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Curtiss Wright CW-21 Interceptor (Warplane series no. 13)
Authors: Edwin Hoogschagen
Publisher: Lanasta / Walburg Pers
48 pages and Soft Cover
Price: approx 20,- euro in The Netherlands
The CW-21 was designed during the late 1930s. It combined light weight construction with a powerful engine, which resulted in an excellent rate of climb and maneuverability, allowing the fighter to quickly reach the height of attacking enemy aircraft, and attack them. The prototype was sent to China as a demonstration copy and an order for three aircraft, plus a further 32 as kits, followed. These would be assembled locally. Only the three production machines arrived in the chaos of war and would never see actual combat. A second modified variant was ordered by the Dutch government and 24 were delivered to the Netherlands Indies. The CW-21s were outnumbered and outgunned when the Japanese launched their attack on the Netherlands Indies. Despite the poor outlook, the pilots flying them put up a good fight...
24 CW-21B Interceptors (originally ordered for Militare Luchvaart (Military Army Airforce) , but delivered and operational in ML-KNIL – Military Army Air Force of the Royal Netherlands Indies Army -); registrations CW-343 to 366; (note: known as the interceptor, the name Demon was never used).
36 CW-22 Falcon two-seat combat trainers, operational ML-KNIL, registrations CF-464 to 499;
Already in 1939 the Dutch Government had expressed interest in this type and (for the ML for deployment in the Netherlands) the type was purchased quickly in April 1940. There were quite a few wishes for modifications, especially to the armament, but also an extra armor plate behind the pilot. Because of the German threat in early 1940, every effort was made to obtain the planes more quickly. They came too late due to the German attack on the Netherlands on 10 May 1940. It was therefore decided at the end of May 1940 to have the aircraft already ordered delivered from the United States to the Dutch East Indies for use by the ML-KNIL there (there was no war in the Far East yet).
The first Dutch CW-21B "interceptor", now intended for the ML-KNIL, flew September 1940 at the American Curtiss factory. They were probably already provided with the ML-KNIL camouflage colors, roughly but with American young leaf and old leaf factory shades. Between October-December 1940 they were shipped to the Dutch East Indies in crates, after which the planes were assembled at the Andir base (near Bandung on Java). ML-KNIL fighter pilots also had to be trained quickly and that was a huge problem. In March 1941, a first CW-21 interceptor unit, the 2nd Fighter Division, was set up with 16 aircraft. First on Andir and later moved to Maospati. There were many operational problems with the engines and several leaks. Also, the flight time was less than 2 hours.
On November 30, 1941, the war mobilization in the Dutch East Indies followed and 17 CW-21 Interceptors were ready at Andir (near Bandung) and Tandjong Perak (near Surabaya). When Japan invaded the Dutch East Indies in 1942, the aircraft were deployed. During air battles near Surabaya on 3 February 1942, 8 interceptors were lost and a few days later another three aircraft were lost in a Japanese attack near Bandung / Andir. On February 10, 1942, they fled to Tjililitan with six interceptors. (That field, which was located a long way from Batavia, had become a complete military field in March 1939 after the civil airfield Kemajoran near Batavia was put into use). On 24 February 1 aircraft was shot at Bandung and on 3 March one aircraft was shot at Andir. The battle against Japan on Java did not last long.
The Japanese captured a number of aircraft and later used at least one interceptor for testing purposes. After the war, some aircraft were even found at Kallang near Singapore.
The book with 48 pages is of a somewhat different size, slightly smaller than A4, but larger than, for example, the well-known Osprey series, with a beautiful black and white glossy cover. About half of the 48 pages consist of the development of the type by Curtiss Wright, many of which are photographs of the Demon. (yes, with a full stop) as the aircraft was initially designated. However, Curtiss-Wright was referring to "Demonstrator", hence the full stop! Technical data, the well-known cut-away drawing, the development of the CW-22 and CW-23, further development of the CW-21B and the sale of the first aircraft to China. What is not so well known, of the type is the deployment of the CW-21 to the American Volunteer Group (the legendary Flying Tigers). Interesting to read.
Of course, the purchase and the subsequent deployment, not in the Netherlands, but in the Dutch East Indies is discussed in detail in the book. The colors are discussed extensively, with the old leaf and young leaf colors including a number of color profiles by Luca Canossa. With regard to history, the book discusses this in detail. Briefly, for readers unfamiliar with the military organization in the Dutch East Indies, attention is paid to the ML-KNIL (Military Aviation Royal Dutch East Indies Army). The placement with the aircraft groups, attention to the pilots and the brief period of actual combat operations against the Japanese and the two captured aircraft by the Japanese. A total of 115 black and white (one in color) photos and 11 profiles in color.
Author Edwin Hoogschagen (1980) has been studying Dutch aviation history since the late 1990s and specializes in Fokker models of the interbellum. His main activities are focused on the Fokker G.1 and Fokker C.5. Since 2001 he has been a member of the Fokker G.1 establishment and from 2007 onward, committee member. His work has been published in various Dutch magazines and books.
The book gives a good impression and overview of the development of the type, and in my opinion, as far as Dutch history is concerned, there is little or nothing that is not mentioned on the CW-21B Interceptor in the book. The cooperation of Max Schep and Peter Boer, among others, guarantees this, with the information known at the time of writing. I think it is a bit of a cliché to say that the book should not be missing from the bookcase of every aviation enthusiast with an interest in Dutch aviation, everyone has to decide for themselves, and it also depends on available finances. With two Dora Wings models of the CW-21 on the market, and a Dutch Decal set, modelers can certainly find a lot of detail in it. It is a fine book on the subject. I did read it with interest.
Thanks to Lanasta/ Walburg press for providing the review copy.
Reviewer : Fred Bachofner
TIP: also look at the Curtiss articles and models on our IPMS.NL NedMil pages....
this review was published December 2023 by M. de Vreeze, IPMS NL webmaster