A Fairey Firefly F.Mk I of 1772nd Squadron Royal Navy - H.M.S.
Before World War 11 Fairey designed a light bomber, P.4/34, from which
evolved the Fulmar naval two-seat fighter to Specification 0.8/38. A
total of 600 of these slender carrier-based aircraft served during the
war with various equipment and roles. The Firefly followed the same
formula, but was much more powerful and useful. Designed to N.5/40 - a
merger of N.8139 and N.9139 - it was a clean stressed-skin machine with
folding elliptical wings housing the four cannon and with the trailing
edge provided with patented Youngman flaps for use at low speeds and in
cruise. Unlike the installation on the Barracuda, these flaps could be
recessed into the wing.
pilot sat over the leading edge, with the observer behind the wing. The
main wartime version was the Mk 1, widely used from the end of 1 943 in
all theatres. Fairey and General Aircraft built 429 F.1s, 376 FR.Is
with ASH radar and then 37 NF.2 night fighters. There followed the more
powerful Mk Ill, from which derived the redesigned FR.4 with two-stage
Griffon and wing-root radiators. There were 160 of these, 40 going to
the Netherlands and the rest serving in Korea, with the 352 Mk 5s with
folding wings. There were FR, NF and AS (anti-submarine) Mk 5s. and
they were followed by the 1 33 specialised AS.6 versions with all role
equipment tailored to anti-submarine operations. The 1 51 AS.7s rounded
off production, this being a redesigned three-seater, with new tail and
wings and distinctive beard radiator. More than 400 Fireflies were
rebuilt in the 1950s as two-cockpit T.1 s or armed T.2s, or as various
remotely piloted drone versions (U.8, U.9, U.10). Some were converted
as target tugs and for other civil duties.
Designed to Admiralty Specification N.5140, calling for a two-seat
reconnaissance fighter, the Fairey Firefly represented a considerable
advance over the company's earlier Fulmar. A cantilever low-wing
monoplane of all-metal construction, it had a conventional tail unit,
retractable tailwheel landing gear and accommodation for the pilot and
navigator/radio-operator in separate enclosed cockpits. Power was
provided by a 1,730 hp (1290 kW) Rolls-Royce Griffon IIB engine, but
later production Firefly F.Mk 1 aircraft had the 1,990 hp (1484-kW)
Griffon XII. The first of four development aircraft was flown on 22
December 1941, and the first production Firefly F.Mk 1 aircraft were
delivered in March 1943. A total of 459 of this version was built, 327
by Fairey and 132 by General Aircraft under sub-contract. The addition
of ASH radar beneath the engine identified the Firefly FR.Mk 1, of
which 236 were built, and a number of Firefly F.Mk Is modified to
Firefly FR.MK 1 standard had the designation Firefly F.Mk IA. A Firefly
NF.Mk 11 night-fighter version was developed, but when it was realised
that its AI Mk 10 radar could be pod mounted beneath the engine, as
with the ASH radar of the Firefly FR.MK 1, the planned 328 aircraft
programme was cancelled. Instead, 140 Firefly FR.MK Is were modified on
the production line to Firefly NF.Mk 1 configuration, the 37 Firefly
NF.Mk IIs that had been built being converted back to Mk 1 standard.
Post-war Mk 1 conversions included the unarmed dual-control Firefly
T.Mk 1 pilot trainer, the cannon armed Firefly T.Mk 2 operational
trainer, and the Firefly T.Mk 3 used for training in ASW operations. A
few were also converted as Firefly TT.Mk 1 target tugs.
Only a prototype of the Firefly F.Mk Ill with Griffon 61 engine was
built, development being concentrated instead on the Firefly F.Mk IV.
This had a 2,250 hp (1678 kW) Griffon 74 engine and new outer wing
nacelles that could both carry fuel, or an ASH scanner (port) and fuel
(starboard). About 160 were built, and the first Firefly FR.Mk 4
delivered in July 1946; some were converted later to Firefly TT.Mk 4
standard. The Firefly Mk 5 and Firefly Mk 6 were similar externally to
the Mk 4, the first aircraft of each variant flying in December 1947
and March 1949 respectively. Some 352 Mk 5s were built in versions
designated Firefly FR.Mk 5, Firefly NF.Mk 5 and Firefly AS.Mk 5, the
last with American sonobuoys and equipment that distinguished it from
the British-equipped Firefly AS.Mk 6 of which 133 were built. A few
Firefly T.Mk 5 trainers, and Firefly TT.Mk 5 and Firefly TT.Mk 6 target
tugs were converted in Australia from Firefly AS.Mk 5s.
first production Griffon 59-powered Firefly AS.Mk 7 was flown in
October 1951, this reintroducing the beard radiator that had caused
problems with the sole Mk Ill. Intended as an ASW aircraft
accommodating two radar operators, few Fireflys AS.Mk 7s were built as
such, the majority being completed as Firefly T.Mk 7 ASW trainers
within a Mk 7 production of 151. Later conversions to pilotless target
aircraft were carried out by Fairey, these including 34 Firefly U.Mk 8
aircraft converted from Firefly T. Mk 7s, and 40 similar Firefly U.Mk 9
conversions from Mk 4 and Mk 5 aircraft. They were used for missile
development, and by the Royal Navy as targets for its Firestreak-armed
fighters and Seaslug-carrying ships.
