Brewster B-239

Model review

This 1/72 model is built long time ago, aproximately in 1970. It is Revell's kit of F2-A2 Buffalo and it required some modifications to be a Finnish Brewster B-239 model. If I remember right I had to reduce the diameter of the spinner, replace the tailwheel with bigger one, make a new windsreen without a hole for the telescope sight and make the struts and the loop antenna behind pilots seat in the canopy.

This model was actually built with landing gears, but it lost both of its legs in a landing accident and because there were no spareparts I fixed it with the wheels up. The best choice when making a Brewster model in 1/72 scale today is Hasegawa's new kit. It also requires some modifications to be a Finnish B-239 model. Best decals for Finnish Brewsters comes from InScale72 production.

History

US Navy asked offers in 1935 of a new fighter which could replace old Grumman F3F biplanes. Both the Brewster and the Grumman made a contract in November 1935 for designing the new plane. Seversky Aircraft Corp. offered also modified P-35 in 1937, it was already chosen by US Air Force, but Navy was not interested in it. In July 1936 the prototype XF2A-1 was ordered from Brewster, the first flight was 2.12.1937. Flying characteristics of the plane were excellent althought performance didn't reach the demand. The plane was sent to the NACA's big wind tunnel for testing. Many changes were made after testing and performance of the plane increased considerably, for examble top speed in 5000 meters rised up to 490 km/h.

Competition with Grumman XF4F-1 begun in June 1938 in Anacostia and ended when Brewster was selected. Brewster got an order of 54 planes in June 1938. Serial production planes had the 940 hp R-1820-34 engine and one 0.50" mg in fuselage and an opportunity for two 0.50" mg in wings. The first production plane rolled out in the summer of 1939. By the mid December in 1939 Navy had received 11 F2A-1 planes of which nine had gone to VF-3 squadron to the USS Saratoga. They were the first monoplane fighters in operational service in US Navy. The rest production planes didn't went to Saratoga, they were sold to Finland.

The original prototype got the stronger 1200 hp R-1820-40 engine and also other modifications were made, eg. the lenght of the nose was shortened to maintain the center of the gravity in right place. The prototype which was marked as XF2A-2 had also better performance than it's predecessor, speed increased 20 mph although the empty weight also increased 191 kg. The US Navy ordered 43 of the new F2A-2 planes to replace the planes which went to Finland, the rest of the F2A-1 planes were also modified to the new standard.

The US Navy got more aircraft carriers when the war expanded, also the need of carrier based fighters rapidly increased. The last 108 Brewster F2A-3 model fighters were ordered in January 1941. This version had longer nose, more armour and increased ammunition capacity. Due to this it's empty weight was already 463 kg more than that of the F2A-1. Climb rate and agility decreased considerably. Top speed decreased 20 mph. According to one pilot F2A-2 was better than F4F Wildcat, but F2A-3 was incompetent.

The Brewster factory couldn't produce as much planes as was ordered and there were also many suspicions of malpractice. The company fell to the hands of the US authority in spring of 1942 due to poor management and because the deliveries were continuously late. Brewsters old rival F4F Wildcat took it's place on carriers, Grumman had improved it since 1938. Wildcat became the main fighter type on carriers and in all it was produced over 2000 planes.

Brewsters didn't achieve a single kill in the US Navy carrier service and they were transfered to the US Marine service on the Pasific islands. The first and the last significant operation of the American Brewsters was the Battle of Midway in which 21 F2A-3's took part. The Japanise shot down 13 planes in 4.6.1942, though they also lost many planes shot down. The defeat was mainly due to the superior Zero and the poor training of the young Brewster pilots, also the tactical situation was bad in all. Brewster was moved to training use after the Battle of Midway. England got F2A-2 (B-339E) planes for the squadrons in the Far-East, the plane was named as Buffalo by the British. By the time the planes destroyed in the battles and the few which survived were sent to Australia. The Dutch East-Indian air force got B-339C and B-339D planes on Java were they had little success, the win to loss ratio was 2:1 for Brewsters. When the Japanise took over the area rest of the planes were sent to Australia.

When the Soviet Union attacked in Finland in November 1939 Finland bought 44 Brewster F2A-1 planes as "outdated war equipment" from USA, because of the US law that didn't allow to sell modern war equipment to foreign countries. The Brewsters come too late to take part in the Winter war, but during the Contunation war they proved to be exellent fighters. At the beginning of the Contunation war LeLv 24 was equipped with Brewsters, it was the most succesfull fighter squadron in Finnish air force achieving 460 kills with Brewsters. In May 1944 the planes were transferred to LeLv 26 which achieved 17 kills with it's outdated fighters. During the War in Lapland HLeLv 26 shot down two Ju 87 which were last confirmed kills of the type in Finnish air force. The last flight of the type in Finland was in September 1948.

The "White 3", BW-373 was part of the four plane flight of 1/LeLv 24 in July 1941 and it was piloted by ltn. Olli Mustonen, the leader of the flight. The flight was protecting the Finnish Army Headquarters at Mikkeli by the time.

Brewster B-239 technical data

Engine 1000 hp Wright R-1820 Cyclone 9-sylinder radial engine
Dimensions Span 10,67 m; lenght 8,05 m; wing area 19,40 m2
Weights Empty weight 2020 kg; max. take off 2415 kg
Performance Max. speed 480 km/h at 4750 m (F2A-1)
Armament 4 x 12,7 mm mg
Production 509 (all versions)

Sources
Lentäjän näkökulma II, Jukka Raunio

Main index page