This type may be the opposite of “iconic”; I think the A-20 family of aircraft is one of the least known types that saw wide service.
After the jump I’ll take a brief look at a prolific and useful type that was/is under-represented in major media.
The whole category of attack aircraft and light bombers seems to draw little attention. Before World War II the Douglas Company had been working on one such aircraft under the company designation DB-7 (“Douglas Bomber 7”). This was a free lance project that was not supported by any branch of the US Military. But as the French were trying to arm themselves for a possible war with Germany they found the design interesting. US export laws at the time required some American patronage, so US and French Air Force officers worked through a flight test program with Douglas.
The type was quickly considered attractive; the aircraft handling was excellent, and the plane was fast with a decent bomb load. So in spite of an early prototype crash that drew unwanted press to the whole program, the French ordered over four hundred aircraft. Only 64 were delivered before the fall of France and Britain took over the order. In British service the type was known as the “Boston”. And it was in British service the type really proved its worth.
So just a little bit about what the plane was. As a light bomber it only carried 2000 lbs of bombs internally. It had a crew of three; a single pilot, radio operator/gunner and bombardier. It was fast for its type (over 300 mph) and maneuverable. Initial versions were powered by two R-1830 engines. Positive reports from Britain finally led to US Army interest in the type; and US interest led to re-engining with two R-2600 engines. Internal capacity was not increased; but the new engines meant more external stores could be carried.
Functionally this was exactly the sort of attack plane the Army Air Force wanted. Especially as opposed to dive bombing types used by the Navy or German Luftwaffe. The A-20 was much faster, carried a heavier load at longer range, and offered the extra safety of twin engines.
Ultimately the aircraft would be used by France, both for and against the allies, Britain, the US, and a significant number were lend leased to the Soviet Union. Production ended in early 1944 for the type’s replacement, the A-26 Invader.
This example is from the AMT kit with Third Group decals. This aircraft served in North Africa in late 1942 to early 1943. The AMT kit is interesting; it well engineered and nicely detailed, but the production quality is very low with excessive flash and soft plastic.
Got one in my stash as well as an A-26 Invader. At the pace I am setting for myself I will be in my late 90s when I start those.
No doubt I’ve got a lot more than I’ll ever get to too!
Was not the A20 a type of plane mentioned in Catch 22?
That was the B-25. Thanks to the Doolittle Raid, and Catch 22 its a much better known type!
Beautiful job Dave. I love the A20, very clean lines, a good looking aircraft. Once again a fantastic job!
Thanks Rich. Yeah it’s slim and sharp looking!
A really interesting blog post. We seem to forget just how many aircraft went over to help the Soviets. For the most part, they loved them all, especially the Boston and apparently, the Aerocobra.
The Boston/Havoc seems to have been loved everywhere it went. The Soviet affection for the Airacobra must remain one of life’s great mysteries.
One of my favorites! Looks great!
The kit is sort of a bear, so I appreciate that.
There were some excellent early night intruder missions flown by RAF Squadrons using the Havoc, as well as one or two false steps. The Turbinlight Havoc makes for an interesting kit conversion, but was a truly terrible combat concept. Sending up a searchlight and radar equipped Havoc (accompanied by two Hurricanes) and then illuminating a German bomber so the fighters could shoot it down was NEVER going to be worthwhile!
Yeah that is definitely an interesting, and badly flawed concept! Of course turning the Havoc into an actual night fighter (as the P-70) is only marginally better.
Along similar lines was the US Navy’s use of “Bat Teams”; a single radar equipped TBF Avenger accompanied by two F6F Hellcats. Ideally the Avenger would lead the Hellcats to the target. Not only was this clumsy. it resulted in the death of Butch O’Hare.
There is obviously no real substitute for a capable, radar equipped night fighter. Unfortunately it took some time to get such aircraft into service.
Although not the fastest or longest-range aircraft in its class, the Douglas DB-7 series distinguished itself as a tough, dependable combat aircraft with an excellent reputation for speed and maneuverability. The aeroplane represents a definite advantage in the design of flying controls .
Yeah it definitely performed well and was much appreciated by crews.
Thanks for the comment Joey.
I have commented in 2015 that I had it in my collection. Now is the time to build it.
It is a beautiful airplane, and a passably good kit.
You have to make sure where to glue the cockpit correctly to avoid surprises when joining the fuselage. Not there yet though.
How about the joint with the wings and fuselage? There doesn’t seem to be much support. Did you have that problem?
See my progress report at the end.
This is an interesting aircraft. A little surprised that the Army Air Corps was kind of indifferent to it. They sent something like 665 of the 999 B versions to the Soviet Union. Feel free to correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t the Soviet machines mount some sort of homogenous dorsal turret instead of the gunner position on western machines?
Yes to all that!
I think its a beautiful plane, and it was useful and well used. I think its only real problem was it was less than the B-25, so USAAF generally preferred the Mitchell. It’s been a consistent issue to this day (A-10), that the Air Force isn’t very interested in the purely tactical types.
The Russians did, at least on most their Havocs, put an indigenous turret with their own type of machine gun in the dorsal position. It does look very oversized compared to the American Martin turret. I wish it was available in kit form that way! For all the A-20s the Soviets received it would be nice to be able to build one in their configuration.