Brewster F2A Buffalo

The Brewster F2A Buffalo was an American fighter aircraft which saw service early in World War II. Designed and built by the Brewster Aeronautical Corporation, it was one of the first U.S. monoplanes with an arrestor hook and other modifications for aircraft carriers. The Buffalo won a competition against the Grumman F4F Wildcat in 1939 to become the U.S. Navy's first monoplane fighter aircraft. Although superior to the Grumman F3F biplane it replaced and the early F4Fs, the Buffalo was largely obsolete when the United States entered World War 2 being unstable and overweight, especially when compared to the Japanese Mitsubishi A6M Zero.

Several nations, including Finland, Belgium, Britain and the Netherlands, ordered the Buffalo. Of all the users, the Finns were the most successful with their Buffalos, flying them in combat against early Soviet fighters with excellent results. During the Continuation War of 1941–1944, the B-239s (a de-navalized F2A-1) operated by the Finnish Air Force proved capable of engaging and destroying most types of Soviet fighter aircraft operating against Finland at that time and achieving in the first phase of that conflict 32 Soviet aircraft shot down for every B-239 lost, and producing 36 Buffalo "aces".

In December 1941, Buffalos operated by both British Commonwealth (B-339E) and Dutch (B-339D) air forces in South East Asia suffered severe losses in combat against the Japanese Navy's Mitsubishi A6M Zero and the Japanese Army's Nakajima Ki-43 "Oscar". The British attempted to lighten their Buffalos by removing ammunition and fuel and installing lighter guns to increase performance, but it made little difference. After the first few engagements, the Dutch halved the fuel and ammunition load in the wing, which allowed their Buffalos (and their Hurricanes) to stay with the Oscars in turns. The Buffalo was built in three variants for the U.S. Navy, the F2A-1, F2A-2 and F2A-3. (In foreign service, with lower horsepower engines, these types were designated B-239, B-339, and B-339-23 respectively.) The F2A-3 variant saw action with United States Marine Corps (USMC) squadrons at the Battle of Midway. Shown by the experience of Midway to be no match for the Zero, the F2A-3 was derided by USMC pilots as a "flying coffin." However the F2A-3s performance was substantially inferior to the F2A-2 variant used by the Navy before the outbreak of the war despite detail improvements.

Brewster F2A Buffalo
Class Aircraft
Type Fighter
Manufacturer Brewster Aeronautical Corporation
Origin United States of America
Country Name Origin Year
United States of America 1937
Country Name Operational Year Retirement Year
Australia View
Finland View
Japan View
Netherlands View
United Kingdom - UK (Great Britain) View
United States of America 1939 View
New Zealand View
ManufacturerName Production From Production To Quantity
Brewster Aeronautical Corporation 509 View


  • XF2A-1 : Prototype
  • F2A-1 : (with Wright R-1820-34 Cyclone engine and two guns) for the United States Navy, 11 built.
  • F2A-2 : (with Wright R-1820-40 Cyclone engine and four guns) for the United States Navy and Marines, 43 built.
  • F2A-3 : Improved F2A-2 for the United States Navy with longer range and provision to carry two underwing 100 lb (45 kg) bombs, 108 built. 
  • XF2A-4 : One converted from an F2A-3.
  • B-239 : Export version of the F2A-1 for Finland (with Wright R-1820-G5 Cyclone engines and four guns), 44 built.
  • B-339B : Export version for Belgium, 40 built (only two delivered to Belgium, the rest to the Fleet Air Arm)
  • B-339C : Export version for the Netherlands East Indies with Wright GR-1820-G-105 Cyclone engines; 24 built.
  • B-339D : Export version for the Netherlands East Indies with 1,200 hp (894.8 kW) Wright R-1820-40 Cyclone engines; 48 built (47 delivered to Dutch East Indies).
  • B-339E : Export version of the F2A-2 for the Royal Air Force with Wright GR-1820-G-105 Cyclone engines as the Buffalo Mk I; 170 built (also used by the RAAF and RNZAF)
  • B-339-23 : (a.k.a. B-439) Export version of the F2A-3 for the Netherlands East Indies with 1,200 hp (894.8 kW) Wright GR-1820-G205A engines; 20 built (17 later to the RAAF, some used by the USAAF)
  • B-439 : see B-339-23
  • Buffalo Mk.I : United Kingdom designation of the Model B-339E

The first unit to be equipped with the F2A-1 was Lt. Cdr. Warren Harvey’s VF-3, assigned to USS Saratoga air group. On 8 December 1939, VF-3 received 10 of the 11 Buffalos delivered to the U.S. Navy. The remaining 43 F2A-1s were declared surplus and sold to Finland. Although it was becoming clear the F2A was inferior to the latest German and British fighters—one American observer wrote in late 1940 after visiting Britain that "The best American fighter planes already delivered to the British are used by them either as advanced trainers --or for fighting equally obsolete Italian planes in the Middle East. That is all they are good for" —in the early years of World War II, all modern monoplane fighter types were in high demand, even the F2A. Consequently, the United Kingdom, Belgium, and the Netherlands East Indies purchased several hundred export models of the Buffalo.

Role Single seat fighter
National origin United States
Manufacturer Brewster Aeronautical Corporation
First flight 2 December 1937
Introduction April 1939
Retired 1948
Status Retired
Primary users United States Navy
Finnish Air Force
Royal Air Force
Royal Australian Air Force
Produced 1938–1941
Number built 509
Variants VL Humu

General characteristics

  • Crew: one
  • Length: 26 ft 4 in (8.03 m)
  • Wingspan: 35 ft 0 in (10.67 m)
  • Height: 12 ft 0 in (3.66 m)
  • Wing area: 209 sq ft (19.4 m2)
  • Empty weight: 4,732 lb (2,146 kg)
  • Max takeoff weight: 7,159 lb (3,247 kg)
  • Powerplant: 1 × Wright R-1820-40 Cyclone 9 9-cyl air-cooled radial piston engine, 1,200 hp (890 kW)


  • Maximum speed: 321 mph (517 km/h; 279 kn)
  • Cruise speed: 161 mph (140 kn; 259 km/h)
  • Range: 965 mi (839 nmi; 1,553 km)
  • Service ceiling: 33,200 ft (10,119 m)
  • Rate of climb: 2,440 ft/min (12.4 m/s) [N 9]


  • Guns:
    2 × 0.50 in (12.7 mm) nose-mounted M2 Browning machine guns
    2 × 0.50 in (12.7 mm) wing-mounted M2 Browning machine guns

End notes