Mostrengo 38/39, the defender of Portugal
A what-if plane
The "Mostrengo" (Bogey-beast) is a creature of a monstrous nature that represents Fear and flies around the ships that transgress the limits of the known sea and skims their sails with a promise of horrible death. Men are mortally afraid of the monster but they persevere because their king's iron will commands them to go forth and on their determination lie the hopes of their nation.
The dive bomber Mostrengo 38/39 was perhaps the greatest technological investment in portuguese-lands and the most advanced attack aircraft in the world in 1939. The success of this aircraft lay in the largest engine then available, the Mercury OGMA XX of 2500 hp (essentially three engines Bristol Mercury IX combined, 830cv each) and was able to reach 550km/h fully load. The aircraft was armed with two frontal 20mm cannons and a powerful defensive tower, which housed four fast-firing 7.5mm MAC 1934 machine guns. The maximum load of bombs was 1400 kg (one bomb of 1000kg and four 100kg bombs) with a combat range of 1 750km.
The plane itself was an international hybrid:
Fuselage and tail – Nazi Germany;
Engine and the defensive tower – England;
Brakes and hook for carrier landings – Empire of Japan
Cannons and machine guns – France
Strengthened landing gear- Italy
Chairs for the crew - Spain.
Everything had been arranged to create the most powerful attack plane at the time.
The first plane flew in 1938, in the hands of Navy pilot "Zé Carlos", which managed to beat three records on the same day: speed record in a dive bomber, record of distance (1000km loaded in two hours and thirty-six minutes), and the record to drink more beers in a night (to celebrate the previous two records) ...
Due to the lack of a torpedo aircraft, it was decided to modify the air intake of the engine of the Mostrengo-38 so that it could carry and launch torpedoes. The new improved model, the Mostrengo 39 entered service in 1940 as a torpedo plane, maintaining the capabilities of dive-bombing.
The Mostrengos model 38 were used as bombers until they were fully replaced by the model 39, only slightly faster.
The airplane was very important to keep the Portuguese neutrality during World War II. During the conflict, it was used to defend the Portuguese colonies in Africa and the Azores in the Atlantic. They were also used in combat against British and German ships (they even sunk a few enemy ships).
In 1942, the project was also sold to the United States after the disaster at Pearl Harbor. Its unfortunate competitor, the TBF Avenger, was slower, much less maneuverable and carried half the load of bombs. At the end, the Mostrengo was selected to go into production by General Motors. The plane became famous in almost all the naval battles of the Pacific, replacing in combat the Douglas Dauntless and the Devastator.
Their relatively heavy gun armament (two forward firing 20mm cannons and the rear defensive turret) was effective against the lightly built Japanese fighters, and many pilot-gunner combinations took an aggressive attitude to fighters which attacked them.
In service with the US Navy, the plane usual bomb load was one Bliss-Leavitt Mark 13 torpedo or one 2,000 pound (907 kg) bomb and four 500 pound (227 kg) bombs.
The “Mostrengo” was not an easy target for enemy fighters. The defensive tower was very effective and there was often "ace gunners" in the U.S. Navy. Because of that, it was nicknamed the "Igel” (hedgehog) by the Germans. It was also heavily armored (which made it quite heavy)…
In service in the US Navy, the aircraft was called TBM "Lajes" the name of the Luso-American base in the Azores. TBM meant for the crew:
T- Team Work;
B- Beautiful every day;
The Japanese called it: “The bird of death”
In the hands of the experienced American pilots, the aircraft received radar systems, advanced marksmanship and managed to sink 247 warships in the four remaining years of conflict. 253 planes were produced in Portugal (Navy and Air Force) and at least 5670 in the United States. Some aircraft were supplied to the Royal Navy (under the Lend-Lease agreement), who was very enthusiastic about the plane and called it the “Windsor”, in memory of the Windsor Treaty, signed between England and Portugal which remains until today as the oldest and still legal friendship treaty between two countries.
The “Windsor” was used with great success from 1942 against the Kriegsmarine, having sunk several German battleships and cruisers. Later it was adopted for anti-submarine, making it an astonishing submarine-hunter. They were one of the most effective sub-killers in the Pacific theatre, as well as in the Atlantic, when escort carriers were finally available to escort Allied convoys. There, the Windsors/Lajes contributed in warding off German U-Boats while providing air cover for the convoys. The appearance of the aircraft accelerated the development of more advanced submarines, like the type XXI.
The only other operator in World War II was the Royal New Zealand Air Force which used the type primarily as a bomber, operating from South Pacific Island bases. Some of these were transferred to the British Pacific Fleet.
After the war, the plane was used by many countries, including: Brasil (until 1962), Canada (until 1964), France (until 1956), Netherlands (until 1963), New Zealand (until 1949), USA (until 1956) and United Kingdom (until 1963).
Portugal was the most prolonged user of the Mostrengo. Many were widely used in Africa to fight the revolutionary groups in the colonies after 1961, and strongly used in combat until 1974. After the "Carnation Revolution" on 25 April 1974, the aircraft were evacuated from Africa to Portugal. With the democratic independence of all former colonies, the surviving aircraft, now very tired and obsolete, were still used for some time by the Portuguese Air Force. Without colonies to defend, the aircraft was withdrawn from service in 1979.
The plane was considered an excellent investment and it was used for more than 40 years in combat. Many planes were recovered by U.S. fans ... but in Portugal, it was different.
The Mostrengo was seen by the nation with love. It was responsible for the freedom of Portugal during World War II and fought bravely in the Atlantic and in Africa. In 2008, to commemorate 70 years since the first flight of this mythic plane, a formation of 35 “Mostrengos” flew over the Portuguese capital, Lisbon.
Flying over the "Navy Museum" and the "Padrão dos Descobrimentos" hundreds of thousands of people looked at those amazing and charismatic aircrafts. On board of one of these planes was José Carlos Lopes da Silva, also known as "Zé Carlos", the pilot who flew the first Mostrengo. Flying as a passenger, he was smiling while flying the plane that was his life. He now has 96 years and still likes to drink a "Super Bock" beer every day…
More images at:
Hope you like it
Edited by Rufus, 07 June 2011 - 05:03 PM.