This large, heavy, impressive and powerful dive-bomber was intended as an improvement on the SBD Dauntless, which it was to replace. However, during ithe SB2C's development it became apparent that there were serious problems with its design. Combat experience, especially at the Battle of the Philippine Sea, revealed that the Dauntless was in fact the superior aircraft. The Helldiver's handling was poor - in particular it had unsatisfactory low-speed stability, and dangerously poor stalling characteristics. It was also unstable in a high-speed dive, and therefore a less accurate bomber than the SBD. Since dive-bombing was the aircraft's raison d'etre, this fault alone was enough to make the SB2C an unacceptable replacement for the Dauntless. However, it was at this stage impossible to reverse the changeover to the Helldiver, and the Philippine Sea battle was the SBD's last major action as a carrier aircraft.
Despite its initial lacklustre showing - and its inherent defects - the SB2C served as the sole shipborne dive-bomber of the US Navy from late 1944 until the end of the war, inflicting immense damage on enemy shipping and installations.
Curtiss SB2C Helldiver - by Peter C. Smith
Type: Two-seat carrier-based dive-bomber
Dimensions: Length 36' 8", span 49' 9", height 16' 11".
Weight (typical): Empty 11,000 lb, loaded 16,607 lb
Engine: One 1,700 hp Wright R-2600-8 Cyclone 14-cylinder radial.
Performance: Maximum speed 281 mph, service ceiling 24,700 feet
Range: 1,110 miles
Armament (later versions): -
1,000 lb bomb load in internal bay
(later versions also having provision for bombs under wings)
Two fixed forward-firing 20mm cannon or four fixed forward-firing 0.5-inch Browning machine-guns in wings
Twin manually-aimed 0.3-inch or 0.5-inch Browning machine-guns in rear cockpit
Pacific Aircraft - Index
Douglas SBD Dauntless - the SB2C's predecessor
Grumman F4F Wildcat - US shipborne fighter
Grumman F6F Hellcat - US shipborne fighter