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Fairey Battle Light Bomber / Trainer Aircraft (1937)

Authored By Staff Writer | Last Updated: 5/8/2014

By the time of World War 2, the Fairey Battle was wholly-outclassed by smaller, more nimble fighter types unleashed by the Germans.

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The Fairey Battle was a prewar British light bomber design that proved a step-forward for the nation when it was designed during the early-tomid-1930s. However, it was quickly outclassed in the fighting of World War 2 (1939-1945) where it held little advantage against more nimble enemy fighters put forth by the Germans. Nevertheless, Battle crews and British warplanners soldiered on due to the lack of a better alternative and production would eventually range into the thousands. The aircraft was used by several major air arms of the conflict and was not formally retired until the late 1940s.

The Battle was born from Specification P.27/32 appearing during 1933 which called for a two-seat, light-class bomber aircraft to replace the aging stock of Hawker biplanes in the same role. At this time in history, British thinking centered on a compact, light-class bomb delivery platform with France being the assumed future enemy of Britain - thusly range proved of little import. The storied Fairey concern returned with a modern, two-seat, low-wing monoplane which recorded its first flight on March 10th, 1936. By the time the aircraft made it aloft, it had changed considerably from the original direction, now incorporating a greater bomb load capability as well as a third crewmember to help take on more of the operational workload. This forced a long slender fuselage with a long-running, greenhouse-style canopy to be implemented and these changes regrettably increased the airframe's intended weight with the result becoming degraded performance.

Even before the readied prototype (K4303) had even flown, the Air Ministry contracted for 155 of the modern aircraft to offset its outclassed interwar-era biplanes (many air forces were incorporating all-metal, enclosed cockpit aircraft during the period). Production followed as quickly as possible and order numbers grew despite limitations in the design already understood by commanders who would be managing the fleet during wartime. No. 63 Squadron became the aircraft's first recipient during May of 1937 as Europe grew more and more unsettled and by September of 1939, 1,000 Battles stocked the Royal Air Force (RAF) inventory in preparation for total war. Initial variants were recognized rather simply as "Battle Mk I" and these were powered by a Rolls-Royce Merlin I inline piston engine of 1,030 horsepower - the same engine that would make stars out of the Hawker Hurricane and Supermarine Spitfire in due time. Armament was just 1 x .303 (7.7mm) Browning machine gun in a fixed, forward-firing mounting along the right-hand-side wing leading edge with 1 x Vickers K machine gun in an aft mounting in the cockpit. The Battle managed an internal bomb load of 4 x 250lb conventional drop bombs and an additional 500lbs of external stores.

World War 2 (1939-1945) began on September 1st, 1939 when German forces began their campaign to conquer Europe, crossing into sovereign Poland. They were soon joined weeks later by the Soviet offensive in the East which divided Poland in two. Prior to the invasion, the British had already delivered some ten squadrons of Fairey Battles to French soil in anticipation of war.

When Battles were put to the test, it proved itself an already outclassed aircraft type - too slow to counter enemy fighters and holding too small of a bomb load to be an effective strike aircraft. Self-defense was truly lacking and its size worked against the crew, providing a large target and revealing many vulnerable approach angles to the enemy. If left on their own, Battles fended poorly during sorties than when under fighter escort protection - Battles were neither true bombers nor dedicated fighters, instead something of an obsolete cross-breed that realistically held little value in the upcoming war of fluid fronts. During one mission undertaken in September of 1939, five Battles fell to German Messerschmitt Bf 109 fighters with little trouble - such was the German fighter advantage when facing unprotected Battle aircraft.


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Specifications for the
Fairey Battle
Light Bomber / Trainer Aircraft


Focus Model: Fairey Battle Mk.II
Country of Origin: United Kingdom
Manufacturer: Fairey Aviation Company; Austin Motor Company - UK / Avions Fairey - Belgium
Initial Year of Service: 1937
Production: 2,185


Crew: 3


Length: 42.36ft (12.91m)
Width: 54.00ft (16.46m)
Height: 15.49ft (4.72m)
Weight (Empty): 6,647lbs (3,015kg)
Weight (MTOW): 10,792lbs (4,895kg)


Powerplant: 1 x Rolls-Royce Merlin II liquid-cooled, V12 inline piston engine delivering 1,030 horsepower.


Maximum Speed: 257mph (413kmh; 223kts)
Maximum Range: 1,000miles (1,610km)
Service Ceiling: 25,000ft (7,620m; 4.7miles)
Rate-of-Climb: 1,250 feet per minute (381m/min)


Hardpoints: 2
Armament Suite:
STANDARD:
1 x 7.7mm Browning machine gun in starboard side wing.
1 x 7.7mm Vickers K machine gun in rear fuselage.

OPTIONAL:
Up to 500lbs of external ordnance as well as 4 x 250lb bombs held internally.


Variants:
Fairey Day Bomber - Prototype Designation; single example.


Battle Mk.I - Light Bomber Production Model; fitted with Rolls-Royce Merlin I inline piston engine of 1,030 horsepower.

Battle Mk.II - Light Bomber Production Model; fitted with Rolls-Royce Merlin II inline piston engine of 1,030 horsepower.

Battle Mk.V - Light Bomber Production Model; fitted with Rolls-Royce Merlin V inline piston engine.

Battle T - Mk.I, Mk.II and Mk.V production aircraft converted to trainer platforms.

Battle IT - Mk.I, Mk.II and Mk.V production models modified as trainer aircraft; fitted with turret in aft fuselage.

Battle IIT - Mk.I production model fitted with Wright Cyclone R-1820-G38 series engine of 840 horsepower; single example.

Battle TT - Mk.I, Mk.II and Mk.V production models converted to target tugs; 100 examples.

Mattle TT.Mk I - Target Tug Variant; 226 production examples.


Operators:
Australia; Belgium; Canada; Ireland; Greece; Poland; South Africa; Turkey; United Kingdom