Douglas A-20 Havoc

The Douglas A-20 was the first version of the Havoc to be ordered by the US Army Air Corps. The Havoc had been designed to satisfy a US Army competition for an attack aircraft, but the first orders for the new Douglas DB-7 came from the French. The RAF was also interested in the DB-7, although their first order did not come until February 1940. The first US Army Air Corps order came in May-June 1939, and was for 63 aircraft similar to the DB-7B, then being developed for the RAF, and easily recognisable by the straight edge to the nose windows.  Deliveries of the A-20 began in the middle of 1940.

Seemly just to confuse later historians when the USAAF chose a name for the A-20 bomber it chose Havoc, the name used by the RAF for their night fighter variant of the same aircraft. When the USAAF in turn came to produce a night fighter based on the A-20, it chose yet another another name – the P-70 Nighthawk.

Douglas A-20 Havoc practising skip bombing
Douglas A-20 Havoc
practising skip bombing

The A-20 was to be powered with turbo-supercharged Wright R-2600-7 Twin Cyclone engines. The turbo-superchargers were carried on the outer sides of the engine nacelles, with big box-like air scopes which still failed to provide enough cooling. The turbo-superchargers were designed to give the aircraft good high altitude performance, but the Army Air Corps eventually decided it wanted the A-20 for low-level ground attack and the turbo-superchargers would not be used on any of the major production versions of the A-20. Only one of the A-20s was actually completed with the R-2600-7 engine. The A-20 carried 394 gallons of fuel in internal self sealing fuel tanks, a feature that would be retained on the A-20A but for some reason removed on the A-20B.

Although the A-20 was never used as a bomber all 63 aircraft found a use. Three were used to produce F-3 reconnaissance aircraft, one became the prototype XP-70 Nighthawk and the remaining 59 became the first P-70s.

Engine: Wright R-2600-7 Double Cyclone
Power: 1,700hp at 20,000ft  
Crew: 3
Width: 61ft 4in
Length: 47ft 7in
Gross Weight: 20,329lb
Maximum speed: 388mph at 20,000ft
Cruising speed: 218 mph
Ceiling: 31,500ft
Climb Rate: 5 minutes to 10,000ft
Range: 767 miles with 1,200lb bombs, 1,100 maximum
Fuselage Guns: Four fixed 0.30in Browning Machine Guns
Dorsal Position: Two 0.30in Browning Machine Guns
Ventral Position: One 0.30in Browning Machine Gun
Normal Bomb Load: 1,600lb

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (5 September 2008), Douglas A-20 Havoc,

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