Beaufighter; the "forgotten" fighter of WW2
To the Japanese, the
Beaufighter became known as "The Whispering Death" which
gives some idea of the speed at which one could suddenly appear, strike
and turn for home. Beaufighters were also flown by the air forces of Britain,
Australia, Canada, New Zealand and, in small numbers, the US.
Britain's lack of long-range heavy
fighters when the war started was a source of acute embarrassment to the
RAF single-engined interceptors such as the Hurricane and Spitfire
lacked the endurance for effective standing patrols, and it was soon
discovered that the heavy long-range fighter would be invaluable to
perform a wide variety of tasks. The result was a piece of true British
improvisation--the Bristol Beaufighter, which entered service a year
after the outbreak of war, at a time when it was most sorely needed.
Built as a company-funded long-range fighter (using major components
from the earlier Beaufort torpedo-bomber), the prototype Beaufighter
first flew on July 17,1939. This was little more than eight months after
the design had been initiated. Exactly two weeks earlier, before the
first flight, a production contract for 300 machines had been placed to
specification F. 17/39. This seemingly desperate measure by the Air
Ministry was, by 1938 to 1939, not uncommon, as it helped speed up the
production of much-needed combat planes.
The fact that a heavy twin-engined fighter such as the Beaufighter was
available as soon as the late autumn of 1940 was largely due to the
foresight and enterprise of the Bristol Aeroplane Company in envisaging
the probable need for a high-performance long-range fighter capable of
undertaking duties of a more aggressive nature than those foreseen by
official specifications. At the end of 1938 L. G. Frise and his design
team began the design of what was virtually a fighter variant of the
Beaufort general reconnaissance and torpedo-bomber. The initial proposal
was framed, as far as possible, to meet the requirements of
specification F.11/37, and envisaged an aeroplane using a large
proportion of Beaufort components, including the wings, tail assembly
and undercarriage, a pair of Hercules radial engines and carrying a
battery of four 20-mm. Hispano cannon. The economy of the proposal was
of obvious appeal to the government, struggling to meet the vast
requirements of a major rearmament program, and, as the Type 156, four
prototypes were ordered.
|Bristol Beaufighter T.F.X
||57 ft. 10 in. (17.64 m)
||41 ft. 4 in. (12.59 m)
||15 ft. 10 in. (4.84 m)
||15,592 lb (7,072 kg)
||25,400 lb. (11,521 kg)
||9,808 lb. (4,448 kg)
||305 m.p.h. (490
km/h) @ sea-level.
320 m.p.h. (514 km/h) @ 10,000 ft. (3,048 m)
||19,000 ft. (5,791 m) (without
||1,400 miles (2,253 km) with torpedo and
1,750 miles (2,816 km) with torpedo and long-range tanks.
|Two Bristol Hercules
XVII fourteen-cylinder two-row sleeve-valve radial engines rated at
1,725 h.p. (1,286 kw) @ 2,900 r.p.m. for take-off and
1,395 h.p. (1,040 kw) @ 2,400 r.p.m. at 1,500 ft. (457 m).
|Four 20-mm. Hispano
cannon in the fuselage nose and six 0.303-in. machine-guns in the wings
and one 0.303-in. Vickers "K" or Browning gun in the dorsal
position. One 18-in. torpedo externally under fuselage. Eight rocket
projectiles could be carried as alternative to the wing guns.