Vultee A-31 No. 69 in flight (top view). Two features differentiate the A-31 from the A-35: the A-31 has short engine exhaust stacks and the landing gear "knees" don't extend past the leading edge. (U.S. Air Force photo)
When World War II began in September 1939, the success of the German Stuka dive bomber created a rush to develop similar aircraft for use by Allied countries. France initially placed an order with Vultee for design of a dive bomber which became the Model 72 (V-72). With the fall of France, Great Britain took over the order for the V-72 and placed orders for significant numbers of additional aircraft. The Air Corps placed orders for the V-72 intended for delivery to Great Britain under Lend-Lease agreements and assigned the A-31 designation for contractual purposes.
The Air Corps eventually became interested in using dive bombers and purchased and repossessed a number of A-31s and V-72s for its own use. The Douglas A-24 (SBD-3 Dauntless) and Curtiss A-25 (SB2C Helldiver) were also used by the Army, but not very effectively. The Air Corps found its dive bombers to be highly vulnerable to enemy fighters and soon withdrew them from front line service.
The A-31 was used effectively in some secondary roles. With all armament removed the A-31 had good performance and was used for towing targets for aerial gunnery training. Some A-31s were used during preliminary training of attack squadron pilots.
Air Corps version of V-72
TECHNICAL NOTES: Armament: Four fixed .30-cal. machine guns in the wings, two .30-cal. machine guns in a flexible mount for the rear gunner, plus 1,500 lbs. of bombs (two 500-lb. bombs internal and two 250-lb. bombs on external wing racks) Engine:Wright R-2600-19 Cyclone radial of 1,600 hp Maximum speed: 275 mph Cruising speed: 235 mph Range: 1,400 miles maximum ferry range Service ceiling: 22,300 ft. Span: 48 ft. 0 in. Length: 39 ft. 9 in. Height: 15 ft. 4 in. Weight: 14,300 lbs. maximum Crew: Two (pilot, navigator/gunner) Serial numbers: 41-30848 to 41-31047 (V-72); 41-31048 to 41-31147 (A-31)