Allies in adversity, Australia and the Dutch in the Pacific War
The destruction of Dutch air power in the Pacific
The Dutch air arms in the NEI comprised a collection of units operating a variety of generally obsolescent or obsolete types of aircraft. The exceptions were the units of the Naval Air Service (Marine Luchtvaar Dienst or MLD) whose Consolidated Catalina and Dornier Do 24 flying boats were modern long-range aircraft offering excellent performance. The army’s air service, the Militaire Luchtvaart Koninklijk Nederlands Indisch Leger or ML-KNIL, however, was in a parlous state. Its bomber squadrons, in particular, were equipped with the American-built Martin B-10 (or M-139, as it was known in its export version). This aircraft, although considered a groundbreaking design for its day, had been withdrawn from US service during the 1930s. Its top speed of about 325 kilometres per hour could not compare to the Japanese fighters capable of 500 kilometres per hour that it would encounter, and it had little armour or defensive weaponry.
The fighter aircraft of the ML-KNIL were a mixed bag of mostly American types, none of which were able to provide adequate competition for the Japanese Zero. The Curtis Hawk 75, The Brewster B-339 Buffalo and the ungainly Curtis-Wright CW-21 Demon were all received in limited numbers, but shortages of spare parts and trained pilots, as well as technical inferiority, limited their impact. Most were either destroyed during the early weeks of the conflict over Malaya or the NEI, or captured by the Japanese on the docks before they could even be assembled.