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A-20 Havoc, U.S. Medium Bomber


Photograph of A-20 Havoc

U.S. Air Force

Douglas A-20A Havoc


Specifications:


Crew

2 to 4

Dimensions

61’4” by 48’4” by 17’7”
18.70m by 14.63m by 5.36m

Wing area

464 square feet
43.3 square meters

Weight

15,165-20,711 lbs
6879-9395 kg

Maximum speed      

347 mph at 12,400 feet
558 km/h at 3780 meters

Cruising speed

295 mph
475 km/h

Landing speed

95 mph
153 km/h

Climb rate

33 feet per second
10 m/s

Service ceiling

28,175 feet
8588 meters

Power plant

2 1600hp (1193 kW) Wright R-2600-3 Cyclone 14-cylinder two-row radial engines driving three bladed propellers

Armament

4 0.30 or two 0.50 machine guns in nose ports
2 0.30 machine guns in dorsal position
One ventral 0.30 machine gun
2 rear-firing 0.30 machine gun in engine nacelles

Bomb load

2000 lbs (900 kg) of bombs

Range

675 miles
1086 km

Fuel

540-916 gallons
2044-3467 liters

Production

Total 7385 of all models, at El Segundo and elsewhere, from 1939-8 on.
Some 3125 went to the Soviet Union and about 1800 to Britain as Lend-Lease.

270 DB-7
100 DB-7A
781 DB-7B
48 DB-7C
1 A-20
205 A-20A (including 63 originally ordered as A-20)
999 A-20B
948 A-20C
2850 A-20G
412 A-20H
450 A-20J
413 A-20K

Variants

The DB models were produced for the British and lacked turbochargers. Some of these were modified as night fighters with radar and 12 nose machine guns; others were disarmed and fitted with a powerful searchlight as an experiment in illuminating enemy aircraft.

Most of the A-20B production went to Russia as Lend-Lease.

The A-20C introduced self-sealing fuel tanks and increased armor plating and could carry a torpedo or 2400 lbs (1090 kg) of bombs. It eliminated the rear-firing machine guns in the engine nacelles. Its speed was reduced slightly, to 342 mph (550 km/h), and its service ceiling to 25,320' (7718 m).

The A-20G introduced the second generation of models. It eliminated the bombardier position in favor of a solid nose armed with 4 20mm Hispano cannon. The cannon proved balky, so only 250 aircraft were completed to this configuration, and most of these went to Russia as Lend-Lease. The next 500 A-20Gs were armed with 0.50 machine guns in place of the cannon and restored the two fuselage nose port 0.50 machine guns, for a total of 6 forward-firing fixed 0.50 machine guns. The remaining production replaced the twin flexible 0.50 machine guns in the dorsal position with a twin 0.50 machine gun turret, upgraded the ventral flexible machine gun to a 0.50 machine gun, and added hard points for two torpedoes or four 500 lb bombs under the wings. Total bomb load was thus 4000 lb (1814 kg). A 374 gallon (1416 l) bomb bay drop tank was also developed, giving a maximum range of 2100 miles (3380 km). Maximum speed was reduced to 317 mph (510 km/h) and the service ceiling dropped to 23,700' (7220 m).

The A-20H introduced a 1700 hp (1270 kW) R-2600-29 engine that brought the maximum speed to 330 mph (530 km/h) and the service ceiling to 25,000' (7620 m).

The A-20J and K, produced in smaller numbers, were variants of the A-20G and A-20H respective with transparent noses for a bombardier, eliminating four forward-firing machine guns. These were used as bombing lead ships in Europe.

The P-70 was an A-20A night fighter variant lacking turbochargers but armed with four 20mm cannon. It was mostly used for training.

A few A-20s were modified for the photoreconnaissance role as F-3s.


This innovative medium bomber was judged “hot” because it performed like a single-engine light bomber. The crew arrangements also resembled those of a light bomber, with the pilot and two gunners in separate small compartments from which they could not move. This permitted a narrow cockpit that minimized cross section while retaining an adequate fuel supply. The A-20 was the first military aircraft to use tricycle landing gear, and early models had the rather odd feature of an emergency control column in the rear gunner’s compartment in case the pilot was killed. When equipped with additional nose machine guns, the A-20 became a potent strafing weapon.

The aircraft was originally produced for export as the DB-7 and did not enter squadron service with the Air Corps until 1941. A minor scandal erupted when one of the prototypes crashed during flight testing, killing the pilot and seriously injuring a French observer secretly participating in the test flights. Production began in August 1939. The British called this aircraft the Boston. Only a single turbosupercharged A-20 was built, and subsequent production was of the A-20A with no turbosuperchargers, the Air Force having concluded that it had no need for a high-altitude attack bomber. A small number were assigned to 58 Light Bomber Squadron at Hickam Field at the time of the Pearl Harbor attack, and a second squadron was deployed at the Panama Canal. The Dutch received a small number for the defense of Java, and a few of these were captured intact by the Japanese. The Russians were quite fond of the A-20B in the strafing role.

The A-20’s greatest liability in the Pacific was that it sacrificed range for payload. The legendary "Pappy" Gunn modified the A-20A with an additional four 0.50 machine guns and converted the bomb bay into a huge fuel tank. The aircraft so modified became lethal low-level attack aircraft, capable of shredding enemy aircraft caught on the ground or barges at sea. Racks were installed under the wings for parafrag bombs to sprinkle over airbases or skip bombs for use against merchant ships.  The A-20G standardized Gunn's field modifications. The J and K variants restored the bombardier's position but were used primarily in Europe. Night fighter versions and aircraft configured for intruder missions eliminated the ventral gunner.

Bergerud interviewed an American soldier mistakenly attacked by A-20s who gives us a picture of what it was like to be on the receiving end:

Then the planes arrived late and began attacking our own guys who had advanced. We were scared as hell when we heard an A-20 — you could hear them a mile away they were so loud. When the plane opened up the recoil slowed it down, then would speed up again when it didn't fire, then slow down again. I'd hear those bullets go "bump-bump" against the tree. I made myself very thin.

About 40% of A-20 crews were assigned to the Pacific.

Photo Gallery


A-20A in flight

NMAF

A-20C nose

NMAF

A-20G with bomb bay drop tank

NMAF

T-30 triple rocket launchers mounted on A-20G

NMAF

Cockpit of A-20G

NMAF

Training video



References

AAFSD

Bergerud (2000)

Boyne (1994)

Dunnigan and Nofi (1998)

Gunston (1986, 1988)

Mesko (1994)

National Nuseum of the Air Force (accessed 2013-10-26)

Wilson (1998)


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