33 wrere delivered to RNARY Wingfeld in November 1942, to 703 Flights (Cilicia and Corfu Flts) , 726 squadron Durban, and 777 squadron Hastings. The final 21 aircraft were delivered to Jamaica in October 1942, but retuirned to the US Navy by October 1943.

Kingfisher OS2U in wartime colour
         Fleet Air Arm history

         Total FAA 1939-1945:           100
         First delivered to RN:             3. 1942
         First squadron 1939 -1945:      778 squadron
         Last served with RN               1943

Aircraft Type:
Vought-Sikorsky OS2U-3 Kingfisher
Vought OS2U-3 Kingfisher
Primary Role:
Ship based reconnaissance monoplane/Maritime patrol aircraft
First Flight: 
July 1938
Date operating with FAA squadrons:
One 450 hp Pratt&Whitney Wasp Junior R-985-SB-3 engine
 Wing Span: Length: Height: Wing Area: 
Wing Span: 10.69m Length: 10.08m Height: 4.6m Wing Area: 24.3m2
Empty Weight: Max.Weight:
Empty Weight: 1870kg Max.Weight: 2721kg



Max. Speed: 264km/h Ceiling: 3960m Max. Range: 1860km
One fixed forward firing 0.3in browning and one flexibel rear cockpit 0.3in with 650lb bombload
Battle honours:
None with FAA
Additional references and notes:

Battle Honours and Operational History
The Kingfisher won no Battle Honours with the Fleet Air Arm, howver it was to become the Florence Nightingale of the Pacific in its air-sea rescue role during World War II . In a carrier raid on Truk in 1944, an OS2U flying from a battleship landed in choppy seas to pickup ten pilots over a period of six hours taxiing as far as 20 miles to deliver them to an allied submarine. A US Kingfisher rescued famous World War I ace Captain Eddie Rickenbacker after the plane in which he was riding as a passenger ditched in the Pacific during the war.

Surviving aircraft and relics
Only four OS2Us survive today, and all in USA. Two of which are on the Gulf Coast - one in the National Museum of Naval Aviation (BuNo 5926 obtained in 1971 from the Uruguayan Navy) and the other on the USS Alabama in Mobile, Alabama. Number three is on board the USS North Carolina and the fourth is at the National Air and Space Museum (USA).

National Air and Space Museum preserved Kingfisher OS2U (USA)

Kingfisher OS2U-3 BuNo 5926 preserved at the NNAM (USA)

Kingfisher OS2U-3 preserved.jpg

Associations and reunions
No Information
OS2U Kingfisher "special Feature' and "product overview" information in website of Vought aircraft industries
Tim Mason 1998 Mason, T (1998). The Secret Years, Flight Testing at Boscombe Down, 1939-1945. Hikoki Publications, ISBN: 0 951899 9 5
Garber Virtual Tour Home Page and the Kingfisher in the US  Kingfisher photographs in museums and brief history
 Kingfisher photographs  Kingfisher photographs and details
 Sturtivant, R. & Burrow, M (1995) 'Fleet Air Arm Aircraft 1939 to 1945'  Published by Air Britain (Historians) Ltd, 1995 ISBN: 085130 232 7 
Created 3-4-1999, Modified 3-4-2000


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