Merchant Ship Fighter Unit

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The Merchant Ship Fighter Unit (MSFU) was a Royal Air Force operational aircraft unit based at RAF Speke during World War II.[1] The aircraft operated by the MSFU were Hawker Sea Hurricanes. These planes were operated from 35 merchant ships outfitted with a catapult on the bow, referred to as Catapult Aircraft Merchant ships CAM ships. The MSFU was formed at Speke on May 5, 1941 and provided detachments to the CAM ships, each vessel being equipped with one Sea Hurricane plus an RAF pilot and support crew.[2]

The single catapult consisted of an eighty-five-foot runway, along which a trolley carrying a Hurricane (later Hurricats were used for this) would be forced by a battery of three-inch rockets over a diameter of sixty feet. Using thirty-degree wing flaps, a pilot could make a perfect takeoff without losing height.

Most notable was the inability of the CAM ship to recover the aircraft, and as a result launches beyond the range of the aircraft were one way rides that required the pilot to bail out and use an inflatable dinghy until a passing ship happened by. Eventually CAM ships were replaced beginning in 1943 with the completion of escort carriers.

CAM fighters were credited with seven Luftwaffe kills and numerous scare offs.


Barker, Ralph (January 2000). The Hurricats: The Fighters That Could Not Return. Trafalgar Square. ISBN 0-7524-2005-4. 

  1. ^ Search Results
  2. ^ was formed at Speke on 5 May to man the CAM ship detachments, each vessel having an RAF pilot and groundcrew.

Breuer, W. B. (2000) Secret Weapons of World War II. Castle Books, New Jersey. Pp. 86-87.

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