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Fairey P27/32 Battle

 

faireybattle3

Battle Mk.III

 

In September 1934 Fairey produced a brochure which described and illustrated the Fairey P27/32 as a universal design, being able to take on a number of different shapes each suited to a particular operational role.


Their first venture into the all-metal monoplane field, in which light-alloy stressed-skin construction was employed, the oval-section monocoque portion was of light-alloy hoop frames, pressed out in single pieces, each being notched to receive four special section longerons and the pre-formed skin plating. The skin plating was cut to form strips of clinker construction with the upper edge rolled to form an integral U-section stringer. After the first strip of fuselage skin had been attached to the frames, the next strip was applied with a small overlap on the previous skin, along which a closing rivet line was centred. This "stringerless" method of construction thus saved the weight of numerous long rivet lines which would have attached the separate stringers had they been employed.


The four TT-sectioned longerons, arranged as upper and lower pairs, ran three-quarters the length of the fuselage, with the inner flanges of each longeron connecting to each frame by of small brackets. A butted flat skin joint was arranged above each longeron, closure being made by a double rivet line through each skin and the outer flange on each side of the longeron.

 

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The fuselage forward of the pilot's bulkhead comprised the steel tube structure supporting the pilot's cockpit flooring and the fireproof bulkhead. Light alloy subframes and sections formed the fuselage profile and sections to which fixed and detachable light-alloy panels were fitted. The power plant picked up with fittings on the firewall together with a light tubular structure which carried the detachable cowling panels.


The small centre section to the wing comprised two short lengths of spar, built up from light-alloy box sections into a girder structure, joining four heavy wing ribs. The spaces formed by the two pairs of ribs at the outboard ends each housed a large fuel tank, whilst the larger space between the inner ribs formed the bomb aimer's compartment which was entered from the cockpit interior by means of a large aperture in the top skinning of the centre section.


The outer wing panels were of two-spar construction, the inner ends of girder form, changing in section to flanged beams on the outboard sections. Wing ribs containing large circular flanged lightening holes and further strengthened by deep edge flanges were pressed from light-alloy and were attached to the spars by means of angle brackets. Notched in a similar way to the fuselage frames, the wing ribs supported continuous Z section spanwise stringers, this time separate from the wing skinning. The lightalloy wing skin was applied in long flat strips, overlapped as on the fuselage skins, with single rows of rivets through the overlap and the Z stringer flange below. The underside skinning was fitted with screwed panels running spanwise, adjacent to the flying control runs and bomb release gear.


All of the movable control surfaces were of metal framing with fabric covering. The split trailing edge flaps were of metal throughout and were interconnected at their inner ends via universal joints. A simple hydraulic system was provided which powered the flaps, main undercarriage legs, and the bomb mounting crutches.


The latter permitted the bombs to be lowered clear of the wings during dive bombing. The undercarriage jack bodies were fixed attachments, whilst the ram was free to run within guides to which the leg radius rod was attached. From the fully retracted position, the first half-inch of movement of the ram unlocked the holding-up latch allowing the leg to drop down. When fully extended, self-locking was provided by the angular position of the radius rod.


The separate cockpit hoodings as on the mock-up were dispensed with on the prototype P27/32, and a single long glazed hooding was fitted which joined the two positions. Although this subsequently was found to have spoiled the pilot's rearward view, it did much to improve the air flow and lessen wind noise around the cockpit area as discovered on wind tunnel model tests. However before the prototype machine had reached the flying stage, a contract was received for an updated airframe with the specific requirement that a third crew member must be carried so that the rear gun could be manned at all times.


