The Brewster F2A Buffalo was the first monoplane fighter to be purchased by the US Navy. The F2A originated in a November 1935 US Navy Request for Proposals for a carrier borne fighter that could reach 300 MPH in level flight. The sought for aircraft would replace the Grumman F3F which was then in service. Three companies offered designs for consideration. Grumman offered the XF4F biplane, an evolution of their F3F. Seversky offered a navalized P-35 for consideration. The, relatively new to aviation manufacturer, Brewster Aeronautical Corporation offered the XF2A. Originally, the Brewster design was not able to reach 300 mph but testing was done in the Langley Research Center’s high speed wind tunnel and after some aerodynamic refinements the F2A was able to achieve 304 MPH. Although the Grumman XF4F-1 design would morph into the successful F4F Wildcat monoplane the Brewster design proved superior to the biplane XF4F-1. The Seversky XFNF-1 submittal could not even reach 267 mph in level flight and was dropped from consideration.

       An order was placed for one XF2A-1(Brewster Model B-139) prototype on June 22, 1936. The XF2A-1 was a modern all metal monoplane design with an enclosed cockpit and a streamlined canopy, split flaps and hydraulically retracting landing gear. Armament consisted of one 30 caliber and one 50 caliber machine gun, both of which were mounted in the nose. The Brewster XF2A-1 first flew in December 1937 with service testing beginning in January 1938. A production contract was awarded to Brewster for 54 F2A-1s. The XF2A-1 was eventually brought up to F2A-2 standard and would serve as the XF2A-2 prototype.

       As would become a recurring theme with Brewster, production lagged with the F2A-1 and the US Navy would only receive 11, the remaining 43 of this original production run would be declared “surplus” and be sold to Finland. The Finns, who were fighting a desperate war against the Russians at this time, would have better luck with the Buffalo than any other user of this aircraft. The United Kingdom, Belgium and the Netherlands East Indies were all desperate for modern aircraft and received later versions of the F2A and found them to be unable to compete against front line aircraft of the Axis powers. The first version of the F2A was lightly armed, lacked armor protection for vital areas and had limited range when compared to other front line fighters. When these problems were addressed the aircraft‘s weight increased and performance suffered. The Buffalo was soon relegated to fighting in areas where its opposition was second line aircraft. Another major problem with the design, especially with US Navy usage, was a weak main landing gear.

      The Buffalo would see limited service with the US Navy and Marine squadrons. By June of 1940 Fighting Squadron 3 (VF-3), on board CV-3 USS Saratoga, had a mixture of F2A-1s and Grumman F3Fs. Early 1941 saw a transition from the F2A-1 to the F2A-2 and in August the F2A-3 arrived. By the time of Pearl Harbor, the squadron was equipped solely with the Grumman F3F Wildcat.

      VF-2, "The Flying Chiefs”, on board CV-2 USS Lexington received the F2A-2 by November 1940, transitioned to the F2A-3 by December 1941 and were exclusively using the Grumman F4F by January 1942.

       Scouting Squadron 201 (VS-201) was assigned to the new type escort carrier AVG-1 USS Long Island. F2A-1s that had been brought up to F2A-2 standard were received by the squadron in early 1941. The squadron conducted sea trials to prove the feasibility of aircraft operations with this new class of ship during the summer of 1941. Starting in August, the squadron began transitioning to the F2A-3. Shortly after Pearl Harbor VS-201 became a shore based training unit and would eventually give up their Buffaloes for other aircraft.

       Marine Fighting Squadron 221 (VMF-221) was originally intended as part of a failed replenishment mission to Wake Island aboard the USS Saratoga. The squadron ended up on Midway Island. On March 10, 1942 a Kawanishi H8K “Emily” was shot down by Captain James L. Neefus, the Buffalo’s first kill in US Service. On June 4, 1942 in the opening stages of the Battle of Midway, the initial Japanese attack was intercepted by a mixture of F2A Buffaloes and F4F Wildcats. While several bombers were shot down, the defending Marine aircraft did not fare well against the Japanese Zeros.

