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Fairey Firefly
 

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Firefly FR .Mk4

 

A natural development of the Fulmar two-seat fighter, the Firefly was designed by a team led by H E Chaplin to meet specification N.5/40, an amalgamation of earlier requirements which had called for a carrier-based fighter with a turret. However, the turret was dropped, and when chief test pilot Chris Staniland flew the first Firefly I on December 22, 1941, it was a clean tandem-seater with manually-folding wings containing four 20-mm (0.79-in) cannon and retractable Youngman area-increasing flaps. At first there was no requirement for the type to be able to carry bombs or rockets. Full production started in August 1942.


Development was satisfactory, and the F.1, with 1730-hp / 1,483kW Rolls-Royce Griffon IIB driving a Rotol three-bladed propeller, entered service with 1770 Squadron of the Fleet Air Arm in October 1943 as a two-seat day fighter, subsequently seeing extensive action in all theatres, especially in air-to-surface attacks against the Japanese. Manoeuvrability and long range made up for poor speed, and the good pilot view and comfortable rear observer cockpit were most welcome. Fairey, at Hayes and Stockport, and General Aircraft built 429 F.Is followed by 376 FR.Is (fighter reconnaissance) with ASH ship and submarine-detection radar in a radome under the nose of the fuselage. Each was armed with two 20mm cannon in each wing. Then followed 37 NF.II night fighters, with the large AI.X radar packaged into pods on the leading edge of both wings and with the forward fuselage lengthened to preserve centre of gravity position, which was disturbed by the heavy displays in the rear cockpit.

 

Conversions included the NF.I, with American 3-cm AI radar (usually APS-6) in a ventral pod, with other changes including shrouded exhausts, and the FR.IA which was a Mk.I rebuilt almost to FR.1 standard. From the 471st aircraft the engine was the 1990-hp Griffon XII.


The Firefly T.1 was basically an F.1 converted for use as a deck-landing conversion and instrument-flying trainer. The raised rear cockpit was occupied by the instructor. They were usually unarmed, although a few carried two 20mm cannon.


The Firefly T.2 was an armaments trainer, similar to the T.1 with two 20mm cannon and provision for carrying bombs, rockets and long-range drop tanks. The Griffon 12-powered Firefly T.3 was a version of the FR.1 intended specifically to train observers, the rear cockpit being equipped with the fullest possible range of radio and radar equipment.

 

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Notable highlights included the attack on the German battleship Tirpitz and a series of strikes on mainland Japan shortly before VJ-Day brought hostilities to a conclusion. In the post-war era, the Firefly demonstrated a con-siderable degree of versatility, turning its hand to other duties such as target towing and anti-submarine warfare as well as continuing in its primary func-tion of fighter-bomber. By the time production ceased 1,702 had been built, some remaining active with the Fleet Air Arm until as late as 1957 whilst others served with Australia, Canada, Denmark, Ethiopia, India, the Netherlands, Sweden and Thailand.


The Royal Canadian Navy employed 65 Fireflies of the Mk AS5 variety on board its own aircraft carriers between 1946 and 1954. The letters 'AS' stand for anti-submarine, which was the intended primary role of the RCN's Fireflies.


A total of 29 Firefly FR.1s were operated by the RCN after the war.


Availability of the two-stage Griffon led to the F.III, reaching 562 km/h (349 mph) with the 2035-hp Griffon 61, but handling was poor.


An extensive redesign resulted in the greatly improved F.IV (postwar FR.4) with 2250-hp Griffon 74 driving a four-blade Rotol propeller, which flew for the first time on 25 May 1945. New square-tipped wings had reduced span and neat leading-edge pods housing fuel (left) and radar (right). Radiators were moved to the inboard leading edge, the area of the tailfin was increased, and the aerodynamics improved. New underwing racks could carry up to 907 kg (2000 lb) of bombs, 16 rockets or drop tanks. Production, all by Fairey, amounted to 160 were completed by early 1948, of which 40 went to the Royal Netherlands Navy. Nearly all those in front-line service with Royal Navy carriers saw action in Korea in 1950-53.


Some later being modified to Firefly TT.Mk 4 standard for target-towing duty.


The next basic model to appear was the Mk 5. Similar to the 4, but with the wing folding and locking powered hydraulically, and with additional role equipment. Variants including the Firefly NF.Mk 5 night-fighter, the Firefly FR.5 day reconnaissance fighter and the Firefly AS.Mk 5 anti-submarine patrol aircraft; the last eventually became the most numerous post-war version. All had better communications, navigation and IFF, and the NF and AS having night and search/attack radar. Production totalled 352 between 1947 and 1950, including batches for the Royal Australian and Canadian Navies which served throughout the Korean campaign.


The FR.5 carried the same radar in the starboard wing nacelle as the 4 and was equipped with beam approach, IFF and communications radio. The NF.5 had the same basic radio plus a radio altimeter and other night-flying equipment. The AS.5 was an anti-submarine version and carried special submarine-detection equipment under the wings and fuselage.


In 1951, the Firefly AS.6 entered service as an interim ASW aircraft pending delivery of the Fairey Gannet. It abandoned all fighter pretensions and carried only radar, sonobuoys and antisubmarine weapons. Fairey built 133.


