The SB2U Vindicator: the Forgotten Bird in 24 Images

SB2U Vindicators on USS Ranger (CV-4) in November 1941

The 1930s saw the development of the SB2U Vindicator dive bomber. This was a result of military technology rapidly evolve in all areas, aircraft in particular.

Military aircraft had only been around for about two decades, and nations around the world were scrambling to achieve the next big break through in this field of aeronautics. Many aircraft came from these exploratory offshoots.

Aircraft were not the only industry that was experiencing large scale developments, so too was naval technology. Huge battleships armed with enormous guns, and mobile landing strip aircraft carriers were being deployed around the world

A U.S. Marine Corps Vought SB2U-3 Vindicator dive bomber of Marine scout bombing squadron VMSB-241 taking off from Eastern Island, Midway Atoll, during the Battle of Midway, 4-6 June 1942.
A U.S. Marine Corps Vought SB2U-3 Vindicator dive bomber of Marine scout bombing squadron VMSB-241 taking off from Eastern Island, Midway Atoll, during the Battle of Midway, 4-6 June 1942.

Not everyone was fortunate enough to be in on this expansion though, as only the biggest superpowers could afford the investments required.

At this time the United States started becoming a serious player at sea, wielding one of the largest naval fleets in the world. Knowing ships couldn’t do everything, the US government outlined requirements in 1934 for a new scout bomber that could be deployed from Navy aircraft carriers.

Voughts attempt at satisfying these requirements was with the XSB2U-1 dive bomber, which was ready in 1936.

It was selected for production, and named the SB2U Vindicator. It carried one pilot, one tail gunner, and a 1,000 lb (450 kg) bomb. The wings also had mount points for additional bombs, making the maximum bomb load 1,500 lbs (680 kgs).

A U.S. Marine Corps Vought SB2U-3 Vindicator from Marine Scout Bombing Squadron VMSB-131 Diamondbacks in flight.
A U.S. Marine Corps Vought SB2U-3 Vindicator from Marine Scout Bombing Squadron VMSB-131 Diamondbacks in flight.

Due to the rapid progress of technology still happening as World War Two broke out, by the time the Vindicator saw combat it was already starting to lag behind.

The SB2U fought in the early Pacific campaign, where it partook in the Battle of Midway in 1942, helping SBD Dauntless dive bombers in attacking the Japanese cruiser Mikuma.

Due being on the edge of obsolescence, the SB2Us were often over shadowed by newer models, and resultingly mocked by pilots experienced with more modern aircraft. Belittling nicknames like “Vibrator” and “Wind Indicator” were applied to the aircraft.

The Vindicator served valiantly during its short life in the war, being used by the US Navy and Marine Corps, as well as the Royal Navy and French Navy.

A U.S. Navy Vought SB2U Vindicator (42-S-17) of Scouting Squadron 42 (VS-42) returning to the aircraft carrier USS Ranger (CV-4) on 4 December 1941. Ranger was escorting a convoy in the Atlantic.
A U.S. Navy Vought SB2U Vindicator (42-S-17) of Scouting Squadron 42 (VS-42) returning to the aircraft carrier USS Ranger (CV-4) on 4 December 1941. Ranger was escorting a convoy in the Atlantic.

Those used by the French saw action during the evacuation of Dunkirk, providing air cover to the Allied forces. Once France fell to Germany, inbound orders from the US were redirected to Britain.

As time went on the writing was on the wall for the Vindicator. Modifications were made to extend the life of the aircraft, but it wasn’t to be. The airframe simply couldn’t keep up with the rapid pace of development for both aircraft and the means to bring them down.

The aircraft was retired from combat in 1942, being resigned to training duties.

A U.S. Navy Vought SB2U-2 Vindicator (BuNo 1369) of scouting squadron VS-72 taxis at Naval Air Station Norfolk, Virginia (USA), in January 1941
A U.S. Navy Vought SB2U-2 Vindicator (BuNo 1369) of scouting squadron VS-72 taxis at Naval Air Station Norfolk, Virginia (USA), in January 1941

 

A Vought XSB2U-3 Vindicator experimental floatplane in flight, late 1930s.
A Vought XSB2U-3 Vindicator experimental floatplane in flight, late 1930s.

 

Convoy WS-12- A Vought SB2U Vindicator scout bomber from USS Ranger (CV-4) flies anti-submarine patrol over the convoy, while it was en route to Cape Town, South Africa, 27 November 1941.
Convoy WS-12- A Vought SB2U Vindicator scout bomber from USS Ranger (CV-4) flies anti-submarine patrol over the convoy, while it was en route to Cape Town, South Africa, 27 November 1941.

