Brewster Buffalo: Wikis


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F2A Buffalo
F2A-1 of US Navy squadron VF-3.
Role Single seat carrier-based fighter
Manufacturer Brewster Aeronautical Corporation
First flight 2 December 1937
Introduced April 1939
Retired 1948—
Status retired
Primary users United States Navy
Royal Air Force
Produced 1938-1941
Number built 509

The Brewster F2A Buffalo (company Model 139) was an American fighter aircraft which saw limited service during World War II. In 1939, the F2A became the first monoplane fighter aircraft used by the US Navy.

In December 1941, it suffered severe losses with both British Commonwealth and Dutch air forces in South East Asia while facing the Japanese Navy's A6M Zero and the Japanese Army's Nakajima Ki-43 "Oscar". It also saw action with United States Marine Corps (USMC) squadrons at the Battle of Midway. Shown by the experience of Midway to be no match for the Zero, the F2A was derided by USMC pilots as a "flying coffin."[1]

However, during the Continuation War of 1941-1944, the Buffalos operated by the Suomen Ilmavoimat (Finnish Air Force) proved capable of engaging and destroying most types of Soviet fighter aircraft operating against Finland at that time and achieving, in the first phase of that conflict, the outstanding ratio of 32:1, 32 Soviet aircraft shot down for every Buffalo lost.[2]


Design and development


United States Navy

In 1935, the US Navy issued a requirement for a carrier-based navy fighter aircraft intended to replace the Grumman F3F biplane. The Brewster B-139 monoplane, designed by a team led by Dayton T. Brown, was one of two aircraft designs that were initially considered. [3]The XF4F-1 with a double-row radial engine was a "classic" biplane. The US Navy competition was re-opened to allow another competitor, the XFNF-1, a navalized Seversky P-35, eliminated early on when the prototype could not reach more than 267 mph (430 km/h).[4] The B-139 first flew on 2 December 1937 and early test results showed it was far in advance of the Grumman biplane entry. While the XF4F-1 would not enter production, it would later re-emerge as a monoplane, the Wildcat.

Brewster XF2A-1 prototype

The new Brewster fighter had a modern look with a stubby fuselage, mid-set monoplane wings and a host of advanced features. It was all-metal, with flush-riveted, stressed aluminum construction, although control surfaces were still fabric-covered. The B-139 also featured split flaps, a hydraulically-operated retractable main undercarriage (and partially retractable tail wheel), and a streamlined framed canopy. However, the aircraft lacked self-sealing tanks and pilot armor. Fuel was only 160 U.S. gal (606 l), stored in the fuselage. Powered by an 950 hp (708 kW) single-row Wright R-1820-22 Cyclone radial engine, it had an impressive initial climb rate of 2,750 ft/min and a top speed of 277.5 mph (447 km/h), later boosted to 304 mph (489 km/h) at 16,000 ft (4,879 m) after improvements were made to the cowling streamlining and carburetor/oil cooler intakes.[5][6] With only a single-stage supercharger, high-altitude performance fell off rapidly.[7] Fuselage (nose cowling) armament was one fixed .50 in (12.7 mm) M2 Browning machine gun with 200 rounds, and one fixed .30 in (7.62 mm) AN Browning machine gun with 600 rounds. The Navy awarded Brewster Aeronautical Corporation the contract; the Model B-139 was redesignated XF2A-1.

Service testing of the XF2A-1 prototype began in January 1938 and in June, the Navy ordered 66 of the production F2A-1. They were powered by the 940 hp (701 kW) Wright R-1820-34 engine and had a larger fin. The added weight of two additional .50 in (12.7 mm) Browning wing guns and other equipment specified by the Navy for combat operations reduced the initial rate of climb to 2,600 ft/min. Plagued by production difficulties, Brewster only delivered 11 F2A-1 aircraft to the Navy; the remainder of the order was later diverted to the Finnish Air Force in modified form as the B-239E (export).

Lieutenant. John S. Thach tipped this F2A-1 (BuNo 1393) onto its nose on Saratoga in March 1940.
Cockpit of a Buffalo serving as U.S. Navy training aircraft in April 1943.

A later variant, the F2A-2 (Model B-339), of which 43 were ordered by the U.S. Navy, included a more powerful R-1820-40 engine of 1,200 hp (895 kW), a better propeller, and integral flotation gear, but still lacked pilot armor and self-sealing fuel tanks. The increase in engine power was welcomed, but to some extent offset by the increased loaded weight (5,942 lb/2,701 kg) of the aircraft; while top speed was increased to a respectable 323 mph (520 km/h) at 16,500 ft (5,029 m), initial climb rate dropped to 2,500 ft/min. Both the F2A-1 and the F2A-2 variants of the Brewster were liked by early Navy and Marine pilots, including Pappy Boyington, who praised the good turning and maneuvering abilities of the aircraft.[8]"Pappy" Boyington observed: "But the early models, before they weighed it all down with armor-plate, radios, and other [equipment], they were pretty sweet little ships. Not real fast, but the little [aircraft] could turn and roll in a phone booth."

The F2A-3 was the last version of the Buffalo to enter service with the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps. 108 examples were ordered in January 1941. By this time, the Navy had become disenchanted with the Buffalo, and had become especially annoyed at Brewster Aeronautical Corporation`s frequent production delays and its seeming never-ending management difficulties. A new wet wing with self-sealing features and a larger fuselage tank provided increased fuel capacity and protection, but also increased the aircraft's weight by more than 500 lb (227 kg).[7] The wing and enlarged fuselage tank carried an additional 80 U.S. gallons (300 L) of fuel; at 6 pounds per U.S. gallon (0.72 kg/L), the fuel alone weighed nearly 500 lb (230 kg). The addition of armor plating for the pilot and increased ammunition capacity further increased the aircraft's weight, resulting in a reduced top speed and rate of climb, while substantially degrading the Brewster's turning and maneuvering capability.[7] The Navy found that the added weight of the F2A-3 also aggravated the problem of landing gear failure during carrier landings.

