|National origin||United Kingdom|
|First flight||5 July 1945|
|Primary user||Fleet Air Arm|
The Fairey Spearfish was a 1940s British torpedo bomber designed and built by Fairey Aviation for the Fleet Air Arm. It was one of the largest single-engine aircraft to ever operate from a British aircraft carrier.
Design and development
The Spearfish was designed by Fairey Aviation to Admiralty Specification O.5/43 as a replacement for the Barracuda. Having learned the lessons of the Barracuda and the Grumman Avenger, the Spearfish had a much more powerful engine, an internal weapons bay and a retractable ASV anti-submarine radar (the external installation on the Barracuda caused problems with longitudinal stability). The Spearfish was larger than the Baraccuda as it was designed to be operated from the 45,000 ton Gibraltar-class aircraft carriers then under development.
The Spearfish was a mid-wing cantilever monoplane powered by a 2585hp Bristol Centaurus 57 radial engine, it had a outward-retracting conventional landing gear with a tailwheel. The wings could be hydraulically-folded for carrier operation. The large internal weapons bay could carry up to four 500lb bombs or a single torpedo. It was intended to fit a remote-controlled Fraser-Nash barbette behind the cockpit and two forward facing Browning machine-guns. The two-man tandem cockpit had a hydraulically-operated canopy.
In August 1943 the company received an order for three prototypes to be built against Specification O.5/43 and the first prototype serial number RA356 was constructed at Fairey's Hayes factory and first flew on 5 July 1945 from Heston Aerodrome, the other two did not fly until 1947. In November 1943 the company were ordered to build a dual-control dive-bombing trainer variant against Specification T.21/43 and this was built at the Stockport factory and assembled and flown at Ringway on 20 June 1946. Three further development aircraft were ordered in May 1944 to be built at Stockport with the last two to be fitted with a Rolls-Royce Pennine engine, only the first Centarus-engined aircraft was built but it never flew.
Production orders for 100 aircraft were placed to be built at Stockport but with the cancellation of the Gibraltar-class carriers the Fleet Air Arm no longer had a requirement for new torpedo bombers and the programme was cancelled.
After the end of the war and with the proposal for a more advanced turboprop anti-submarine aircraft (which became the Gannet), further work on the project was stopped and orders for 152 production aircraft cancelled.
The Admiralty did not accept the Spearfish for operational use. One aircraft was used by the Royal Navy Carrier Trials Unit at RNAS Ford, Sussex, until mid 1952 and another was modified by Napier at Luton for research into methods of obtaining artificial ice accretion.
The aircraft was said to have such heavy controls that in bad weather a pilot circling a carrier while waiting to land was forced to fly such a wide circuit that he could not keep the carrier in sight.
In a follow-up to meet Specification 0.21/44 for a two-seat strike fighter, the Spearfish was re-designed to accommodate a twin-coupled Merlin engine and contra-rotating propellers. A variety of other engines were considered, and although a production order was placed for three examples in 1944, the programme was eventually shelved, remaining as an unfulfilled paper project.
Data from Fairey Aircraft Since 1915
- Crew: 2
- Length: 45 ft 0 in (13.7 m)
- Wingspan: 60 ft 0 in (18.3 m)
- Height: 16 ft 0 in (4.9 m)
- Wing area: 530 ft² (49.2 m²)
- Empty weight: 12,435 lb (5,640 kg)
- Max. takeoff weight: 22,050 lb (10,000 kg)
- Powerplant: 1 × Bristol Centaurus 57 18-cylinder radial engine, 2,585 hp (1,930 kW)
- Propellers: five-bladed propeller
- Maximum speed: 300 mph (480 km/h)
- Cruise speed: 260 mph (415 km/h)
- Range: 895 mi (1,440 km)
- Service ceiling: 23,600 ft (7,200 m)
- Rate of climb: 1,720 ft/min (8.74 m/s)
- Guns: 4 × .50 in (12.7 mm) M2 Browning machine guns, two in the wings and two in a Frazer-Nash FN95 remote-controlled dorsal barbette
- Rockets: 16× RP-3 rocket projectiles on underwing rails
- Bombs: carried in an internal weapons bay; either:
- 1 × torpedo or
- 2,000 lb (907 kg) of bombs or mines
- Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era
- Blackburn Firebrand
- Blackburn Firecrest
- Curtiss XBTC
- Douglas A-1 Skyraider
- Douglas XTB2D Skypirate
- Grumman AF Guardian
- Grumman TBF Avenger
- Martin AM Mauler
- Westland Wyvern
- Related lists
- Buttler 2012, p. 56.
- Buttler 2012, p. 59.
- Chorlton 2012, pp. 86-87
- Sturtivant 2004, p.301
- Orbis 1985, pp. 1719–1720.
- Taylor, pp. 351–355.
- Buttler 2012, p. 60.
- Buttler 2012, pp. 61–62.
- Brown, Eric. "The Spearfish... A Misconceived Welterweight". Air International , January 1978, pp. 20–25.
- Buttler, Tony. British Experimental Combat Aircraft of World War II: Prototypes, Research Aircraft and Failed Production Designs. Manchester, UK: Hikoki Publications, 2012. ISBN 978-1-902109-2-44.
- Chorlton, Martin (editor). Fairey - Company Profile 1915-1960. Cudham, Kent, England:Kelsey Publishing, 2012. ISBN 978-1-907426-60-5
- The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Aircraft (Part Work 1982-1985). London: Orbis Publishing, 1965.
- Sturtivant, Ray. Fleet Air Arm Fixed-Wing Aircraft since 1946. Air-Britain, 2004. ISBN 0-85130 283 1
- Taylor, H.A. Fairey Aircraft since 1915. London: Putnam & Company Ltd., 1974. ISBN 0-370-00065-X.
- "Fairey Spearfish", Flight, 14 February 1946: a–d, 169–169
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