||The Catalina was the most widely used flying boat of the war. It flew in all of the major theatres and was employed as a maritime patrol and attack aircraft, a long-range transport, a minelayer, and for air-sea rescue missions.
Originally designated PBY by the US navy, the Catalina entered service with it in 1936. Production of the PBY was meant to cease in 1939, but when hostilities broke out in Europe, orders were received from Britain, Australia, Canada, and Dutch East Indies for the aircraft. The British gave it the name "Catalina", which was recognised by the US navy in 1941. A total of 3,290 PBY aircraft were built during the war.
Several individual examples of the Catalina were flown by the RAAF squadrons in RAF Coastal Command, but the majority of Australian "Cats" were flown in the Pacific. The first aircraft arrived in February 1941 and were heavily employed thereafter. They suffered heavily in the initial months of the war against Japan, and by April 1942 eight of the original batch of ten had been destroyed. A steady flow of Catalinas to the RAAF was maintained throughout the war and 168 were ultimately delivered.
In the early years of the war, RAAF Catalinas in the South-West Pacific were predominantly used to bomb Japanese shipping and port facilities. Later in the war, the Catalina's main role was as a minelayer. Generally flying by night, and painted all-black, the minelaying Catalinas operated around most Japanese ports in the South-West Pacific, including along the Chinese coast. For obvious reasons, they were nicknamed the "Black Cats". Australian Catalinas were also operated in the transport and air-sea rescue roles. By the end of the war they equipped four operational squadrons (11, 20, 42, and 43), two communications units (6 and 8), and three air-sea rescue flights (111, 112, and 113). The last Catalina was withdrawn from RAAF service in April 1950.