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Fairey Firefly

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The Firefly entered service with the Fleet Air Arm during October 1943 and its first operation saw it take part in a raid on the German Battleship Tirpitz. Remaining in service after the Second World War the Fairey Firefly would take part in the Korean War before its retirement from service.

Quick Facts
Sorry, no image available
First flight
22nd December 1941
Entered service
1st October 1943
Total built
1,700

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

The Firefly was designed by Herbert Chaplin and his team to meet Air Ministry Specification N.5/40 which called for a two-seat reconnaissance fighter to replace the Fairey Fulmar. This new aircraft had increased firepower and speed over the Fulmar and 200 Fireflys were ordered on the 12th June 1940 and four production aircraft would be used for testing.

On the 22nd December 1941 flying from Fairey's Great West Aerodrome, and piloted by Fairey test pilot Flight Lieutenant Christopher Staniland, the Fairey Firefly made its maiden flight. A second Firefly flew the following year on the 4th June 1942. Tragedy then struck the project when on the 20th June 1942 the second prototype crashed killing the pilot Flight Lieutenant Staniland, this lead to minor changes to the third aircraft before it flew two months later on the 26th August 1942. By the end of 1942 carrier trials on the new aircraft had been carried out aboard HMS Illustrious (87).

The Fairey Firefly Mk I was at first powered by the 1,730-hp Rolls-Royce Griffon IIB although during the aircraft's production run a number of changes were made, including the removal of a two man dinghy in the rear fuselage and the installation of the 1,990-hp Rolls-Royce Griffon XII engine. This gave the aircraft a top speed of 316 mph, range of 1,300 miles and a service ceiling of 28,000 ft. Armament was four 20mm cannons and either two 1,000lb bombs or eight 60lb rocket projectiles. On the 1st October 1943 the Firefly Mk I started to enter service with No. 1770 Naval Air Squadron, based first at RNAS Yeovilton before embarking on HMS Indefatigable (R10), being the first to receive this new aircraft. It would not be until nine months later on the 17th July 1944 when the Firefly would become operational, taking part in the attack against the German Battleship Tirpitz based in Norway, known as 'Operation Mascot', where they would provide air cover. The first aerial victory for the type was achieved by Lieutenant Dennis Levitt of No. 1770 Naval Air Squadron when on the 2nd January 1945 he shot down a Nakajima Ki-43 'Oscar'.

A number of Fireflys also had ASH radar installed in a pod under the engine and were known as the Firefly FR Mk I. With the installation of A.I Mk 10 radar and the fuselage increased by eighteen inches the Firefly NF Mk II night fighter appeared although all 37 Firefly NF Mk IIs were converted back to Firefly Mk I specification.

The Firefly Mk III was to be powered by the Rolls-Royce 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 Firefly Mk IV which featured a four-blade propeller, clipped wings and power supplied by the 2,100-hp Rolls-Royce Griffon 74 engine. With a top speed of 386 mph it was 70 mph faster than the Firefly Mk I, its range was 1,300 miles with a service ceiling of 31,900 ft. Armament consisted of four 20mm cannons and two 1,000lb bombs or eight 60lb rocket projectiles. 160 Firefly Mk IVs would be produced but would not see service during the Second World War (1939 - 1945) with deliveries beginning in July 1946.

The Fairey Firefly Mk 5 followed and flew for the first time on the 12th December 1947. This was powered by the 2,245-hp Rolls-Royce Griffon 74 engine. Top speed was 386 mph, range 760 miles, its service ceiling was 31,900 ft. Armament was four 20mm cannons and either two 2,000lb bombs or sixteen 60lb rocket projectiles. On the 23rd March 1949 the first production version of the Firefly AS.6 flew for the first time, the Firefly AS.6 and Firefly AS.7 featured a larger bulged canopy to house two radar operators. Powered by the same Griffon 74 engine as its predecessor its top speed, range and service ceiling were identical. Its armament was two 2,000lb bombs or sixteen 60lb rocket projectiles. It would be No. 817 Royal Australian Naval Air Squadron, RNAS St Merryn who were first to be equipped with the Firefly AS.6 when they received theirs on the 25th April 1950. Continuing development of the type lead to the Firefly AS.7 which flew for the first time on the 22nd May 1951. Powered by the 1,925-hp Rolls-Royce Griffon 59 engine this would be the slowest Firefly variant with a top speed of 300 mph, range of 860 miles with a service ceiling of 25,500 ft, although most would end up as Firefly T. Mk 7 observer training aircraft.

The final two variants were the Firefly U.Mk 8 and Firefly U.Mk 9 which were both target drones.

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 the Second World War the Firefly would also participate in the Korean War (1950 - 1953) and would serve with air forces around the world including the Royal Australian Navy's Fleet Air Arm, the Royal Canadian Navy and the Dutch Naval Aviation Service.



Technical Details

Click on the aircraft 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 were converted back to Mk Is.
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 U.Mk 8 Target drone.
Firefly U.Mk 9 Target drone.



Photos

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Firefly Mk TT4



See This Aircraft

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

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

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