Even in late 1940 it was apparent that the Buffalo was rapidly becoming obsolete.[9] It badly needed a more powerful engine, but the limits of the airframe had been reached, and could not be physically retrofitted with a larger, more powerful radial. Soon after deliveries of the F2A-3 began, the Navy decided to eliminate the type altogether. Now considered a secondline aircraft, some were transferred to the U.S. Marine Corps as land-based fighters, which deployed two F2A-3 fighting squadrons to the Pacific: one stationed at Palmyra Atoll, and another at Midway Island. The remaining Buffalos in naval service were retained by training squadrons for use as advanced trainers.

Operational history

In June 1939, the first F2A-1 aircraft were delivered to the U.S. Navy: nine went to VF-3 aboard the USS Saratoga. The balance (44 F2A-1s) were declared surplus and sold to Finland. Although it was becoming clear the F2A was inferior to the latest German fighters, in early World War II, the threat of war meant that all modern monoplane fighter types were in high demand, including the F2A. Consequently, the United Kingdom, Belgium, and the Netherlands East Indies purchased several hundred export models of the Buffalo.


Just before the start of World War II, Belgium sought more modern aircraft to expand and modernize its air force. Belgium ordered 40 Brewster B-339 aircraft fitted with the Wright R-1820-G-105 engine approved for export use. The G-105 engine had a power output of 1,000 hp/746 kW (peak) at takeoff, some 200 hp (149 kW) less than the engine fitted to the U.S. Navy F2A-2. The arrestor hook and life raft container were removed, and the aircraft was modified with a slightly longer tail. Unfortunately, only two aircraft (one source claims just one)[10] reached France before the collapse of Belgium; they were later captured intact by the Germans. Six more aircraft ended up in Martinique with the French Air Force, where they were eventually destroyed in accidents. The rest of the order went to the RAF.

British Commonwealth

Brewster Buffalo Mk Is being inspected by RAF personnel at RAF Sembawang, Singapore on 12 October 1941.
Buffalos of No. 453 Squadron RAAF lined up at RAF Sembawang, circa November 1941.
Brewster B339E wrecks cannibalized for parts, probably in Singapore circa late January 1942. Two of the Buffalos, serials W8156 and W8207, were operated by 453 Squadron RAAF.[11]

Facing a shortage in combat aircraft in January 1940, the British government established the British Purchasing Commission to acquire U.S. aircraft that would help supplement domestic production. Among the U.S. fighter aircraft that caught the Commission's attention was the Brewster. The remaining 32 B-339 aircraft ordered by the French, suspended at the fall of France, were passed on to the United Kingdom. Appraisal by Royal Air Force acceptance personnel criticised it on numerous points including lack of armament and pilot armor, poor high-altitude performance, engine overheating, maintenance issues, and cockpit controls, while it was praised for its handling, roomy cockpit, and visibility.[3] With a top speed of about 323 mph (520 km/h) at 21,000 ft (6,400 m), but with fuel starvation issues over 15,000 ft (4,600 m), it was considered unfit for duty in western Europe.[3] Still desperately in need of fighter aircraft in the Pacific and Asia for British and Commonwealth air forces, the UK ordered an additional 170 aircraft under the type specification B-339E.[12]

The B-339E, or Brewster Mk I as it was designated in British service, was initially intended to be fitted with an export-approved Wright R-1820-G-105 Cyclone engine with a 1,000 hp/746 kW (peak takeoff)[13] engine. The Brewster aircraft delivered to British and Commonwealth air forces were significantly altered from the B-339 type sold to the Belgium and French forces in accordance with their purchase order. The Brewster factory removed the Navy life raft container and arrestor hook, while adding many new items of equipment,including a British Mk III reflector gun sight, a gun camera, a larger fixed pneumatic-tire tail wheel, fire extinguisher, engine shutters, a larger battery, and reinforced armor plating and armored glass behind the canopy windshield.[14]

The aircraft were sent to Royal Australian Air Force, RAF and Royal New Zealand Air Force fighter squadrons in Singapore, Malaya and Burma, shortly before the outbreak of war with Japan.

The Brewster Model B-339E, as modified and supplied to Great Britain was distinctly inferior in performance to the F2A-2 (Model B-339) from the original order. It had a less powerful (1,000 hp/746 kW) engine compared to the F2A-2's 1,200 hp (895 kW) Cyclone, yet was substantially heavier due to all of the additional modifications (some 900 lb/400 kg). The semi-retractable tail wheel had been exchanged for a larger fixed model, which was also less aerodynamic. Top speed was reduced from 323 mph (520 km/h) to 313 mph (504 km/h) at combat altitudes,.[3] In its original form, the B-339 had a theoretical maximum speed of 323 mph (520 km/h) at a rather unrealistic 21,000 ft (6,400 m), but fuel starvation problems and poor supercharger performance at higher altitudes meant that this figure was never achieved in combat; the B-339E was no different in this regard. Its maneuverability was severely impaired (the aircraft was unable to perform loops), and initial rate of climb was reduced to 2,300 ft/min. The Wright Cyclone 1890-G-105 engine designated for use in the Brewster Mk I was in short supply; many aircraft were fitted with secondhand Wright engines sourced from Douglas DC-3 airliners and rebuilt to G105 or G102A specifications by Wright.[12] In service, some effort was made by at least one Brewster squadron to improve the plane's sluggish performance; a few aircraft were lightened by some 1,000 lb (450 kg) by removing armor plate, armored windshields, radios, gun camera, and all other unnecessary equipment, and by replacing all .50 in (12.7 mm) machine guns with two .303 in (7.7 mm) cowling guns. The fuselage tanks were filled with a minimum of fuel, and run on high-octane aviation petrol where available. At Alor Star airfield in Malaya, the Japanese captured over 1,000 barrels of high-octane aviation petrol from British forces, which they promptly used in their own fighter aircraft.[15]

