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Fairey Firefly

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The Firefly would enter service with the Fleet Air Arm in October 1943 and would be used as a night fighter during the Second World War as well as take part in operations against the Tirpitz. Seeing action during the Korean War the Fairey Firefly would be retired from service in the 1950s.

Quick Facts
Sorry, no image available
First flight
22nd December 1941
Entered service
1st October 1943
Total built

Front view
Firefly front view photo
Side view
Firefly side view photo
Rear view
Firefly rear view photo

H.E. Chaplin and his design team submitted their design calling for a two-seat reconnaissance fighter meeting Admiralty Specification N.5/40 during September 1939 and nine months later on the 12th June 1940 200 Fireflys were ordered. This new aircraft had both increased firepower and speed over the plane it was intended to replace, the Fairey Fulmar, and three production aircraft would be used for testing. So on the 22nd December 1941 flying from Fairey's Great West Aerodrome and piloted by Christopher Staniland the Fairey Firefly made its maiden flight. A second Firefly flew the following year on the 4th June, however this would crash, leading to minor changes to the third aircraft before it flew two months later on the 26th August. By the end of 1942 carrier trials on the new aircraft had been carried out aboard HMS Illustrious.

During March 1943 deliveries of the Firefly Mk I began at first powered by the 1,730-hp Griffon IIB although during the planes production run a number of changes were made to the plane including the removal of a two man dinghy in the rear fuselage and the installation of the 1,990-hp Griffon XII engine. A number of Fireflys also had ASH radar installed in a pod under the engine and were known as the FR Mk I. With the installation of A.I Mk 10 radar and the fuselage increased by eighteen inches the NF Mk II night fighter Fairey Firefly appeared although with the radar able to be housed under the engine like the FR Mk I it was this Mk which would be converted to the role and these, along with the 37 NF Mk IIs converted back to Mk I specification, would be known as the NF Mk I.

The Firefly Mk III was to be powered by the Griffon 61 engine and only a prototype of this was produced during 1944 despite an order for 100 of the type placed. Instead thoughts turned to the Mk IV which featured a four-blade propeller, clipped wings and power supplied by the 2,100-hp Griffon 74 engine. 160 Fireflys Mk IV would be produced but would not see service during World War 2 with deliveries beginning in July 1946.

The Fairey Firefly Mk 5 followed and looked similar to its predecessor and flew for the first time on the 12th December 1947 and fifteen months later on the 23rd March 1949 the Mk 6 Firefly flew for the first time. The A.S. Mk 6 and A.S. Mk 7 featured a larger bulged canopy to house two radar operators although most would end up as T. Mk 7 observer training aircraft.

On the 1st October 1943 the Fairey Firefly started to enter service with No. 1770 Squadron based first at Yeovilton before embarking on HMS Indefatigable being the first to receive the Mk I version of this new aircraft. However it would not be until nine months later during July 1944 when the Firefly would become operational, taking part in the attack against the Tirpitz based in Norway where they would provide air cover, with the first victory for the type achieved by Lt. D.Levitt of No. 1770 Squadron when on the 2nd January 1945 he shot down a Nakajima Ki-43 'Oscar'. Fireflys would also take part in operations against Japan including rocket attacks on oil refineries in Sumatra.

By the time production ended 1,700 Fairey Fireflys had been built serving in a number of different roles including training and target tug roles and as well as seeing service during World War 2 the Firefly would also participate in the Korean War (1950 - 1953) and would serve with airforces around the world including the Royal Australian Navy's Fleet Air Arm, Royal Canadian Navy and the Dutch Naval Aviation Service.


Click on the aeroplane image to view a larger version.

Top Speed Range Service Ceiling Armament
Firefly Mk I 316 mph 1,300 miles 28,000 ft four 20mm cannons
and either two 1,000lb or
eight 60lb rocket projectiles
Firefly Mk II Thirty seven built as NF.IIs, but majority were converted back to NF.I.
Firefly Mk III Was to be powered by the Rolls-Royce Griffon 61, but none were produced.
Firefly Mk IV 386 mph 1,300 miles 31,900 ft four 20mm cannons
and either two 1,000lb or
eight 60lb rocket projectiles
Firefly Mk 5 386 mph 760 miles 31,900 ft four 20mm cannons
and either two 2,000lb bombs or
sixteen 60lb rocket projectiles
Firefly Mk 6 386 mph 760 miles 31,900 ft either two 2,000lb bombs or
sixteen 60lb rocket projectiles
Firefly Mk 7 300 mph 860 miles 25,500 ft none
Firefly Mk 8 Target drone.
Firefly Mk 9 Target drone.


Click on a photo to view a larger version.

On Display

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

Variant Location
Firefly Mk TT4 Fleet Air Arm Museum
Firefly Mk I Imperial War Museum, Duxford

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