Finnish company Nokia donated sufficient funds for the FAF to purchase a B-239. In return, the word NOKA was inscribed on BW-355. Operated by No. 24 Squadron, it was destroyed on 24 October 1944. Future ace Paavo Mellin shot down an I-16 and shared in the destruction of a MiG-3 whilst flying this aircraft.
In April 1939, the Finnish government contacted the Roosevelt administration to acquire modern combat aircraft for its air force as quickly as possible. On 17 October 1939, the Finnish Embassy in Washington, DC, received a telegram clearing the purchase of fighter aircraft. Prompt availability and compatibility with 87-octane fuel were the only requirements stipulated by the Finns. The U.S. Navy and State Department arranged to divert remaining F2A-1 fighter aircraft, in exchange for its order of F2A-2 Buffalos scheduled to be delivered later.
Consequently, on 16 December, the Finns signed a contract to purchase 44 Model 239 fighters. The total agreed price was U.S. $3.4 million, and the deal included spare parts, ten replacement engines and 20 Hamilton Standard propellers. The Buffalos sent to Finland were de-navalized; all the naval equipment, such as tailhooks and life-raft containers were removed, resulting in a lighter aircraft. The Finnish F2A-1s also lacked self-sealing fuel tanks and cockpit armor.
These F2A-1 Buffalos, given the export number Model B-239, were equipped with an export-approved Wright R-1820-G5 nine-cylinder radial engine of 950 hp. After their delivery to Finland, the Finnish Air Force added armored backrests, metric flight instruments, the Finnish Väisälä T.h.m.40 gunsight, and four .50 in (12.7 mm) machine guns. The top speed of the Finnish B-239s, as modified, was 478 km/h at 4,750 m, and their loaded weight was 2,640 kg.
Built and shipped in four batches, the Finnish B-239s were shipped to Bergen, in Norway, in January and February 1940 from New York City. The crated fighters were then sent by railway to Sweden and assembled by SAAB at Trollhättan, northeast of Gothenburg.
In February 1940, Finnish Air Force pilot Lieutenant Jorma "Joppe" Karhunen flight tested the first B-239. Unfamiliar with the aircraft, he burned out the engine while flying very low at high speed; crashing on a snow-covered field, damaging the propeller and some belly panels. Initially unimpressed, the Finns later witnessed a demonstration by a Brewster test pilot, who was able to stay on the tail of a Finnish Fiat G.50 Freccia fighter from Italy; although the Fiat fighter was faster in level flight,the Brewster could out-turn it.
Of the six Buffalo B-239 fighters delivered to Finland before the end of the Winter War of 1939–1940, five of them became combat-ready, but they did not enter combat before the war ended.
The Brewster B-239E fighter aircraft was never referred to as the "Buffalo" in Finland; it was known simply as the "Brewster" or sometimes by the nicknames Taivaan helmi ("Sky Pearl") or Pohjoisten taivaiden helmi ("Pearl of the Northern Skies"). Other nicknames were Pylly-Valtteri, Amerikanrauta ("Butt-Walter" and "American hardware" or "American car", respectively) and Lentävä kaljapullo ("flying beer-bottle"). The 44 Buffalo Model B-239 (export) fighters used by the FAF received serial numbers BW-351 to BW-394.
Finnish Air Force's Brewster B-239 formation during the Continuation War
In Finnish Air Force service, the B-239s were regarded as being easy to fly, a "gentleman's travelling plane." The Buffalo was also popular within the FAF because of its relatively long range and also because of a good maintenance record. This was in part due to the efforts of the Finnish mechanics, who solved a problem that plagued the Wright Cyclone engine by inverting one of the piston rings in each cylinder, which had a positive effect on reliability. The cooler weather of Finland also helped, because the engine was prone to overheating as noted in tropical Pacific use. The Brewster Buffalo earned a reputation in Finnish Air Force service as one of their more successful fighter aircraft, with the Fiat G.50, that scored an unprecedented kill/loss ratio of 33/1.
In service from 1941 to 1945, Buffalos of Lentolaivue 24 (Fighter Squadron 24) claimed 477 Soviet Air Force warplanes destroyed, with the combat loss of just 19 Buffalos, an outstanding victory ratio of 26:1.
During the Continuation War, Lentolaivue 24 (Fighter Squadron 24) was equipped with the B-239s until May 1944, when the Buffalos were transferred to Hävittäjälentolaivue 26 (Fighter Squadron 26). Most of the pilots of Lentolaivue 24 were Winter War combat veterans. This squadron claimed a total of 459 Soviet aircraft with B-239s, while losing 15 Buffalos in combat.
The Brewsters had their baptism by fire in Finland on 25 June 1941, when a pair of Buffalos from 2/LLv24 intercepted 27 Soviet Tupolev SBs from 201st SBAP over Turku. Five SBs were claimed as downed. Subsequent attacks were repelled by LLv24 pilots who, by dusk, had flown 77 missions.