Many of the pilots assigned the Buffalo lacked adequate training and experience in the type. A total of 20 of the original 169 Buffalos were lost in training accidents during 1941. By December 1941, approximately 150 Buffalo B-339E aircraft made up the bulk of the British fighter defences of Burma, Malaya and Singapore. The two RAAF, two RAF, and one RNZAF squadrons, during December 1941-January 1942, were beset with numerous problems,[16] including: poorly-built and ill-equipped aircraft.[3]Aviation historian Dan Ford characterized it as: "The performance... was pathetic." Inadequate spare parts and support staff, airfields that were difficult to defend against air attack, lack of a clear and coherent command structure, antagonism between RAF and RAAF squadrons and personnel, and inexperienced pilots lacking appropriate training would lead to disaster. Though the Mk I had .50-inch guns, many aircraft were equipped with .30 Browning mounts and electric firing solenoids, which tended to fail in service.[12]

When the Japanese invaded northern Malaya on 8 December 1941, the B-339E initially performed adequately. Against the Nakajima Ki-27 "Nate", the overloaded Brewsters could at least hold their own if given time to get to altitude, and at first achieved a respectable number of kills. However, the appearance of ever greater numbers of Japanese fighters, including markedly superior types such as the Nakajima Ki-43 "Oscar" soon overwhelmed the Buffalo pilots, both in the air and on the ground. Another significant factor was the Brewster engine's tendency to overheat in the tropical climate, which caused oil to spray over the windscreen, usually forcing an aborted mission and greatly complicating attempts to intercept and destroy enemy aircraft. In the end, more than sixty Brewster Mk I (B-339E) aircraft were shot down in combat, 40 destroyed on the ground, and approximately twenty more destroyed in accidents. Only about 20 Buffalos survived to reach India or the Dutch East Indies.[17]

It is not entirely clear how many Japanese aircraft the Buffalo squadrons shot down. Eighty were claimed, a ratio of kills to losses of just 1.3 to 1. Additionally, most of the Japanese aircraft shot down by the Buffalos were bombers.[12] The Hawker Hurricane, which fought in Singapore alongside the Buffalo from January 20, also suffered severe losses from ground attack; most were destroyed.[18] The Fleet Air Arm also used the Buffalo in the Mediterranean in the Battle of Crete in early 1941.

Four Commonwealth pilots (Geoff Fisken, Maurice Holder, Benjamin Clare and Richard Vanderfield) became aces in the Brewster Mark I.[19] New Zealander Fisken, the top-scoring pilot, later flew RNZAF P-40s and became the highest-scoring Commonwealth pilot within the Pacific theatre.

Netherlands East Indies

Lt. August Deibel of 2-VlG V with his Dutch Buffalo (serial B-3110)[11]

The Militaire Luchtvaart van het Koninklijk Nederlands-Indisch Leger ("Military Air Service of the Royal Netherlands East Indian Army", ML-KNIL) had ordered 144 Brewster B-339C and 339D models, the former with rebuilt Wright G-105 engines supplied by the Dutch and the latter with new 1,200 hp (895 kW) Wright R-1820-40 engines Brewster purchased from Wright. At the outbreak of war, only 71 had arrived in the Dutch East Indies, and not all were in service. A small number served briefly at Singapore before being withdrawn for the defense of Java.

As the Brewster B-339 aircraft used in the Netherlands East Indies were lighter than the modified B-339E Brewster Mark I planes used by British, Australian, and New Zealand air forces, they were able at times to successfully engage the Japanese Army Ki-43 "Oscar", although both the "Oscar" and the Japanese Navy's A6M Zero still out-climbed and out-turned the B-339 at combat altitudes[20] (the Zero was faster as well). Apart from their role as fighters, the Brewsters were also used as dive bombers against Japanese troopships. Though reinforced by British Commonwealth Brewster Mk I (B-339E) aircraft retreating from Malaya, the Dutch squadrons faced superior numbers in the air, and were too few in number to stem the advance of Japanese ground forces. The Brewsters flew their last sortie on 7 March. Altogether, 17 Dutch pilots were killed, and 30 aircraft shot down; 15 were destroyed on the ground, and several were lost to misadventure. Dutch pilots claimed 55 enemy aircraft destroyed.[19] In a major engagement above Semplak on February 19, 1942, eight Dutch Brewster fighters intercepted a formation of about 35 Japanese bombers with an escort of about 20 Zeros. The Brewster pilots destroyed 11 Japanese aircraft and lost four Brewsters; two Dutch pilots died.[21]

Two Dutch pilots, Jacob van Helsdingen and August Deibel, scored highest with the Buffalo with three victories each.

U.S. Marine Corps

F2A-3 of VMF-211, after suffering landing gear failure while landing on board USS Long Island, off Palmyra Island, 25 July 1942.

