Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Heavy I.

This is coolbet:

Here begins a series of blog entries the topic of which is the heavy fighter. Thanks to Steiner for stimulating thought and research in this regard.

Those fighter aircraft as of World War Two [WW2] and subsequent as characterized by multi-engine, multi-crew, long range, heavy and abundant armament.

As described, not so successful in the traditional role of "dogfighting", aerial combat in the style as conventionally understood, the various designs of the combatants from that period of WW2 however finding valuable niches for the type warplane.

That heavy fighter in mano-a-mano one-on-one daytime aerial combat matched against a single-seat fighter plane of the era such as a German  Bf 109 at a distinct disadvantage, too slow, too heavy, not being to turn as well generally seen as clumsy in the "dogfight" and not agile! This is the perception which was indeed FACT?

Perhaps the best type specimen of the heavy fighter from the period of WW2 the BEAU! The English Beaufighter!

"The Bristol Type 156 Beaufighter, often referred to as simply the Beau, was a British long-range heavy fighter derivative of the Bristol Aeroplane Company's earlier Beaufort torpedo bomber design. The name Beaufighter is a portmanteau of 'Beaufort' and 'fighter'."

"By fighter standards, the Beaufighter Mk.I was rather heavy and slow. It had an all-up weight of 16,000 lb (7,000 kg) and a maximum speed of only 335 mph (540 km/h) at 16,800 ft (5,000 m)."

"its ruggedness and reliability soon made the aircraft popular with crews although it was heavy on the controls and not easy to fly, good landings being a particular challenge"

It cannot be said that the Beau was underarmed. Rather the contrary:


* 4 × 20 mm Hispano Mk III cannon (60 rpg) in nose, and depending on role

"Fighter Command Variant"

 * 4 × .303 in (7.7 mm) Browning machine guns (outer starboard wing)
 * 2 × .303 in (7.7 mm) machine gun (outer port wing)
*  8 × RP-3 "60 lb" (27 kg) rockets or 2× 1,000 lb (450 kg) bombs

That most famous [?] British combat aviator of the Second World War [WW2] Guy Gibson [VC] having flown ninety-nine missions in the Beaufighter, the "Beau" configured as a night fighter complete with airborne radar. This all during the Battle of Britain, 1940!

"As a night fighter pilot flying the Bristol Beaufighter with 29 Squadron he claimed four kills in 99 sorties."

Gibson at the time of his being awarded the Victoria Cross [VC] having flown one hundred- seventy missions [Bomber Command alone?] and one hundred-eighty seven mission when touring the United States, is that number of ninety-nine night-fighter missions included in the total or is that a separate tally? I am not sure.

ALSO, the Beaufighter as flown by the Royal Australian Air Force [RAAF] playing a critical role during the Battle of the Bismarck Sea, those Beaufighters provided Suppression Enemy Air Defense [SEAD], a mission for which the Beau was ideally suited:

"Southwest Pacific"
 "the Bristol Beaufighter Mk IC was employed in anti-shipping missions."

"The most famous of these [anti-ship missions] was the Battle of the Bismarck Sea, where they were used in the fire-suppression role in a mixed force with USAAF A-20 Boston and B-25 Mitchell bombers."

"No. 30 Squadron RAAF Beaufighters flew in at mast height to provide heavy suppressive fire for the waves of attacking bombers . . . The Beaufighters inflicted maximum damage on the ships' anti-aircraft guns, bridges and crews during strafing runs with their four 20 mm nose cannons and six wing-mounted .303 in (7.7 mm) machine guns."

Very impressive firepower indeed. That Beau as a heavy long-range fighter having found several niches for which there was no peer!


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