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Weapons of World War Two

Fairey Swordfish

Fairey Swordfish

When in 1922 the Italian Regia Aeronautica was dedicated to project an "overseas torpedo launcher seaplane", its attempts of developing this new offensive usage of the air weapon were followed with interest by several nations, but one in particular put attention in these tests: Britain, which was doing as well studies in this direction. So, the British industry, after years of tests and investigations, presented the 31st December 1935 the first prototype of the new torpedo bomber: the Fairey Swordfish.

Truly, the appearance of this aircraft was anything but modern: it was a monoplane of open cockpit, and with so many struts and strings that it soon received the nickname "Stringbag".Albeit its speed was not impressive, about 260 kilometers/hour, its good manageability and maneuverability were very appreciated by all those pilots who had the chance to fly it. The first Swordfish that entered service were the ones of the Torpedo Test Unit of Gosport, the 19th February 1936. Robust and versatile aircraft, it was employed in other diverse tasks such as training of pilots, observers, telegraphist-machine gunners and, later, radarists.

At the beginning of the conflict, in the scope of a descentralization program to favor productivity according to war economy and security criteria, the aircraft, until then produced by Fairey, was produced as well by Blackburn and other four subcompanies: Appleyards, for the wings and flaps; Greens, for the landing gear; Hudswell, for ailerons and steering surfaces; and Tates, which mounted the central section and the cockpits of the pilot and the observer.

The Swordfish was a single-engine biplane, with framework structure totally coated with fabric, and with folding wings to allow its transport onboard aircraft carriers. In 1943, the lower surface of the lower wings was coated with metal to allow the installation of rockets. The engine, a radial Bristol Pegasus of nine cylinders cooled by air, had a maximum power of 750 horsepower. The aircraft was built in four versions, some fitted with seaplane floaters: the Mark I, the basic one; the Mark II, with metalized wings; the Mark III, with radar; and the Mark IV, with closed cockpit, sold to Canada.

The Swordfish, which fought for the first time in Trondheim attacking with torpedoes the German cruisers, achieved in war brilliant victories such as the one of Tarento or the sinking of the Bismarck. In the late 1941 the "Stringbag" fitted with radar started to be used as submarine hunter, and when in May 1943 it was fitted with rocket projectiles, it was a fearsome weapon however its already outdated formula. Its last war action was performed by an aircraft from the 119th Squadron, which attacked a German pocket submarine in the English Channel barely four hours before the surrender of Germany.

Fairey Swordfish
First flight/Entry into service: 31 December 1935 (Mark I); 1943 (Mark II and Mark III)

Wingspan: 15.25 meters

Wing area: 18.50 square meters

Length: 10.90 meters

Height: 3.75 meters

Full load/Empty weight: 3500/2130 kilograms (Mark II and Mark III)

Payload/Crew: /2 (Mark I); 1370 kilograms/2 (Mark II and Mark III)

Engine: Bristol Pegasus III M 3 (Mark I); Bristol Pegasus 30 of 750 horsepower (Mark II and Mark III)

Maximum speed: 260 kilometers/hour as bomber or torpedo bomber (237 kilometers/hour as seaplane); 267 kilometers/hour as reconnaissance aircraft

Service ceiling: 3250 meters (Mark II and Mark III)

Defensive armament: One Vickers 7.7-millimeter machine gun and another one orientable in the rear cockpit

Drop armament: One 455-millimeter torpedo or one 680-kilogram mine or 680 kilograms of bombs

Particular details: Metallic coating in lower wings (Mark II); radar ASV Mark X (Mark III)

Operational range: 1010 kilometers as torpedo bomber (at full load and without auxiliary deposits); 2048 kilometers as reconnaissance aircraft (with auxiliary deposits)

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