At Midway Island, United States Marine Corps fighter group VMF-221 operated a mixed group of 20 Brewster F2A-3 Buffalo and six Grumman F4F-3 Wildcat fighers.[22] During the battle of Midway in 1942, VMF-221 was destined to participate in one of the few aerial combats involving the Buffalo in U.S. military service. The initial Buffalo interception of the first Japanese air raid was led by Major Floyd B. Parks, whose 13-aircraft division did not fly in paired flights of mutually supporting aircraft. After attacking a formation of 30 to 40 Japanese Aichi "Val" Japanese bombers escorted by 36 A6M Zero fighters, the Marines, flying in two divisions of aircraft, downed several Japanese bombers before the escorting Zeros reacted; a furious dogfight developed. All 20 Buffalos were either shot down, crash-landed, or landed with engine trouble or battle damage that put them out of action; of the six Wildcats, only two remained flyable at the end of the mission. The losses included the Marine air commander, Major Parks, who bailed out of his burning Buffalo, only to be strafed by A6M Zero fighters after parachuting into the sea.[22]

The Marine pilots who managed to shake off the A6M Zeros used high speed split-s turns or very steep dives.[22] These maneuvers were later found to be the best means to evade pursuit by the highly maneuverable Japanese fighters. One F2A-3 pilot, Marine Captain William Humberd, dove away from his pursuers, then attacked a Zero in a head-on pass, shooting his opponent down.[23] In the battle, some F2A-3s suffered from inoperative guns.[3] The cowling guns' occasional failure to fire was noticed by other users as well; the phenomenon may have been caused by frayed electrical wires in the mechanism that synchronized the nose guns with the propeller. While other Buffalos had not been fitted with plate armor behind the pilot, making them vulnerable to even a single bullet or shell. Losses were aggravated due to the Japanese practice of strafing baled-out pilots.[22] Second Lt. Charles S. Hughes, whose Buffalo was forced to retire at the start of the raid due to engine trouble, had a ringside view of the aerial combat:

"The Zeros came in strafing immediately afterward. I saw two Brewsters trying to fight the Zeros. One was shot down and the other was saved by ground fires covering his tail. Both looked like they were tied to a string while the Zeros made passes at them."[24]

Second Lt. Charles M. Kunz reported that after successfully downing two Val bombers, he was attacked by Japanese fighters:

"I was at an altitude of about 9,000 ft., and shoved over in a dive trying to shake the plane on my tail until I was about 20 feet from the water. I was making radical turns hoping the pilot couldn't get steadied on me. I glanced out of the rear and saw that it was a [Mitsubishi A6M Zero] fighter. I continued flying on a rapid turning course at full throttle when I was hit in the head by a glancing bullet. After he fired a few short burst he left as I had been in a general direction of 205 degrees heading away from the island. My plane was badly shot up...In my opinion the [Zero] fighter has been far underestimated. I think it is probably one of the finest fighters in the present war. As for the F2A-3, (or Brewster trainer) it should be in Miami as a training plane, rather than used as a first line fighter."[23]

The poor performance of the Buffalo at Midway later prompted Finnish Air Force ace Hans Wind to develop new combat tactics for the FAF Brewster, which were later used with remarkable success in 1942 and 1943 against the Soviet Air Force during the Continuation War.[25] Wind's combat tactics, which emphasized diving speed and zoom climbs, were much the same as Claire Chennault's advice for employing the Curtiss P-40 against the A6M Zero in Burma and China.[25] Chennault's report on the Zero and air combat reached Washington in 1941, where it was disseminated to aviation forces of the U.S. Army and Navy.[26] This information, along with the development of two-plane mutual defensive formations and tactics, were incorporated into U.S. and Marine Corps air combat training doctrine by some prescient U.S. commanders, including Lieutenant Commander "Jimmy" Thach.The Thach Weave was developed for use by F4F Wildcat pilots against the A6M Zero, and was later adopted by other F4F squadrons in the Pacific.[26]

With the emergence of new tactics for the F4F-3 and F4F-4 Wildcat (which was superior in all respects to the F2A-3 Buffalo, with the sole exception of maximum range), the Battle of Midway marked the end of the Buffalo in both U.S. Navy and Marine Corps fighting squadrons. Surviving F2A-3 aircraft were hastily transported to the U.S. mainland, where they were used as advanced trainers. The introduction in late 1943 of vastly superior American carrier-borne fighters such as the F6F Hellcat and F4U Corsair soon relegated the Brewster F2A-3 to a distant, if painful memory.


In 1939, the U.S. Navy and State Department arranged to divert the remaining 55 fighter planes,[27] from an earlier U.S. Navy order of 66 F2A-1 fighters, to Finland for the Finnish Air Force, in exchange for its order of F2A-2 Buffaloes scheduled to be delivered later (and hence were sent to the U.S. Navy, instead). The Buffalo fighters that were sent to Finland were de-navalized, and hence lighter in weight. These F2A-1 Buffaloes given the export number Model B-239, and they were equipped with an export-approved Wright R-1820-G5 nine-cylinder radial engine of 950 hp (708 kW)..[25] Since the B-239 was a de-navalized F2A-1, it lacked all of these: self-sealing fuel tanks, cockpit armor, and a tailhook. Before these fighters were placed onto ships for delivery to Finland, Brewster Company employeer removed all the naval equipment on the fighters, such as their tailhooks and life-raft containers, resulting in a somewhat lighter aircraft.[25] After delivery to Finland, the Finnish Air Force added armored backrests for their pilots, metric flight instruments, the Finnish Väisälä T.h.m.40 gunsight, and four .50 in (12.7 mm) machine guns. The top speed of the Finnish Buffaloes, as modified, was 297 mph (478 km/h) at 15,675 ft (4,750 m), and their loaded weight was 5,820 lb (2,640 kg).[3][28]

