In all likelihood, no aircraft had such an instrumental influence on the outcome of the war, particularly through the event of one specific battle, as the SBD Dauntless. Aptly dubbed 'Slow But Deadly', at the time of entering service, the Dauntless was quite a fast aircraft for a bomber and during the war it was occasionally used as a standby interceptor. Because of its agility, Dauntless pilots did not hesitate to enter combat even against the superb Japanese Zero fighter. During the two day Coral Sea battle, Dauntless pilots and gunners accounted for some 40 of the 91 downed Japanese aircraft. The crew comprised of John Leppla and John Liska, for example, destroyed seven planes in the two days. Nevertheless, the main role of Dauntless crews was the dive bombing of land and sea targets, in which they had proven to be irreplaceable.
The development of the Dauntless was bound to a 1934 US Navy specification for a new dive-bomber. Six manufacturers submitted proposals, with two, Great Lake and Curtiss, being rejected from the outset, as they entered with biplane configurations. Although the specification did not specifically demand monoplane construction, the admiralty recognized that the way to go was through monoplane designs and assessed only entries from Northrop, Brewster, Martin and Vought. Northrop entered with their XBT-1 design of then already successful designer Edward Heinemann, but the US Navy chose the Vought XSB2U, later known as the Vindicator, as the winner. However, aircraft from the first 54 pieces in the test series had problems with their negative adjustment of propeller blades, acting as dive brake. Because of that, Northrop also received an order for 54 aircraft. The first XBT-1 took off in July 1935. It had a Pratt & Whitney engine providing 825 hp (606 kW) with a maximum speed of 212 mph (341 km/h). Subsequently, the company received a list of 1,937 changes to implement, among them a change from a partially retractable undercarriage to a fully retractable system. Implementing the changes led to the BT-2, but at the time Northrop was already purchased by Donald Douglas, who decided to make another change - replacing the engine with the more powerful Wright R-1820-G103 Cyclone rated at 1000 hp (746 kW) and with a new, three blade propeller. The aircraft received a very positive response from pilots, as it reached a maximum speed of 267 mph (429 km/h). It was also very easy to control. The plane got its official designation, SBD-1, where SBD stood for Scouting, Bombing and Douglas. The new plane carried one 1000 lb (454 kg) bomb under the fuselage and two 100 lb (45 kg) bombs under the wings. The armament consisted of two forward firing .50 caliber (12,7 mm) machine guns and one .30 caliber (7,62 mm) machine gun fired by the rear gunner. By installing an autopilot and providing self-sealing fuel tanks, the SBD-2 version emerged, and the type received the name Dauntless. The airplane was very popular with pilots thanks to very good manoeuvrability and the ability to withstand high g-loads of 9 g and – 4 g. The highest speed in a dive was also interesting: 429 mph (690 km/h). The next version, the SBD-3, was the first true 'combat' Dauntless. The design was adjusted according to the initial experiences provided by the European war theatre. the gunner received two .30 caliber (7,62 mm) machine guns, the canopy was supplied with a bullet-proof windscreen and the crew received armour protection. The USAAF also evaluated the type, borrowing planes from the USMC. The first order was for 78 airplanes, followed by another for 960, all designated A-24-DE Banshee, being equivalent to the SBD-3.
The combat debut for the Dauntless occurred on December 7, 1942, the day the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. Eighteen planes of VS-6 from the USS Enterprise were attacked by Japanese fighters, and although seven of them were shot down or crash landed, two Dauntless crews achieved aerial victories over Japanese Zeros.
At the beginning of the war in Pacific, the Dauntless was already considered as only an interim solution prior to the introduction of the more powerful SB2C Helldiver. But the intended successor had so many glitches, that the Dauntless had to soldier on as the main dive-bomber of the US Navy and US Marine Corps. The Dauntless did very well in the battle of the Coral Sea, but the historical fight, in which the type won its main glory, was the Battle of Midway. Three squadrons from USS Enterprise and USS Yorktown led by W. C. McClusky (VS-6 and VB-6) and M. F. Leslie (VB-3) destroyed three Japanese aircraft carriers, Akagi, Kaga and Soryu within only six minutes. Later that day, aircraft from VS-6, led this time by E. Gallagher, heavily damaged the Hiryu. Subsequently, Dauntless crews managed to damage two Japanese cruisers, and one of them, the Mikuma, finally sank. The Japanese were unable to make good on such losses and the Pacific war started to turn in America's favour.
The Dauntless was proving itself to be a very effective weapon again and again. During 1943, their crews sunk not only six Japanese aircraft carriers, but also three cruisers, four destroyers and one battleship. Because the SB2C still was not fully ready for service, the Dauntless underwent further development, leading to the SBD-4. It had an upgraded electrical system and a new propeller. Some 780 units were produced, and the army equivalent was the A-24A-DE, but the USAAF was not as successful with their Banshees as the Navy and Marines were with their Dauntlesses.
The most numerous version became the SBD-5, which was powered by the Wright R-1820-60 Cyclone providing 1200 hp (895 kW), allowing the SBD-5 to carry one 1600 lb (726 kg) bomb under the fuselage and two 324 lb (147 kg) bombs under the wings. Most of the planes also received anti vessel radar with an antenna under the leading edges of the wings. There were nearly three thousands SBD-5s produced.
