The aircraft originated in the U.S. in 1936 and was test-flown in January 1938, it was the first monoplane fighter used by the US Navy. Versions, F2A-2 and -3 were purchased as Buffaloes in 1940 by England. The RAF found that the underpowered Buffalo was unsuitable for the European war theatre. As a result, they were transferred to the Far East where a number of these aircraft were taken over by the two RAAF fighter units in Malaya – Nos 21 and 453 Squadrons. At the outbreak of Japanese hostilities, the RAAF, RAF, and RNZAF Buffaloes, supported by Dutch Buffaloes, fought gallantly but were out-classed and outnumbered by the Japanese Zeros. Nevertheless, they claimed a 2:1 kill ratio against the Japanese. Three Commonwealth pilots became aces on the Buffalo; the highest scoring of them, Geoff Fisken (RNZAF) finished as the highest scoring Commonwealth pilot in the Pacific theatre.
Meantime, Allied forces were grouping in Australia to halt the Japanese advance and 17 Buffaloes (A51-1/17) were delivered to the RAAF for home defence. These aircraft were taken on strength between June and October 1942, and served with Nos 24, 25, 85, and 87 Squadrons. The RAAF Buffaloes were used for a period of 12 months in photo-reconnaissance and air defence roles. During this time, four aircraft were written off (A51-2, -4, -5 and -6) and the remaining 13 Buffaloes were progressively transferred to the US 5th Air Force. Buffalo activities in Australia were limited, but in Malaya the Buffalo pilots of Nos 21 and 453 Squadrons left behind a record of heroism and sacrifice rarely surpassed in RAAF history.
Description: Single-seat fighter.
All-metal, stressed-skin construction.
Power Plant: One 1,200hp Wright Cyclone radial engine.
Wing Span: 10.67 m (35 ft)
Length: 8.02 m (26 ft 4 in)
Height: 3.68 m (12 ft 1 in)
Weight Empty: 2100 kg (4630 lb)
Take-off Weight: 3200 kg (7055 lb)
Max speed: 504 km/h (272 kt)
Cruising speed: 410 km/h (221 kt)
Initial climb: 698 m (2290 ft)/min
Range: 1046 km (565 nm)
Ceiling: 30,500 ft (9296 m)
Guns 2 x 0.50in Browning machine guns in fuselage
2 x 0.50in Browning machine guns in the wings
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