In February 1940, the Finnish Air Force pilot Lt. Jorma "Joppe" Karhunen flight tested the first Buffalo.[3][29] Unfamiliar with the plane, he accidentally burned out the engine while flying very low at high speed; he crashed on a snow-covered field, damaging the propeller and some belly panels.[3][29] Initially unimpressed, the Finns later witnessed a demonstration by a Brewster Company factory test pilot, who was able to stay on the tail of an Finnish Fiat G.50 Freccia monoplane fighter from Italy; although the Fiat fighter was slightly faster in level flight, the B could out-turn it.[3] The Finns were overjoyed, and they began flying their new fighter. Of the six Buffalo B-239 fighters delivered to Finland before the end of the Winter War of 1939-1940, five of them became combat-ready, but they did not enter combat before this war ended.

The Brewster B-239E fighter plane was never referred to as the "Buffalo" in Finland. This plane was known simply as the "Brewster", or sometimes by the nickname Taivaan helmi ("Sky Pearl") or Pohjoisten taivaiden helmi ("Pearl of the Northern Skies"). Other nicknames were Pylly-Valtteri ("Butt-Walter"), Amerikanrauta ("American hardware" or "American car") and Lentävä kaljapullo ("flying beer-bottle"). The 44 Buffalo Model B-239 (export) fighters used by the FAF received serial numbers BW-351 to BW-394.

Finnish Air Force's Brewster B-239 formation during the Continuation War

In Finnish Air Force service, the Buffalo was regarded as being very easy to fly, a "gentleman's plane". The Buffalo was also popular within the FAF because of their relatively long range and flight endurance, and also because of their low-trouble maintenance record. This was in part due to the efforts of the Finnish engine mechanics, who solved a problem that plagued the Wright Cyclone engine simply by inverting one of the piston rings in each cylinder. This had a positive effect on engine reliability.

In the end, the Brewster Buffalo gained a reputation in Finnish Air Force service as one of their more successful fighter planes. In service during 1941-1945, Buffaloes of Lentolaivue 24 (Fighter Squadron 24) claimed with 477 Soviet Air Force warplanes destroyed, with the combat loss of just 19 Buffaloes: an outstanding victory ratio of 26:1. [30] However, substantiation of this claim from Luftwaffe and Soviet Air Force records (matching Finnish reported kills to the enemy's acknowledged losses) has not been completed as of 2007. These figures also do not specify the number of bombers and the number of fighter planes destroyed.

During the Continuation War, Lentolaivue 24 (Fighter Squadron 24) was equipped with the B-239s until May 1944, when the Buffaloes were transferred to Hävittäjälentolaivue 26 (Fighter Squadron 26). Attacking Soviet Air Force pilots using formulaic defensive tactics, many Finnish pilots racked up enormous scores on the Finnish front. The default tactic was the four-plane "parvi" (swarm) with a pair flying low (but visible, not too close to the terrain) as the bait and a pair flying high to dive on the eventual interceptors. In the long run, the Soviet Air Force on the Finnish front never developed an efficient approach to counter this tactic. According to some reports, this tactic also inspired the German Luftwaffe's kette.[citation needed] Most of the pilots of Lentolaivue 24 were Winter War combat veterans. This squadron achieved total of 459 Soviet aircraft kills with B-239s, while losing 15 Buffaloes in combat.[3]While the Finnish remarkable accomplishments in the Buffalo are undeniable, the aviation historian Dan Ford points out that Stalin's purges and recent expansion of the Soviet Air Force resulted in many new inexperienced pilots while simultaneously discouraging combat initiative. The result was pilots who failed to scan the airspace behind them, and also Soviet air formations that held their positions in defensive circles while the diving Finnish pilots picked them off one-b-one. The Soviet fighter planes used in the early years on the Finnish front also included some obsolescent models such as the Polikarpov I-15 and I-153.

After the end of hostilities, Karhunen, the captain and commander of the 3rd flight of LeLv 24, recalled:

"The Brewster model 239 was good against the older Russian fighters, Polikarpov I-153 Chaika (Gull) and I-16. Hence the period 1941-42 was the best time for us. In 1943 it was already significantly more difficult when the Russians began to use their newer fighters against us... Later, with the Yaks, Hurricanes, Tomahawks, LaGG-3 and MiGs, it became a fight to the death." [31]

Karhunen was one of the top-scoring Buffalo pilots. By 4 May 1943 he had achieved 25 1/2 aerial victories in the Buffalo B-239 fighter out of his 31 1/2 total kills. On 18 August 1942 he was involved in one of the most successful sorties involving the Buffalo fighter. Lt Hans Wind with six other Buffaloes of LeLv 24 intercepted some 60 Soviet aircraft near Kronstad. Two Russian Pe-2 bombers, one Soviet Hurricane fighter, and 12 I-16s were shot down with the loss of just one Buffalo B-239 (BW-378). [32] The top-scoring Buffalo pilot was Hans Wind, with 39 kills in B-239s. [33] Wind scored 26 of his kills while flying aircraft BW-393, while Eino Luukkanen scored seven more in the same aircraft. The top scoring Finnish ace, Ilmari Juutilainen, scored 34 of his 94½ kills in B-239s, including 28 in BW-364.[34] After evaluation of claims against Soviet actual losses, aircraft No. BW-364 was credited with 42½ kills in total by all pilots operating it, possibly making it the highest-scoring fighter airframe in the history of air warfare.

