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United States' Curtiss SB2C Helldiver dive bomber, Nickname: The Beast


  • Curtiss SB2C-1 Helldiver dive bomber
  • Curtiss SB2C-1 Helldiver dive bomber
  • Curtiss SB2C Helldiver dive-bomber
  • Curtiss SB2C Helldiver


The Curtiss SB2C Helldiver was designed to meet a May 1939 United States Navy specification and was Curtiss' first monoplane carrier aircraft. The SB2C was intended to replace the Dauntless that was just going into production. The plane was to carry bombs in an internal bomb bay and the aircraft had to be able to fit on an elevator 40' x 48'. Brewster also made a prototype, the SB2A Buccaneer which wasn't selected.

The project engineer for Curtiss was Raymond C. Blaylock.

The rear gunner had a large sheet of armor protecting him.

Dive brakes were fitted to the wing and the trailing edge flaps were split.


The XSB2C-1 prototype first flew on December 18, 1940. Test pilot Lloyd Childs wasn't enthusiastic about the bomber after taking it for a test flight and discovering stability problems. Days later the XSB2C-1 was destroyed in a crash. In February 1941, during a test flight, the engine quit on an approach to landing. Flight tests didn't resume until May 1941.

During trials one SB2C Helldiver broke apart.

The specifications and thus the design was changed and the new production model wasn't completed until June 1942. It had a larger tail and revised rear fuselage. There was also more armor protection installed. There were around 880 other changes.


An initial order for 370 SB2C-1s was placed on May 15, 1939. This was placed well before the first prototype was completed. In June 1942 the first production aircraft flew and in December the United States Navy started to receive them.

At the Columbus plant a "post production" line was setup to install modifications to finished aircraft coming of the main production line. These were mainly modifications to control surfaces and internal fixes.

  • Curtiss XSB2C-1: 1
  • Curtiss XSB2C-6: 2
  • Curtiss SB2C-1: 978
  • Curtiss SB2C-2: 200
  • Curtiss SB2C-1C: 778
  • Curtiss SB2C-3: 1,112
  • Curtiss SB2C-4, Curtiss SB2C-4E: 2,045, 2,054
  • Curtiss SB2C-5: 970
    • Production: February 1945 - ?, February - October 1945
  • Curtiss A-25A / Curtiss SB2C-1A: 900
    • Manufacturer: Curtiss (St. Louis)
  • SBF-1/3/4/4E/5: 300
    • Manufacturer: Fairchild, Fairchild Aircraft Limited
    • Manufacturing location: Longueuil, Canada
  • SBW-1/3/4/4E/5: 894, 984
    • Manufacturer: Canadian Car and Foundry Co. (CCF)
    • Manufacturing location: Montreal, Canada
  • Total: 7,199, 7,200, 7,203
    • Manufacturer: Curtiss-Wright Company Airplane Division
    • Manufacturing location: Columbus, Ohio;


  • Curtiss XSB2C-1: Prototype.
  • Curtiss XSB2C-2: Prototype float plane. The 5th production aircraft was modified to have twin floats and a ventral fin installed. It was destroyed in water tests and was cancelled.
  • Curtiss XSB2C-6: Prototype. Longer fuselage. R-2800 engine installed.
  • Curtiss SB2C-1: Had larger fin and rudder than prototypes. Carried more fuel. Fuel tanks were made self sealing. Armament was four 12.7 mm machine guns in the wings. Starting at the 201st plane, the wing armament was changed to two 20 mm guns.
  • Curtiss SB2C-1A: Redesignated A-25As taken over by US Marines.
  • Curtiss SB2C-1C: Had two 20 mm guns in the wings.
  • Curtiss SB2C-3: Arrived in 1943/1944. Had a more powerful engine installed. Used Curtiss Electric four blade propeller. Perforated dive brakes.
  • Curtiss SB2C-3E: APS-4 radar was in a housing under the wing.
  • Curtiss SB2C-4: Could carry eight 5" / 127 mm rockets or 1,000 lb / 454 kg of bombs under the wings.
  • Curtiss SB2C-4E: Had a small pod under the wing that carried radar (APS-4).
  • Curtiss SB2C-5: Carried 35 gallons more fuel. Canopy was frameless.
  • Curtiss A-25A Shrike: United States Air Force version of the SB2C-1.
  • SBW-1B / Helldiver I: Canadian constructed for the Royal Navy.


The SB2C was used by the Australia, Britain, and United States.

First Unit

VS-9 received the SB2C in December 1942.

