The Most Underrated US Combat Plane Of WW2

The Most Underrated US Combat Plane Of WW2 | World War Wings Videos

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This plane we’re going to talk about falls into a strange category. While it has an impressive combat record, it doesn’t get a lot of recognition for its combat exploits.

What is this super weapon? It’s the Consolidated PBY Catalina. 

Basic Design

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The Catalina wasn’t the most modern flying boat in the war. Introduced in 1936, it was already considered obsolete by the time 1941 rolled in. 

Still, it was an extremely sleek airplane whose high wing rode above its trim body on a streamlined pylon. Two of its engines are mounted on the wing, while pontoons stabilized the plane in water.

When it flew, they retract to form the wingtips. 

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For thirteen years, the Catalina’s design kept on evolving. Many of these planes were later fitted with retractable wheels, allowing them to function on either land or water.

First For Everything

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PBY Catalinas were present in almost every naval engagement in the US during the war and has several firsts for a US plane flown by the US military in WWII.

It was the first plane to attack the Japanese, flew in the first offensive raid against the Japanese, the first US plane to score an air-to-air kill against a Japanese fighter, and at Midway, was one of the planes to score a hit on a Japanese ship.

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It was the only US plane to score a hit on a torpedo during the Battle of Midway.

Untimely Demise?

Ironically, WWII also brought the flying boat’s demise for three reasons: Airport development, engine reliability, and helicopters.

After the war ended, airports were extremely common, and engines became reliable enough so that four-engined piston-powered airliners like the DC-6 could cross the ocean safely in pressurized comfort.

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Helicopters also took over sea rescue duties. Thus, there wasn’t much place for flying boats anymore. 

Production for flying boats halted in 1946. While it lingered in military service for another 20 years, numbers were significantly reduced.

Today, it’s extremely rare to see an operational military flying boat.

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Is the PBY Catalina the most underrated WWII US combat plane of all time? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!

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