Curtiss SB2C-5 Helldiver
U.S. Dive Bomber

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The only flying Helldiver, the Ghost Squadron's SB2C-5.

Image source: The Confederate Air Force Ghost Squadron CD-ROM produced by Corel. Photos by Bill Crump.

Designed as a two-seat scout and dive bomber for the U.S. Navy, the Curtiss SB2C Helldiver prototype first flew in December of 1940. However, a large number of modifications and additions to the design slowed its entry into the war. Helldivers made their first operational sortie on 11 November, 1943 when they attacked the Japanese held port of Rabaul.

Much larger, heavier and faster than the earlier Douglas SBD Dauntless dive bomber, the Curtiss Helldiver was often nicknamed the "Big Tailed Beast" or more often just "Beast" by its crews. During the last two years of the war, the SB2C proved itself an effective attack bomber. The Helldiver could carry up to 1,000 pounds of bombs in its bomb bay plus another 1,000 pounds externally, under the wings. Some versions were also armed with two or four 20mm cannons mounted in the wings, which were very effective for strafing enemy ships and other targets.

The rear gunner had two .30 caliber machine guns to defend the Helldiver from attack from behind, and to allow these guns a greater angle of fire, the upper fuselage just behind the rear cockpit could be hydraulically retracted and collapsed.

The U.S. Army Air Corps even purchased some of the Curtiss design, calling them A-25 Shrikes, however, these aircraft were used primarily for second-line duties, including training and target towing. In fact, demand for the Helldiver by the U.S. Navy was so great that only 26 of an order for 450 were ever received by the British under Lend-Lease. These British versions were known as Helldiver Is.

Although over 7,000 Helldivers were produced during the Second World War, today only one survives in flying condition. The CAF Helldiver that you see here was purchased by Col. Bob Griffin in 1971 and immediately donated to the CAF Ghost Squadron. The Helldiver suffered major damage due to an engine failure on take off several years ago, but was completely rebuilt and restored thanks to the members and other volunteers of the West Texas Wing of the CAF.


One Pilot and Gunner

One Wright R-2600-20 Engine
Twin-row 14 cylinder Air-cooled Radial
1,900 hp @ 2,800 rpm

Two 20 mm Cannons
Two .30 caliber Machine Guns
Up to 2,000 lbs of Bombs
Eight 5 inch Rockets

Max. Speed 260 mph @ 16,000 feet
Cruise Speed 148 mph

Climb to 10,000 ft in 8.9 minutes
Service Ceiling 26,400 ft

Length 36' 8"
Height 13' 2"
Wing Span 49' 9"

Max. Weight 15,918 lbs
Empty Weight 10,580 lbs

Maximum Range 1,805 miles


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All material not specifically credited is Copyright by Randy Wilson.