The Douglas A-20 Havoc (company designation DB-7) was an American attack, light bomber, intruder aircraft of World War II. It served with several Allied air forces, principally the United States Army Air Forces , the Soviet Air Forces , Soviet Naval Aviation and the Royal Air Force. Soviet units received more than one in three (2,908 aircraft) of the DB-7s ultimately built. It was also used by the air forces of Australia, South Africa, France, and the Netherlands during the war, and by Brazil after the war.
In British Commonwealth air forces, bomber/attack variants of the DB-7 were usually known by the service name Boston, while night fighter and intruder variants were usually known as Havoc. An exception to this was the Royal Australian Air Force, which referred to all variants of the DB-7 by the name Boston. The USAAF referred to night fighter variants as the P-70.
A-20 leaves the assembly line at Long Beach 1942
In March 1937, a design team headed by Donald Douglas, Jack Northrop and Ed Heinemann produced a proposal for a light bomber powered by a pair of 450 hp (336 kW) Pratt & Whitney R-985 Wasp Junior radial engines mounted on a Shoulder wing. It was estimated that it could carry a 1,000 lb (454 kg) bomb load at 250 mph (400 km/h). Reports of aircraft performance from the Spanish Civil War indicated that this design would be seriously under powered, and it was subsequently cancelled.
In the autumn of 1937, the United States Army Air Corps issued its specification for an attack aircraft. The Douglas team, headed by Ed Heinemann, took the Model 7A design, upgraded with 1,100 hp (820 kW) Pratt & Whitney R-1830 Twin Wasp engines, and submitted the design as the Model 7B. It faced competition from the North American NA-40, the Stearman X-100 and the Martin 167F. The Model 7B was maneuverable and fast, but did not attract any US orders.
The model did, however, attract the attention of a French Purchasing Commission visiting the United States. The French discreetly participated in the flight trials, so as not to attract criticism from American isolationists. The Air Corps, which controlled the aircraft’s development, but had been excluded from negotiations between the French, the Production Division, and the Navy’s Bureau of Aeronautics, was directed by the White House on 19 January 1939 to release the DB-7 for assessment in contradiction of its own regulations. The “secret” was revealed when the Model 7B crashed on 23 January while demonstrating single-engine performance. The French were still impressed enough to order 100 production aircraft, with the order increased to 270 when the war began. Sixteen of those had been ordered by Belgium for its Aviation Militaire.
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. In a report to the British Aeroplane and Armament Experimental Establishment at RAF Boscombe Down, test pilots summed it up as: “has no vices and is very easy to takeoff and land … The aeroplane represents a definite advantage in the design of flying controls … extremely pleasant to fly and manoeuvre.” Ex-pilots often consider it their favorite aircraft of the war due to the ability to toss it around like a fighter. The Douglas bomber/night fighter was extremely adaptable and found a role in every combat theater of the war, and excelled as a true “pilot’s aeroplane”.
When DB-7 series production finally ended on 20 September 1944, a total of 7,098 had been built by Douglas and a further 380 by Boeing. Douglas redesigned its Santa Monica plant to create a mechanized production line to produce A-20 Havocs. The assembly line was over a mile long , but by looping back and forth, fitted into a building that was only 700 feet long. Man-hours were reduced by 50% for some operations and production tripled.
The French order called for substantial modifications, resulting in the DB-7 variant. It had a narrower, deeper fuselage, 1,000 hp Pratt & Whitney R-1830-SC3-G radials, French-built guns, and metric instruments. Midway through the delivery phase, engines were switched to 1,100 hp Pratt & Whitney R-1830-S3C4-G. The French designation was DB-7 B-3 (the B-3 signifying “three-seat bomber”).
The DB-7s were shipped in sections to Casablanca for assembly and service in France and French North Africa. When the Germans attacked France and the Low Countries on 10 May 1940, the 64 available DB-7s were deployed against the advancing Germans. Before the armistice they were evacuated to North Africa to avoid capture by German forces. Here, they fell under control of the Vichy government and briefly engaged the Allies during Operation Torch. After French forces in North Africa had sided with the Allies, DB-7s were used as trainers and were replaced in front line units by Martin B-26 Marauders. In early 1945, a few DB-7s were moved back to France, where they saw action against the remaining isolated German pockets on the western coast.
The remainder of the order which was to have been delivered to France was instead taken up by the UK via the British Purchasing Commission. In the course of the war, 24 squadrons operated the Boston. It first entered service with RAF Bomber Command in 1941, equipping No. 88 Squadron. Their first operational use was not until February 1942 against enemy shipping. On 4 July 1942 USAAF bomber crews, flying RAF Boston aircraft, took part in operations in Europe for the first time attacking enemy airfields in the Netherlands. They replaced the Bristol Blenheims of No. 2 Group RAF for daylight operations against occupied Europe until replaced in turn by de Havilland Mosquitos.
