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Blackburn Skua

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The two-seater Skua would be the Fleet Air Arm's first monoplane aircraft and dive-bomber. Despite early success in Norway during April 1940, including sinking the German cruiser Konigsberg, it was by then obsolete. Despite seeing action during the Battle of France the Blackburn Skua was removed from front line service and served in other roles including as a target tug.

Quick Facts
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First flight
9th February 1937
Entered service
November 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.

The Skua would have a two man crew and featured folding wings, back along the fuselage, and both prototypes would be powered by the 840-hp Bristol Mercury IX engine, with the 9th February 1937 seeing the maiden flight of the first prototype. Prior to this 190 aircraft had been ordered in July 1936 under Specification 25/36.

Before being sent to the Aeroplane and Armament Experimental Establishment at Martlesham Heath the Skua would make an appearance at the RAF Display, Hendon on the 26th June 1937 and then on the 28th June 1937 at Hatfield at the Society of British Aerospace Companies display. Early reports from the A&AEE gave promising feedback of the Skua's handling and after gunnery trials the aircraft was sent to Gosport for ditching trials. The 4th May 1938 would see the first flight of the second prototype. The two prototypes would be designated Skua Mk I.

The Skua was a year behind schedule 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 the 190 aircraft ordered were known as Skua Mk IIs. The 28th August 1938 saw the first production Skua Mk II fly at Brough and had a few minor changes to its design.

The Blackburn Skua Mk II had a top speed of 225 mph, range of 760 miles with a service ceiling of 20,200 ft. Armament was four 0.303-in machine-guns with one rear firing Lewis gun. Bomb load was 500lb. The Skua Mk II would enter Fleet Air Arm service in November 1938 when No. 800 Naval Air Squadron received theirs whilst No. 803 Naval Air Squadron received theirs in December 1938 where they would replace Hawker Nimrods and Hawker Ospreys serving aboard HMS Ark Royal (91). They would be followed by No. 801 Naval Air Squadron and No. 806 Naval Air Squadron which was formed during February 1940. These four squadrons being the only front line ones that would operate the type.

It was No. 803 Naval Air Squadron who scored the Fleet Air Arm's first aerial success during the Second World War (1939 - 1945) whilst operating from HMS Ark Royal (91) when on the 26th September 1939 just off Heligoland, Germany they shot down a Dornier Do 18. The Skua showed its potential in the dive-bombing role when sixteen from Nos. 800 and 803 Naval Air Squadron flying from RNAS Hatston attacked and sank the German cruiser Konigsberg on the 10th April 1940 at Bergen harbour, Norway. Although the mission saw the loss of one aircraft. The Skua would also be involved in the Battle of France (10th May 1940 - 25th June 1940) when on the 31st May 1940 No. 801 Naval Air Squadron Skuas attacked pontoon bridges over the Nieuwpoort-Dunkirk Canal, France.

No. 801 Naval Air Squadron based at RAF Detling also flew a number of sorties to support the evacuation of Allied troops from Dunkirk, France, 'Operation Dynamo' alongside the Blackburn Roc, however the Roc and Skua by this time were obsolete. Whilst the Skua could compete with Axis bombers it didn't stand a chance against the modern fighters and as a result was removed from front line service in 1941. The squadrons that operated Skuas were given newer aircraft with the Fairey Fulmar equipping Nos. 800 and 806 Naval Air Squadron whilst the Hawker Sea Hurricane equipped Nos. 801 and 803 Naval Air Squadron. After this the aircraft would be used as a target tug or for training.

In total 192 Blackburn Skuas were built.



Technical Details

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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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See This Aircraft

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

Location
Skua Mk II (R) Fleet Air Arm Museum

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