Armour Collection B11F040 USN Consolidated PBY-5 Catalina Flying Boat - VP-52 "Black Cat", Solomon Islands, 1944 (1:48 Scale)
"With a need to move from a defensive posture to one of aggressive attacks on all of the foe's assets; troop transports, supply ships and even warships, yet still operate in a protective environment, a new, bold concept was born - we would take into our fold a new ally - the cloak of darkness.
Flying at low altitudes, primarily on instruments, over a strange and forbidden 'wilderness' and in most cases, at a distance from friendly territory wasn't the most ideal solution. The tactic, however, seemed to be the only way to survive. So, despite the inherent dangers, we had to take that risk. From this concept a new term was coined for this change of genre; the 'Black Cats' were born and the game plan took a dramatic new direction."
- Lieutenant Commander Arnold "Mike" Granat, USN (ret)
The PBY Catalina was the US Navy designation for an American and Canadian-built flying boat of the 1930s and 1940s. PB stands for Patrol Bomber, with Y being Consolidated's manufacturer identification. It could be equipped with depth charges, bombs, torpedoes, and .50 caliber machine guns and was one of the most widely used multi-role aircraft of World War II. Catalinas served with every branch of the US military and in the air forces and navies of many other nations.
In World War II, PBYs were used as anti-submarine warfare aircraft, patrol bombers, convoy escorts, search and rescue aircraft, and transports. The Catalina can be considered the most successful aircraft of its kind, as no other flying boat was produced in greater numbers. The last active military Catalinas were not retired from service until the 1980s. Even today, over seventy years after its first flight, the aircraft continues to fly as an airtanker in aerial firefighting operations all over the world.
The Catalina was originally designed to be a patrol bomber, an aircraft with a long operational range intended to locate and attack enemy transport ships at sea in order to compromise enemy supply lines. With a mind to a potential conflict in the Pacific Ocean, where troops would require resupply over great distances, the US Navy in the 1930s invested millions of dollars in developing long-range flying boats for this purpose. Flying boats had the advantage of not requiring runways to take off and land, in effect having the entire ocean available as its runway. Several different flying boats were adopted by the Navy, but the PBY Catalina was the most widely used and produced.
Although slow and ungainly, Catalinas distinguished themselves in World War II as exceptionally reliable aircraft. Allied armed forces used them successfully in a wide variety of roles that the aircraft was never intended for. They are remembered most by veterans of the war for their role as rescuing aircraft, where they saved the lives of thousands of aircrewmen shot down over the Pacific Ocean.
Pictured here is a 1:48 scale replica of a USN Consolidated PBY-5 Catalina flying boat that was attached to VP-52, then deployed to the Solomon Islands during 1944 .
Wingspan: 23 inches
Length: 16 inches
Release Date: February 2009
Historical Account: "Crossing the Path" - Several squadrons of PBY-5As and -6As in the Pacific theater were specially modified to operate as night convoy raiders. Outfitted with state-of-the-art magnetic anomaly detection gear and painted flat black, these "Black Cats" attacked Japanese supply convoys at night. Catalinas were surprisingly successful in this highly unorthodox role. Between August 1943 and January 1944, Black Cat squadrons had sunk 112,700 tons of merchant shipping, damaged 47,000 tons, and damaged 10 Japanese warships.
The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) also operated Catalinas as night raiders, with four squadrons Nos. 11, 20, 42, and 43 mounting mine-laying operations from April 23rd, 1943 until July 1945 in the southwest Pacific deep into Japanese-held waters, that bottled up ports and shipping routes and kept ships in the deeper waters to become targets for US submarines; they tied up the major strategic ports such as Balikpapan that shipped 80% of Japanese oil supplies. In late 1944, their precision mining sometimes exceeded 20 hours in duration from as low as 200 feet in the hours of darkness. One included the bottling up the Japanese fleet in Manila Bay planned to assist General MacArthur's landing at Mindoro in the Philippines. They also operated out of Jinamoc in Leyte Gulf, and mined ports on the Chinese coast from Hong Kong as far north as Wenchow. They were the only non-American heavy bombers squadrons operating north of Morotai in 1945. The RAAF Catalinas regularly mounted nuisance night bombing raids on Japanese bases, they earned the motto of 'The first and the Furthest' as a testimony to their design and endurance. These raids included the major base at Rabaul. RAAF aircrews developed 'terror bombs', essentially empty beer bottles with razor blades inserted into the necks, these produced high pitched screams as they fell and kept Japanese soldiers awake and in fear of their life.