During the Continuation War, Finnish designers devised a new aircraft, the Humu, based on the Brewster Buffalo, which was to be produced in Finland from cheaper materials such as plywood, insead of costly aluuminum alloys. Only a single prototype of this airplane was ever built, since it had become clear that this fighter was already obsolete in 1943.

By late 1943, the lack of spare parts, aircraft wear-and-tear, and the improvement of Soviet fighters greatly reduced the effectiveness of the Finnish Buffalo. LeLv 26 pilots still scored some 35 victories against Soviet aircraft in mid-1944. The last aerial victory by a Buffalo against the Soviet Union was scored over the Karelian Isthmus on 17 June 1944. [35] After Finland made an agreement to swap sides in the war and become Soviet allies, it had to turn against its former ally, Nazi Germany. A Buffalo pilot, Lt. Erik Teromaa (with 11 kills), claimed a Luftwaffe Junkers Ju 87 on October 3, 1944, during the so-called "Lapland War". Only eight Buffalo B-239s were left at the end of that war in Lapland.

Before Finland had swapped sides in the war, its air force had received some Messerschmitt Bf 109s from Germany, and this much-superior fighter plane was used henceforth to equip most of the Finnish Air Force fighter squadrons.

The last flight made by any Brewster Buffalo by the Finnish Air Force was recorded on September 14, 1948.


Brewster Buffalo F2A-2
Prototype (Model B-139)
Model B-239 (with R-1830-34 engine and two guns) for the United States Navy, 11 built.
Model B-339 (with R-1820-40 engine and four guns) for the United States Navy and Marines, 43 built.
Improved F2A-2 for the United States Navy with longer range and provision to carry two underwing 100 lb (45 kg) bombs, 108 built.
Export version for Finland (with R-1820-G5 engines and four guns), 44 built.
Export version for Belgium, 40 built (only two delivered to Belgium, rest to United Kingdom Fleet Air Arm)
Export version for the Netherlands East Indies with Wright G-105 engine; 24 built.
Export version for the Netherlands East Indies with 1,200 hp (895 kW) Wright R-1820-40 engine; 48 built.
Export version for the British Royal Air Force with Wright G-105 engine as the Buffalo Mk I; 170 built (also used by the RAAF and RNZAF)
Export version for the Netherlands East Indies with 1,200 hp (895 kW) GR-1820-G205A engine, 20 built, (17 later to the RAAF, some used by the USAAF)
Buffalo Mark I
United Kingdom designation of the Model B339E


US Navy Ordnance man loads guns of a F2A fighter, 1943.
Royal Australian Air Force
No. 21 Squadron RAAF
No. 24 Squadron RAAF
No. 25 Squadron RAAF (ex-Dutch)
No. 43 Squadron RAAF
No. 85 Squadron RAAF (ex-25 Sqn.)
No. 453 Squadron RAAF
No. 452 Squadron RAAF
No. 1 PRU RAAF (ex-Dutch, Photo Reconnaissance Unit)
Finnish Air Force
No. 24 Squadron (1941-1944)
No. 26 Squadron (1944-1945)
In 1942, Indonesian pro-independence guerrillas captured a small number of aircraft at numerous air bases during the invasion of Japan to Dutch East Indies and saved them in remote areas for the preparation for incoming war. Most aircraft were destroyed in military conflicts between the Netherlands and the newly proclaimed-Republic of Indonesia during the Indonesian National Revolution of 1945-1949.
Captured Buffalos were repaired and test flown, both in Japanese markings, and - starring in recreated combat footage - in incorrect RAF markings.
Militaire Luchtvaart KNIL
Vliegtuiggroep IV, 3e Afdeling (3-VlG IV: 3rd Squadron, IV Group)
Vliegtuiggroep V, 1e Afdeling (1-VlG V)
Vliegtuiggroep V, 2e Afdeling (2-VlG V, helped defend Singapore)
Vliegtuiggroep V, 3e Afdeling (3-VlG V)
 New Zealand
Royal New Zealand Air Force
No. 14 Squadron RNZAF
No. 488 Squadron RNZAF
 United Kingdom
Royal Air Force
No. 60 Squadron RAF
No. 67 Squadron RAF (ex-60 Sqn., most pilots were RNZAF)
No. 71 Squadron RAF
No. 146 Squadron RAF (ex-67 Sqn.)
No. 243 Squadron RAF (most pilots were RNZAF)
Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm
No. 711 Squadron FAA
No. 759 Squadron FAA
No. 760 Squadron FAA
No. 804 Squadron FAA
No. 805 Squadron FAA
No. 813 Squadron FAA
No. 885 Squadron FAA
 United States
United States Army Air Force
5th Air Force, Australia (ex-Dutch)
United States Marine Corps
VMF-211, based at Palmyra
VMF-221, used in Battle of Midway
United States Navy
VS-201, used in Battle of Midway
Trainers at Pensacola


Lauri Pekuri's FAF BW-372 on display at the Aviation Museum of Central Finland

Surviving Brewster Buffalo are extremely rare, as their construction quality was generally poor; most were quickly sold off for scrap or service in other countries. There are currently three surviving Buffalos (1 Finnish, 1 ML-KNIL and 1 US Navy), of which two are replicas.

