Brewster F2A Buffalo


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Brewster F2A Buffalo

The prototype of this single-seat all-metal fighter flew for the first time in December 1937. The first production version was the F2A-1 powered by a 700.4kW Wright R-1820-34 radial engine. Eleven were operated by the US Navy on board USS Saratoga and 44 were exported to Finland. The F2A-1 was the US Navy's first monoplane fighter. These were followed by 43 894kW R-1820-40-engined F2A-2 and 108 F2A-3 for the US Navy. Meanwhile a few fighters had reached Belgium and others were in service in the Netherlands East Indies and with the RAF (called Buffalos). Apart from the Finnish fighters which fought well against the Russians, F2A were used almost exclusively against the Japanese and in all cases met superior aircraft. Heavy British losses in the Far East led to their withdrawal and US Navy action during the Battle of Midway was equally unsuccessful. A total of more than 500 F2A were built.


The F2A-1 was only armed with two machine guns, one 7.62mm calibre and one 12.7mm. Most export models also had wing guns, but RAF ones often flew with half ammunition to save weight.

Addition of armour plate on the F2A-2 version reduced any performance advantage the basic Buffalo may have had over Japanese fighters.

The Finns liked the Buffalo enough to design a version called the Humu ('Reckless') with a wooden wing and a Russian engine. It proved unsatisfactory in trials and only a single example was built.

Brewster F2A Buffalo

 ENGINE1 x Wright R-1820-40 Cyclone, 895kW
  Take-off weight3247 kg7158 lb
  Empty weight2146 kg4731 lb
  Wingspan10.67 m35 ft 0 in
  Length8.03 m26 ft 4 in
  Height3.68 m12 ft 1 in
  Wing area19.41 m2208.93 sq ft
  Max. speed517 km/h321 mph
  Cruise speed415 km/h258 mph
  Ceiling10120 m33200 ft
  Range1550 km963 miles
 ARMAMENT4 x 12.7mm machine-guns, 2 x 45-kg bombs

Brewster F2A BuffaloA three-view drawing (752 x 1128)

Comments1-20 21-40 41-60
mark, e-mail, 15.03.2016 12:02

In post war memoirs and literary, several Finnish pilots have expressed their doubt that later versions were ruined by weight increasing over equipping. As stated, Brewster was capable of using energy tactics against I 16 and I 153 that could out turn Brewster while the heavy Mgs were lethal against any opponent. On the other hand fighters such as P 39, La 5 or Yak could use energy tactics against Brewsters later on. It has been suggested that with more experience and better tactics, Brewster could later have been a better match to Zero same way Wildcat was with roughly equal performance. Also, it has been forgotten that in Midway Buffalos did shoot down Japanese bombers. They also realised that steep dive or split-s was the best way to get rid of the Zero, and attacking head on. Sounds a lot like beginning of the famous Thach weave.


Oldgysgt, e-mail, 11.01.2016 06:55

If anyone was victorious in a Brewster F2A Buffalo over a Zero, it must have been because the Zero pilot was laughing so hard at the sight of Buffalo engaging him that he had tears in his eyes and didn't see the Buffalo pilot was serious until it was too late. One US Marine squadron commander at Midway later stated that once one of his pilot retracted his landing gear to go into combat, he, the commander, felt warranted in listing that pilot as a causality. The Finnish flyers might have done well with the Buffalo against I15s and I16s, and the RAF might have taken down a few Nates, but is very hard to believe any pilot, even Plt Off Eric Lock, had he lived, could best an Oscar or a Zero driving a Buffalo. I would think one would do as good riding a REAL Buffalo. When it comes to diving speed, the Buffalo may have had an edge, but the trouble is it was usually trailing flames while showing its diving ability. Brewster was the only military aircraft maker to close its doors DURING WWII, they were that good!


