| Continued from above… of the most widely used aircraft in history. Most AAF fighter pilots trained in AT-6s prior to graduation from flying school. |
Many of the "Spitfire" and "Hurricane" pilots in the Battle of Britain trained in Canada in "Harvards," the British version of the AT-6. To comply with neutrality laws, U.S. built Harvards were flown north to the border and were pushed across.
In 1948, Texans still in USAF service were redesignated as T-6s when the AT, BT and PT aircraft designations were abandoned. To meet an urgent need for close air support of ground forces in the Korean Conflict, T-6s flew "mosquito missions" spotting enemy troops and guns and marking them with smoke rockets for attack by fighter-bombers.
While used primarily as a trainer, many of the foreign models did see combat, one Wirraway being credited with splashing a Japanese Zero.
In Korea, they served as forward air controllers with the 6147th Tactical Control Group. The rear seat was occupied by an observer, and the craft was equipped with smoke rockets to mark targets for fighter bombers.
|Variously called the Texan (USAAF), Harvard (RAF), Yale, I-Bird, Mosquito, Wirraway (Australia), T-6 and SNJ (USN), the AT-6 appeared in 1940, a derivation of North American's NA-16 design drawn up for the 1937 Air Corp competition (which was won by the NA-16 incidentally). In all, over 17,000 aircraft were produced, not taking into account the numbers rebuilt from existing airframes, or others that used the AT-6 technology, such as the P-64 or Boomerang. |
The AT-6 Texan became the classroom for the majority of the Allied pilots who flew in World War II, and trained several hundred thousand pilots in 34 different countries. It's basic design was as a trainer, with the characteristics of a high speed fighter, and was well suited to the intermediary task of training pilots before letting them loose in an actual fighter aircraft. Although not as fast as a fighter, it was easy to maintain and repair, had more maneuverability and was easier to handle. A pilot's airplane, it could roll, Immelmann, loop, spin, snap, and vertical roll. It was used to train pilots in all aspects of tactical operations, such as dog-fighting, ground strafing, carrier landings, and bombardment. It also included the capacity for fixed and flexible guns, cameras, and just about any other device that the military required.
Widely exported, the Texan served with at least 55 air forces worldwide. Civilian models were, and still are, used as pylon racers, sport aircraft, mail carrier, and even as an air-liner. She saw action in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam, as well as dozens of brush-fire wars around the world including Algeria, the Congo, Biafra, the Middle East and throughout Latin America. Despite its impressive war record, the Texan is best known as a trainer, and is affectionately know as 'PILOT MAKER'. In the words of one airman ''The best machine ever built to turn gasoline into noise'.
The North American Texan trainer is one of the most important aircraft of all time and is universally recognized. First built as the NA-16 in 1935, the Texan was in continual production for nearly 10 years and in active use for more than five decades. Primarily used as a trainer, the Texan remains a favorite among Warbird collectors around the world.
Few aircraft make the jump from mere machine to legend, and the AT-6 Texan can stand proud beside the likes of Sopwith Camel, the B-17 Flying Fortress, B-24 Liberator, Spitfire, or P-51 Mustang.
| Fact File: |
North American Harvard
Important Allied training aircraft
The North American Aircraft Corporation's NA-16 series of the mid-1930's led to the adoption in 1937 by the United States Army Air Corps of the NA-26 in the form of the BC-1 Basic Combat Trainer. The USAAC ordered 180 and the RAF was eventually to receive 400 as the Harvard 1. It served as a general purpose trainer until the Advanced Trainer specification changed the BC designation to AT-6. Both the BC-1 and the AT-6, which became the RAF's Harvard 11, had retractable undercarriages but basically resembled the earlier NA models.
Under the Lend-Lease scheme the RAF received 1,173 Harvard l1s and used them extensively both in the UK and in the various countries which operated the Empire Air Training Scheme. Many schools in Canada were equipped with Harvards and the Canadians themselves produced 1,500 Noorduyn AT-16 versions with a different engine, which equipped both the USAAF under this designation, and the RAF as the Harvard 11B, as well as the RCAF. The USAAF employed the various developments of the AT-6, the
AT-6A, the AT-6B gunnery trainer with its different Mark of Wasp engine, and the AT-6C, which had a different voltage electrical system. The 726 AT-6Cs delivered to the RAF were known as Harvard 11 As and the AT-6Ds which equipped the RAF (351) and the Fleet Air Arm (564) became the Harvard 111. These later Marks were to equip the Flying Training School in Southern Rhodesia in large numbers. The differences between all these Marks were really very minor; the common denominator was the Wasp engine with its deafening roar which betrayed the Harvard's presence frequently before it could be seen. This was the Pratt and Whitney 600 hp (447 kw) R-1340 series. Both engine and aircraft proved most reliable and provided countless thousands of pilots with advanced flying training in bombing, blind flying, gunnery and air photography.
Span: 42' (12.8 m). Length: 29' (8.8 m). Gross weight: 5,300 lbs (2404 kg). Maximum speed: 208 mph (335 khp). Ceiling: 21,000 ft (6,096). Armament: a variety of fixed and moveable .30" (7.7 mm) machine-guns, and external bomb racks.
By Debs McCaffrey