Besides the Humu prototype, the hood and fin (with 41 kills) of FAF BW-393 survive in a Finnish museum; FAF BW-372 is on display at the Keski-Suomen Ilmailumuseo (Aviation Museum of Central Finland).[36]

In mid-1998, a Finnish B-239 (serial no. BW-372) crash-landed by FAF Lt. Lauri Pekuri was discovered in a lake, Big Kolejärvi, about 31 mi (50 km) from Segezha, Russia. The aircraft was recovered from the lake in 1998, and was transported to the National Museum of Naval Aviation in Pensacola, Florida, USA on 18 August 2004. In early 2008 the aircraft was lent to the Aviation Museum of Central Finland for the 90th anniversary of the Finnish Air Force.[36]

In July 2008, a replica B-339C was completed by the Cradle of Aviation Museum in Long Island, New York. The aircraft carries the markings of an ML-KNIL fighter flown by Lt. Gerard Bruggink (two kills). It was built for the Militaire-Luchtvaartmuseum (Military Aviation Museum) at Soesterberg, the Netherlands.[36][37] The Cradle of Aviation Museum houses a replica F2A-2, carrying the markings of a unit from VS-201, aboard USS Long Island.[38]

Specifications (F2A-1)

General characteristics

  • Crew: One, pilot
  • Length: 26 ft (7.9 m)
  • Wingspan: 35 ft (10.7 m)
  • Height: 11 ft 11 in (3.63 m)
  • Wing area: 208.9 ft² (19.408 m²)
  • Empty weight: 3,785 lb (1,717 kg)
  • Loaded weight: 5,040 lb (2,286 kg)
  • Powerplant:Wright R-1820-34 Cyclone 9, 940 hp (701 kW)



  • 1 × 0.30 in Browning AN machine gun and 1 × 0.50 in M2 Browning machine gun in the fuselage, with additional 2 × 0.50 in M2 wing-mounted machine guns for combat operations
  • In Finnish service: 4 × 0.50 in (12.7 mm) Browning M2 machine guns

Specifications (F2A-3)

General characteristics

  • Crew: One, pilot
  • Length: 26 ft 4 in (8.03 m)
  • Wingspan: 35 ft (10.7 m)
  • Height: 12 ft 1 in (3.68 m)
  • Wing area: 208.9 ft² (19.41 m²)
  • Empty weight: 4,732 lb (2,146 kg)
  • Max takeoff weight: 6,321 lb (2,867 kg)


  • Maximum speed: 284 mph at sea level, 321 mph at 16,500 ft (457 km/h, 516 km/h)
  • Cruise speed: 171 mph (275 km/h)
  • Range: 1,680 mi (2,703 km)
  • Service ceiling: 30,000 ft (9,100 m)
  • Rate of climb: 2,440 ft/min[7] The initial rate of climb would be further reduced with completely full petrol tanks.</ref> (744 m/min)


  • 2 × 0.50 in (12.7 mm) nose-mounted M2 machine guns
  • 2 × 0.50 in (12.7 mm) wing-mounted M2 machine guns
  • 2 × 100 lb (45 kg) underwing bombs

