One of the first in a new generation of faster monoplanes, Vought-Sikorsky's XSB2U-1 was ordered in October 1934, and first flown in January 1936. The new SB2U-1 served as the Navy's first-line dive bomber prior to the introduction of the Northrop BT-1 and the Douglas SBD. Adequate for the time, 58 SB2U-2s were ordered in 1938, and 58 SB2U-3s in 1940. The SB2U-3s went to the Marine Corps where, already obsolete, they suffered very heavy losses at the Battle of Midway. The aircraft displayed is an SB2U-2 recovered from Lake Michigan, the only known example of the aircraft in existence.
One of the first designs to usher in the monoplane era in the Navy, the Vought-Sikorsky SB2U was contracted for in 1934, and first flew in 1936. Deliveries of 52 SB2U-1s began in December 1937, followed by orders for 57 SB2U-2s in January 1938, delivered late in the year. In 1940, 57 SB2U-3 versions of the aircraft, the first to be known by the name Vindicator, were delivered, with most going to the Marine Corps. The -3 models had increased fuel capacity, plus provision for long-range drop tanks, .50-caliber guns fore and aft, and increased armor protection, all of which combined to add weight and reduce performance.
Woefully obsolete by the beginning of World War II and eclipsed by the better performing Northrop BT-1 and its successor, the Douglas SBD Dauntless, the Vindicator saw limited use. The SB2U's only combat was at Midway with Marine Scout Bombing Squadron (VMSB) 241, and resulted in heavy losses. For its performance in combat, Marine pilots called it the "Wind-Indicator." The SB2U's fabric-covered aft fuselage, which tended to tear, and the lack of adequate dive brakes limited the aircraft to shallower dives in the 30 to 45 degree range, increasing its vulnerability to anti-aircraft fire.
Retired to operational training duties, Vindicators were relegated to such assignments as carrier qualification. The aircraft on display, last known of its kind, was salvaged from Lake Michigan after crashing during carrier qualifications and was completely restored by Museum staff and volunteers.
|Manufacturer:||Vought-Sikorsky Division, United Aircraft Corporation|
|Type:||Carrier-based scout and dive bomber|
|Crew:||Pilot and observer/gunner|
|Powerplant:||One Pratt & Whitney 826 hp R-1535-96 radial|
Length: 34 ft.
Empty: 5,634 lb.
Max Speed: 243 mph at 9,500 ft.
One fixed forward-firing and one flexible rear .50-caliber machine gun