 

In 1939 a single Vought SB2U-1 Vindicator dive bomber (BuNo 2044) was converted as a floatplane and designated XSB2U-3.
In 1939 a single Vought SB2U-1 Vindicator dive bomber (BuNo 2044) was converted as a floatplane and designated XSB2U-3.

 

Oakland Airport 1939. The pilot’s name on the plane is Aviation Cadet George H. Carter. The normal complement of a Navy squadron in 1939 was 18 planes so this is a rare photo.
Oakland Airport 1939. The pilot’s name on the plane is Aviation Cadet George H. Carter. The normal complement of a Navy squadron in 1939 was 18 planes so this is a rare photo.

 

One of the seven Vought SB2U-3 Vindicators of U.S. squadron VMSB-231 destroyed on the field at Ewa during the attack on Pearl Harbor
One of the seven Vought SB2U-3 Vindicators of U.S. squadron VMSB-231 destroyed on the field at Ewa during the attack on Pearl Harbor

 

SB2U-3s on deck of Wasp in June 1942.
SB2U-3s on deck of Wasp in June 1942.

 

The only known to exist Vought SB2U-2 Vindicator Bureau Number 1383 on display at the National Naval Aviation Museum. Recovered by A and T Recovery from Lake Michigan in 1990.
The only known to exist Vought SB2U-2 Vindicator Bureau Number 1383 on display at the National Naval Aviation Museum. Recovered by A and T Recovery from Lake Michigan in 1990.

 

The Vought XSB3U-1 (BuNo 9834) at the NACA Langley Research Center, Virginia (USA), 1 December 1938. One plane was built, making its first flight in 1936.
The Vought XSB3U-1 (BuNo 9834) at the NACA Langley Research Center, Virginia (USA), 1 December 1938. One plane was built, making its first flight in 1936.

 

Three U.S. Navy Vought SB2U Vindicators from Scouting Squadron 72 (VS-72) from the USS Wasp (CV-7) in flight over water on 4 December 1941.
Three U.S. Navy Vought SB2U Vindicators from Scouting Squadron 72 (VS-72) from the USS Wasp (CV-7) in flight over water on 4 December 1941.

 

Three U.S. Navy Vought SB2U-1 Vindicator aircraft (BuNo 0739, 0740, 0741) of Bombing Squadron 3 (VB-3) “Tophatters” in flight over the Sierra Nevada range near Mount Whitney on 11 July 1938.
Three U.S. Navy Vought SB2U-1 Vindicator aircraft (BuNo 0739, 0740, 0741) of Bombing Squadron 3 (VB-3) “Tophatters” in flight over the Sierra Nevada range near Mount Whitney on 11 July 1938.

 

Three Vought V-156F in the hangar of the aircraft carrier Béarn.Unknown CC BY-SA 4.0
Three Vought V-156F in the hangar of the aircraft carrier Béarn.Unknown CC BY-SA 4.0

 

U.S. Navy Vought SB2U Vindicator dive bombers of Bombing Squadron VB-4 High Hatters in formation during the movie Dive Bomber (1941).
U.S. Navy Vought SB2U Vindicator dive bombers of Bombing Squadron VB-4 High Hatters in formation during the movie Dive Bomber (1941).

 

Vought SB2U Vindicator, Naval Aviation Museum, Pensacola, Florida.Photo Greg Goebel CC BY-SA 2.0
Vought SB2U Vindicator, Naval Aviation Museum, Pensacola, Florida.Photo Greg Goebel CC BY-SA 2.0

 

Vought SB2U-1 3-B-10.Photo Bill Larkins CC BY-SA 2.0
Vought SB2U-1 3-B-10.Photo Bill Larkins CC BY-SA 2.0

 

Vought SB2U-1 Vindicator.Photo Kaboldy CC BY-SA 3.0
Vought SB2U-1 Vindicator.Photo Kaboldy CC BY-SA 3.0

 

Vought SB2U-2 landing 1940
Vought SB2U-2 landing 1940

 

Vought SB2U-3 Vindicator VS-1
Vought SB2U-3 Vindicator VS-1

 

Vought-Sikorsky SB2U-1 “Vindicator” (Bu# 0741), Scouting Bombing Plane, over San Joaquin Valley, California, June 28, 1938.
Vought-Sikorsky SB2U-1 “Vindicator” (Bu# 0741), Scouting Bombing Plane, over San Joaquin Valley, California, June 28, 1938.

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Vought-Sikorsky SB2U-1 “Vindicator”– front cockpit installations.
Vought-Sikorsky SB2U-1 “Vindicator”– front cockpit installations.