Buffalos at Singapore

Fast, maneuverable, deadly — Brewster fighters stand guard

At Britain's great Singapore naval base, which stands in the way of Japan's greedy "Asia for the Japanese" policy, not the least of the formidable defenses are the Royal Air Force's "hangar after hangar" of' Brewster Buffalo fighters.

Named after the water buffalo of the Far East, a dangerous fighter from whose fury even the tiger slinks, but easily manageable by its master when domesticated, the Brewster 339 has been lauded for its high maneuverability in close quarter combat.

Arriving from the U.S. in ocean transports, each ship packed in two cases, the Buffalos are completely assembled and in operation within 24 hours. A midwing monoplane, powered with a supercharged 9-cylinder GR-1820-40 Wright Cyclone of 1200 hp at takeoff, the ship has a top speed of about 350 mph, rate of climb from sea level of 4000 ft per min, service ceiling of 34 000 ft and a cruising endurance of 10 hr, 40 min. Equipped with four .50-caliber machine guns, two inside the engine cowl firing through the propeller, and one in each wing, the plane also carries two 100-lb bombs. Fuel tanks are bulletproof and the pilot is protected by bulletproof windshield and armor plating. Exceptionally good visibility is provided by the extension of the glass enclosure of the pilot's cockpit well aft, while downward vision is enhanced by a Plexiglas window in the floor of the cockpit.

Fuselage is a monocoque structure and the entire exterior surface of the plane is flush riveted, a factor contributing to its speed. Each wing section is a complete unit and bolts directly to the fuselage. The single spar is of box-type design, with great strength. In assembling the Buffalo in the Far East, the wing is placed on holding fixtures and the fuselage is then lowered over it and bolted into place. Fuel tanks are integral with the wing and connection of fuel lines between fuselage and wing and the control cables is a comparatively simple task after the planes arrive. The Buffalo is provided complete with machine guns, armor plating, and bulletproof gas tanks, and is ready for combat service immediately upon assembly.

Tail structure is cantilever type and of all metal construction except for fabric covered elevators and rudder. Landing gear retracts sideways into the wing and fuselage, and is equipped with hydraulic brakes.

The midwing arrangement, carefully determined placement and balancing of tail and control surfaces, and the efficient leveraging of the control system all contribute to the extreme maneuverability of the Brewster 339 which is said to have been flown satisfactorily by pilots with less than 100 hours of flying time.

Features contributing to the Buffalo's high speed are the efficient tapering of the wing, clean cantilever design of the tail structure, flush riveting, and complete enclosure of all devices that it is possible to keep within fair aerodynamic lines. Stable stall characteristics of the wing are accomplished without the aid of special stall prevention devices. Landings and stalls may be made without any tendency for one wing to drop. Stall action is a gradual settling of the nose without dropping off at either side. According to RAF fighter pilots, the Buffalo is "a delight to handle," and "can turn on a cent."

Quick assembly is aided by the method of packing. Each ship is packed in two cases, one of which contains engine-mounted fuselage, landing gear and parts, and the other containing the wing with propeller and tail surfaces.

Specifications and performance data available for publication on the Wright Cyclone-powered Brewster Buffalo are:

Span…… 35'
Length…… 25' 8"
Height…… 12' 1"
Wing area…… 209 sq ft
Gross weight…… 6,520 lb
Maximum speed
(at 16,600 ft)
…… 345 mph
Rate of climb (SL)…… 4,000 ft/min
Service ceiling…… 34,000 ft
Cruising endurance…… 10 hr 40 min

This article was originally published in the "Flying Equipment" column in the August, 1941, issue of Aviation magazine, vol 40, no 6, pp 105, 206.
The original article includes 2 photos, a 3-view silhouette, and the data table above.
Photos are not credited.