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United States' Douglas SBD Dauntless dive bomber


  • Douglas A-24B dive bomber
  • Douglas SBD-3 Dauntless dive bomber
  • Douglas SBD-3 Dauntless dive bomber
  • Douglas SBD Dauntless dive bomber
  • Douglas SBD Dauntless dive bomber


The Douglas SBD Dauntless was designed by Jack Northrop and Ed Heinemann.

In 1938 the United States Navy wanted a dive bomber that would be a monoplane scout bomber.

The Dauntless started out as the Northrop BT-1 that had a fixed undercarriage. The BT-1 was selected for production in 1936. (Northrop became a subsidiary of Douglas.) It then evolved into the BT-2 that had a retractable undercarriage. This became the redesigned XBT-2.

There was a telescopic bombsight that went through the windshield but would sometimes fog up during the dive.

The bomb was swung forward by a cradle that kept the bomb clear of the propeller.

The dive brakes had large holes and were named "Swiss cheese".

The radio operator sat in the rear of the cockpit and once entered a combat area the rear canopy was stored in the fuselage and gave the gunner a large field of fire.


The first test flight for the XBT-2 was on April 22, 1938.


In April 1939 57 SBD-1s, for the United States Marine Corps, and 87 SBD-2s, for the United States Navy, were ordered.

Army Air Corps Interest

In 1940 the United States Army Air Corps (USAAC) became interested in the SBD after seeing the success of the Junkers Ju 87 Stuka. It ordered denavalized A-24, A-24A, and A-24B.

  • Douglas SBD-1: 57
  • Douglas SBD-2: 87
  • Douglas SBD-3: 500, 584
  • Douglas SBD-4: 780
    • Manufacturing location: El Segundo, California.
  • Douglas SBD-5: 2,409, 3,025
    • Manufacturing location: Tulsa, Oklahoma.
  • Douglas SBD-6: 450, 451
  • Douglas A-24: 168
  • Douglas A-24A: 170
  • Douglas A-24B: 615
  • Total: 4,899, 5,321, 5,936, 5,937
    • Manufacturer: Douglas Aircraft Company
    • Manufacturing location: El Segundo, California; Tulsa, Oklahoma
    • Production: ? - July 1944, June 1940 - July 22, 1944

The last SBD-6 was produced on July 22, 1944.


  • Douglas BT-1: Prototype.
  • Douglas BT-2: Prototype.
  • Douglas XBT-2: Prototype. R-1820-32 engine installed (1,000 HP). Retractable landing gear.
  • Douglas SBD-1: Initial version for the Marines.
  • Douglas SBD-1P: Photo reconnaissance.
  • Douglas SBD-2: Initial version for the United States Navy. Had additional armament and fuel. Landing gear was hydraulically operated. Had automatic pilot.
  • Douglas SBD-2P: Photo reconnaissance.
  • Douglas SBD-3: Added armor, two 12.7 mm machine guns in nose, and self sealing fuel tanks. First appeared in March 1941.
  • Douglas SBD-3P: Photo reconnaissance.
  • Douglas SBD-4: Had 24 volt system.
  • Douglas SBD-5: Had R-1820-60 1,200 HP engine. Reflector gun sight.
  • Douglas SBD-6: Had R-1820-66 1,350 HP engine.
  • Douglas A-24: US Army version of the SBD-3. Had naval equipment removed. Was used on Java with little success. Used for training. 168 SBD-3As were delivered the Army.
  • Douglas A-24A: US Army version of the SBD-4.
  • Douglas A-24B: US Army version of the SBD-5.


Britain, France, Mexico, New Zealand, and the United States used the SBD Dauntless.

The Dauntless entered service in late 1940.

The dive attack usually occurred from 15,000' - 20,000' / 4,500 m - 6,000 m and reached 70°.

The famous saying "Scratch one flat-top" was said by Pilot Lieutenant Robert Dixon in his attack in a SBD Dauntless on the carrier Shoho.

The SBD sank more ships in the Pacific than any other plane.

First Assignments

In 1940 SBD-1s were assigned to the Marine Corps VMB-2 and in 1941 to the VMB-1.

In 1941 SBD-2s were placed on the USS Enterprise in the VB-6 and VS-6 and on the USS Lexington with the VB-2.

In the December 1941 SBD-3s were assigned to the USS Lexington, USS Saratoga, USS Yorktown, and USS Enterprise. A total of 584 SBD-3s were assigned to squadrons by December 1941.

Scouting Missions

Typically if 18 scouts were launched, pairs would search out 200 miles and then turn 20 - 50 miles when they would then fly to where the carrier was supposed to be.

Pearl Harbor

By the time of Pearl Harbor 584 SBD-3s had been delivered. They equipped the Enterprise, Lexington, Saratoga, and Yorktown.


The Douglas SBD-3 Dauntlesses on the USS Enterprise, USS Hornet, and USS Yorktown was critical in the destruction of the Japanese carriers. In less than two minutes 54 SBDs struck the fatal blows that lead to the destruction of the IJN Akagi, IJN Kaga, and IJN Soryu. The IJN Hiryu was also received damage from the SBD Dauntlesses.


One SBD Dauntless gunner shot down seven Mitsubishi Zero fighters in two days.

United States Army

The SBD was sent to the Philippines in November 1941. When the Japanese took over, they were moved to Australia. In February 1942 they were moved to the Dutch Indies where they didn't perform very well.