First Use

The VB-17 on the USS Bunker Hill conducted a raid on Rabaul on November 11, 1943.


The Australians used 10 Shrikes in 1943 to 1944. None became operational.

United Kingdom

Only 26 Canadian built SB2Cs were delivered to the United Kingdom out of 450 that were ordered by 1944. None became operational.

United States

The United States Navy used 5,516 during World War II.

The United States Air Force used the SB2C Helldiver as a trainer and a target tower. These were called the A-25A and there were 900 produced and most of these were used by the United States Marine Corps.

The Helldivers remained in service until 1949.


  Curtiss SB2C Helldiver
Type Dive bomber
Torpedo bomber
Crew 3
Engine (Type) Wright R-2600-8 Cyclone
Cooling Air
HP 1,900
Propeller blades 4
Span 49' 6", 49' 9"
15.16 m, 15.2 m
Length 36' 8"
11.17 m, 11.2 m
Height 13' 2"
4.01 m, 5.1 m
Wing area 422 sq ft
39.2 sq m
Empty 10,978 lb
4,990 kg
Loaded 16,610 lb
7,550 kg
Speed 294 mph
452 kph
Service Ceiling 29,100'
7,530 m
Range 1,200 miles
1,786 km
Wings 2: 20 mm
OR 4: 0.5" MG
4: 12.7 mm MG
Rear cockpit 1: 0.5" MG
2: 7.62 mm MG
Bombs 2,000 lb
907 kg
Bombs internal 1,000 lb
454 kg
Torpedo internal 1
  Curtiss SB2C-1 Helldiver
Type Bomber, Dive Bomber
Crew 2
Engine (Type) Wright Cyclone
Wright R-2600-8 Cyclone
Cylinders Radial, Radial 14
Cooling Air
HP 1,700
Propeller blades 3
Span 49' 8", 49' 9"
Length 35', 36' 8"
Height 13' 2", 16'
Wing area  
Loaded 16,616 lb
Speed 350 mph
Speed at 16,700' / 5,090 m 281 mph
Service Ceiling 25,100'
Range 1,110 miles, 1,200 miles
Armament 2: MG
2: 20 mm
Bombs 2,000 lb
  Curtiss SB2C-2 Helldiver
Engine (Type) Wright R-2600-8 Cyclone
Cylinders Radial 14
HP 1,700
Propeller blades 3
  Curtiss SB2C-3 Helldiver
Engine (Type) Wright R-2600-20
HP 1,900
Propeller blades 4
  Curtiss SB2C-4 Helldiver
Type Scout, Bomber, Dive bomber
Crew 2
Engine (Type) Wright R-2600-20 piston
Cylinders Radial, Radial 14
Cooling Air
HP 1,900
Propeller blades 4, 4 constant speed
Span 49' 9"
15.16 m
Length 36' 8"
11.17 m, 11.18 m
Height 13' 2"
4.01 m
Wing area 422 sq ft
39.2 sq m
Empty 10,547 lb
4,784 kg
Loaded 16,616 lb
7,537 kg
Speed at sea level 270 mph
434 kph
Speed at 16,700' / 5,090 m 295 mph
475 kph, 476 kph
Cruising speed 158 mph
254 kph
Climb 1,800'/minute
548 m/minute, 549 m/minute
Service Ceiling 29,100'
8,870 m
Range 1,165 miles
1,875 km
Range with 1,000 lb weapon 1,165 miles
Wings 2: 20 mm
Cockpit - Rear 2: 7.62 mm MG
2: .30 cal MG
Bombs - internal 1,000 lb
454 kg
Bombs - under wings 1,000 lb
454 kg
Rockets - under wings 8
8: 5"
8: 12.7 cm
Bombs internal 1,000 lb
454 kg
Torpedo internal 1
  Curtiss SB2C-5 Helldiver
Engine (Type) Wright R-2600-20
HP 1,900
Propeller blades 4


  1. Aircraft of WWII, General Editor: Jim Winchester, 2004
  2. Fighting Aircraft of World War II, Editor: Karen Leverington, 1995
  3. Aircraft of WWII, Stewart Wilson, 1998
  4. Helldiver Units of World War 2, Barrett Tillman, 2000
  5. World War II Airplanes Volume 2, Enzo Angelucci, Paolo Matricardi, 1976
  6. Aeronautics Aircraft Spotters' Handbook, Ensign L. C. Guthman, 1943
  7. American Attack Aircraft Since 1926, E. R. Johnson, 2012
  8. The Encyclopedia of Weapons of World War II, Chris Bishop, 1998
20th Century American Military History Crucial Site