This was regarded with complete horror at Hayes, and brought forth further demands from C. R. Fairey that the single-engined design be replaced with the twin-engined design. In subsequent meetings it soon became clear that a production contract was being offered provided a minimum performance could be guaranteed by the company. When Mr Fairey asked what that would be in terms of speed, the answer was not less than 195mph at 15,000 feet with full load and a crew of three. Because Mr Fairey was expecting nothing less than 270mph at that altitude with a crew of two, the guarantee was given and the production contract to Specification P23/35 was issued for no less than 155 machines. However further slippage in the delivery date of the first Merlin 'C' engine to Hayes, coupled with less satisfactory power output figures, did much to cause frustration in the experimental flight shed at Heathrow and greater concern at the Hayes Design Office end that the performance of the P27/32 would not reach the expected 270mph figure. In the meantime everything possible was being done to make the prototype as aerodynamically clean as possible and a further weight saving campaign was initiated.


The prototype made its first flight from the Great West Aerodrome, in the hands of Flt Lt Chris Staniland, on March 10, 1936. Then fitted with a fixed-pitch three-bladed Fairey metal propeller it soon brought praise from an enthusiastic Staniland, although he was later to report that during high speed flight with the hood open the entire canopy was in danger of being ripped off. This matter was put to right when the final mock-up of the rear gun installation was approved, which enabled the final form of the hooding to be settled. The single Vickers 'K' gun was mounted on the familiar Fairey high-speed gun mounting, only this time with the difference that the mounting could be collapsed into a rotating cone which enabled the retracted gun to be rotated beneath the fuselage skin leaving a completely unbroken and smooth line to the rear fuselage. When finally flying in this form, and with the de Havilland two-position, three-bladed propeller, and the new letter-box exhaust manifolds as fitted to the RollsRoyce F25 engine, the Battle probably reached the peak of its perfection.


Shallow dive bombing with the pilot aiming and releasing the bomb load was thought to be the P27/32's most suited role, and was one it was thought possible to operate with a two-man crew; but at this stage the fate of the machine was more or less sealed as an underpowered, three-seat, light, day reconnaissance/bomber.
On paper at any rate the Martlesham Heath trials showed that even under these limitations the Battle could almost make 260mph and could nearly cover 1,100 miles when flying at 200mph, and during the late summer of 1937 the Hayes Design Office concentrated on a weight saving version under the official classification of, the Battle Mk II in an effort to make the best of what had been conditioned by the Air Ministry. The first production Battle Mk I had flown from Ringway at some time during April 1937 and first arrived at the Great West Aerodrome on May 10, 1937, and subsequently went to Martlesham Heath on July 6 for its acceptance trials. Here some grim revelations were recorded, for at the new increased all-up weight the Battle Mk I K7558 could only reach 238mph at 15,000 feet.


On this basis comparative figures for the light, long-range Mk II project appeared more promising indicating a restoration of the maximum speed to 255mph at 15,000 feet, with a range in excess of 1,400 miles. But in August 1937 all such hopes of performance improvement came to a halt.


Already hundreds of Battles were beginning to take shape under the Shadow Factory Scheme and interest from Dominion and several other governments was strong. Starting in late 1935 with the company's desire to fit a super power unit in place of the thwarted P16, designs soon evolved using first the Vulture and then the P24. When the virtual failure of the Vulture led to its replacement by the Exe and the Sabre, it was soon established that the Battle was capable of easily being converted to any suitable power unit, and the idea of a flying engine test bed was soon established. In response to demands for dual-control trainers and bombing and gunnery training conversions, detailed project drawings soon established that the changes could easily be effected at minimum cost in time, money, materials and manhours. When these facts were realised and that ex operational airframes could be retrospectively converted, the Battle appeared to have the chance of an extremely long and active life, thus in a short time hundreds more Battle orders were rushed through. Fairey production and technical resources were stretched to the limit with these undertakings in spite of having the separate Stockport factories to undertake most of the development work.


