The Douglas A-24 was the Army's version of the Navy SBD carrier-based dive bomber. It was almost identical to its Navy counterpart, but the Army's A-24 never achieved the degree of success and immortality as did the SBD. Its relative lack of success in combat led to its early withdrawal from operational service and its relegation to training and other support roles.
The US Navy had been a pioneer in the development of dive-bombing techniques as a means of attack enemy shipping. In contrast, the US Army Air Corps had long been committed to strategic bombing, and had almost completely neglected dive bombing. However, the spectacular results obtained by German Ju 87 Stuka dive bombers during the offensives against Poland, Norway, Denmark, Belgium, Holland and France at the beginning of the Second World War sparked a renewed interest in dive bombing on the part of the USAAC. To explore the possibility of acquiring dive bombers for its own use, in July 1940, the Army borrowed a number of newly-issued Marine Corps SBD-1 Dauntless dive bombers, and had them evaluated by the 24th Bombardment Squadron.
The results of the evaluation were quite favorable, and on September 27, 1940 the War Department ordered 78 examples of the Dauntless under the designation A-24-DE. Although intended for the Army, the aircraft had to be ordered under Navy contracts since the Navy had jurisdiction over the Douglas El Segundo plant. Serials were 41-15746 through -15823.
The A-24 was essentially identical to the Navy SBD-3 but featured Army instrumentation and radio equipment and was fitted with a pneumatic tailwheel rather than the solid rubber tire of the naval version. Like the SBD-3, the A-24 was powered by a 1000-hp Wright R-1820-52 radial and was armed with two fixed forward-firing 0.50-inch machine guns in the engine cowling and a pair of 0.30-inch flexible machine guns on an installation operated by the rear gunner. A swinging bomb cradle with a maximum capacity of 1000 pounds was located underneath the fuselage, and a fixed rack for one 100-pound bomb was mounted underneath each outer wing section.
The first A-24 was delivered to the Army on June 17, 1941. The first operational A-24 unit was the 27th Bombardment Group. It was in the process of been shipped to the Philippines when the war broke out.
41-15746/15823 Douglas A-24-DE Dauntless c/n 802/956 (even numbers)
Engine: One 1000-hp Wright R-1820-52 air-cooled radial engine.
Performance: Maximum speed 250 mph at 17,200 feet, cruising speed 173
mph, climb to 10,000 feet in 7 minutes, service ceiling 26,000 feet.
Normal range 950 miles. Maximum range 1300 miles.
Dimensions: Wingspan 41 feet 6 3/8 inches, length 23 feet 8 inches,
height 13 feet 7 inches, wing area 325 square feet.
Weights: 6181 pounds empty, 9834 pounds loaded, 10,200 pounds
Armament: Two fixed forward-firing 0.50-inch machine guns in the
engine cowling and a pair of 0.30-inch flexible machine guns on an
installation operated by the rear gunner. Maximum capacity of one
1000-pound bomb underneath the fuselage plus one 100-pound bomb
underneath each outer wing section.