Northrop BT

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BT-1
NorthropBT Oct1941 Miami.jpg
Northrop BT-1s over Miami in October 1939
Role Dive bomber
Manufacturer Northrop
Designer Ed Heinemann
First flight 19 August 1935
Primary user United States Navy
Number built 55
Variants SBD Dauntless

The Northrop BT was a two-seat, single-engine monoplane dive bomber built by the Northrop Corporation for the United States Navy. At the time, Northrop was a subsidiary of the Douglas Aircraft Company.

Design and development

The design of the initial version began in 1935. It was powered by a 700 hp (520 kW; 710 PS) Pratt and Whitney XR-1535-66 double row air-cooled radial engine and had hydraulically actuated perforated split flaps or "dive-brakes" and a landing gear that retracted backwards into fairing "trousers" beneath the wings.1 The perforated flaps were invented to eliminate tail buffeting during diving maneuvers.1

The next iteration of the BT, the XBT-1, was equipped with a 750 hp (560 kW; 760 PS) R-1535. This aircraft was followed in 1936 by the BT-1, powered by an 825 hp (615 kW; 836 PS) R-1535-94 engine. One BT-1 was modified with a fixed tricycle landing gear and was the first such aircraft to land on an aircraft carrier.

BT-1 of VB-5 in 1938

The final variant, the XBT-2, was a BT-1 modified1 to incorporate landing gear which folded laterally into recessed wheel wells, leading edge slots, a redesigned canopy, and was powered by an 800 hp (600 kW; 810 PS) Wright XR-1820-32 radial. The XBT-2 first flew on 25 April 1938 and after successful testing the Navy placed an order for 144 aircraft. In 1939 the aircraft designation was changed to the Douglas SBD-1 with the last 87 on order completed as SBD-2s. By this point, Northrop had become the El Segundo division of Douglas aircraft, hence the change.

Operational history

BT-1 at El Segundo
VB-5 lineup of BT-1s

The U.S. Navy placed an order for 54 BT-1s in 1936 with the aircraft entering service during 1938. BT-1s served in USS Yorktown and Enterprise. The type was not a success in service due to poor handling characteristics, especially at low speeds, "a fatal flaw in a carrier based aircraft."2 It was also prone to unexpected rolls and a number of aircraft were lost in crashes.

Variants

XBT-1
Prototype, one built.
BT-1
Production variant, 54 built.
XBT-2
One BT-1 modified with fully retractable landing gear and other modifications.
BT-2
Production variant of the XBT-2, 144 on order completed as SBD-1 and SBD-2.
Douglas DB-19
One BT-1 was modified as the DB-19 which was tested by the Imperial Japanese Navy as the DXD1 (Navy Experimental Type D Attack Plane)

Operators

 United States

Specifications (BT-1)

BT-1 modified as a testbed for tricycle landing gear

Data from United States Navy Aircraft since 1911 3

General characteristics

Performance

Armament

  • Guns: ** 1 × .50 in (12.7 mm) machine gun
    • 1 × .30 in (7.62 mm) machine gun
  • Bombs: 1,000 lb (454 kg) bomb under fuselage

Notable mentions in media

Northrop BT-1s appeared in pre-war yellow wing paint schemes in the Technicolor film Dive Bomber (1941) starring Errol Flynn.

See also

Related development
Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era
Related lists

References

Notes
  1. ^ a b c Rene J. Francillon (1990 ed), McDonnell Douglas Since 1920, Volume I. Annapolis, Maryland, Naval Institute Press
  2. ^ "Northrop BT-1." historyofwar.org. Retrieved: 5 December 2009.
  3. ^ Swanborough and Bowers 1976, p. 358.
Bibliography
  • Bowers, Peter M. United States Navy Aircraft since 1911. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1990, ISBN 0-87021-792-5.
  • Brazelton, David. The Douglas SBD Dauntless, Aircraft in Profile 196. Leatherhead, Surrey, UK: Profile Publications Ltd., 1967. No ISBN.
  • Drendel, Lou. U.S. Navy Carrier Bombers of World War II. Carrollton, TX: Squadron/Signal Publications, Inc., 1987. ISBN 0-89747-195-4.
  • Gunston, Bill. The Illustrated History of McDonnell Douglas Aircraft: From Cloudster to Boeing. London: Osprey Publishing, 1999. ISBN 1-85532-924-7.
  • Kinzey, Bert. SBD Dauntless in Detail & Scale, D&S Vol.48. Carrollton, TX: Squadron/Signal Publications, Inc., 1996. ISBN 1-888974-01-X.
  • Listemann, Phil. Northrop BT-1 (Allied Wings No.3). France: www.raf-in-combat.com, 2008. ISBN 2-9526381-7-9.
  • Swanborough, Gordon and Peter M. Bowers. United States Navy Aircraft since 1911. London: Putnam, Second edition, 1976. ISBN 0-370-10054-9.

External links