Fireflies entered service first with No. 1770 Squadron at Yeovilton,
Somerset, on 1 October 1943. Later embarked on HMS Indefatigable, they
were active in operations against the German battleship Tirpitz in
Norway during July 1944. They also saw action against Japanese oil
refineries in Sumatra, in attacks on the Carolines and against shipping
and ground targets in the Japanese home islands. In 1950, after war
broke out in Korea, Firefly Mk 5s were operated from Australian and
British light fleet carriers, and in 1954 the type was in action in the
ground-attack role in Malaya. Just over two years later the Firefly was
retired after 13 years of valuable service.
Specifications (Fairey Firefly AS.Mk 5)
Type: Two Seat Naval Reconnaissance Fighter / Anti Submarine Strike
Design: Fairey Aviation Design Team
Manufacturer: The Fairey Aviation Company
Powerplant: (AS.Mk 5) One 2,250 hp (1678 kW) Rolls-Royce Griffon 74
12-cylinder Vee piston engine. (Mk I up to No 470) One 1,730 hp (1290
kW) Rolls-Royce Griffon IIB 12-cylinder Vee liquid-cooled; (from No
471) 1,990 hp (1485 kW) Griffon XII. (Mks 4-7) One 2,250 hp (1678 kW)
Griffon 74 12-cylinder Vee piston engine.
Performance: (AS.Mk 5) Maximum speed 386 mph (618 km/h) at 14,000
ft (4265 m); cruising speed 220 mph (354 km/h); service ceiling 28,000
ft (8534 m). (Mk I) Maximum speed 316 mph (509km/h); initial climb rate
1,700 ft (518m) per minute; service ceiling 28,000 ft (8534 m). (Mk 4)
Maximum speed 386 mph (618 km/h); initial climb rate 2,050 ft (625 m)
per minute; service ceiling 31,000 ft (9450 m).
Range: (AS.Mk 5) 1300 miles (2092 km) on internal fuel. (Mk I) 580
miles (933 km) on internal fuel. (Mk 4) 760 miles (1223 km) on internal
Weight: (AS.Mk 5) Empty 9,674 lbs (4388 kg) with a maximum take-off
weight of 16,096 lbs (7301 kg). (Mk I) Empty 9,750 lbs (4422 kg) with a
maximum take-off weight of 14,020 lbs (6359 kg). (Mk 7) Empty 11,016
lbs (4997 kg) with a maximum take-off weight of 13,970 lbs (6337 kg).
Dimensions: (Mk 4 - 6) Span 41 ft 2 in (12.55 m); length 37 ft 11
in (8.51 m); height 14 ft 4 in (4.37 m); wing area 330.0 sq ft (30.66
sq m). (Mk I - III) Span 44 ft 6 in (13.55m); length 37 ft 7 in (11.4
m); height 13 ft 7 in (4.15 m).
Armament: (Mk I) Four fixed 20 mm Hispano cannon in wings and
underwing racks for up to two 1,000 lbs (454 kg) of bombs or sixteen 60
lbs (27 kg) rocket projectiles. (Mk 4 and 5) usually similar to 1 in
most sub-types. (Mk 6) no guns, but underwing load increased to 3,000
lbs (1362 kg) and varied. (Mk 7) no guns, but underwing load remained
at 3,000 lbs (1362 kg) and equipment changed.
Variants: Firefly F.Mk 1, Firefly FR.Mk 1, Firefly F.Mk IA, Firefly
NF.Mk 11, Firefly NF.Mk I, Firefly T.Mk 1, Firefly T.Mk 2, Firefly T.Mk
3, Firefly F.Mk III, Firefly F.Mk IV, Firefly FR.Mk 4, Firefly TT.Mk 4,
Firefly Mk 5, Firefly Mk 6, Firefly FR.Mk 5, Firefly NF.Mk 5, Firefly
AS.Mk 5, Firefly AS.Mk 6, Firefly TT.Mk 5, Firefly TT.Mk 6, Firefly,
AS.Mk 7, Firefly T.Mk 7 ASW, Firefly U.Mk 8, Firefly U.Mk 9.
Avionics: AI Mk X radar, ASH Scanner, sonobuoys.
History: First flight 22 December 1941; first production F.1 26
August 1942; production FR.4. 25 May 1945; final delivery of new
aircraft May 1955.
Operators: United Kingdom (RN), Canada (RCN), Australia.
Number Built: ~1533