Ron, e-mail, 29.11.2015 04:19

When Russia tried to overwhelm Finland by 30 /1 odds. Finland beat it back with such valor that I believe Hitler was impressed and sent relief forces. He was advised not to, but he still did. Of course he argued it was for the nickel resources...etc. and ultimately Stalin prevailed but only at great cost.

The Brewsters still had their share of kills (alongside their Gustavs) against much newer fighters and bombers.
It still had no cannons while Soviet designs were cannon armed, out-gunning it considerably by 1944. But as far as 12.7mm guns went, it may have had the best with the LKk /42.
M /V was only ok @ around 775 mps, but it was faster and more reliable than even the Berezin UB 12.7mm gun except maybe synchronized.


Ron, e-mail, 16.02.2015 02:52

With a 37% (pre-war RNAF test) reduction for the electric cowl .50 est. RoF @ 536 rpm and 850 rpm wing-mounted MG53-2 Colt Brownings.
I would est. for the electric .30 cowl gun perhaps 765 rpm (based on 850 rpm uninterrupted). Standard Browning sinc. 0.30 Cal. is 730 rpm. Of course, if the advertised rate of 1200 rpm were true, it changes my estimate.
Non-electric cowl Browning guns suffer a decrease of at least -40-60% but electric I would give it an educated guess of -27%. Of course if someone here knows for a fact the RoF I'm listening.


Ron, e-mail, 07.08.2014 03:30

It irks me that the Buffalo undercarriage couldn't be exchanged for the stronger Wildcat gear when it was burdened with a heavier motor for more power.

Even though it made kills against the Japanese with good pilots like Fisk in Burma, and like aces in Finnlnd against Russia, it's weak undercarriage scuttled the heavier F2A-3 for the USN carriers.

Put it on an F4F undercarriage and /or keep it land-based in the marine corp. for shorter range combat without the heavy increase in fuel load...etc.

It's best pilots cut the exorbitant gas and ammo loads in half to be successful.

I mean, sailors shaving metal off the struts after they bent under the F2A-3's weight when landing on carriers so they could work?? No wonder they kept breaking! That can't make them stronger, come-on. Is that intentional, to hasten their replacement?

The Finns made the green USN and USMC pilots look bad, but made the higher-ups look worse.

The Navy gets a race horse (F2A-1) and a plow horse (F4F).
Adapts them to RNAF standards to fight the Luftwaffe (extra guns and more fuel, fuel protection and rafts, extra radios ...etc).
Another ton heavier they can't race. The F2A or the F4F.
The USN puts them up against unarmored, fast climbing, tighter-turning, experienced Japanese pilots flying new thoroughbreds that can race and dance!!


Ron, e-mail, 22.07.2014 05:23

What was so good about the Buffalo?
It won it's contract in the flyoff against the F4F Wildcat after all (of course it would square-off against precious few Wildcats from Japan). So it started out with good aerobatic performance.

For it's time, it had all-around view unrivalled by allied fighters. Only the Army's P-38 and P-39 approached it despite their obstructions.

If published dive speed is to be believed, 575 mph is fast around 1941. How many fighters outdove the tubby F2A?

Best US plane able to climb and intercept high enough (vs P-39 and P-40) and soon enough (vs F4F) to stop bombers, except for the star-crossed Curtiss Demon of course.

Made aces vs Japan and Russia.

This is only true of the lighter weight F2As.


Ron, e-mail, 22.07.2014 04:38

Sorry about the ammo data. The Browning 0.50 Cal and Berizin 12.7mm columns held up until entered. The spacing all disappeared.
The F2A's Browning MG53 was faster than the M2. The MG53 /LKk42 ammo may have had less velocity in return however: 700-850 m /s (700 seems too low to me. Which round was that?). If someone has a more detailed breakdown of the ammo belting order and gram weight /mv for each type of round, please reply. What I found was incomplete.
I understand Other US fighters besides the Buffalo may have been armed with the MG53 Colt Browning instead of the M2 also, like the P-38 Lightning. That should make this easier to solve since the P-38 is hardly as obscure as the Brewster B239 in Finland or even the USN /USMC F2A Buffalo versions.
What I did find for the LKk /42 ammo was only 3 of the 4 rounds as I had posted. The 4th one was an educated guess to counter the Russian UBS ammo, the Browning HE shell. But the velocities don't fit the lower M /V window.


