Hobby Master HA7002 RNZAF Brewster B339-E Buffalo Fighter - Noel C. Sharp, 488 Squadron, Singapore, 1941 (1:48 Scale)
"Ka ngarue ratau ("We shake them")."
- Motto of the 488 Squadron
Built by the Brewster Aeronautical Corporation in Queens, New York City, the F2A Buffalo was the first production monoplane fighter to enter service with the US Navy. The F2A was an all-metal, single-engine, single-seat, mid-wing monoplane with retractable landing gear and a tail hook for carrier operations. The control surfaces, i.e., ailerons, elevators and rudder, were metal framed but covered with fabric. The struts of the hydraulically-operated landing gear retracted into the underside of the wing while the wheels fitted into the stubby fuselage below the wings. The tail hook was fully retractable into the rear fuselage while the tail-wheel partially retracted into the rear fuselage. Because of its short wingspan, the F2A did not need a folding wing configuration to be accommodated on U.S. aircraft carriers.
The Buffalo entered squadron service in the summer of 1940 and it was not long before three serious defects were identified. The first was the landing gear; it was not strong enough for carrier operations. Brewster strengthened two weak struts but a real fix would require a redesign of the aircraft. The second defect was identified by reports from Europe which indicated that the Buffalo did not meet the performance criteria of other aircraft then in combat, e.g., armor protection, self sealing fuel tanks, etc. Armor protection was added to the F2A-3 resulting in a heavier, unstable aircraft. One solution was to use a more powerful Pratt & Whitney engine but this would require a redesign of the aircraft. The third problem was the Brewster company management who had a habit of promising more than they could deliver resulting in serious delays in the deliveries of the aircraft. The final straw came when the Navy realized that the Grumman F4F-3 Wildcat was a superior aircraft in virtually every respect so no further Buffalos were ordered.
Pictured here is a 1:48 scale replica of a Royal New Zealand Air Force Brewster B339-E Buffalo fighter attached to 488 squadron, then deployed to Singapore in late 1941.
Wingspan: 8.75 inches
Length: 6.5 inches
Release Date: May 2007
Historical Account: "Shaken, Not Stirred" - 488 Squadron formed in September 1941 at Rongotai, New Zealand, under squadron leader W.G. Clouston, a veteran of the Battles of France and Britain with nine victories to his credit. It arrived in Kallang, Singapore, in November where it was one of several Commonwealth squadrons equipped with Brewster Buffaloes.
When the Japaneses attacked, the squadron was still in training and sorting out difficulties with its machines, including dysfunctional oxygen, preventing high altitude flying, weight difficulties which resulted in armor and machine guns being deleted and high maintenance requirements resulting from Brewster's use of worn out ex-airline engines in manufacturing the aircraft.
Frequent air battles over Singapore occurred from January 12th, 1942 onwards. The Japanese pilots, being better trained and outnumbering the defenders, but (despite widespread claims of Mitsubishi Zeros being present), with the exception of a few Nakajima Ki-43 Hayabusa ("Oscar"), most Japanese fighters and many bombers were in no better condition than the Royal Air Force's. (It is worth noting a kill ratio of 2:1 was claimed by the Buffalo squadrons). As the Buffalo squadrons (many manned by New Zealanders and Australians) lost men and machines, several were amalgamated into 488 Squadron. The squadron received Hawker Hurricanes at the end of January, but by the 31st, losses and the ground situation forced a withdrawal to Batavia, where Dutch East Indies Buffalo squadrons were facing a similarly unequal fight. Coulston handed over command to Squadron leader Mackenzie and stayed with remaining staff to become a prisoner when Singapore fell. On February 23rd, the squadron evacuated Batavia in favor of Fremantle, Australia where it disbanded on March 2nd, the New Zealand pilots returning home to form the nucleus of No. 14 Squadron RNZAF. Figures for the squadrons achievements in the far east are difficult to determine.
488 Squadron reformed on June 25th, 1942, at Church Fenton, Yorkshire, as a night fighter 'intruder' unit equipped with Bristol Beaufighters. When it switched to a defensive role in August 1943 it reequipped with De Havilland Mosquitoes. In November 1944 the squadron moved to France, and was based in Belgium and Holland in the closing stages of the war. It disbanded on April 26th, 1945. In its night fighter incarnation, 488 Squadron flew 2899 sorties, shot down 67 aircraft and, in its intruder role, destroyed 40 trains. Pilots were awarded five DFCs, a DSO and an AFC.