POWER PLANT: One Bristol “Centaurus” IX radial engine, rated at 2,520 hp
PERFORMANCE: 342 mph
COMMENT: The Blackburn “Firebrand” was a British single-engine strike fighter for the Fleet Air Arm of the Royal Navy designed during World War II by Blackburn Aircraft. Originally intended to serve as a pure fighter, its unimpressive performance and the allocation of its Napier “Sabre” piston engine by the Ministry of Aircraft Production (MAP) for the Hawker “Typhoon” caused it to be redesigned as a strike fighter to take advantage of its load-carrying capability. Development was slow and the first production aircraft was not delivered until after the end of the war. Only a few hundred were built before it was withdrawn from front-line service in 1953
The B-37, given the service name “Firebrand” on July 1941, was a low-winged, all-metal monoplane. Aft of the cockpit the fuselage was an oval-shaped stressed-skin semi monocoque, but forward it had a circular-section, tubular-steel frame that housed the main fuel tank and the auxiliary fuel tank behind the engine. The radiators for the neatly cowled “Sabre” engine were housed in wing-root extensions. The large wing consisted of a two-spar centre section with manually folded outer panels to allow more compact storage in the hangar decks of aircraft carriers. To increase lift and reduce landing speed the wing was fitted with large, hydraulically powered flaps that extended to the edges of the ailerons. The fixed armament of four 20 mm cannon was fitted in the outer wing panels. The fin and rudder were positioned forward of the elevator to ensure spin recovery and that the rudder would retain its effectiveness. The mainwheels of the landing gear were mounted at the ends of the centre wing section and retracted inwards.The “Firebrand” was unusual in the fact that there was an airspeed gauge mounted outside of the cockpit so that during landing the pilot would not have to look down into the cockpit to take instrument readings, foreshadowing the modern heads-up display.
The unarmed first prototype first flew on February 1942 using the “Sabre II”, the first of two armed prototypes following on July same year. The initial flight trials were a disappointment as the aircraft could only reach 32 mph below Blackburn’s estimated maximum speed. Replacement of the “Sabre II” with a “Sabre III”, an engine built specifically for the “Firebrand” improved its top speed to 358 mph at 17,000 ft. The second prototype conducted deck-landing trials aboard the fleet carrier HMS “Illustrious” in February 1943.The “Sabre” engine was also used in the Hawker “Typhoon”, a fighter already in production and the MAP decided that the “Typhoon” had priority for the “Sabre”. The “Sabre” was also experiencing production problems and so a new engine was needed, along with the necessary airframe adaptations. To use the time and effort invested in the design, the MAP decided to convert the “Firebrand” into an interim strike fighter, to meet a Fleet Air Arm requirement for a single-seat torpedo bomber capable of carrying bombs, rockets and being capable of air-to-air combat. Nine production “Firebrand” F. Mk I aircraft were built to the original specifications and were retained for trials and development work
A new specification was issued as S.8/43 to cover the development of the “Firebrand” T.F. Mk III with the 2,400 hp Bristol “Centaurus” VII radial engine. Two prototypes were converted from incomplete F Mk Is and 27 additional aircraft were delivered, completing the first batch of 50 aircraft. The first prototype flew on December 1943, but construction of the new aircraft was very slow with the first flight not being made until November 1944. Most changes were related to the installation of the larger-diameter “Centaurus” engine, including air intakes for the carburetor and oil cooler in the wing-root extensions that formerly housed the engine’s radiators. Production aircraft after the first 10 were fitted with the improved “Centaurus” IX engine. The “Firebrand” T.F. Mk III was found to be unsuitable for carrier operations for a variety of reasons. The new engine produced more torque than the “Sabre”, and rudder control was insufficient on takeoff with the full flaps needed for carrier use. Visibility while landing was very poor, the tailhook attachment to the airframe was too weak, and the aircraft had a tendency to drop a wing at the stall while landing, so development continued to rectify these issues.
The “Firebrand” T.F. Mk IV, as the new development was designated, featured larger tail surfaces for better low-speed control. The enlarged rudder was horn balanced and the vertical stabilizer was offset three degrees to port to counteract the four-bladed Rotol propeller’s torque. The wings now featured hydraulically operated dive brakes on both upper and lower surfaces. The aircraft’s wings were now stressed to carry heavy bombs, drop tanks or RP-3 rockets. The frame that held the torpedo was connected to the undercarriage so that it pivoted nose-downward to increase ground clearance with the landing gear extended and pivoted upward to reduce drag while in flight. The “Firebrand” T.F. Mk IV first flew on May 1945, and 250 aircraft were ordered. But only 170 aircraft were completed and 50 more aircraft were cancelled (Ref.: 24).
POWER PLANT: One Rolls-Royce “Merlin” 55 liquid-cooled engine, rated at 1,470 hp
PERFORMANCE: 352 mph at 12,250 ft
COMMENT: The Supermarine “Seafire” was a naval version of the Supermarine “Spitfire” adapted for operation from aircraft carriers. The name “Seafire” was arrived at by abbreviating the longer name “Sea Spitfire”.
