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Vought SB2U Vindicator - WWII

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First Carrier Based Dive Bomber - SB2U


Vought SB2U Vindicator - WWII American dive bomber

Vought SB2U Vindicator from USS Ranger (CV-4) flying anti-submarine patrol over the convoy  on November 27, 1941.
U.S. Navy Naval History Center photo.

The U.S. Navy Vought SB2U Vindicator carried a pilot and tail gunner. It used a 2-bladed propeller and retained the fabric covered truss design of the bi-plane.

It was considered difficult to maneuver during a dive owing to inadequate dive brakes. Developed in the 1930s, the Vindicator was the Navy's first carrier-based dive bomber.


SB2U Armament

Armament for the Vindicator included one wing mounted .30 inch machine gun for forward firing and one .30 inch tail machine gun and it could also carry up to 1,000 pounds of bombs.


Obsolete Before Pearl Harbor

Entering service in 1937, the Vindicator was considered obsolete before the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. A British version of the SB2U Vindicator was exported for use by the Fleet Air Arm of the Royal Navy where it was called the Chesapeake.



SB2U Vindicator landing on aircraft carrier Ranger

U.S. Navy photo to the right shows a Vought SB2U Vindicator returning to aircraft carrier USS Ranger (CV-4) on 4 December 1941.

Prior to the outbreak of World War II, the "U.S. Navy lagged far behind its potential enemies in quality of hardware. When the Second World War erupted that fall [1939], 50 percent of the scout-bombers, torpedo planes, and fighters in carrier squadrons were still biplanes." U.S. Navy Dive and Torpedo Bombers of World War II, by Robert Lawson (p.7). The Navy was in the process of replacing the SB2U with the more modern, SBD Dauntless prior to the United States entering the war.


However, the SB2U Vindicators did see service during WWII. They were among the many aircraft destroyed during the Japanese attack on Ewa Field while other Vindicators were with the Atlantic fleet on the aircraft carriers USS Ranger, USS Wasp, and the USS Yorktown, involved with anti-submarine patrol, and training activities.



SB2U on elevator of aircraft carrier USS Wasp

Vought SB2U-2 Vindicator on the elevator of aircraft carrier USS Wasp (CV-7.) U.S. Navy photo.

Heavy Vindicator Losses at Midway

The desperate attempt to keep Midway Island secure from Japanese invasion brought the SB2U to see combat. Marine Corps aircraft, which included the outdated SB2U, had been ordered to the area as reinforcements prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor but were not delivered until December 17th. They saw combat in June of 1942, suffering heavy losses during the Battle of Midway. During one attack, Captain Richard E. Fleming, piloting an SB2U Vindicator, lead a dive bombing assault on the Japanese battlecruiser Mogami. For his heroic efforts, he was posthumously awarded a Medal of Honor. The SB2U Vindicator saw service until February 1943, but most were replaced by mid 1941.


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* SB2U Vindicator facts

Category Dive bomber
Manufacturer Vought
Introduced 1937
Used in WW II by


United States Navy
United States Marine Corps
Royal Navy
Number built Approximately 170
Cruising speed 152 mph
Max. speed 251 mph
Altitude 27,500 feet service ceiling
Range 630 miles
* Numbers are approximate