The earlier PBY-2 and PBY-5 Catalina flying boats were faster and more attractive to look at, but it was the Black Cat Squadrons that wrote some of the most interesting chapters in the history of the War in the Pacific.
Their search and attack capability was the perfect answer to the Japanese tactics of moving men and supplies at night by ship or barge to re-supply their out-of the-way garrisons in the western Pacific.
The early RADAR installed on the PBY-5A Catalinas was crude and very limited, but it worked well enough that the Black Cats were able to sink over 10,000 tons and seriously damage another 24,000 tons of Japanese merchant shipping in their night attacks.
Because of its amphibian landing gear, the PBY-5A had the advantage of operating from island landing strips or seaplane tenders, but this came at a price. Because of the added weight of retractable landing gear, the PBY-5A was slower and couldn't fly as high as the earlier pure seaplane versions.