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Allied Carrier-Based Aircraft of the 1940s

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The Allies had the largest fleets of aircraft carriers. Only the Imperial Japanese Navy had a fleet of aircraft carriers to match them, and those were gradually wiped out in the Pacific War. Neither the Germans or Italians constructed any, and this certainly gave the Allies an advantage at sea. The Royal Navy and U.S. Navy had a range of carrier-based planes, and there were a few that had some impact.

SBD Dauntless

The SBD Dauntless was a dive-bomber aircraft of the Allied carrier fleets.[1] In the early 1940s the SBD devastated Japanese shipping in the Pacific. Its greatest triumph came at Midway when a group of SBD dive-bombers swooped from the skies and bombarded three Japanese aircraft carriers. Their bombs set them ablaze, and by the end of the battle all four of the IJN carriers were lost at sea.

Unlike other carrier-based aircraft, the SBD Dauntless did not have folding wings. This ensured that it had a higher wing support structure. The plane also had a substantial ordinance load and could carry up to 2,250 Ibs of bombs. As such, it wiped out more Japanese shipping than any other Allied aircraft.

F6F

The F6F was a combat plane introduced as a replacement for the antiquated F4F in 1943. Then it flew its first missions, and in every respect was a considerable enhancement on the previous aircraft. With greater speed and range the F6F could match, and generally eclipse, all the Japanese planes. That included the A6M Zero, which had previously dominated the skies.

This became all the clearer at the Philippine Sea battle in 1944. As the first Allied troops landed in the Marianas, Japan's navy sent a carrier fleet to wipe out the U.S. naval presence in the region. When the Japanese fleet intercepted the U.S. carriers, it lost hundreds of planes that had little to no impact. The F6F dominated the battle in which the Japanese navy lost most of its fleet air arm. Estimates suggest that the F6F took out Japanese planes at a ratio of 19:1.

Swordfish Aircraft

In Mediterranean the Royal Navy had one trump card, that of aircraft carriers. The Italian navy did not have any of them, and that would prove costly in the war that followed. In 1940, the Royal Navy was the first to deploy aircraft carriers at the Battle of Taranto. It was here that the Italians had a sizeable naval base that included six battleships.

The carrier-based aircraft sent to bombard this base were Swordfish torpedo-bombers. However, the Italian naval base was one with shallow water. Thus, it was doubtful that torpedo-bombers could have any impact with standard aerial torpedo at least. But the Royal Navy configured them so that the Swordfish torpedoes would be more effective in shallow water. At the Battle of Taranto the Swordfish aircraft decimated three Italian battleships in port, winning a decisive victory in the Battle of the Mediterranean.

Elsewhere the Swordfish aircraft also provided crucial air support for the sinking of the German battleship Bismarck after the Battle of Denmark Strait. Then their torpedoes jammed the Bismarck's rudder. Without an effective rudder the battleship became a sitting duck for the Royal Navy surface fleet ships that sank it.

Grumman TBF

The Grumman TBF was one of the Allied torpedo-bomber aircraft in the Pacific. It replaced the TBD that had heavy losses in battles such as Midway.[2] These were reliable and somewhat versatile planes that were also excellent ground support bombers, and with effective radio could also be suitable for aerial reconnaissance. One TBF pilot stated, “It flew like a brick but we loved her anyway.

TBF aircraft were most effective at the Battle of Eastern Solomons in 1942. Here they wiped out the Ryujo carrier. They were also in action at the First Naval Battle of Guadalcanal. In 1945, they were sent to wipe out the 72,809-ton battleship Yamato during the Battle of Okinawa. Their torpedoes had enough impact to ensure the ship flooded with water and went down at sea.

Those were a few of the Allied carrier-based aircraft that had some impact. In the Pacific and the Mediterranean they won some great victories for the Allies at Midway, Taronto and the Philippine Sea. These planes wiped out a large number of Japanese, German and Italian warships.

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Bibliography

  1. "SBD Dauntless Dive Bomber." WW2 Database. 27/10/2015 <Web >
  2. "TBF Avenger Torpedo Bomber." WW2 Database. 27/10/2015 <Web >

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