The last version of the Dauntless was the SBD-6 with even more power and non-metal self-sealing fuel tanks. The US Navy first received them in February, 1944, and ordered 1450. But this number was later downgraded to only 450. Apart from the US Navy and US Marine Corps, the Dauntless served briefly also with the Royal New Zealand Air Force, operating from Bougainville. The Free French army obtained 50 A-24B-DTs, using them mostly for training. The French Navy accepted 32 SBD-5s in November, 1944, and made good use of them supporting the allies on land. The sixth user of the Dauntless was Mexico, which obtained several A-24B-DTs at the beginning of 1944.
The US Navy retired its Dauntlesses shortly after the end of the war, while the USAF keeping them much longer as training and observation aircraft until 1959.
Info from the Eduard instruction booklet
In the box
Packed in a colourful box featuring a drawn Dauntless over the Japanese Rising Sun symbol, the Accurate Miniatures based kit is well packaged with each sprue doubled up in separate plastic bags and the clear parts in a separate bag.
The Accurate Miniatures SBD-5 Dauntless has been released under the Italeri label in 2008 and a inbox review by Russ Amott can be found here
The kit comes with six light grey sprue's, one clear sprue, two sheets of photo etch, fifteen grey resin parts, two masking sheets, one set of decals and an instruction booklet.
Unlike the Italeri boxing there doesn't seem to be a huge amount of flash present, with only some of the smaller parts having a little, so it seems the moulds must have been cleaned up. There is a few pin marks dotted around with a few very shallow ones inside the fuselage halves. The rest seem to be in places that won't require any work to deal with.
As with any Accurate Miniatures kits I have seen the detail for the interior and exterior are top notch.
The exterior features fine recessed panel lines and rivets and fasteners. The control surfaces have raised ribs, which seem slightly overdone in my opinion.
The fuselage halves have the tail and the tail wheel moulded as part of the fuselage, and with the inclusion of the resin tail wheel, surgery will be needed to remove the plastic part. The rudder on the tail is moulded in the neutral position.
The cockpit as you would expect in this Limited edition boxing in quite breath-taking, with coloured photo etch parts replacing the already pretty good detail of the A.M kit. The P.E parts include new instrument panels, P.E side consoles, co-pilots consoles and various straps for equipment, and harness's for the pilots and co-pilots seats. The uncoloured fret has details for the twin rear facing machine guns.
Speaking of which, the machine guns are completely replaced with the crisply moulded resin guns. The two guns are moulded as one piece with another five resin parts and numerous photo etch parts to attach. There are two resin mounting posts for the guns, which look to give you the option of stowed or deployed guns, but the instructions doesn't actually tell you this, which is disappointing.
The engine is made up of three parts and looks pretty decent, and comes with a one piece prop. The forward fuselage and cowling looks a tad fiddly as it is made up of five parts. The two forward machine guns are pretty devoid of detail but as only the guns barrels stick out from the upper fuselage this isn't much of an issue.
The undercarriage wells are moulded into the lower wing, and are nicely detailed. the main landing gear legs are just as detailed with brake lines moulded onto the legs. The tires and hubs are probably the weakest part of the plastic parts, but Eduard have replaced them with some very nicely detailed resin tires and separate hubs. The tires have a very realistic tread pattern moulded onto them, and do look top notch.
The wings are made up of three main parts with one bottom half and two top ones. The flaps are moulded separately, while ailerons are moulded in, so surgery will be needed if you wish to drop them. The beauty of the dauntless is the perforated flaps which in this kit can be deployed open. The parts are plastic and have the holes pre-moulded, but some do need to be tidied up a tad.
The horizontal stabilizers are made up of two parts each, and the tail planes are moulded in the neutral position.
External stores for the Dauntless is three bombs. Two fit under the wings with a larger bomb on a swing cradle under the fuselage. The two smaller bombs are split into two halves, with the larger bomb made up of four parts. A little sanding will be needed to insure the seam is not seen.
A choice of two types of canopy are given with an open option or a closed option. The parts are pretty clear with the framework nicely moulded onto them. Eduard have included masks for the painting the frames, which in my view is a Godsend as I hate painting canopies. The masks also have parts for painting the hubs, even though the hubs if you use the resin parts are separate.
Instructions, decals and markings
The instructions are a 16 page colour A4 size book.
The build sequence covers 7 pages, and starts with a parts call out with the unused parts shaded in blue. The build itself is pretty simple to follow with any photo etch parts shown and resin parts highlighted with the Brassin type set in the corner of each sequence. Any areas that need removing for the inclusion of the Eduard extras are highlighted in red. Interior colours for the Gunze Mr Color and Aqueous paints range are given for each part that needs painting.
The last build section of the instructions are for the placement of the Eduard masks, which cover the two optional canopies. Two mask sets are supplied as each optional canopy needs there own mask.
Five marking options are supplied by Eduard and each profile is full colour, with all four views of the aircraft shown. The last page of the instruction booklet is for the stencil placement.
The decals are as usual printed by Cartograph, so the quality as always will be second to none.
The five marking options available are - A - SBD-5, flown by F/Sgt. C. N. O´Neill / F/Sgt. D. W. Gray, No. 25 Squadron RNZAF, Piva, Bougainville, April, 1944.
B - SDB-5, Flown by Maj. Christian C. Lee, CO of VMS-3, Virgin Islands, Spring, 1944.
C - SBD-5, VMSB-331, Majuro Atoll, Marshall Islands, Spring, 1944.
D - A-24B-1-DO, s/n 42-54298, 407th BG, Amchitka, Summer, 1944.
E - SBD-5. c/n 36817, 4° Flotile de Bombardement de l´Aeronavale, Western France, Early 1945.
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