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Fairey Barracuda

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The Barracuda was the Fleet Air Arm's intended replacement for the Fairey Albacore and would spend over a decade in service operating from its aircraft carriers and was also used for training. During its service with the Fleet Air Arm the Fariey Barracuda would take part in three operations against the German battleship Tirpitz during 1944.

Quick Facts
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First flight
7th December 1940
Entered service
10th January 1943
Total built

Front view
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Side view
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Rear view
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Despite the Fairey Albacore yet to make its first flight, which it made on the 12th December 1938, on the 9th December 1937 Specification S.24/37 was issued by the Air Ministry to find its replacement. This called for a monoplane aircraft to serve in the torpedo bomber and reconnaissance role. Competition would be fierce as Blackburn, Hawker, Vickers and Westland would all submit designs alongside Fairey.

Fairey's submission would be designed by Marcel Lobelle and was known as the Fairey Type 100. It would be this aircraft and the Supermarine Type 322 that would be chosen by the Air Ministry to proceed further with development. In the end, and after only two examples being built, the Supermarine Type 322 would not progress any further as it wouldn't be until the 6th February 1943 that the aircraft made its first flight, the month after the Fairey Barracuda entered service. Two prototypes of Fairey's aircraft were ordered on the 30th January 1939.

The 1,200-hp Rolls-Royce Cylinder 'X' engine was chosen to power the Barracuda, however Rolls-Royce made the decision to stop developing this engine so a new powerplant was needed. It was decided to use another Rolls-Royce engine, the 1,260-hp Merlin 30, instead. The Fairy Barracuda prototype made its maiden flight on the 7th December 1940. During testing it was found that the tail of the aircraft suffered from a number of issues, including buffeting in certain circumstances. This lead to the tail undergoing a re-design. Before the new tail was added to the Barracuda prototype it would undergo deck trials aboard HMS Victorious (R38) in the hands of No. 778 Naval Air Squadron during May 1941. On the 29th June 1941, featuring the new tail design, the second Fairey Barracuda prototype flew for the first time. Four months later in October 1941 the Barracuda arrived at Boscombe Down for trials with the Aeroplane and Armament Experimental Establishment.

The Fairey Barracuda Mk I was powered by the 1,260-hp Rolls-Royce Merlin 30 engine giving the aircraft a top speed of 235 mph and a service ceiling of 18,400 ft. Armament consisted of two 0.303-in machine-guns and bomb load was 2,000lb or a torpedo. In total only 30 Mk Is were built.

It would be the Barracuda Mk II that would be the most produced and this made its first flight on the 17th August 1942. This would be powered by the Rolls-Royce Merlin 32 engine giving the Mk II a top speed of 240 mph, range of 1,150 miles with a service ceiling of 16,000 ft. Armament comprised two 0.303-in machine-guns and either one torpedo, four depth charges or six 250lb bombs. It would be with No. 827 Naval Air Squadron that the Barracuda would begin its Fleet Air Arm service with when they began to receive deliveries of the aircraft on the 10th January 1943. Though it would be during September 1943 that No. 810 Naval Air Squadron, based aboard HMS Illustrious (87), would use the Fairey Barracuda operationally for the first time.

The Barracuda Mk III had a top speed of 239 mph, service ceiling of 20,000 ft with armament consisting of a pair of 0.303-in machine-guns. The Mk III could also carry torpedoes, depth charges, bombs or mines. The main changes to this variant over its predecessors was the addition, underneath the rear of the aircraft, of a radome which housed Air-to-Surface Vessel radar. A proposed Fairey Barracuda Mk IV would progress no further than the drawing board.

The final variant was the Barracuda Mk V and the first production example made its first flight on the 22nd November 1945. Powered by the 2,020-hp Rolls-Royce Griffon 37 engine the Mk V had a top speed of 253 mph, range of 600 miles and a service ceiling of 24,000 ft. An order for 140 examples had been placed, however the Fleet Air Arm took delivery of just 35 with the last one arriving on the 27th October 1947.

During its operational service the Fairy Barracuda was involved in three operations to sink the German battleship Tirpitz. The first 'Operation Tungsten' occurred on the 3rd April 1944 and saw 40 Barracudas take part. 'Operation Mascot' followed on the 17th July 1944 and saw 44 Barracudas take part. The third attempt was 'Operation Goodwood' which took place between the 22nd and 29th August 1944 and saw 35 Barracudas take part. Despite scoring hits on the Tirpitz during the three operations they failed to sink the German battleship. It would take a further three raids by Avro Lancasters before the battleship was eventually sunk.

In total 2,602 Barracudas were built with 1953 seeing the type end its front line service with the Fleet Air Arm.

Technical Details

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Top Speed Range Service Ceiling Armament
Barracuda Mk I 235 mph 18,400 ft two 0.303-in machine-guns
and either one torpedo or
2,000lb bombs
Barracuda Mk II 240 mph 1,150 miles 16,000 ft two 0.303-in machine-guns
and either one torpedo or
four 450lb depth charges or
six 250lb bombs
Barracuda Mk III 239 mph 20,000 ft two 0.303-in machine-guns
and either one torpedo or
depth charges or bombs
Barracuda Mk IV Proposed variant, none produced.
Barracuda Mk V 253 mph 600 miles 24,000 ft two 0.303-in machine-guns
and either one torpedo or
2,000lb bombs


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