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Vultee SNV "Valiant" (BT-13)
SNV Scout-trainer of US Navy
SNV Basic Trainer

Aircraft Type

Scout-trainer for US Navy


Vultee Aircraft, Incorporated


Radial 9-cylinder s.c., air-cooled, 985 cid


450 hp (336kW) @ 2,300 rpm


3,375 lbs (empty), 4,496 lbs (gross)

Max Speed

180 mph


2 seat tandem (student-instructor)


The Vultee BT-13 Valiant was an American World War II-era basic trainer aircraft built by Vultee Aircraft for the United States Army Air Corps and the United States Navy. The SNV was an identical version built for the US Navy as a scout-trainer for student pilots and its sister services, the US Marine Corps and US Coast Guard. The unit cost was $23,000 for the Vultee.

In 1938, Vultee chief designer Richard Palmer began designing a fighter aircraft. The US Army Air Corps was evaluating a new basic combat trainer. Designated the Vultee V-54, it was considered operationally ideal as a trainer but was regarded as being unnecessarily complicated and overpowered.

Vultee then developed the V-74 trainer to meet the Air Corps requirements, and it had a cantilever low-wing with fixed landing gear, dual controls and flight instruments as standard equipment.

The initial production version was designated BT-13 by the USAAC and named the Valiant. The plane's first flight is said to have taken place on 24 March 1939.

Satisfactory testing brought in an initial order of 300 aircraft in August 1939. It was the largest order placed by the US Army for basic trainers at the time. The Vultee BT-13 was outfitted with the Pratt & Whitney R-985-25 radial engine, and the first of these aircraft were accepted by the USAAC in June of 1940.

The Navy quickly recognized the ruggedness of the Vultee BT-13 and selected it to fulfill the same training roles, which they designated as the SNV. On 28 August 1940, the Navy submitted their order to Vultee Aircraft for 1,350 SNV-1 aircraft (the Navy's version of the BT-13A). This was followed by a contract for 650 SNV-2 aircraft which had a 24 volt electrical system.

Once in service, the Vultee Valiant quickly got its nickname of "Vultee Vibrator" which was given by its Army and Navy pilots.
There are several explanations given for the plane's nickname, the least of which, it caused windows on the ground to vibrate during takeoffs. The canopy rattled with the engine running, and the two-position propeller had an irritating vibration while in the high pitch. A shudder also developed while the plane was in the second and third turn of a spin. The aircraft had a tendency to shake quite violently as it approached its stall speed. It is said to have gained a reputation in Army circles as a killer of cadets because of its quick-action top rudder stalls. The tail was held on with three bolts and after several in-flight failures, the Navy restricted the aircraft from aerobatic and violent maneuvers. The Navy declared the SNV obsolete in May 1945 and replaced it in the basic training role with the SNJ built as an advanced trainer by North American Aviation.

From September 1939 to the Summer of 1944 a total of 11,537 Vultees were built to meet the needs of the US Army Air Corps and the US Navy, making the plane one of the most important American trainer aircraft of World War II. The BT-13 production run outnumbered all other Basic Trainer (BT) types produced.

Almost every U.S. pilot and many of the allied pilots who were trained in the U.S. learned their basic flying skills in the Vultee BT-13, aka SNV. The demand for BT-13's out-paced Pratt & Whitneys ability to deliver the R-985 engines, Vultee began to equip the BT-13 airframes with the 450 HP Wright R-975-11 Whirlwind radial engine. This final variant was designated as the BT-15, and 1,693 were built for the Army.

As soon as World War II ended all versions in service were retired from the US Army Air Force and US Navy.



Specifications Vultee SNV "Valiant" (BT-13A)

General Characteristics
Crew:   Two-seat tandem trainer
Length:   28 ft 10 in (8.79 m)
Wingspan:   42 ft 0 in (12.80 m)
Height:   11 ft 6 in (3.51 m)
Wing area:   239 ft² (22 m²)
Empty weight:   3,375 lb (1,531 kg)
Gross weight:   4,496 lb (2,039 kg); also max. for takeoff
Powerplant:   1 × Pratt & Whitney R-985-AN-1
9-cylinder air-cooled radial engine, 450 hp (340 kW)
Propellers:   2-bladed Hamilton-Standard 2-position
Maximum speed:   180 mph (290 km/h)
Range:   725 miles (1,167 km)
Time to altitude:   9.2 minutes to 10,000 ft (3,000 m)
Service ceiling:   21,650 ft (6,600 m)
snv shadow
Aircraft silhouette 
Vultee Aircraft, Inc.
Corporate logo

