The aircraft for today is the one that was not designed entirely as a program of its own, instead was a revision of an existing aircraft. The name for the aircraft is Douglas A-24 Banshee which was a modified version of the US Navy’ dive bomber designated as Douglas SBD Dauntless.
The Douglas A-24 Banshee was created after the US Army saw the need for a dive bomber during their warring campaigns and after seeing through many dive bombers, they settled upon the SBD Dauntless. The aircraft after being modified and designated as Douglas A-24 Banshee served the US Air Force, US Marine Corps, and many other foreign operators.
Need for Douglas A-24 Banshee:-
Before the start of World War II, the US Military’s doctrine regarding aviation combat was to have complete air superiority over the enemy and meeting them head-on. Their secondary focus was to create platforms that could deliver lightweight bombs. This secondary focus turned into a primary focus when the Germans’ showcased their die bomber aircraft Junker Ju 87 Stuka Western Europe. These die bombers of German forces rained down the ordnance on the targets and the troop formations prior to the invading forces could take the lead. This prompted the US Army to shift its focus on the acquisition of the dive bombers of their own.
A modified version of US Navy’s SBD Dauntless:-
The officials of the US Army were not in consensus with the use of the complex two-engine aircraft designs instead were in favor of the single-engine aircraft with a monoplane wing that could house at least 2 crew members. The aircraft must also have defensive armaments to protect this slow-moving aircraft. Several of the aircraft were presented to US Army Air Force like the Vultee A-19, Curtiss A-18, and Douglas A-17 but none caught the eye of the officials until the US Navy’s own dive bomber Douglas SBD Dauntless was presented. The Dauntless was presented back in 1940 and was adopted by the US Army Air Force with a few regions in its design. The main revision in design was the removal of the carrier deck arrestor and the radio kits of navy and this new aircraft were designated as Douglas A-24 Banshee.
While the Douglas A-24 Banshee was not a perfect solution for the US Army Air Force; it was still their best option at the time until a more proper aircraft could be designed. The US Army Air Force’s order was also absorbed in the order of the US Navy for the Douglas A-24 Banshee back in 1940. The army version also featured the pneumatic type wheels instead of the solid tailwheels, which made them suitable for land-based landing and take-offs.
Like many other dive bombers of the West, the Douglas A-24 Banshee also featured the perforated drive brakes that were made along with the aircraft’s wings all the way to the edges. These perorations allowed for the aircraft to decrease its drop whilst attacking. Fuel tanks with self-sealing capability were a must-have capability along with the armor to preserve both the aircraft and its crew. Like the Douglas SBD Dauntless, Douglas A-24 Banshee also featured the standard armament configuration of 2 heavy machine guns of 0.50-caliber fixed into the cowling which was operated by the pilot. The rear cockpit was fitted with a single medium machine gun of 0.30-caliber which protected the aircraft vulnerable rear section.
Like the Dauntless, the Douglas A-24 Banshee also housed the space to carry 2 crewmembers; a pilot and a gunner. As for the bomb-carrying role, these bombing payloads were fitted on the aircraft’s 3 hardpoints; one was under the fuselage and one being under each of its wings. The fuselage hardpoint could carry either a single 500lbs or a 1000lbs bomb and 1 bomb of 100lbs on each hardpoint under each wing.
Entering Service of US Army:-
The first batch of the Douglas A-24 Banshee was delivered to the US Army back in June 1944 and was assigned to the 27th Bombardment Group of the Hunter Field located in Georgia. After training, 3 squadrons were formed and took part early on in the war.
Assembly carried out in between war:-
S the Japanese naval forces were invading the Philippines, the A-24s were dispatched to strengthen the defense of the West but when they were forced for further assembly in Australia. When these A-24s were unpacked they had been found in rather much-used condition which led to the rebuilding of the aircraft with some makeshift fixes to cover weak spots as well as fitting in some entirely missing components. Some of these aircraft had truck tires instead of aviation tires.
Limited resources led to several losses:-
For the defense of Java, US Army formed 16th, 17th and 91st Bombardment Squadrons in Australia. For this purpose, 15 A-24s were sent but only 7 of them were in a condition to take part in combat and they took lacked many important features.
These limited aircraft had limited range and lacked appropriate firepower and defensive measures and only end up becoming fodder for the enemy. During the defense of New Guinea, 7 A-24s of the 3rd and 8th Bombardment squadron were dispatched and only one made it back home.
Continuing service despite marred combat record:-
Despite the poor combat record, the US Army Air Force and its many other branches kept on using the Douglas A-24 Banshee only because the order for A-25 Shrike was delayed by problems. US Army pulled the SBD Dauntless from the inventory of the US Navy and modified them into A-24As. The Army had placed an order of nearly 1200 of these banshees but could only receive 615 of them.
The final modified version of the Douglas A-24 Banshee was designated as A-24B which was used in the Gilbert Islands to fend off the Japanese Navy. By the end of the combat service, the Douglas A-24 Banshee was mainly used for training of gunners and pilots as well as a towing aircraft for the aerial targets.
Other than the US, the Douglas A-24 Banshee was operated by the following countries.
- Chile: 12
- France: 50
- Mexico: 28
Power plant and other specs:-
The Douglas A-24 Banshee was powered by 1 Wright R-1820-52 radial position engine that created a thrust of 1000 HP to drive its 3-blade propeller. The aircraft could muster a top speed of 250 mph for a range of 949 miles at a service ceiling of 26001 feet.