FR0051 Gamma 5B Bomber in Spain

History:
Donald Douglas provided the capital to found the Northrop Corporation in 1932 and put his friend Jack Northrop in charge. Northrop was a pioneer of all-metal construction, which he used for the Gamma mail plane, with production beginning in the winter of 1933-34. Modified with a wider fuselage, the design became the Northrop Delta, an 8-passenger transport.

The Gamma 2E was a bomber variant with bomb racks between the wheels, a semi-retractable ventral dustbin turret, and machine guns. 46 were bought by the Chinese government in 1934 to serve with 1 & 2 Sqns (Chungtui) of the 1st Bombing Group (Tatui), and 9, 11 & 14 Sqns of the 2nd Bomb Group.

The Gamma 5B evolved from the Gamma 2E, changes were made to the empennage and the canopy, more rounded on the 5B. In April 1936, the aircraft took part in an international tender organised by the Argentine Army and Navy to renew their aviation fleet. The bombers B-10 WAA and WAN, the fighter Hawk 75 with fixed gear and Focke-Wulf Weihe for training were the winners. Left in a shelter at El Palomar base, near Buenos Aires, the Gamma 5B was bought by Henry Fletcher, an American citizen living in Mexico, in January 1937. As the Spanish Republic was then looking for all types of aircraft to face the uprising of a part of the army led by Generals Sanjurjo and Mola in July 1936, unsurprisingly the aircraft was sent to Mexico (who strongly supported the Republican cause) in the first quarter of 1937. At the end of December 1937, the plane was loaded onto a cargo ship and disembarked at Le Havre on 13 January 1938. Reassembled in the workshops of SFTA, one of the companies controlled by the Spanish Republican government, the Gamma 5B flew to Spain, in 1938 spring.

The aircraft was painted in the standard Republican colours, green on the upper surfaces, blue on the lower surfaces, with red identification stripes on the wingtips and around the fuselage, the Republican flag was painted on the rudder. The Gamma 5B received the code BN-001, applied to the fuselage strip.

In June 1937, the Gamma 5B was transferred to the 1st escuadrilla of the Grupo 71 (Coastal Defence), based in El Carmoli (Valencia). The crew assigned to the aircraft was the pilot Joaquin Tarazaga Moya and the photo operator Sergeant Navarro, the latter being sometimes replaced by Lieutenant Lopez Dominguez. The missions were usually carried out with this single plane taking off at night in order to arrive on target at dawn, using surprise and good aiming conditions during the bombing. Other missions consisted of long patrols off the coast to search for possible enemy submarines or ships.

At the end of 1938, the escuadrilla was transferred to Huercal Overa (Alicante province) to counter a landing at Motril, which did not take place, then returned to El Carmoli at the beginning of 1939. The Gamma, undergoing repairs, was not transferred to Oran with other aircraft of the Republican fleet at the end of March 1939. She was captured in good condition by the Nationalists and sent to the Cuatro Vientos experimental centre, near Madrid, where the different models of Republican aircraft were tested. It does not seem she was put back into service by the victors, and she still appeared in this park in 1950.

Specifications: single-engine, two-seat, metal-construction bomber. Engine: a 870 hp Wright Cyclone G, driving an Hamilton three-blade metal propeller. Wingspan 14.57 m, wing area 33.7 m2. Armament: four machine guns in the wings, a fifth in defence, possibility to carry 1000 kg of bombs under the fuselage.

Camouflage :

  • Cam A : Gamma 5B coded BN-001. Grupo 71 de Defensa de Costas, El Carmoli (Valencia province),June 1938 to April 1939.

Notes:

  • In Argentine, the aircraft was left in natural metal, coded NR14988. She was fitted with Pratt & Whitney Twin Wasp giving 700 hp.
  • In Mexico, the Gamma 5B was coded XA-ABI, and was already fitted with the Wright Cyclone.