       The US Navy and Marine Corps stopped using the Brewster Buffalo as a frontline fighter after The Battle of Midway. Any remaining examples were shipped back to the US mainland and relegated to the advanced training role.

       The subject of this model is a Brewster F2A-2 Buffalo marked as a 3rd Section Leader of VF-1, "The Flying Chiefs”, while embarked on CV-2 USS Lexington sometime during late 1940. The Lemon Yellow tail surfaces were used by aircraft aboard the Lexington and the Aluminum fuselage and lower wings with the Orange Yellow upper wing surfaces were in use until December, 1940. The blue wing chevron, fuselage band and cowling designate an aircraft of the 3rd section.

       Fighting Squadron 2 - VF-2 “The Flying Chiefs” can trace its lineage back to President Coolidge who in September 1925 appointed the Morrow Board to study the problems inherent with Naval Aviation. One of the findings of the Morrow Board was that a heavy drain was being placed on the Naval officer corps by the need of having pilots be officers. A study was done concerning the use of enlisted pilots in naval aviation. Congress acted on the results and fixed a 3 to 1 ratio of officers to enlisted pilots thus increasing the pool of personnel available to be pilots.

       VF-2 was organized in January 1927 with one officer and 2 enlisted Naval Aviation Pilots (NAP) in each section. Over the years the squadron would change its mission and designation from VF-2 to VF-2B (B for Battle Fleet) to VF2S (S for Scouting) and back to VF-2. By the late 30s the squadron was made up almost exclusively of enlisted pilots and its logo would be the Chief Petty Officer Chevron and a shield bearing the word “Adorimini” (Literal translation is “Attack”). The “Flying Chiefs” of Fighting Two were regarded as an elite unit for most of their existence.

       For a while during the twenties and thirties, as the number of US Navy aircraft carriers increased, the aviation unit number designations reflected the carrier they were based on, thus VF2 (Fighting Two), VT2 (Torpedo Two) and VS2 (Scouting Two) would all be aboard CV-2 USS Lexington.

       As mentioned above, at the time of Pearl Harbor, VF-2 was flying the F2A-3 Buffalo and had transitioned to the Grumman F4F Wildcat by early spring of 1942. The unit saw its first combat on May 7, 1942 at the Battle of the Coral Sea during which the “Lady Lex” succumbed to battle damage and was scuttled to prevent her hulk from falling into Japanese hands. With their carrier gone the “Flying Chiefs” were disbanded.

       In 1943, VF2 was reestablished and disbanded again at the end of World War II. In 1972, VF2 was once again established to fly the Grumman F-14 Tomcat as the “Bounty Hunters” and lives on today as VFA-2 flying the F/A-18F Super Hornet.

       Tamiya is up to their usual standard of excellence with the fit of the pieces in this kit. I built it right out of the box and it makes a welcome addition to my collection of U.S. Navy aircraft. The only area were some detail is lacking is the inside of the wheel bays that are very sparse in detail. Assembly went well and very little sanding or puttying was required to make the seams disappear.

       The first step in the painting of this model was to use Testors Model Master FS13538 Chrome Yellow for the top of the wings. The cowling and fuselage band were painted using Model Master FS 15050 Blue Angel Blue and the tail surface were painted using Model Master FS33538 Insignia Yellow. After these areas were masked off I did something I don’t normally do, I used a rattle can to spray the aluminum color. Per the instruction sheet, Tamiya TS30 Silver Leaf was used to finish the paint job.

       I had some problems with the decals for the wing chevrons. They go over the bump in the wing for the twin 50 caliber machine guns and they have to do a lot of bending to fit. I am pretty happy with the outcome of my modeling efforts on this kit.

Bibliography:

       Wikipedia Article on the Brewster F2A Buffalo

       Aviation History Online Museum - Brewster F2A Buffalo

       Brewster F2A Buffalo by Jack McKillop

       Military Aircraft Factory - Brewster F2A Buffalo

       World War II Headquarters - Brewster F2A Buffalo

       U.S. Naval History And Hieritage Command - Brewster F2A Buffalo

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