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Forget the Corsair, This is the Real Most Important Navy Plane of WW2
Fighter planes get all the love. There's not much argument about that. Most people will tell you that World War Two's greatest American navy aircraft was the F6F Hellcat or the F4-U Corsair.

Forget the Corsair, This is the Real Most Important Navy Plane of WW2

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But what happens when one of those two gets shot down in the middle of the ocean, and there are no friendly ships anywhere near you for miles? That's when you called in Consolidated PBY Catalina flying boats, the actual most important Navy plane of the war. When the hotshot fighter pilots got too big for their britches, Catalinas, or OA-10s as the Army called them, ensured they'd live to fly again.

The Consolidated PBY Catalina is a twin-engined flying boat that apart from recovering countless downed aviators, also excelled at convoy bombing, reconnaissance, and submarine hunting. It was a sea fairing aircraft so versatile it could even shoot down enemy fighters with its defensive machine guns.

Come the late 1930s. It was believed by U.S military command that armed conflict in Europe and Asia was all but inevitable. What was needed was a long-range amphibious aircraft that could bridge the gap between the American-controlled Pacific islands and Japanese Naval strongholds. It needed to have a longer range than contemporary American flying boats like Consolidated's previous P2M and Martin P3M Mariner. Both of which were great cargo transports but ill-suited for combat.

It also needed to be able to fly across the hostile territory of potential European or Pacific theaters of battle without fighter escort. In short, it needed a powerful machine gun defensive armament. These two issues were solved as follows. Firstly, by fitting twin Pratt & Whitney R-1830 radial engines rated at 850 horsepower each.

These engines were upgraded to 900 horsepower variants in later models. The other half was solved with four 30 caliber machine guns in the nose and rear of their airplane. In later models, 50 caliber Browning machine guns were mounted in the twin glass blisters on either rear fuselage.

The massive 104 foot (32 m) wings could carry up to 2,000 pounds (1814.36kg) of ordinance ranging from bombs, torpedos, submarine mines, and miscellaneous cargo. Soon after the Pearl Harbor attacks, Catalina flying boats were off conducting the first offensive engagements of the American Navy in World War Two.The all-metal fuselage was a sound sea-fairing vessel first and an aircraft body second. Downed navy men often clung to the wings and the fuselage to avoid shark attacks as Catalinas carried them as a boat to friendly waters.

The result of the design was an ugly and ungainly-looking thing. More often than not, such qualities lend themselves nicely to functional and capable machines. The Catalina was nicknamed the "Pig Boat" by its American aviators. That name would become a term of endearment before very long.

It was also a fine submarine warfare aircraft. As many as 40 German and Japanese submarines were disabled or destroyed by Catalinas using assortments of torpedos, depth charges, and unguided bombs to neutralize underwater targets. Accounting for nearly two-thirds of total enemy submarines dispatched by American forces during the war.

Most Catalina production took place at the Consolidated production facility in San Diego, California. Those that served elsewhere were built at the Canadian Vickers facility in Montreal and the Naval Aircraft Factory in Philadelphia. A handful was even assembled at the Gidrosamolet Transportnii factory at Taganrog, Russia. The Cataline served in every theater of the Second World War.

Today, Catalinas reside in museums across the globe, with some even remaining in service as firefighter tankers in remote parts of the world. A perfectly preserved example resides in the National Museum of the United States Air Force in Dayton, Ohio, called Snafu Snatchers. It served in the Brazilian Air Force under Lend-Lease until 1983. It was flown to the museum in 1984 and repainted in the scheme of the 2nd Emergency Rescue Squadron in the Pacific Theater during World War Two.

 
 
 
 
 

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