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.
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 and a biplane design 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 biplane 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 when the United States Navy ordered 83 SBC-3s.
The Curtiss SBC-3 Helldiver had a top speed of 220 mph, range of 405 miles and a service ceiling of 23,800 ft. Armament consisted of a pair of 0.30-in machine-guns and either one 500lb or
1,000lb bomb. The first deliveries of the new type were made on the 17th July 1937 to United States Navy Squadron VS-5 on the USS Yorktown (CV-5).
The final production SBC-3 was re-designated the XSBC-4 and would become the prototype of the next Mk. The production SBC-4, powered by the Wright R-1820-22 engine, would be an improvement over its
predecessor. Although its armament was the same its top speed, 237 mph, range, 590 miles and service ceiling, 27,300ft were all an improvement. An initial order was placed on the 5th February
1938 and the first of 174 SBC-4s were received by the United States Navy during March 1939. When the United States of America entered the Second World War (1939 – 1945) in December 1941 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 (CV-8) and they also equipped US Marine Squadron VMO-151.
With the outbreak of the Second World War the French Government had placed an order for 90 SBC-4 Helldivers during the early months of 1940 for use by the French Navy. To support the
French an order was issued by the American Government on the 6th June 1940 that 50 SBC-4s already in service with the United States Navy were to be converted to French standard. This would see
the armament change to two French 0.303-in Dove machine-guns.
In total 45 aircraft would be sent to France via Canada, although one aircraft crashed during a transit flight to Canada, but would not arrive before the French had agreed an armistice with
Germany. This left five SBC-4s allocated to France left and these were used by the Royal Air Force who re-named the planes to Curtiss Cleveland Mk Is and used them as ground trainers at
RAF Little Rissington and RAF Hendon.
In total 257 Curtiss Helldivers were built.