Many Finnish pilots racked up enormous scores by using basic tactics against Soviet aircraft. The default tactic was the four-plane "parvi" (swarm), with a pair flying lower as bait, and a higher pair to dive on enemy interceptors. The Soviet Air Force was never able to counteract this tactic. The top-scoring B-239 pilot was Hans Wind, with 39 kills.Lt Hans Wind, with six other Buffalos of LeLv 24, intercepted some 60 Soviet aircraft near Kronstad. Two Soviet Pe-2 bombers, one Soviet Hawker Hurricane fighter, and 12 I-16s were claimed for the loss of just one B-239 (BW-378).After evaluation of claims against actual Soviet losses, aircraft BW-364 was found to have been used to achieve 42½ kills in total by all pilots operating it, possibly making it the highest-scoring fighter airframe in the history of air warfare. The top scoring Finnish ace, Ilmari Juutilainen, scored 34 of his 94½ kills in B-239s, including 28 in BW-364.
During the Continuation War, a lack of replacements led the Finns to develop a copy of the Buffalo built from non-strategic materials such as plywood, however the Humu, as they called it, was already obsolete and only a single prototype was built. By late 1943, the lack of spares, wear-and-tear, and better Soviet fighters and training greatly reduced the effectiveness of Finnish B-239s, though LeLv 26 pilots would still claim some 35 victories against Soviet aircraft in mid-1944. The last victory by a Buffalo against Soviet aircraft was claimed over the Karelian Isthmus on 17 June 1944.
From 1943, Finland's air force received Messerschmitt Bf 109Gs from Germany, and this much-superior fighter re-equipped most Finnish Air Force fighter squadrons.
After Finland signed an armistice with the Soviet Union in September, 1944, they had to drive Finland's former ally, Nazi Germany out of the country during the "Lapland War". The only clash with the Luftwaffe took place on 3 October 1944 when HLeLV 26 intercepted Junkers Ju 87s, claiming two, the last victories to be made by Brewster pilots in World War II. By the end of the war in Lapland, only eight B-239s were left.
Five B-239s continued to fly until 1948, with last flights of Brewsters by the Finnish Air Force on 14 September 1948, when they were stored until scrapped in 1953
Välirauhan aikana LeLv 24 varustettiin Brewster-kalustolla. Jatkosodan alussa Brewsterit muodostivat hävittäjäkaluston rungon ennen Messerschmitt Bf 109:n hankkimista. Jatkosodan ensimmäisinä vuosina Brewsterit osoittautuivat erinomaisiksi hävittäjäkoneiksi Neuvostoliiton ilmavoimia vastaan LeLv 24:n ollessa menestyksekkäin hävittäjäyksikkö.
Brewster saavuttaa ennätykselliset 460 ilmavoittoa. Neuvostoliiton I-153 Tsaika- ja I-16 Rat (El Rata) hävittäjät olivat jatkosodan alussa täysin alakynnessä verrattuna suorituskykyiset ja raskaasti aseistetut Brewsterit, jota käytettiin oikein ketteriä konetyyppejä vastaan.
Katso myös: Luettelo Lentolaivue 24:n ilmavoitoista ja sotatoimitappioista
Toukokuussa 1944 BW-kalusto luovutettiin LeLv 26:lle, joka sekin saavutti silloin jo vanhentuneella kalustollaan 17 ilmavoittoa.
Lapin sodassa HLeLv 26 pudotti mahdollisesti vielä kaksi saksalaista Junkers Ju 87 -konetta. Nämä kaksi pudotusta on kyseenalaistettu myöhemmin, koska laajoista tutkimuksista huolimatta koneiden hylkyjä ei ole löydetty.
2./LeLv 24:n Brewster-hävittäjä Selänpään lentokentällä kesäkuussa 1941.
Brewsterillä eniten ilmavoittoja saavuttivat kapteeni Hans Wind, joka sai Brewsterillä 39 (kaiken kaikkiaan 75) ilmavoittoa, ja lentomestari Ilmari Juutilainen, joka sai Brewsterillä 36 (kaiken kaikkiaan 96) ilmavoittoa.
Eniten ilmavoittoja keränneenä koneyksilönä on pidetty BW-393:a (Windin nimikko), jolla saavutettiin 41 ilmavoittoa. Venäjän arkistojen auettua ja ilmavoittojen ristiintarkistuksen myötä on käynyt ilmi, että BW-364:llä (Juutilaisen nimikko) on saavutettu 42 ½ ilmavoittoa.
Sodan jälkeen Brewstereillä lennettiin lähinnä yhteyslentoja vuonna 1948 tapahtuneeseen poistoon asti. Viimeisen lennon konetyypillä Suomen ilmavoimissa suorittivat koneyksilöt BW-377 ja BW-382 14. syyskuuta 1948.
1941 - 1942 winter