Operational History

By the time Britain had received large numbers of Vengeances, its opinion on the usefulness of specialised dive bombers had changed; as the Battle of Britain and operations over North Africa had shown the dive bomber to be vulnerable to fighter attack, it rejected the Vengeance for use over Western Europe or the Mediterranean. It was decided to use the Vengeance in the Burma Theatre to carry out dive-bombing operations in close support of British and Indian troops in the jungles of Burma.

The first RAF squadrons (No. 82 and No. 110) received Vengeances in October 1942. The first dive bombing missions against Japanese forces were flown on 19 March 1943. A further two RAF squadrons in Burma received Vengeances, (No. 84 and No. 45), together with two squadrons of the Indian Air Force (IAF) (No. 7 and No. 8).

Vengeances were heavily deployed in support of the second Arakan campaign of 1943/44, and defending against the Japanese attacks on Imphal and Kohima of April–July 1944. Following the successful defeat of the Japanese attack, the RAF and IAF started to phase out the Vengeance in favour of more versatile fighter bombers and twin engined light bombers, with the last Vengeance operations over Burma being carried out on 16 July 1944.

After Burma service, a detachment from 110 Squadron RAF was sent to Takoradi in West Africa via the Middle East, a number of aircraft breaking down en route. Between September and December 1944, 11 Vultees took part in air-spraying trials against malarial mosquitoes, using underwing spray dispensers.

Although phased out of front line service with the RAF, it continued to receive large numbers of Vengeances, with bulk deliveries of Lend Lease aircraft (as opposed to those purchased directly by Britain) having only just started. Many of these surplus aircraft, including most Vengeance Mk IVs, were delivered to the UK and modified as Target tugs, being used in this role both by the RAF and the Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm (FAA). In these roles, all armament was removed from the aircraft.

Australia placed an order for 400 Vengeances as an emergency measure following the outbreak of war in the Pacific, which was met by a mixture of Lend Lease and diversions from the original British orders. While the first Vengeance was delivered to the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) in May 1942, the aircraft did not arrive in substantial numbers until April 1943. The RAAF's first Vengeance squadron, No. 12 Squadron flew its first operational mission against Selaru Island in the Dutch East Indies. Squadrons equipped with the Vengeance included Nos. 12, 21, 23, 24 and 25 Squadrons. Of these, all but 25 Squadron served briefly in the New Guinea campaign. Australian Vengeances flew their last operational sorties on 8 March 1944, as they were considered less efficient than fighter bombers, having a short range and requiring a long runway, and were withdrawn to allow more effective fighter bombers to move into the forward area.

Vengeance Mk. IIa/A27-245 (ex- RAF/AF925) of the RAAF at Bankstown, 1943.. WRG# 0021597
Vengeance Mk. IIa/A27-245 (ex- RAF/AF925) of the RAAF at Bankstown, 1943.
[Source: Unknown/Internet]

The Vengeance squadrons were re-equipped with Consolidated B-24 Liberator heavy bombers. While the RAAF still had 58 Vengeances on order in March 1944, this order was cancelled and the aircraft were never delivered. Small numbers of Vengeances remained in service with support and trials units until 1946.

Thirty-three V-72s and A-35s were supplied to Brazil from 1943, carrying out a few anti-submarine patrols. They were withdrawn by April 1948. The Free French Air Force received 67 A-35As and -Bs in 1943, being used to equip three bomb groups in North Africa. The French, however, keen to get the aircraft operational as soon as possible did not incorporate improvements found necessary by Britain and Australia, so their aircraft proved to be unreliable and had extremely high oil consumption. As such, they were restricted to training operations, being finally withdrawn in September 1944.

While the U.S. received 243 V-72s and A31s diverted from the RAF orders together with large numbers of A-35s specifically built for it, these saw no combat, being used as initial equipment for light bomber squadrons that re-equipped with twin-engined aircraft before deploying overseas, and as trainers or target tugs.

Vultee A-31 Vengeance. WRG# 0021595
Vultee A-31 Vengeance.
[Source: USAF Photo via Mark Allen Collection]

From April 1944, a number of Vengeance Mk IV series Is were made available to the 8th Air Force and assigned to target-towing flights and Combat Crew Replacement Centers (CCRC) stations. All armament was removed and a light cable winch fitted in the rear fuselage for sleeve towing. Some of these aircraft continued to be flown with British national markings and serial numbers. By late June 1944, there were seven A-35Bs at RAF Cluntoe, seven at Greencastle, 10 at RAF Sutton Bridge and six at RAF East Wretham. When the CCRCs were dissolved in the autumn, the A-35Bs were transferred to combat groups, most fighter and several bomber groups having one on charge at some time during 1945. A-35Bs did not show a high state of serviceability and were generally considered troublesome to maintain. They were also designated RA-35B (R for Restricted) by this time.