The US Navy had been a pioneer in the development of dive-bombing techniques as a means of attack enemy shipping. In contrast, the US Army Air Corps had long been committed to strategic bombing, and had almost completely neglected dive bombing. However, the spectacular results obtained by German Ju 87 Stuka dive bombers during the offensives against Poland, Norway, Denmark, Belgium, Holland and France at the beginning of the Second World War sparked a renewed interest in dive bombing on the part of the USAAC. To explore the possibility of acquiring dive bombers for its own use, in July 1940, the Army borrowed a number of newly-issued Marine Corps SBD-1 Dauntless dive bombers, and had them evaluated by the 24th Bombardment Squadron.
The results of the evaluation were quite favorable, and on September 27, 1940 the War Department ordered 78 examples of the Dauntless under the designation A-24-DE. Although intended for the Army, the aircraft had to be ordered under Navy contracts since the Navy had jurisdiction over the Douglas El Segundo plant. Serials were 41-15746 through -15823.
The A-24 was essentially identical to the Navy SBD-3 but featured Army instrumentation and radio equipment and was fitted with a pneumatic tailwheel rather than the solid rubber tire of the naval version. Like the SBD-3, the A-24 was powered by a 1000-hp Wright R-1820-52 radial and was armed with two fixed forward-firing 0.50-inch machine guns in the engine cowling and a pair of 0.30-inch flexible machine guns on an installation operated by the rear gunner. A swinging bomb cradle with a maximum capacity of 1000 pounds was located underneath the fuselage, and a fixed rack for one 100-pound bomb was mounted underneath each outer wing section.
The first A-24 was delivered to the Army on June 17, 1941. The first operational A-24 unit was the 27th Bombardment Group. It was in the process of been shipped to the Philippines when the war broke out.
Serials of A-24-DE:
41-15746/15823 Douglas A-24-DE Dauntless c/n 802/956 (even numbers)
Technical Notes on the Douglas A-24:
Armament: Two .50-cal. fixed machine guns in the nose and twin .30-cal. flexible machine guns in rear cockpit; 1,200-lb. bombs (in Java, A-24s one Dutch 600-lb. bomb on the centerline and one 110-lb. bomb on each wing)
Engine: Wright R-1820-52 of 1,000 hp
Weights: 6181 pounds empty, 9834 pounds loaded, 10,200 pounds maximum.
Maximum speed: 250 mph/217 knots
Cruising speed: 173 mph/150 knots
Range: 950 miles with 1,200 lbs. of bombs
Ceiling: 26,000 ft.
Span: 41 ft. 6 in.
Length: 33 ft.
Height: 12 ft. 11 in.
Weight: 10,200 lbs. maximum