Sunday, 17 May 2009

(1949-1953) SB2C Helldiver

Greek Helldiver (Greek Civil War, 1949)Most of the bombing missions of the Royal Hellenic Airforce (RHAF) were performed with Spitfires and Dakota transport aircraft. A few months before the end of the Greek Civil War, RHAF acquired their first dive-bombers, 42 Helldiver aircraft from the United States Navy. It was clearly the best strike aircraft in the arsenal of the National Army, but it entered the civil war when the result had been more or less decided. Still, it was useful at bringing an end to the civil war faster by accurately and effectively bombing the mountain bases of the Democratic Army of Greece, a task that was beyond the capabilities of the Spitfires and the Dakotas. On 24 August 1949, when General Papagos attacked the Grammos base of the communists once again, the helldivers used rockets, conventional bombs and napalm bombs. Napalm is the name given to any flammable liquid used in warfare, and is often jellied gasoline. In the form of a bomb, it was used for the first time in the final stages of World War 2 and in the Greek Civil War, long before the Vietnam War, where it gained worldwide notoriety. According to the Greek Communist Party (KKE), 388 napalm bombs were dropped on the mountain line Grammos-Vitsi since September 1948 (see the relevant colourised photo below: a person examining the result of such an attack, during the civil war or shortly after). 114 of these were in operations that Helldivers participated in. Today, a preserved Greek SB2C-5 helldiver (BuNo. 83321) can be seen at the Hellenic Airforce Museum, Tatoi Air Base, Greece.

Operational History
After a Napalm strike on the mountains of Grammos-Vitsi. During the war or shortly after.Spring 1949 - At least 41 Helldivers (some sources mention 42) are obtained from surplus United States Navy stocks. Squadron 336 is equipped with them.
Aug. 1949 - The Helldivers are used in the final operations of the civil war.
6 Sep. 1949 - 18 Helldivers perform a fake dive-bombing show at the center of Athens.
1953 - The Helldivers are retired from the Greek airforce.

Curtiss SB2C-5 Helldiver dive-bomber

Origin: United States
Crew: 2 (pilot and radio operator / gunner) Greek Helldivers (Greek Civil War)
Wingspan: 15.16 m
Length: 10.90 m
Height: 3.94 m
Range: 1,773 km
Wing area: 39.2 m²
Weight: Empty 4,870 kg, loaded 6,202 kg, max. takeoff 7,471 kg
Powerplant: 1× Wright R-2600-20 Cyclone radial engine, 1,900 hp (1,400 kW)

Speed: 473 km/h at 4,940 m
Service ceiling: 7,240 m
Rate of climb: 8.9 m/s
Armament: wings 2x20mm, rear cockpit 2x7.62mm Browning MGs, internal bay 450 kg of bombs, underwing hardpoints 450 kg of bombs and 8 rockets or 2 napalm bombs (The American navy used it as a torpedo bomber too)

For gamers and game designers
The helldiver is by far the most modern and most accurate bomber of the RHAF in 1949. It can make rocket, torpedo, bomb and napalm strikes against ground targets, and does not have any opposition during the civil war, apart from the few antiaircraft guns of the communists.

For modellers
Greek SB2C-5 Helldiver (schematic)
All Greek helldivers were painted in semi-gloss Sea Blue overall. They wore white serials on the rear fuselage and under the wing. Some were seen also with single tail-numbers on the top of the fin and engine cowling
(2: 3480, 6: 9386, 8: 3353, 9: 3329, 10: 3719, 11: 9250, 15: 9193, 17: 3350).

A MS Flight Simulator model of the Greek Helldiver made by Manuele Villa:

A model from IPMS Hellas 2007:


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