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Blackburn Skua

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The Skua was the Fleet Air Arm's first monoplane aircraft and dive-bomber, but was obsolete at the outbreak of the Second World War. Despite this the Blackburn Skua would enjoy a little success, including sinking the German cruiser Konigsberg.

Quick Facts
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First flight
9th February 1937
Entered service
Late 1938
Total built
192

Front view
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Side view
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Rear view
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Responding to the release of Air Ministry specification O.27/34 which requested designs for a naval dive-bomber, Blackburn along with Avro, Boulton Paul, Hawker and Vickers all submitted designs, however it would be Blackburn's Skua design which would see service and two prototypes were ordered during April 1935. The Skua design was revolutionary for the Fleet Air Arm for as well as being the country's first naval dive-bomber, it would also be the first carrier aircraft to be of monoplane design, with flaps and retractable landing gear proving radically different to the bi-planes used by the Fleet Air Arm at the time, such as the Fairey Swordfish, however the Swordfish would remain in service long after the Blackburn Skua had been withdrawn.

Flying for the first time on the 9th February 1937 and as powered by an 840-hp Bristol Mercury IX engine, the Skua would also make an appearance at the Royal Air Force display at Hendon on the 26th June 1937 and then on the 28th June at Hatfield at the Society of British Aerospace Companies (SBAC) display before being sent to the Aircraft and Armament Experimental Establishment at Martlesham Heath, early reports from the A&AEE gave promising reports of the Skua's handling and after gunnery trials the aircraft was sent to Gosport for ditching trials.

As with other aircraft of the time orders for the aircraft had been placed before the prototype had even flown and 190 Blackburn Skuas were ordered and to help speed up the production process some of the work was sub-contracted and due to the Bristol Blenheim receiving priority on the Mercury engine the Skua would instead be powered by the 890-hp Bristol Perseus XII and thus became Mk IIs. The 28th August 1938 saw the first production Skua fly at Brough and had only a few minor changes to its design, and the batch of 190 aircraft were delivered within 16 months from October 1938 till March 1940, despite this the aircraft was still a year behind schedule.

No. 800 and 803 Naval Air Squadron received their Blackburn Skuas in late 1938 where they would replace Hawker Nimrods and Hawker Ospreys serving aboard HMS Ark Royal. It was No. 803 who scored the Fleet Air Arm's first success during the Second World War whilst operating from HMS Ark Royal when on the 26th September 1939 just off Heligoland they shot down a Dornier Do 18. They would be followed by No. 801 Squadron aboard HMS Furious and No. 806 Squadron who were at the time based at Eastleigh before war broke out.

When the Skua entered service it was already obsolete as a fighter but it showed its potential in the dive-bombing role when 16 Blackburn Skua's from 800 and 803 Squadron flying from RNAS Hatston, Orkney Islands attacked and sank the German cruiser Konigsberg on the 10th April 1940 at Bergen harbour. Although the mission saw the loss of only one Skua another mission 11 days later on Narvik saw both 800 and 803 Squadron lose most of their aircraft.

Blackburn Skua's of 801 Squadron based at Detling flew a number of sorties to support the evacuation of Allied troops from France alongside the Blackburn Roc, it had been intended for the Skua to operate alongside the Roc which was similar to the Boulton Paul Defiant in having a turret as its only armament. However the Roc like the Skua was obsolete at the time of entering service. Whilst the Skua could compete with Axis bombers it didn't stand a chance against the modern day fighters like the Messerschmitt Bf 109 and as a result was removed from operational service in 1941. The squadrons that operated Skua's were given newer aircraft with the Fairey Fulmar equipping 800 and 806 Squadrons while the Hawker Sea Hurricane equipped 801 and 803 Squadrons.

With a total production of 192 the Blackburn Skua would end its service as a target tug or used for general training duties.



Variants

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Top Speed Range Service Ceiling Armament
Skua Mk I Designation given to the two prototypes.
Skua Mk II 225 mph 760 miles 20,200 ft four 0.303-in machine-guns
one Lewis gun
1,500lb bombs



Photos

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On Display

(C) = Cockpit only exhibit. (F) = Fuselage only exhibit. (R) = Remains of an aircraft.

Variant Location
Skua Mk II (R) Fleet Air Arm Museum

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