Airspeed Fleet Shadower

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
A.S.39 Fleet Shadower
FleetShadower prototype.jpg
Role Special observation monoplane
Manufacturer Airspeed Ltd
First flight 17 October 1940
Retired 1941
Number built 1

The Airspeed A.S.39 Fleet Shadower was a British long-range patrol aircraft design that did not go beyond the prototype stage. While the concept of a fleet shadower had some promise, the resulting prototypes were soon overtaken by wartime developments in airborne radar.

Design and development[edit]

The Royal Navy envisaged a need (Operational Requirement OR.52) for an aircraft that could shadow enemy fleets at night and the resulting Specification S.23/37 called for a slow-flying low-noise aircraft with a long range, capable of operating from an aircraft carrier's flight deck. The specified performance was to be a speed of 38 knots at 1500 ft for not less than six hours.[1]

Five companies showed interest: Percival, Short Brothers, Fairey Aviation, General Aircraft Ltd and Airspeed.

General Aircraft submitted the G.A.L.38, of very similar general design to the A.S.39.[1] General Aircraft and Airspeed were selected to build two prototypes each and Airspeed received awarded a contract on 10 August 1938.

The A.S.39 was a high-wing, semi-cantilever, strut-braced (on the outer panels) monoplane with wooden wings and tail unit and an all-metal monocoque fuselage. It had a fixed, divided type landing gear and tailwheel. The observation aircraft had a crew of three: pilot, observer and radio operator. The A.S.39 had a unique crew configuration with the observer accommodated in the nose with clear-vision windows on three sides and the pilot's compartment raised to allow passage to the radio operator's compartment. Four small 130hp Pobjoy Niagara V seven-cylinder radial air-cooled engines were mounted on the wings. Each wing and an engine could be folded for storage when used on an aircraft carrier.[2]

Operational history[edit]

Of two prototypes started, only one was completed, flying on 17 October 1940, the first flight was delayed due to problems with the Niagara V engines which had a vibration problem. The prototype had stability problems and poor stall handling not helped by the under-powered engines. Airspeed were asked to respond to a proposal to re-engine the aircraft with two Armstrong Whitworth Cheetah XI radial engines and add rear-facing machine guns. Only a preliminary proposal had been made and the second aircraft was not complete when on 17 February 1941 the Navy cancelled the fleet shadower program along with the AS.39,[3] the company were requested to scrap both aircraft. The competing G.A.L.38 flew for a few months before it was cancelled and scrapped in March 1942. The requirement for such aircraft had been made obsolete due to the introduction of radar on long-range patrol aircraft such as the Liberator I.

Specifications (A.S.39)[edit]

Data from Nothing ventured...Airspeed AS.39 Night Shadower[4]

General characteristics

  • Crew: 3 (Pilot, observer, radio operator)
  • Length: 39 ft 10 in (12.14 m)
  • Wingspan: 55 ft 4 in (16.87 m)
  • Height: 10 ft 5 in (3.18 m)
  • Wing area: 469 ft² (43.6 m²)
  • Empty weight: 4,592 lb (2087 kg)
  • Loaded weight: 6,935 lb (3,152 kg)
  • Powerplant: 4 × Pobjoy Niagara V seven-cylinder air-cooled radial engines, 140 hp (104 kW) each



  • None

See also[edit]

Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era


  1. ^ a b Jarrett Aeroplane Monthly April 1992, pp. 16–19.
  2. ^ Bridgman, Leonard. Jane's Fighting Aircraft of World War II. New York: Crescent Books, 1988. ISBN 0-517-67964-7.
  3. ^ GAL38
  4. ^ Jarrett Aeroplane Monthly June 1992, p. 53.
  5. ^ Absolute ceiling 16,700 ft (5,090 m)
  • "Airspeed Types." Flight, 1951
  • Bridgman, Leonard, ed. Jane’s All The World’s Aircraft 1945-1946. London: Samson Low, Marston & Company, Ltd, 1946.
  • Butler, Phil. "The Night Shawdowers." Air-Britain Aeromilitaria Vol. 32, Issue 125, Spring 2006, pp. 19–22. ISSB 0262-8791.
  • "Fleet Shadower." Fleet Air Arm archive. Retrieved: 2 February 2007.
  • Jarrett, Phil. "Nothing ventured...", Part 24. Aeroplane Monthly, April 1992, Vol 20 No 4. London: IPC. ISSN 0143-7240. pp. 16–19.
  • Jarrett, Phil. "Nothing ventured... General Aircraft GAL 38 Night Shadower". Aeroplane Monthly, May 1992, Vol 20 No 5. London: IPC. ISSN 0143-7240. pp. 18–23.
  • Jarrett, Phil. "Nothing ventured... Airspeed AS.39 Night Shadower". Aeroplane Monthly, June 1992, Vol 20 No 6. London: IPC. ISSN 0143-7240. pp. 52–57.
  • Winchester, Jim, ed. "General Aircraft Fleet Shadower (1940)". The World's Worst Aircraft: From Pioneering Failures to Multimillion Dollar Disasters. London: Amber Books Ltd., 2005. ISBN 1-904687-34-2.

External links[edit]