The Fulmar would provide the Fleet Air Arm with a modern monoplane aircraft to replace the obsolete bi-planes it was using at the time. Remaining in front line service until February 1945
the Fairey Fulmar was also used in the night fighter role to help combat attacks by the Italian Air Force.
First flight 4th January 1940
Entered service June 1940
Total built 602
On the 13th January 1937 the first of two light bomber prototypes designed to Specification P.4/34 flew for the first time, this aircraft was smaller and lighter than the Fairey Battle and
could be used for dive bombing. It was from this aircraft that the Fairey Fulmar would derive from and changes were made so the aircraft would meet Specification O.8/38 which called for a
plane to be used in the fighter/observation role for use on aircraft carriers.
This new aircraft was greatly need by the Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm as they were relying on out of date biplanes. The new aircraft would accommodate a crew of two with a navigator/wireless
operator considered a must for the long flights over the sea and although this would sacrifice speed the Fulmar wasn't expected to meet land-based fighter opposition. Even so the armament
of the Fulmar matched the early Supermarine Spitfire Mks of eight 0.303-in machine-guns but the Fulmar could carry double the ammunition. 127 examples of the new plane were ordered,
however due to the Munich crisis during 1938 an extra 123 Fulmars were ordered but production would be delayed until Fairey's new factory had been built.
Powered by the 1,080-hp Merlin VIII the first Fairey Fulmar Mk I flew on the 4th January 1940 at Ringway before being sent to Boscome Down and the Aircraft Experimental Establishment before
undergoing carrier trials aboard HMS Illustrious. Considered by the pilots manoeuvrable and pleasant to fly but lacking speed, despite this the Fulmar was still faster than the aircraft
it would go on to replace.
When production did eventually start in May 1940 it took four months for Fairey to reach their monthly target of 25 with 159 Fulmars delivered by the end of 1940. It was during June 1940
that No. 808 Squadron based at Worthy Down, before moving to HMS Ark Royal, would become the first squadron equipped with the new aircraft. As well as re-equipping other squadrons, who
were using the Blackburn Roc and Blackburn Skua, a number of new Fairey Fulmar equipped squadrons were created during 1941 and 1942.
There would only be two Mks produced of the Fulmar the 1,080-hp Rolls-Royce Merlin VIII powered Mk I with eight 0.303-in machine-guns and the Mk II which was 350lb lighter thanks to a
number of changes and this was fitted with the 1,300-hp Merlin 30 engine. Tests would also be conducted on a Mk II Fulmar in 1941 to test its suitability as a night fighter, this was
due to torpedo bombers of the Italian Air Force mounting night attacks on the Mediterranean Fleet., in the end over 100 Mk IIs were converted for this role during the early part of 1942.
Other tests carried out on the Fulmar included the installation of 0.50-in machine-guns but due to a shortage of these guns only a limited number of production Fulmars had this armament.
The Fulmar would also take part in tests to see whether fighters could be catapulted from ships although in the end Hawker Hurricanes would fulfil this role.
February 1943 would see the Fleet Air Arm receive their last Fairey Fulmar and in the same year Fulmar squadrons would start to be re-equipped with the Supermarine Seafire, but despite
this the Fulmar would remain in front-line service until the 8th February 1945 when by that time the Fairey Firefly was entering service.
With the Fulmar seeing service in all theatres of war it provided the Royal Navy with a reliable long-range aircraft and during its career it took part in the chase of the Bismarck and
when production ended 602 aircraft had been built.