The Firefly 7 of 1953 was produced in two forms, as the AS and T, although it was used mainly as an anti-submarine training aircraft. Powered by a Griffon engine with a 'chin' radiator, the three-seat anti-submarine aircraft carried the latest detection devices and sonobuoys for tracking a target at sea. A new blister-enclosed rear cockpit accommodated two radar operators and the aircraft had elliptical long-span wings without wing radiators, swept-forward wing roots, and a new tail unit.

 

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Firefly U.9

 

The remaining 160 Mk 7s were all Firefly T.Mk 7 trainers. Firefly production eventually terminated in March 1956 with the delivery of the last of 24 new-build Firefly U.Mk 8 target drones, but 54 Mk 5s were also con-verted to this mission, these being known as Firefly U.Mk 9 aircraft. The U.8, U.9 and U.10 were all radio-controlled drones or targets. The Fairey Firefly 8 (Rolls-Royce Griffon 59) had four cameras in each wing-tip fairing to photograph missiles which are directed to its vicinity. For test purposes and other duties it may be flown by a crew of two-pilot and observer. Unlike the Firefly 7, from which it was developed, has an arrester hook fitted in the aperture under the fuselage. This is for arrested landings on aerodromes while under radio control. It has an 86-gallon fuel tank between the cockpits. The U.9 was the standard target for development and training with the Seaslug ship-to-air missile, while the U.10 was a similar rebuild of the AS.7. All targets had large multi-angle high-speed camera pods on the wingtips.

 

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In the 1950s more than 450 Fireflys were rebuilt for new roles. The first was the TT.1 target tug, with Mk 2B windmill winch and 2150 m (7053 ft) of cable for a drogue target; some of these had a long career in Sweden. The T.1 operational trainer, 30 of which were supplied to the Royal Navy and a few to other countries, had two separate stepped cockpit canopies, dual control and changed equipment. Most were unarmed, but some had two cannon.


Operationally, British Fireflies of various marks saw considerable post-war action, taking part in the Malayan confrontation between 1949 and 1954 as well as the Korean War, whilst the Dutch Firefly FR.Mk 1 aircraft undertook combat duty against rebel forces in the Dutch East Indies.


In total, 1623 Fireflies left the assembly lines.

 

Gallery

 

Fairey Firefly F.I
Engine: Rolls Royce Griffon II B, 1706 hp / 1270kW
Wingspan: 13.6 m / 44 ft 7 in
Length: 11.5 m / 37 ft 9 in
Height: 4.1 m / 13 ft 5 in
Wing area: 327.979 sq.ft / 30.47 sq.m
Max take off weight: 14021.6 lb / 6359.0 kg
Weight empty: 9752.7 lb / 4423.0 kg
Max. speed: 275 kts / 509 km/h / 316 mph
Service ceiling: 28000 ft / 8535 m
Wing loading: 42.85 lb/sq.ft / 209.0 kg/sq.m
Range w/max.fuel: 1720 km / 1069 miles
Armament: 4 x 20mm machine-guns, 900kg of bombs
Crew: 2

Firefly FR.Mk 4
Engine: one 2,245-hp (1674-kW) Rolls-Royce Griffon 74
Maximum speed: 591 km/h (367 mph) at 4265 m (14,000 ft)
Service ceiling 9725 m  (31,900 ft)
Range 2148 km (1,335 miles)
Empty weight: 4388 kg (9,674 lb)
Maximum take-off: 7083 kg (15,615 lb)
Wingspan 12.55 m (41 ft 2 in)
Length 11.58 m (38 ft 0 in)
Height 4.24 m (l3ft 11 in)
Wingarea 30.66sq.m (330 sq ft)
Armament: four 20-mm cannon, plus 16 27-kg (60-lb) rockets or two 454-kg (l,000-lb) bombs.

AS.5

Engine One 2,259hp Rolls Royce Griffon 74
Wing span: 12.55 m (41 ft 2 in)
Length: 11.56 m (37 ft 11 in)
Height: 14 ft 4 in
Empty weight 9,674 lb
Gross weight: 7300 kg (16100 lb)
Maximum speed: 618 km/h (384 mph)
Initial Rate of Climb: 6 mins 50 secs to 10,000 ft
Ceiling: 28,400 ft
Endurance: 6.5 hours
Armament: 4 x 20 mm cannon
Bombload: 2 x 1,000 lb bombs or 16 x 60 lb rockets
Crew 2

Fairey Firefly Mk. 6 ASR
Engine: Rolls-Royce Griffon 74, 2245 hp
Wing Span: 41ft (12.50m)
Length: 37ft (11.28m)
Height: 15ft 6in(4.7m)
Range: 1,070 miles(1,772 km) w/ 2 @ 90Imp.Gal drop tanks
Speed: 345 mph (555 km/h)
Armament: two or four 20mm canon two drop tanks or ASR equipment

 

Fairey Firefly 8
Engine: Rolls-Royce Griffon
Span: 43 ft 6 in
Length: 38 ft 3 in

 

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