Ron, e-mail, 15.07.2014 08:35

The Finn's home-grown 12.7mm LKk /42 was one of the top HMGs of the war.
RoF was 1100 rpm and they didn't jam. They used these on their fighters including their favorite, the imported Brewster B239.
The Brewster hit its stride with a 26:1 kill ratio and maintained air superiority in the 1942 /43 continuation war!
These were not weighed down like the Buffalos flown at Midway (the landing gear often could not bear the weight). Or armed with unreliable electric guns.
Instead these were early F2A-1s that were agile, turning a full circle in 14 seconds, and with teeth: 4 RELIABLE HMGs. They faced down Russian flown I-16s, LaGG-3s, MiG-3s, La-5s, Yak-1s, Yak-7s, Yak-9s, P-39s, P-40s, Hurricanes, and Spitfires till 1944 though they were receiving Bf 109Gs from 1943 on, to relieve the proud pearl of the sky! Their F2A was a success.


Ron, e-mail, 11.07.2014 10:04

The Russian 12.7mm UBS and it's ammo captured by the Finn's German 'Ally' would be the better choice for nose guns at a substantial RoF advantage. It's ammo-belt would have more HE /I rounds than the original US ammo too:

Browning 0.50 Cal.(12.7mm) = AP-APIT-AP-HE.

UB g fps HE /I M2 g fps HE /I
AP 51 850 0 AP 46 860 0
APIT 44.8 850 1g APIT 42 890 1.7g
HEI 42.8 850 1.14+1.28g HE 48.5 870 1.48g

AVE. 46.2g 850fps 1.14g 45.6g 870fps 0.795g

Because of the electric firing of the synchronized Brownings unique to the Brewster F2A /B239, it's close to the same reduction in rate of fire as the UBS, perhaps 27% vs 24% or so. However it was unreliable. Also, the normal rate of the UB was much much faster to start with 1050 vs 600-750 rpm (in 1940 the rate for the Browning .50 Cal. was improved to 750rpm). So, the 1100 rpm LKk /42 or the UB would be better than the M2 in the wings depending on ammo available.


Ron, e-mail, 10.07.2014 09:05

correction on my last post.
The Russian 12.7mm UB RoF was 1050 rpm.


Ron, e-mail, 09.07.2014 03:27

The Finnish version of the Browning 0.50 was the LKk /42. This replaced any 0.30 on there imported US made fighters, that or the UBS 12.7mm. Of course if they had enough UBS HMGs, I would replace all the American MGs with them for all MGs for the extra rate of fire: 1250 rpm vs 750;
and synchronized: 800+ rpm vs 300-450 rpm for the Browning.
That about doubles the weight of fire per second and the bullet is even heavier on average too. So 4 guns are like 8 US guns! No wonder the Russians could get by with fewer guns per fighter than anyone else.


Ron, e-mail, 07.07.2014 09:13

Soviet test for the Finnish F2A 360 full turn took 14 seconds (1Km altitude)!

I believe the reason the synchronized Browning 0.50 Cal MGs in the F2A cowl were faster than the P-39 or P-36 etc... was its electric firing design (perhaps about 73% of normal rate in the wing guns). But alas, the cellinoid was not very reliable. I wonder if the Finns replaced the Brownings or fixed them.

The reversing of one ring per cylinder helped with oil circulation for one thing.


perttime, e-mail, 24.10.2012 14:51

In addition to lighter weight, reversed piston rings, and better trained pilots - the Finnish Air Force had one more advantage when fighting the Soviet Air Force: better tactics. As it was clear that they could never match numbers with an enemy, they went for small and loose formations where everybody was actually able to see what was going on around them, and maneuver without fear of colliding with your buddies.