The 10 squadrons of Battle bombers of the Advanced Air Striking Force found themselves in France on September 1, 1939. With no visible signs of war taking place and prevented from aggressive action by the British Government ruling that bombing could not be directed against land targets, the Battles were employed on high altitude - photo-reconnaissance work across the German frontier, and later still to leaflet dropping sorties. These missions were undertaken in daylight without fighter protection and losses were severe, but these actions were nothing in comparison with the odds faced some six hours after the German attack had been launched on May 10, 1940, when the remains of the Battle squadrons were released to carry out their first bombing attacks on the enemy. The rear gunner of a Battle of No 88 Squadron Advanced Air Striking Force shot down a Messerschmitt Bf 109E over France on 20 September 1939: the first RAF aircraft to shoot down a German aircraft during World War II.


All told, the Air Ministry ordered some 2,419 Battles for the RAF, Dominion and foreign air forces. Of this total only 2,185 were built (1 by Hayes; 1,155 by Stockport and 1,029 by Austin). Sixteen were ordered by Belgium, which were built separately by Stockport, thus the total number of Battles constructed was 2,201.

 

F-Battle
Battle T66

 

The type also served with the air forces of Australia, South Africa and Turkey.


One Battle was fitted with the Fairey P.24 engine and Fairey electrically operated contra-rotating constant-speed propellers - the first propellers of this type to be flight tested in the UK. Between 13 June 1939 and 5 December 1941, the aircraft accumulated about 86 flying hours at the hands of Flt Lieut Christopher Staniland, Mr F. H. Dixon (the company's subsequent chief test pilot) and a number of RAF pilots. It was then shipped to the USA.

Prototype Battle Mk I
Engine: Rolls-Royce Merlin F, 12-cylinder 60 deg Vee, liquid cooled, 890bhp for take-off, 1,035bhp at 12,000ft.
Wing span 54ft.
Length 42ft 7in (tail up).
Height 15ft (tail up).
Root chord 11ft 4 in.
Tip chord 5ft.
Propeller dia: 11 ft 6in (or 12ft).
Wing area: 422 sq ft.
Track 9ft 8in.
Empty wt: 6,647 lb.
Loaded wt: 10,792 lb.
Wing loading: 25.6 lb/sq ft.
Power loading: 10.4 lb/hp (take-off),
Power loading: 10.9 lb/hp (supercharged).
Max speed, level: at SL: 210mph
Max speed, level: at 5,000ft: 226mph
Max speed, level: at 10,000ft: 240mph
Max speed, level: at 15,000ft: 257mph
Max speed, level: at 20,000ft: 245mph
Max speed, level: at 25,000ft: 215mph.
Cruise at 16,000ft: 200mph.
Landing speed: SL 60mph.
Climb to 5,000ft: 4 min 6 sec
Climb to to 10,000ft: 8min 24sec
Climb to to 15,000ft: 13min 36sec
Range at 16,000ft at 200mph: 1,100 mile
Range at 16,000ft at 257mph: 650 mile.

Fairey Battle Mk.I
Engine : Rolls Royce Merlin Mk.I, 1016 hp
Length: 52.067 ft / 15.87 m
Height: 15.486 ft / 4.72 m
Wingspan : 54.003 ft / 16.46 m
Max take off weight : 10793.5 lb / 4895.0 kg  
Max. speed : 210 kts / 388 km/h
Service ceiling : 23491 ft / 7160 m
Range : 913 nm / 1690 km
Crew : 3
Armament : 2 MG 455 kg Bomb

Mk.III
Engine: Rolls-Royce Merlin III, 1440 hp / 755kW
Wingspan: 16.5 m / 54 ft 2 in
Length: 15.9 m / 52 ft 2 in
Height: 4.7 m / 15 ft 5 in
Wing area: 39.2 sq.m / 421.94 sq ft
Max take-off weight: 4900 kg / 10803 lb
Empty weight: 3000 kg / 6614 lb
Max speed: 257 mph @ 15,000 ft
Cruise speed: 338 km/h / 210 mph
Ceiling: 7000 m / 22950 ft
Range w/max.fuel: 1600 km / 994 miles
Armament: 2 x .303 machine-guns, 500kg of bombs
Crew: 3

 

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