Hobby Master HA2206 USN Curtiss SB2C-4E Helldiver ASW Aircraft - Black 47, VS-31 "Topcats", NAS Atlantic City, New Jersey [Open Dive Brakes] (1:72 Scale)
"I once took off, and just after I left the deck my gunner, Russ Dustan, yelled "Hey George! Get this son of a bitch in the air!" and he pulled out his life raft because we were leaving a streak in the water behind us. I knew we were getting close. I was trying to scratch for altitude and get my gear up. When you're running out of speed and running out of room... it gets a little complicated at times."
- US Navy Ensign George Bomberger, pilot of a SB2C Helldiver aircraft aboard USS Franklin, late 1943
The Curtiss SB2C Helldiver was an American aircraft carrier-based dive bomber aircraft produced for the United States Navy during World War II. It replaced the Douglas SBD Dauntless in US Navy service. Despite its size, the SB2C was much faster than the SBD it replaced. Crew nicknames for the aircraft included the Big-Tailed Beast (or just the derogatory Beast), Two-Cee and Son-of-a-Bitch 2nd Class (after its designation and partly because of its reputation for having difficult handling characteristics).
Although production problems persisted throughout its combat service, pilots soon changed their minds about the potency of the Helldiver.
The large number (literally thousands) of modifications and changes on the production line meant that the Curtiss Helldiver did not enter combat until November 11th, 1943, with VB-17 on the USS Bunker Hill, when they attacked the Japanese-held port of Rabaul on the island of New Britain, north of Papua New Guinea. Even though the Helldiver entered U.S. Naval service, it still had such structural problems that the aircraft crews were forbidden to dive bomb in clean conditions (one of its main tasks). The SB2C-1 could deploy slats mechanically linked with undercarriage actuation extended from the outer third of the wing leading edge to aid lateral control at low speeds. The early prognosis of the "Beast" was unfavourable as it was strongly disliked by aircrews because it was much bigger and heavier than the SBD it replaced.
The litany of faults that the Helldiver bore included the fact that it was underpowered, had a shorter range than the SBD, was equipped with an unreliable electrical system and was often poorly manufactured. An oddity of the SB2Cs with 1942 to 1943-style tricolor camouflage was that the undersides of the outer wing panels carried dark topside camouflage because the undersurfaces were visible from above when the wings were folded.
Postwar, surplus aircraft were sold to the navies of France, Italy, Greece, Portugal and Thailand.
Pictured here is a 1:72 scale replica of a USN Curtiss SB2C-4E Helldiver anti-submarine warfare aircraft that was atached to VS-31 "Topcats", then operating out of NAS Atlantic City, New Jersey. Note that the dive brakes come in the open position.
Release Date: November 2009
Historical Account: "Topcats" - The squadron originally existed as Scouting Squadron 31, based at Squantum Naval Air Station, Squantum, Massachusetts. The Squadron served meritoriously, flying the Douglas SBD-5 Dauntless, followed by the Curtiss SB2C-4E Helldiver in the North Atlantic from 1942 until the conclusion of World War II in 1945 when it was de-commissioned. In April of 1948 at NAS Atlantic City, New Jersey, the squadron was re-established as Composite Squadron 31. The following year, VC-31 became the Atlantic Fleet's first VS Squadron when its mission was changed to carrier-based anti-submarine warfare. The squadron was re-designated Air Anti-Submarine Squadron 31 (VS-31), took the name Topcats, and subsequently moved to NAS Quonset Point, Rhode Island.
In the early years, the VS-31 Topcats accomplished its ASW mission utilizing the TBM Avenger, followed by the AF Guardian Hunter/Killer aircraft. When using the Guardian in its ASW role, it was necessary to fly with a 'sister' aircraft that had attack capabilities. In 1954, the Topcats received the first Grumman S-2 Tracker. This was the first true ASW aircraft that combined both search and destroy capabilities in a single carrier-based platform.