Britain's Fleet Air Arm

The FAA were supplied with SBD-5s but weren't used operationally.


A-24Bs and SBD-5s were supplied to France which used them against the Germans along the Atlantic Coast. The Free French received about 40 - 50 A-24Bs in 1943. Training was conducted in Morocco and Algeria.


The Mexicans used A-24Bs on anti-submarine patrols in the Caribbean.

New Zealand

The Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) used the SBD-2s in the No 25 Squadron from 1943 - 1944. They were commanded by Squadron Leader T. J. MacLean de Lange.


  Douglas SBD Dauntless
Type Dive bomber
Crew 2
Pilot, Gunner
Engine (Type) Wright R-1820-66 Cyclone
Cylinders Radial 9
Cooling Air
HP 1,200
Propeller blades 3, Hydromatic full feathering
Propeller diameter 10' 10"
3.3 m
Fuel Capacity 284 gallons
Span 41', 41' 6"
12.5 m, 12.65 m
Length 32', 33'
9.76 m, 10.06 m
Height 12' 11", 13'
3.94 m, 3.96 m
Wing area 325 sq ft
30.2 sq m
Empty 6,535 lb
2,970 kg
Loaded 9,519 lb
4,320 kg
Speed at 14,000' / 4,270 m 255 mph
408 kph
Cruising speed at 14,000' / 4,270 m 185 mph
296 kph
Climb to 10,000' / 3,050 m 7 minutes
Service Ceiling 25,200'
7,690 m
Range - Dive-Bomber 456 miles
730 km
Range - Scout-Bomber 773 miles
1,240 km
Nose 1 or 2: 0.5" MG
Rear cockpit 1 or 2: 0.3" MG
Bombs under fuselage 1,600 lb
726 kg
Bombs under wings 650 lb
295 kg
  Douglas SBD-1 Dauntless
Engine (Type) Wright R-1820-32/52 Cyclone, Wright R-1820-32
HP 1,000
Fuel Capacity 210 gallons
Fuselage 2: .50 cal MG
Cockpit - Rear 2: .30 cal MG
  Douglas SBD-2 Dauntless
Engine (Type) Wright R-1820-32/52 Cyclone
Fuel Capacity 310 gallons
Fuselage 1: .50 cal MG
Cockpit - Rear 1: .30 cal MG
  Douglas SBD-3 Dauntless
Type Bomber, Dive bomber
Crew 2
Engine (Type) Wright Cyclone
Wright R-1820 Cyclone
Wright R-1829-52
Wright R-1820-52 Cyclone
Wright R-1820-32/52 Cyclone
Cylinders Radial, Radial 9
Cooling Air
HP 1,000
Fuel Capacity 260 gallons
Span 41' 6"
Length 31' 8", 32' 8"
Height 10' 1", 13' 7"
Loaded 7,800 lb, 10,400 lb
Speed 250 mph
Service Ceiling 27,100'
Range 500 miles, 1,345 miles
Armament 4: MG
Nose 2: 12.7 mm / 0.5" MG
Bombs 1,200 lb
  Douglas SBD-4 Dauntless
Engine (Type) Wright R-1820 Cyclone
Wright R-1820-32/52 Cyclone
HP 1,000
  Douglas SBD-5 Dauntless
Type Carrier based scout, Carrier based dive-bomber
Crew 2
Pilot, radio operator/gunner.
Engine (Type) Wright R-1820-60 Cyclone
Wright R-1820-60
Cylinders Radial, Radial 9
Cooling Air
HP 1,200
Propeller blades 4 constant speed
Span 41' 6.25", 42'
12.65 m, 12.66 m
Length 33', 33' 1/8"
10.06 m, 10.09 m
Height 12' 11", 14'
3.94 m, 4.14 m
Wing area 325 sq ft
30.19 sq m
Empty 6,535 lb, 6,675 lb
3,028 kg
Loaded 10,700 lb, 10,855 lb
4,924 kg, 4,937 kg
Speed at 10,000' / 3,050 m 254 mph
410 kph
Speed at 13,800' 252 mph
Speed at 15,800' / 4,815 m 245 mph
394 kph
Cruising speed 139 mph, 144 mph
232 kph
Climb 1,190'/minute, 1,700'/minute
363 m/minute, 518 m/minute
Service Ceiling 24,275', 24,300'
7,400 m, 7,405 m, 7,406 m, 7,407 m
Range bombing 453 miles, 456 miles
730 km, 734 km
Range scouting 771 miles
1,244 km
Range 1,100 miles
1,770 km
Range - loaded 1,115 miles
Range - max 1,565 miles
Nose 2: 12.7 mm MG
2: .50 cal MG
Cockpit - Rear 2: 7.62 mm Browning MG
2: 7.62 mm MG
2: .30 cal MG
Bombs - under fuselage 1,600 lb
725 kg, 726 kg
Bombs - wings 2: 325 lb
650 lb
2: 147 kg
294 kg, 295 kg
Bombs - external 2,250 lb
  Douglas SBD-6 Dauntless
Engine (Type) Wright R-1820-66
HP 1,350
Fuel Capacity 284 gallons


  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. SBD Dauntless Units of World War 2, Barrett Tillman, 1998
  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
  9. Jane's Fighting Aircraft of World War II, Bill Gunston, 1989
20th Century American Military History Crucial Site