See also

Comparable aircraft

Related lists


  1. ^ Theodore, Taylor. The Battle Off Midway Island. New York: Avon, 1982. ISBN 0-380-78790-3.
  2. ^ Neulen 2000, p. 217.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Ford, Dan. "The Sorry Saga of the Brewster Buffalo.", 2008. Retrieved: 6 September 2009.
  4. ^ Shores 1971, p. 133.
  5. ^ Baugher, J. "Brewster XF2A-1." Retrieved: 8 March 2009.
  6. ^ Maas 1987, p. 5.
  7. ^ a b c d Lundstrom 2005, p. 12
  8. ^ West, Rick. "Pappy Boyington and the Buffalo: Interview of Pappy Boyington, October 1977." Retrieved: 8 March 2009.
  9. ^ By the fall of 1940 the Navy had witnessed the Chance-Vought XF4U-1 prototype (later to become the F4U Corsair) exceed 400 mph (644 km/h) in level flight with its huge Twin Wasp engine, an aircraft well ahead of anything in U.S. or Japanese naval air service.
  10. ^ Pacco 2003, p. 71.
  11. ^ a b Heyman, Jos. "Brewster Buffalo: Production listing (reconstructed)." (Australia) 10 February 2007. Retrieved: 24 January 2010.
  12. ^ a b c d Rickard, J. "Brewster Buffalo in British Service.", 27 June 2007. Retrieved: 6 September 2009.
  13. ^ Baugher, Joe, Brewster Buffalo Mk I, Article: Some sources quote this engine as producing 1,100 hp (820 kW) peak takeoff power; there may also have been alternate use of the Wright GR-1820-G102A, which was also rated for 1,100 hp (820 kW).
  14. ^ "1/48 Brewster B-339 Buffalo Pacific Theater." Retrieved: 10 September 2007.
  15. ^ Cull, Sortehaug and Haselden 2003
  16. ^ Harper 1946, pp. 1–2.
  17. ^ Huggins 2007, pp. 35–36.
  18. ^ Wixey 2003, pp. 38–39.
  19. ^ a b Flores, Santiago A. "Notable Brewster Buffalo pilots in Southeast Asia, 1941–42.", 2008. Retrieved: 3 October 2007.
  20. ^ Stanaway 1998, p. 9.
  21. ^ Andriessen, Paul. "Brewster 339/439 in the East Indies.", 2008. Retrieved: 10 August 2009.
  22. ^ a b c d "U.S. Marine Fighting Squadron VMF-221 Defends Midway." Pacific War Home Page. Retrieved: 10 August 2009.
  23. ^ a b "'Brewster Buffalo, Part 2." USMC Combat Reports. Retrieved: 8 March 2009.
  24. ^ "Brewster Buffalo, Part 1." USMC Combat Reports. Retrieved: 8 March 2009.
  25. ^ a b c d Maas, Jim. Brewster F2A-1 & Model 239. Retrieved: 8 March 2009.
  26. ^ a b Lundstrom 2005, p. 480.
  27. ^ 11 of these F2A-1 aircraft had already been delivered to the U.S. Navy; 44 would go to the Finnish Air Force (FAF) before the order was canceled at the end of the Winter War.
  28. ^ Finnish Air Force Fighters 1939-1945 (Performance specifications): the Fiat G.50 had a known all-out maximum speed of 301 mph (484 km/h) in level flight, and was slightly faster than the Brewster B-239.
  29. ^ a b Lindberg, J. "Jorma "Joppe" Karhunen." Fighter Tactics Academy, January 2006. Retrieved: 10 August 2009.
  30. ^ Stenman and Keskinen 1998, p. 86.
  31. ^ Neulen 2000, p. 206.
  32. ^ Neulen 2000, p. 208.
  33. ^ Stenman and Keskinen 1998, p. 76.
  34. ^ Stenman and Keskinen 1998, p. 75.
  35. ^ Stenman and Keskinen 1998, p. 74.
  36. ^ a b c "Annals of the Brewster Buffalo." Retrieved: 10 August 2009.
  37. ^ Netherlands Military Aviation Museum
  38. ^ Cradle Of Aviation Museum - Brewster F2-A2 Buffalo, Bill Maloney, 2008-06-16,, retrieved 2010-01-26 
  • Byk, Gary. Buffalo Down Under: The Modeller's Guide to Australia's Inherited Fighter. Glen Waverly, Victoria, Australia: Red Roo Models Publication, 1998.
  • Cull, Brian, Paul Sortenhaug and Mark Haselden. Buffaloes over Singapore: RAF, RAAF, RNZAF and Dutch Brewster Fighters in Action over Malaya and the East Indies 1941-1942. London: Grub Street, 2003. ISBN 1-90401-032-6.
  • Drendel, Lou. U.S. Navy Carrier Fighters of World War II. Carrollton, Texas: Squadron/Signal Publications Inc., 1987. ISBN 0-89747-194-6.
  • Ford, Daniel. "The Sorry Saga of the Brewster Buffalo". Air&Space/Smithsonian. July 1996.
  • Green, William. "Brewster F2A (Buffalo)". 'War Planes of the Second World War, Volume Four: Fighters. London: Macdonald & Co., 1961, pp. 28–33. ISBN 0-356-01448-7.
  • Green, William and Gordon Swanborough. "Brewster F2A Buffalo". WW2 Fact Files: US Navy and Marine Corps Fighters. London, UK: Macdonald and Jane's, 1976, pp. 5–15. ISBN 0-356-08222-9.
  • Huggins, Mark. "Falcons on Every Front: Nakajima's KI-43-I Hayabusa in Combat." Air Enthusiast Issue 131, September/October 2007.
  • Keskinen, Kalevi, Kari Stenman and Klaus Niska. Brewster B-239 ja Humu (in Finnish). Espoo, Finland: Tietoteos, 1977. ISBN 951-9035-16-8. Expanded and revised edition published in two parts:
    • Brewster Model 239: Suomen Ilmavoimien Historia 1A. Espoo, Finland: Kari Stenman Publishing, 2005. ISBN 952-99432-3-7.
    • Brewster Model 239: Suomen Ilmavoimien Historia 1B. Espoo, Finland: Kari Stenman Publishing, 2005. ISBN 952-99432-4-5.
  • Lundstrom, John B. The First Team: Pacific Naval Air Combat from Pearl Harbor to Midway. Annapolis, MA: Naval Institute Press, 2005. ISBN 978-1591144717.
  • Maas, Jim. F2A Buffalo in action. Carrollton, Texas: Squadron/Signal Publications Inc., 1988. ISBN 0-89747-196-2.
  • Neulen, Hans Werner. In the Skies of Europe. Ramsbury, Marlborough, UK: The Crowood Press, 2000. ISBN 1-86126-799-1.
  • O'Leary, Michael. United States Naval Fighters of World War II in Action. Poole, Dorset, UK: Blandford Press, 1980. ISBN 0-7137-0956-1.
  • Pacco, John. "Brewster B-339" Belgisch Leger/Armee Belge: Het militair Vliegwezen/l'Aeronautique militaire 1930-1940. Artselaar, Belgium, 2003, pp. 70–71. ISBN 90-801136-6-2.
  • Raunio, Jukka. Lentäjän näkökulma 2 – Pilot's viewpoint 2 (in Finnish). Self published, 1993. ISBN 951-96866-0-6.
  • Shores, Christopher. The Brewster Buffalo (Aircraft in Profile 217). Windsor, Berkshire, UK: Profile Publications Ltd., 1971.
  • Stanaway, John. Nakajima Ki.43 "Hayabusa": Allied Code Name "Oscar". Bennington, VT: Merriam Press, 1998. ISBN 978-1576381410.
  • Stenman, Kari and Kalevi Keskinen. Finnish Aces of World War 2. Botley, Oxford, UK: Osprey Publishing, 1998. ISBN 978-18553278-3-2.
  • Taylor, John W.R. "Brewster F2A Buffalo." Combat Aircraft of the World from 1909 to the present. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1969. ISBN 0-425-03633-2.
  • Winchester, Jim. "Brewster Buffalo." The World's Worst Aircraft: From Pioneering Failures to Multimillion Dollar Disasters. London: Amber Books Ltd., 2005. ISBN 1-904687-34-2.
  • Wixey, Ken. "A Rotund New Yorker; Brewster's Embattled Buffalo." Air Enthusiast, Issue 105, May/June 2003.
  • Zbiegniewski, Andre R. Brewster F2A Buffalo (bilingual Polish/English). Lublin, Poland: Kagero, 2003. ISBN 83-89088-14-2.

External links


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