The Brewster is a single-seat all-metal fighter. The prototype flew in December 1937, and after flight testing and modifications, the United States Navy ordered 54 aircraft in June 1938. The first variant to enter serial production was the F2A-1. Only nine aircraft from the first batch were deployed to the carrier Saratoga. The remainder of the order was split between the F2A-2 and F2A-3 variants with more powerful engines.
On the eve of the Winter War, Finland was feverishly looking abroad for new fighters since most aircraft in service at the time were considered obsolete. With the war already going on in Central Europe, the desired option of acquiring armaments from European countries proved to be very difficult to implement. Therefore, in mid-December 1939, 44 Brewster F2A-1s that had not been delivered to the United States Navy were bought from the United States. The aircraft were disarmed and stripped of naval equipment and redesignated as Model 239.
The aircraft were shipped to Stavanger, Norway, whence they were transported by rail to Trollhättan, Sweden, for assembly at the Saab factory. The first aircraft reached Finland in early March 1940, too late to see action in the Winter War. In the spring of 1940, the Brewsters were allocated to Air Squadron 24, in which they served until 1944. In the early stages of the Continuation War, they formed the backbone of the fighter arm of the Air Force and achieved an excellent kill ratio of 1:32, destroying 480 enemy aircraft during the war. This success was mainly due to the reliability of the aircraft, the professionalism of the Finnish pilots and maintainers and the pedestrian performance of the opponent’s aircraft and pilots in the early stages of the war.
The Air Force retired its last Brewsters in September 1948. A Finno-Russian-American search group lifted the museum’s BW-372 from lake Iso-Kolejärvi in Eastern Karelia in August 1998. Lieutenant Lauri Ohukainen (later Pekuri) had ditched the aircraft after it had sustained severe battle damage on 25th June 1942. The aircraft was subsequently acquired by the National Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, Florida. Since the spring of 2009, the aircraft has been on loan to the Finnish Air Force Museum, where it has been conserved. BW-372 is a world-class rarity: it is not only the world’s last surviving Brewster fighter, but also the museum’s only aircraft bearing battle damage.
Brewster Aeronautical Corporation, USA
Wing span 10.67 m; Maximum speed 480 km/h; Length 8.05 m; Height 3.66 m.