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Blackburn Firebrand

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Conceived during the early months of the Second World War the Firebrand would not see wartime service as it wouldn't begin to equip the Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm until six years later in September 1945. Once in service the Blackburn Firebrand would go on to spend eight years with the Fleet Air Arm as a front line fighter.

Quick Facts
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First flight
27th February 1942
Entered service
1st September 1945
Total built

Front view
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Side view
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Rear view
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During December 1939 a Naval Staff Requirement N.9/39 was issued which called for a four-gun single-seat Fleet Air Arm fighter and the Blackburn Firebrand was submitted to meet this requirement and thirteen months later during January 1941 and to a different specification of N.11/40 three prototypes were ordered and all three of the Firebrand prototypes would have a 2,305-hp Napier Sabre III engine. On the 27th February 1942 the first of these prototypes took to the sky, unarmed, with Flt Lt Arthur Thompson at the controls. The 15th July 1942 would see the second prototype make its maiden flight and this had two 20-mm cannons in each wing and could also carry two 500-lb bombs. The third prototype flew on the 15th September 1942.

The following year in February 1943 the second prototype Firebrand was sent to HMS Illustrious (87) to undertake deck landing trials however it suffered an accident and as a result was rebuilt with a number of changes. The wing was widened by a further 1 ft 6 in to enable a 1,850-lb torpedo to be installed and this new Firebrand prototype was designated the TF.II and flew for the first time a month later on the 31st March 1943 and a dozen production versions were produced. It would be No. 708 Naval Air Squadron who were based at RNAS Lee-on-Solent who became a trial unit for the Mk TF.II and thus became the only squadron who were allocated the type during the Second World War (1939 - 1945).

Whilst originally having a Napier Sabre powerplant the 2,400-hp Bristol Centaurus VII would be used instead, as the Sabre was needed for the Hawker Typhoon, and this gave birth to the Firebrand Mk TF.III and on the 21st December 1943 the prototype made its maiden flight. A small number of this Mk were produced, however during take-off they suffered from directional instability leading to the development of the TF.4 which had its rudder area increased and a tail fin installed. The 17th May 1945 would see the TF.4 fly for the first time and on the 1st September that year the Firebrand finally entered operational service with No. 813 Naval Air Squadron based at RNAS Ford. This would be followed by the TF.5 with No. 813 and 827 Naval Air Squadron receiving the type with the Mk 5A the last version produced.

Too late to see service in the Second World War the Blackburn Firebrand remained in front line service with the Royal Navy aboard its aircraft carriers until 1953 and by the time production had ended 223 Firebrands had been produced.

Technical Details

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Top Speed Range Service Ceiling Armament
Firebrand Mk F.I 353 mph 805 miles 32,500 ft four 20mm cannons
Firebrand Mk TF.II 355 mph 770 miles 31,000 ft four 20mm cannons
and either one 1,850lb torpedo or
two 1,000lb bombs or
rocket projectiles
Firebrand Mk TF.III 319 mph 650 miles 29,400 ft four 20mm cannons
and either one 1,850lb torpedo or
two 1,000lb bombs or
rocket projectiles
Firebrand Mk TF.4 342 mph 745 miles 34,000 ft four 20mm cannons
and either one 1,850lb torpedo or
two 1,000lb bombs or
rocket projectiles
Firebrand Mk TF.5 340 mph 740 miles 28,500 ft four 20mm cannons
and either one 1,850lb torpedo or
two 1,000lb bombs or
rocket projectiles


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