Matthew Kitchen, e-mail, 26.08.2012 11:00

There's one thing I have to say about this aircraft....SHIT.


Ron, e-mail, 16.12.2011 05:47

I noticed when you posted the 7 second time to turn 180 degrees you compared it to the Bf 109 and P-40. I believe they were 360 degree times that you wrote. Am I wrong?
I don't think you meant to compare a half turn to a full turn but I think that's what happened. Of course your main point is still right anyway. The A6M2 could do the half turn in under 5 seconds. the A6M5 (much later) took just over 8 seconds. So, the '7 second' F2A-1 was between there somewhere. Not many others could do that.


Don Miller, e-mail, 12.05.2011 01:00

The Buffalo was built at the Brewster plant in Warminster, PA. When the plant closed, the property became the Naval Air Development Center and later the name was changed to the Naval Air Warfare Center. In the mid 90's NAWC was moved to Patuxtent River, MD. There were plans to restore a Buffalo and the project was started; I was not involved in the restoration and have no idea of the status


Klaatu, e-mail, 16.04.2011 21:22

The Finns were able to purchase the Buffaloes because, by that time, neither the U.S. Navy, the Marine Corps, the British, nor anybody else wanted them. The fact that the Finns did so well with them probably says as much about the quality of the Soviet opposition they faced, as well as the quality of the Japanese opposition faced by the U.S. and British pilots, as it does about the quality of the Buffalo and the pilots who flew them.

Compared with what the Finns had at the time they first got the Buffaloes, namely the Fokker D-XXI and Morane-Saulnier M.S.406, the Buffalo represented a definite improvement. However, they later got Me-109Gs from the Germans, which were much better than Buffaloes.

The VL Humu was a Finnish copy of the Buffalo built with wooden wings in order to take as much advantage as possible of locally-available construction materials. Only one prototype was built, and it was not a success.


deaftom, e-mail, 31.03.2011 02:16

Nothing so complicated, Kadesh. The Finns simply bought some directly from the Brewster factory, and also built more under license as the VL Humu.


Kadesh, 19.02.2011 00:09

How did the Finnish get their hands on the Buffalo. I know a couple hundred Americans volunteered to fight in the Winter War against Russia, was the Buffalo sent as support, or did the Soviets have some, and the Germans or Finnish captured them? Thanks.


Ron, e-mail, 02.01.2011 08:28

In Malaya the F2A had some .50 Cal guns with .30 Cal mounts and solenoids! Other bits were missing too. So armorers and mechanics had plenty to do. In the air the plane did OK.
Many were lost on the ground in air raids due to poor warning. Many also were laboring with transport engines in place of the one intended so altitude was even harder to attain. Thus opinion of the Brewster factory suffered.
Truth is it couldn't keep up even if there was no war!!
Though low morale led to desertion due to lack of everything including food and shelter, many losses (Nates mainly but also many Oscars and a couple Zeros) were inflicted on the Japanese in the air by many of the Buffalo pilots against all odds and even some aces were born.
These fared better than the US Buffalo pilots in the heavier F2A models that couldn't get out of there own way. The Finns were blessed to get the early, lightest version. Their ground crews were ingenious.
Their command and control training was sound.
Their tactics were superior. They refused to fight the enemies fight but insisted on their own.
When they met biplanes, they bounced them. When they met met good energy fighters, they would dogfight them. The Brewster could do both well.
They start by hitting a trailing corner of the enemy formation usually from behind and low for surprise.
They would avoid the middle or the front unless there was a good reason to increase their risk. An example would be a last ditch attempt to break up a bomb run on a town and force them to unload prematurely.
Otherwise they would use stealth and teamwork to control an air battle by strict discipline. Only the commander could speak on the radio unless there was something really important that someone else noticed. This way they could manhandle a larger disorganized force.


1-20 21-40 41-60

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