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Sopwith T.1 Cuckoo


The T.1 was designed to a requirement for a torpedoplane that was to be used in an attack against the German High Seas Fleet at its home anchorage at Wilhelmshaven on the Jade River.  A formal proposal was forwarded to the Admiralty by the Admiral of the Grand Fleet at the time - Adm Sir David Beatty, although it was written by Herbert Richmond, captain of the battleship HMS Conqueror and Sqn Cdr Frederick Rutland. As a result of the proposal, Beatty had 200 Cuckoos ordered. Due to production difficulties - the Cuckoo was one of a number of aircraft that were not considered a high priority and therefore had production allocated to satellite firms inexperienced in aircraft manufacture - and the very unreliable 149Kw / 200 hp Sunbeam Arab engine.

The prototype Cuckoo torpedo-bomber flew in June 1917 and was powered by a 200 hp Hispano-Suiza engine.


The Cuckoo was a three bay biplane with two spar wooden wings and wooden fuselage, with fabric covering. Ailerons were fitted to all four wings. The wings folded rearward for storage on board ships.

Initially the first contract to build the T.1 was offered to the Fairfield Shipbuilders in Glasgow but because the rate of production was so slow, Blackburn took over their order. Blackburn built N6950 was the first production Cuckoo to reach the training field, East Fortune in Scotland. The other company to build the T.1 was Pegler and Co brass fitters of Doncaster, their rate of production was not very high either. Blackburn built the most Cuckoos of over 200 built. Sopwith only built the prototype.

Cuckoos did not reach the fleet airfield's fast enough before the Armistice and the raid, scheduled for mid 1918 never took place.

Production aircraft first appeared with 149kW Sunbeam Arabs as T.1 Cuckoos and entered service in the latter half of 1918, first going to sea on board HMS Argus on 19 October. In the first batch of Cuckoos built by Blackburn were three with Wolseley Viper engines. These became Mk IIs together with others built immediately after the war. Armament of the Cuckoo was a 450mm torpedo. Maximum level speed was 166km/h.


The first aircraft carrier based torpedo squadron, No.185 Sqn was formed at East Fortune on 7 October 1918, but was declared ready for ops from Argus later that month, although they did not embark aboard ship at that early stage. The first recorded landing of a Cuckoo aboard Argus wasn't until June 1919.

One example of the Cuckoo III was built, powered by a Rolls Royce Falcon engine, but this was not pursued.

In 1921 six Cuckoos and a small naval aviation team was sent to Japan as the British Mission, lead by Colonel the Master of Sempill, to advise the Imperial Japanese Navy in naval aviation matters. Other aircraft sent include Avro 504Ls on floats, Sopwith Pups, Gloster Sparrowhawks and two Blackburn Swift torpedoplanes. Although the Cuckoos and the Swifts were used only for training, there is no doubt that they made landings aboard Hosho, Japan's first aircraft carrier. Photos survive showing Swifts and Cuckoos carrying out torpedo drops in Tokyo Bay.

Engine: One 200 h.p. Sunbeam Arab
Prop: 2 blade
Wing span 46 ft 9 in / 14.24 m
Length 28 ft 6 in (8.68 m.)
Height: 10 ft 8 in
Wing area: 566 sq.ft
Weight empty 2,199 lb. (997 kg.)
MTOW: 3883 lb
Max speed: 103 mph (166 kph) at 2000 ft
Ceiling: 12,100 ft. (3,700 m.) fully loaded
Endurance: 4 hours
Seats: 1

Armament: One 18 in. (45 cm.) torpedo





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