Engine Specifications

Pratt & Whitney R-985 Wasp Junior

General Specs    
Type:   9-cylinder single-row supercharged air-cooled
radial piston engine
Bore:   5.188 in (132 mm)
Stroke:   5.188 in (132 mm)
Displacement:   985 in3 (16.14 L)
Length:   41.59 in (1,056 mm)

45.75 in (1,162 mm)

Dry weight:   640 lb (290 kg)
Valvetrain:   Two overhead valves per cylinder, pushrod-actuated
Supercharger:   Single-speed gear-driven General Electric centrifugal supercharger, with 10:1 gear reduction
Reduction gear:   Direct drive
Fuel system:   Two-barrel Stromberg carburetor
Fuel type:   80/87 grade aviation gasoline
Oil system:    
Cooling system:   air-cooled
Power output:   450 hp (336 kW) @ 2,300 RPM for takeoff
Specific power:   0.406 hp/in³ (18.5 kW/L)
Compression ratio:   6.0:1
Fuel consumption:   0.49 lb/(hp h) (295 g/(kW h))
Oil consumption:   0.39 oz/(hp h) (15 g/(kW h))
Power-to-weight ratio:   0.625 hp/lb (1.03 kW/kg)
Pratt & Whitney
R-985 'Wasp Junior' Engine
The Wasp Junior was 9-cylinder (single-row) supercharged air-cooled radial piston engine, with a 985 cubic inch displacement. It delivered up to 450 hp at 2,300 rpm for takeoff. Production ran from 1929 to 1953 and totaled 39,037 engines built.
Pratt & Whitney USA
Corporate logo

Photos of Vultee SNV/BT-13 'Valiant'
Nickname "Vultee Vibrator"
p1 cp p6
p5 3 planes p6
c1 line r
p bp p3
p4 cyl-hd n95
37 ebg p8
c2 c3 p7


BC-3 Vultee model 51 Basic Combat trainer prototype originated in 1939 as an advanced trainer w/ retractable landing gear and 600 hp Pratt & Whitney R-1340-45 engine for US Army Air Corps. Only 1 built, not developed.
BT-13 Vultee model 54-A Basic Trainer, revised with fixed gear and smaller 450 hp P&W R-985-25 engine, 300 built for USAAC only.
BT-13A Vultee model 74, same as BT-13 but with 450 hp R-985-AN-1 engine and minor changes, 6,407 built for USAAC. Another 1,350 were built for US Navy, designated as SNV-1.
BT-13B Vultee model 79A, similar to BT-13A but with 24-volt electrical system, 1125 units built for USAAC. Additional 650 units allocated to USN, designated as SNV-2.
BT-15 BT-13A with a 450 hp Wright R-975-11 engine, 1693 built.
XBT-16 One BT-13A was re-built in 1942 by Vidal with all-plastic fuselage as the XBT-16.
SNV-1 US Navy designation for scout trainer (same as BT-13A), 1,350 SNV-1s built.
SNV-2 US Navy designation (Vultee BT-13B) 650 were allocated to the Navy.
T-13A Remaining BT-13As were re-designated in 1948, due to dual allocation of T-13 with the PT-13 in practice they were still known as the BT-13 to avoid confusion.

SNV Production

SNV-1 (Model 74)
BuNo.s   Qty.
02983 to 03182 = 200
05675 to 05874 = 200
12492 to 12991 = 500
34135 to 34584 = 450
Total produced = 1,350
  Procurement of 1,350 SNV-1 scout trainers (BuNo. 02983 to 03182, 05675 to 05874, 12492 to 12991, 34135 to 34584) by the US Navy began with an order dated August 28, 1940. The Vultee Model 74 (SNV-1) had a Pratt & Whitney R-985-AN-1 radial engine and was the equivalent to the one designated by the USAAC as the BT-13A.
SNV-2 (Model 79A)
BuNo.s   Qty.
44038 to 44187 = 150
52050 to 52549 = 500
Total produced = 650
  Additionally, the USN obtained 650 Model 79A SNV-2s (BuNo. 44038 to 44187, 52050 to 52549), which differed only in having 24-volt electric systems. These were BT-13Bs diverted from USAAF contracts (s/n 44-23011 to 44-23160, 44-31511 to 44-32010 respectively).