Through Lend-Lease, Soviet forces received more than two-thirds of version A-20B planes manufactured and a significant portion of versions G and H. The A-20 was the most numerous foreign aircraft in the Soviet bomber inventory. The Soviet Air Force had more A-20s than the USAAF.
They were delivered via the Alaska-Siberia air ferry route. The aircraft had its baptism of fire at the end of June 1942. The Soviets were dissatisfied with the four .30-calibre Browning machine guns — themselves only capable of firing at a top rate of 600 rounds per gun per minute — and replaced them with the faster-firing, 7.62mm calibre ShKAS, capable of up to 1800 rounds per gun per minute. During the summer of 1942, the Bostons flew ultra-low-level raids against German convoys heavily protected by flak. Attacks were made from altitudes as low as 33 ft (10 metres) and the air regiments suffered heavy losses. By mid-1943 Soviet pilots were very familiar with the A-20B and A-20C. The general opinion was that the aircraft was overpowered and therefore fast and agile. It could make steep turns with an angle of up to 65°, while the tricycle landing gear made for easier take-offs and landings. The type could be flown even by crews with minimal training. The engines were reliable but sensitive to low temperatures, so the Soviet engineers developed special covers for keeping propeller hubs from freezing.By the end of the war, 3,414 A-20s had been delivered to the USSR, 2,771 of which were used by the Soviet Air Force.
The DB-7B was the first batch of this model to be ordered directly by the Royal Air Force. This was done in February 1940. These were powered by the same engines as the DB-7A, with better armor protection. Importantly, these had larger fuel tanks and they were suitable for use by the RAF as light bombers. This was the batch for which the name “Boston” was first assigned but since the DB-7s intended for France entered service in the RAF first, the aircraft in this order were called the Boston Mk III. Among other combat missions, they took part in the attacks on the German warships Scharnhorst, Gneisenau and Prinz Eugen during their dash through the English Channel (Operation Cerberus) and the raid on Dieppe (“Operation Jubilee”). Three hundred Boston III were produced and delivered and some of them were converted for use as night fighters.
The original American indifference to the Model 7B was overcome by the improvements made for the French and British, and the United States Army Air Corps ordered two models, the A-20 for high-altitude bombing and the A-20A for low and medium altitude combat. Both were similar to the DB-7B. The A-20 was to be fitted with turbosupercharged Wright R-2600-7 engines, but these were bulky and the prototype suffered cooling problems, so the remainder were completed with the two-stage supercharged R-2600-11, 59 as P-70 fighters and 3 as F-3 reconnaissance aircraft. One A-20 was evaluated by the U.S. Navy as the BD-1, while the U.S. Marine Corps flew eight as the BD-2.
The A-20C was an attempt to develop a standard, international version of the DB-7/A-20/Boston, produced from 1941. It reverted to the slanting nose glass, and it had RF-2600-23 engines, self-sealing fuel tanks, and additional protective armor. These were equipped to carry an external 2,000 lb (907 kg) aerial torpedo. A total of 948 were built for Britain and the Soviet Union, but many were retained by the USAAF after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The Soviet A-20s were often fitted out with turrets of indigenous design
The RAF received 90 Boston V’s in October and November 1944. The Boston V (A-20K) and the Boston IV (A-20J) are the same except the IV used Wright R2600-23 engines while the V used Wright R2600-29. No 13 Squadron began in 1915 in Gosport doing reconnaissance. They joined WWII in Algeria in 1942 then Egypt and Italy before moving to Greece in September 1945. The No. 13 Squadron Boston V’s were used to lead bombers and would drop flares to mark the area where the bombers should drop their loads.
Other Hobbymaster Arrivals at Flying Tigers next week.
The latest delivery from Hobymaster will be arriving at Sywell next week ready to dispatch. Thank you all for your Pre-Orders and I hope you really like your models when they land with you. Some of these arrivals have already SOLD OUT at Pre Order and will be hard to get going forward.
I always buy some additional stock for those collectors that had missed the model release announcements, but stocks do not usually last long!
Please take a look at the list of arrivals below and if you fancy one of them please place an order as soon as you can. Remember Flying Tigers consolidates your orders as much as possible to save on your dispatch costs, and we do not charge your credit card payment on Pre-Orders until your model comes into stock for dispatch. There is no need to make a deposit when placing your Pre-order models with Flying Tigers.
Hobbymaster 1/48th scale HA7729A P-51D Mustang 414450, Capt C. E. Bud Anderson, 363rd FS, 357th FG, 1944 (SIGNED VERSION) RRP £100 Flying Tigers £99.99, Only 1 available. Limited Edition 60 Pieces Worldwide.
Offers of the week from Flying Tigers.
I have added some items into the “Offer of the week section “. Most of these models are in limited quantities and some are close to selling through already. All of the items shown below are in stock at the time of writing this newsletter, but will likely sell out over the course of the weekend. Apologies in advance if you are beaten to the purchase.
Thank you for taking time to read this week’s Newsletter. I don’t know about you but I can’t wait for warmer Spring weather and the start of the Airshow Season.