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Vultee V-11 / YA-19

The YA-19 was an attack-bomber development of the V-1 airliner. Normally, it had a radial engine and a tail fin similar to the V-1. The XA-19A version had a an experimental 1200hp Lycoming inline engine and extended tail fin. The V-1 sold in very small numbers because, as a single engine aircraft, it did not meet the safety requirements to operate on most routes. The aircraft ultimately failed due to the advent of the twin-engine Douglas DC-2 and DC-3.

The Vultee V-11 [the internal company designation] light bomber was derived from the unsuccessful V-1 passenger transport. The V-11 was an attempt to militarise the type as a two or three seat light bomber and liaison craft. The V-11 featured a long greenhouse-type canopy for the crew, low wing configuration, and a stressed all-metal skin of semi-monocoque construction. The export V-11 supplied to China were equipped with R-1820 Cyclone engines which could drive the bomber along at just over 200mph.

Although many of these V-11 aircraft were exported, the US Army Air Corps rejected it after a few were service-tested briefly. It is probably just as well that they did, because this would probably have turned out to be the U.S. equivalent of the RAF's Fairey Battle. The Army Air Corps decided that they preferred larger, twin-engine, aircraft for this particular combat role, such as the Douglas A-20 Havoc.

Offered for the export market, the V-11A first piqued the interest of the Kuomintang, the Chinese Nationalist government. The Chinese Air Force ordered 30 V-11Gs in 1935, in various states of completion, some as kits that were assembled in Shanghai and nearby Hangzhou. The bombers entered service in late 1937 while the “China Incident” was underway. A number of 850 hp R-1820-G2 Cyclone engines were acquired separately by the Chinese and installed in the Vultee attack planes, whose designation was then changed to V-11G. They ended up manned by the international mercenary pilots of the Fourteenth Squadron, based in Hangzhou, in skirmishes against the Japanese in 1938.

The initial batch struggled to make an impression under the difficult combat conditions, and more emphasis was placed on training crews on the Soviet SB-2 and DB-3 bombers. Later batches of improved V-12s enjoyed some success, but had largely been withdrawn from frontline service by 1940.

A European demonstrator V-11GB was among the group of forty units ordered by Turkey. Designated V-11GBTs, they added to the mind-bogglingly motley nature of the Turkish Air Force, which by the early 1940s also had aircraft of British, German, French, Polish and Soviet origin.

In 1938, the Brazilian Army Aviation placed an order for 25 aircraft, which were designated V-11GB2 and had a single gun instead of a pair on each wing. They served throughout World War II in coastal patrol duties, and on 26 February 1942 a V-11GB2 attacked a German submarine off Ararangu· (about 29 degrees S). They started to be decommissioned after the end of the war, and many ended their days as ground trainers.

The V-12 (1939) was an improved version with a 783-kW engine. The V-12C (1940) was bought by China, replacing two of the .30-cal wing guns with .50-cal M-2 Brownings (Long Aircraft HMGs). Internal bomb load was increased to 1,080 lbs. Speed was 243 mph in the attack role and 222 mph in the level bomber role. Twenty-five were built under license, plus one pattern aircraft. The V-12D (1941) introduced a much more powerful 1,193-kW engine, producing 281 mph in the attack role and 270 mph in the level bomber role. The wing guns were replaced by a single Long Aircraft HMG and Aircraft LMG in the nose. Two planes were delivered to China, as well as the parts to assemble 50 more. However, as Chinese positions were overrun by the Japanese, the parts were sent to India and it is unknown how many of these 50 were actually assembled or used, although it may have been as few as three.

Allied intelligence erroneously believed that the V-11 was in Japanese service, and so assigned the Allied Reporting Name “Millie” to the type in 1942.

The USAAC was the last military service in the world to order this U.S.-made bomber, some six months after Gerald Vultee died in an accident while returning from a sales pitch to Army authorities. Seven airframes were ordered as service test aircraft and designated YA-19. Those were modified from the regular V-11GBs, with a different cowling housing a 1200 hp Pratt & Whitney R-1830-17 Twin Wasp powerplant. Other features that distinguished the YA-19 from the export V-11GBs were a loop antenna instead of the “football” type on the aft fuselage, a carburetor intake placed above and behind the cowling and a 1080-pound bombload.

All YA-19s were stationed at March Field, California, and later transferred to the Panama Canal Zone, where they carried military attachés on duty throughout Central and South America. None of them were involved in any offensive military operation, and by the late ’30s, with the advent of multiple-engine attack bombers, the obsolete YA-19 slowly faded into oblivion.

Vultee V-11GB
Role Light bomber
Crew 2: Pilot, radioman/gunner
Powerplant 1 x Wright R-1820-G2 Cyclone, 850hp
Speed (cruise/max) 188mph / 214mph
Ceiling 23,000ft
Range 2,380 miles
Armament 3 x .30cal machine guns
Ordnance 1,100lb bombs
Dimensions (L/W/H) 37ft 6in / 50ft 0in / 10ft 0in
Weight (empty/max) 6,176lb / 11,437lb

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