In late 1941 and early 1942, the Admiralty assessed the “Spitfire” for possible conversion. In late 1941, a total of 48 “Spitfire” Mk Vb were converted to become “hooked Spitfires”. This was the “Seafire” Mk Ib and would be the first of several “Seafire” variants to reach the Royal Navy’s Fleet Air Arm. The second semi-naval variant of the “Seafire” and the first to be built as such, was the “Seafire F Mk IIc which was based on the “Spitfire” Mk Vc. The IIc was the first of the “Seafires” to be deployed operationally in large numbers. Although developed for aircraft carrier use, this version still lacked the folding wings needed to allow them to be used on board some Royal Navy carriers, some of which had small aircraft elevators unable to accommodate the full wingspan of the “Seafires”. The “Seafire” F Mk III was the first true carrier adaptation of the Spitfire design. It was developed from the “Seafire” Mk IIC, but incorporated manually folding wings allowing more of these aircraft to be spotted on deck or in the hangars below. Supermarine devised a system of two straight chordwise folds; a break was introduced immediately outboard of the wheel-wells from which the wing hinged upwards and slightly angled towards the fuselage. A second hinge at each wingtip join allowed the tips to fold down (when the wings were folded the wingtips were folded outwards). This version used the more powerful Merlin or Merlin 55M, driving the same four-bladed propeller unit used by the IIC series; the Merlin 55M was another version of the Merlin for maximum performance at low altitude. This Mark was built in larger numbers than any other “Seafire” variant; of the 1,220 manufactured Westland built 870 and Cunliffe Owen 350 aircraft. (Ref.: 24).
POWER PLANT: Two de Havilland Gipsy Major IC inline piston engine, rated at 140 hp each
PERFORMANCE: 102 mph
COMMENT: In 1941 the Air Ministry issued specification B.11/41 calling for a fast bomber operating from aircraft carriers. Beside high speed and bomb load main requirement was a lay out of the aircraft to give the pilot the best view possible for landing on aircraft carriers. Miles proposed a tandem wing experimental aircraft based on its M.39 design. To prove the concept Miles designed and built a 5/8th scale version, the M.39B Libulella which flew for the first time on July 1943. Flight evaluation showed no “undesirable handling” characteristics and its design coincided with interest by the authorities in unorthodox designs for large aircraft. The rear wing was higher than the forward one to avoid downwash and give ground clearance for the propellers. The M39B design had inboard flaps and outboard ailerons on the rear wing and the front wing had an auxiliary aerofoil/flap/elevator device, which could vary the wing area without changing lift coefficient. Miles continued testing, generating more flight data and submitted an improved M.39 design in early 1944. Meanwhile, the sole M.39B passed to the Royal Aircraft Establishment at Farnborough in 1944, where it was damaged and repaired after two accidents, only to be broken up with the full-sized bomber project’s cancellation (Ref.: 24).
ACCOMMODATION: Crew of two (pilot and radar-observer)
POWER PLANT: One Rolls-Royce Griffon XII inline engine, rated at 1,765 hp
PERFORMANCE: 316 mph at 14,000 ft
COMMENT: The Fairey Firefly brought versatility to a degree previously unapproached in a carrier-borne aircraft. Despite the fact that its wartime career was relatively brief, the Firefly not seeing action until mid-July 1944, it fought in practically every operational theatre, from the Arctic to the Tropics, emerging as perhaps the most successful of British wartime shipboard aeroplanes. In 1939 the admiralty issued specification N.8/39 and N.9/39, which respectively called for a fixed-gun fighter and a fighter possessing a power-driven turret in which all armament was concentrated. The Fairey Company submitted designs for both specifications, but concluded that a clean two-seat fighter with fixed-gun armament offered greater potentialities. A design on these lines was accepted in principle, specification was revised to N.5/40, and an initial contract for 200 machines was ordered. On December 1941 the first prototype – the name “Firefly” was selected – made its initial flight. The first production aircraft was delivered in March 1943 and quantity production began in autumn 1942. The contract called for 800 aircraft and the first operational unit received the Firefy F.I. on October 1943. A total of 430 F.Mk.I are built by Fairey and under sub-contract by General Aircraft. The Firefly F.I was succeeded by the F.R.Mk.I fighter-reconnaissance aircraft carrying ASH shipping detection radar, a total of 376 aircraft were produced (Ref.: 12).
TYPE: Flying-boat fighter and fighter bomber. Project
ACCOMMODATION: Pilot only
POWER PLANT: One Napier Sabre II, rated at 2.020 hp, driving two three-bladed contra-rotating propellers
PERFORMANCE: 360 mph
COMMENT: After Japan’s initial successes in the Pacific Area of Action, the need for a fighter aircraft capable of operating from austere island sites, with minimal infrastructure, was regarded as a high priority. So the British Air Ministry’s Specification N2./42 called for a retractable hull flying-boat fighter. The Blackburn Aircraft Company designed a water based fighter that utilized as much as possible of the structure of the Blackburn Firebrand torpedo striker fighter, just beginning flight tests at that time. A novelty was the retractable hull. The fuselage of the aircraft was to be split in two with the lower float-like half extending and retracting hydraulically. This resulted in an excellent streamline form with the main hull, and simultaneously provided adequate clearance between airscrews and water. The B.44 was well suited for the Pacific war. However, the project was cancelled because British Naval policy was only to use aircraft carriers with wheeled fighters (Ref.: 23 ).
Scale 1:72 aircraft models of World War II
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