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Tinker History: BT-13 Valiant is first aircraft modified at air depot

BT-13 at Tinker Air Force Base.

BT-13 at Tinker Air Force Base.


The Vultee Aircraft Corp. BT-13 “Valiant” was a single-engine, tandem-seat trainer produced for the U.S. Army Air Corps, U.S. Navy and foreign allies prior to and during World War II. The aircraft was selected and produced as a primary and follow-on intermediary trainer due to its ruggedness, forgiving flight characteristics and stability. Most of the pilots produced in the early years of World War II conducted initial training, or Basic Training, hence the BT name, on the BT-13.

The Valiant was an all-metal, low-wing mono-plane with fixed main landing gear and a tail-wheel. The aircraft was considered ‘overpowered’ for the day with its 450 horsepower, nine-cylinder, single-row, air-cooled engine. Since the pilot sat relatively close to this massive engine and felt the power transfer through the engine mounts and aircraft frame, it received the unflattering nickname, “Vultee Vibrator.”

There were multiple variations in the Valiant design centered on the radial engine that was available when produced. Initial production of the BT-13A/B and the Navy versions, the SNV-1 and SNV-2, had the more powerful R985 while the later variant BT-15 had the lower horsepower R975 engine.

Empty weight of the BT-13A & SNV-1: 2,976 pounds. BT-13B & SNV-2: 3,375 pounds. The operational weights for the BT-13A & SNV-1: 3,991 pounds. BT-13B & SNV-2: 4,496 pounds.

Operational altitude varied between 16,500-21,000 feet. Maximum speeds were between 166-182 mph. Maximum diving speed was 230 mph.

The Valiant carried 120 gallons of fuel giving it a maximum range of 725 miles.

The Valiant was quickly replaced by the more versatile North American T-6 Texan. All aircraft were withdrawn from USAF service by 1948.

Tinker conducted unscheduled maintenance on a Navy Valiant following an engine fire and then, between September and December 1942, modified 40 BT-13 aircraft for tow-target duty. This modification allowed the BT-13 to carry aloft large banner tow-targets on which other aircraft would conduct aerial gunnery training.


Manufacturer: Vultee

Aircraft type: BT-13

Nickname: Valiant

Crew: 2 (in tandem)

Power plant: One Pratt & Whitney R985 radial engines, or R975 in variant production

In-service dates: 1940-1948

Number produced: 11,538 (multiple variants)