Northrop N-3PB

The Northrop N-3PB floatplane patrol-bomber was the first aircraft to be produced by the independent Northrop Aircraft Inc after its foundation in 1939. The new company had been formed by Jack Northrop, with La Motte T. Cohu, a TWA official, as General Manager, and it was three of Cohu’s friends who first drew the attention of the Norwegian government to the new company (having themselves flow earlier Northrop designed aircraft).

Northrop designed the N-3PB during 1939. It was a single-engine low-wing monoplane, with a pair of Edo floats attached to the wings. The three crewmen sat in a row, with the pilot and gunner/ observer under the main canopy and the ventral gunner/ radio operator/ bombardier in a position in the lower-rear of the fuselage. 

Northrop N-3PB FloatplaneThe Norwegian Government placed an order for twenty-four N-3PBs on 12 March 1940. Less than a month later, on 9 April 1940, the Germans invaded, and the county was soon overrun. The Norwegian government escaped from the country, as did elements of the Royal Norwegian Naval Air Force. Work on the N-3PB continued.

Work on the N-3PB progressed rapidly, and on 1 November 1940 the new aircraft made its maiden flight, from Lake Elsinore, California. In late 1940 its top speed of 257mph made it the fastest military sea plane yet built.

The N-3PBs were delivered to the Norwegians early in 1941. The surviving members of the RNNAF were formed into No.330 Squadron, RAF, and for nineteen months operated their Northrop Patrol Bombers from bases on Iceland. The last patrol was flown on 30 December 1942. The Northrops were then replaced with Consolidated Catalinas, and then the Short Sunderland.

The Northrop N-3PB was used for anti-submarine and convoy protection duties. Long range German Condor bombers were capable of reaching the seas off Iceland, often flying on long sweeps between France and Norway. Contact between the N-3PBs and the German aircraft was rare, and the type’s first aerial combat did not come until 3 May 1942, when a German bomber was attacked and forced to retire. Ten N-3PBs were lost during their time on Iceland, nine of them while attempting to land in the dangerous Icelandic waters.

Engine: Wright GR-1820-G205A Cylcone
Power: 1,200hp
Crew: Three
Span: 48ft 11in
Length: 38ft
Height: 12ft
Take-off Weight: 10,600lb
Max Speed: 257mph at sea level
Service Ceiling: 24,000ft
Range: 1,400 miles
Armament: Four 0.5in fixed forward firing guns in the wings, one 0.3in gun in rear cockpit, one 0.3in gun in rear ventral tunnel
Bomb load: 2,000lb, either bombs or one torpedo

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (26 October 2008), Northrop N-3PB , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_northrop_N-3PB.html

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