Here's Why The Brewster Buffalo Is Considered One Of The Worst Fighter Planes Ever Made

Superior air force was a key part of winning World War II. Planes like the P-51 Mustang, one of the best planes to ever exist, solidified the Allied Forces' place as rulers of the sky. The Royal Air Force Spitfire became a pop culture icon, and the Lockheed P-38 Lightning was frighteningly effective in the Pacific theater. But for every fantastic air weapon, there are planes that didn't quite fulfill their missions. One such plane was the Brewster Aeronautical Corporation's F2A Buffalo. 

The plane wasn't mechanically bad or outright dangerous to fly like the later F7U Cutlass, but the goofy looking plane seemed outdated since its start in 1939. Its armament of four .50 calibur machine guns seemed adequate at a glance, but in reality were lacking compared to the 20mm cannons found on the Japanese Imperial Navy's Mitsubishi A6M Zeros. The aircraft also failed to deter Imperial Japanese dive bombers and, according to the U.S. Navy, many Buffalos were lost when engaging Axis planes. Its biggest failure, however, occurred during a pivotal battle in the Pacific Theater and perhaps one of the most important battles of the entire war: the Battle of Midway.

The Buffalo's failure at Midway

Aircraft carriers were the superior weapon of the day. In June of 1942, the Imperial Japanese Navy was approaching Midway, a U.S.-held island in the Pacific, where multiple aircraft carriers deployed with the intention to invade. Over the course of the battle, Allied pilots flying Buffalos fought hard, but were unable to outmaneuver the much faster Zeros. They proved to be almost totally ineffective against Imperial Japan's carrier-borne air fleet. 

Fortunately, planes like the torpedo bomber SBD Dauntless picked up the slack and succeeded in sinking four aircraft carriers, the Akagi, the Kaga, the Hiryu, and the Soryu, crippling the Imperial Navy for essentially the rest of the war. The Imperial Japanese Navy retreated, and Midway was won by the Allies. But the damage was done with regard to the Buffalo. Its dismal performance during resulted in early retirement after Midway. It was then used as a trainer plane in a limited capacity for the remainder of the war.

According to the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, a crashed F2A-3 Buffalo was found in the waters near Midway in 2012, 70 years after the battle. It had crashed in a storm, and the pilot, fortunately, was able to bail out in time.