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Combat Aircraft of the Pacific War

Consolidated PBY Catalina
British Catalina Mark IIA of 209 Squadron RAF operating from Pembroke Dock, South Wales in 1941 - reproduced with thanks from 'British Warplanes of World War II' ed. Daniel J. March (Grange Books)
In1933 Consolidated of Buffalo was in competition with Douglas of Santa Monica to supply the United States Navy with its first cantilever-monoplane flying boat.  Though the Douglas aircraft was good,  its rival,  designed by Isaac M. Laddon, was to prove a classic. It would be manufactured in greater numbers than any flying boat before or since.
Theoriginal Catalina featured two 825 hp Twin Wasps mounted close together on a wide clean wing, on the tips of which were retractable stabilising floats.  The prototype XP3Y-1 achieved a speed of 184 mph - high for a flying boat in 1935.  Production began at San Diego, California. The initial order - for 60 - was exceptionally large for the time, but within a decade more than 4,000 had been ordered.
In1938 three were purchased by the Soviet Union, which urgently tooled up to build its own version, the GST.  In 1939 the British RAF bought one PBY and soon placed large orders - it was the RAF which gave the aircraft its name 'Catalina'. This  name was adopted in the United States in 1942.
InDecember 1939 came the PBY-5A (OA-10) with retractable landing gear, which was named the 'Canso' by the Canadian air force.  Many hundreds of both the boat and the amphibian version were built by Canadian Vickers (as the PBV-1) and Boeing Canada (as the PB2B-1).  Revised versions with heightened tail-fins were manufactured at New Orleans (PBY-6A) and by the Naval Aircraft Factory at Philadelphia (PBN-10).
TheCatalina established a remarkable combat record during World War Two.  In the Atlantic it performed vital service in the war against the U-boats, and an RAF Catalina famously located the Bismarck after the formidable German battleship had temporarily succeeded in escaping from British forces.
Inthe Pacific the Catalina gave outstanding service in the search and rescue role.  It was a Catalina which first located the advancing Japanese forces during the decisive Battle of Midway. 'Black Cat' night-flying Catalinas made a valuable and prolonged contribution to the Allied effort in the Solomons campaigns during 1942-43, frequently making torpedo attacks on Japanese shipping. For many years after World War Two hundreds of Catalinas served with various nations, in civilian as well as in military roles.
Consolidated Catalina PBY-5A (0A-10A) of the USAAF Air Rescue Service (in 1947) - built by Vickers of Canada
(for PBY-5)

Origin   Consolidated Vultee Aircraft Corporation
Type   Flying boat
Function   Maritime Patrol / Anti-submarine/ Torpedo Attack / Rescue
CrewUsually seven
Dimensions   Span 104'  Length 63' 11"
Weight   Loaded - 34,000 lb (15,436 kg)
  Two 1,200 hp Pratt & Whitney R-1830-92 Twin Wasp 14-cylinder two-row radials
Maximum speed - 196 mph (314 km/h)
Climb to 5,000 feet - 4 mins 30 secs
Service ceiling - 18,200 feet (6160 metres)
Range (at cruising speed of 100mph) - 3,100 miles
Offensive Weapons
Up to 2,000 lbs of bombs, torpedoes, or depth charges - in wing racks
Typical Defensive armament (United States)
One .50 or .30 Browning machine-gun in nose, one .50 in each waist blister, one in ventral 'tunnel'
Typical Defensive armament (British)
Six .303 Browning machine-guns - one in nose, twins in each waist blister, one in ventral 'tunnel'

Below - Radar-equipped Catalina PBY-5A
PBY-5A - View from Ahead

PBY-5A - Plan View

Martin PBM Mariner - maritime patrol flying boat

Kawanishi H8K - Japanese flying boat

Pacific Aircraft Index

Grumman Avenger - torpedo-bomber

Curtiss SB2C Helldiver - shipborne dive-bomber

The Battle for Leyte Gulf,  23-26 October 1944

The Battle of the Philippine Sea,  19-20 June 1944

The Fast Carrier Task Force

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Main source of information for this page was -
'Combat Aircraft of World War Two' by Bill Gunston (Spring/Salamander)
The line drawings of the PBY-5A are reproduced, with thanks, from the same work
The illustration of the Catalina IIA at the head of this page is reproduced with thanks from -
'British Warplanes of World War II' ed. by Daniel J. March (Grange Books, 2000)
The colour illustration of the PBY-5A is reproduced with thanks from -
'The Military Propeller Aircraft Guide' ed. by David Donald (Blitz Editions)