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Curtiss SBC Helldiver

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Used by the United States and Royal Air Force, under the designation Cleveland, the Helldiver was already obsolete when the US entered the Second World War. Despite this a number of Curtiss SBC Helldiver aircraft did serve aboard the carrier USS Hornet.

Quick Facts
Sorry, no image available
First flight
9th December 1935
Entered service
March 1939
Total built

Front view
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Side view
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Rear view
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Starting life as a two-seat fighter prototype, designated XF12C-1, ordered by the United States Navy during 1932 and powered by the 625-hp Wright R-1510-92 Whirlwind 14 engine and featuring a parasol wing design it made its maiden flight during 1933. However before the year was out the plane was re-designated XS4C-1 as it was decided to try the plane as a scout but by January 1934 with the aircraft now powered by the Wright R-1820 Cyclone engine it became a scout-bomber.

The Helldiver was now to undergo extensive tests, under its new designation of XSBC-1, and it was after a wing failure during a dive test it was decided to order a new prototype with a new designation of XSBC-2 and this would have a bi-plane wing design. The new Helldiver prototype was powered by the 700-hp Wright R-1510-12 Whirlwind 14 for its maiden flight on the 9th December 1935 before the 825-hp Pratt & Whitney R-1535-82 Twin Wasp Junior engine replaced it during March 1936 and this aircraft was designated the XSBC-3 and it was this design that would be ordered into production.

On the 19th August 1936 The United States Navy ordered 83 production SBC-3s which could hold one 500lb bomb and armament consisted of two 0.30-in machine-guns with the first deliveries of the new type made on the 17th July 1937 to US Navy Squadron VS-5 with the final production SBC-3 re-designated the XSBC-4 and would become a prototype for the next Mk.

Able to carry a 1,000lb bomb and powered by the Wright R-1820-22 engine an initial order was placed on the 5th February 1938 and so the first of 174 SBC-4s were received by the United States Navy during March 1939. It had been decided that the US Navy would divert 50 aircraft for use by the French but these didn't arrive in time and only five were used when recovered by the Royal Air Force who re-named the plane the Curtiss Cleveland Mk 1 and were used as ground trainers at RAF Little Rissington.

When the United States of America entered the Second World War the aircraft was obsolete however a number of SBC-4s did equip United States Navy Squadrons VB-8 and VS-8 who were based aboard USS Hornet and they also equipped US Marine Squadron VMO-151.

In total 257 Curtiss Helldivers were built.


Click on the aeroplane image to view a larger version.

Top Speed Range Service Ceiling Armament
SBC 3 220 mph 405 miles 23,800 ft two 0.30-in machine-guns
and either a 500lb or 1,000lb bomb
SBC 4 237 mph 590 miles 27,300 ft two 0.30-in machine-guns
and either a 500lb or 1,000lb bomb


Click on the photo to view a larger version.

Sorry, we have no photos of this aircraft

On Display

(C) = Cockpit only exhibit. (F) = Fuselage only exhibit. (R) = Remains of an aircraft.

Variant Location
No known examples currently on public display in the UK.

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