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Fairey Fulmar

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The Fulmar would provide the Fleet Air Arm with a modern monoplane aircraft to replace the obsolete biplanes 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.

Quick Facts
Fairey Fulmar side profile image
First flight
4th January 1940
Entered service
10th May 1940
Total built
600

Front view
Fulmar front view photo
Side view
Sorry, no view photo available
Rear view
Fulmar rear view photo

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This new aircraft was greatly need by the Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm as they were relying on out of date biplanes.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 the Aeroplane and Armament Experimental Establishment before undergoing carrier trials aboard HMS Illustrious (87). 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. The Fulmar Mk I had a top speed of 247 mph, range of 800 miles and a service ceiling of 21,500ft. Armament consisted of eight 0.303-in machine-guns and 500lb bombs. Entering Fleet Air Arm service with No. 806 Naval Air Squadron on the 10th May 1940 operating with the squadrons Blackburn Skuas. They would serve on HMS Illustrious (87) and whilst aboard the aircraft carrier on the 2nd September 1940 No. 806 Naval Air Squadron scored the Fulmar's first aerial victory, shooting down a CANT Z.501.

The 1st July 1940 saw No. 808 Naval Air Squadron, RNAS Worthy Down formed and they would use the Fulmar during the Battle of Britain before moving to HMS Ark Royal (91) and 159 Fulmars were delivered by the end of 1940. 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.

The Fairey Fulmar Mk II was 350lb lighter, thanks to a number of changes, and this was fitted with the 1,300-hp Rolls-Royce Merlin 30 engine. Its top speed was 266 mph, range was 780 miles with a service ceiling of 27,200 ft. Its armament was the same as the Fulmar Mk I, eight 0.303-in machine-guns and 500lb bombs. Tests would also be conducted on a Fulmar Mk II 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 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.

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 German battleship Bismarck and when production ended during December 1942 600 had been built. 1943 saw the end of the type's front-line service as Fulmar squadrons would start to be re-equipped with the Supermarine Seafire.



Variants

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Top Speed Range Service Ceiling Armament
Fulmar Mk I 247 mph 800 miles 21,500 ft eight 0.303-in machine-guns
500lb bombs
Fulmar Mk I side profile image
Fulmar Mk II 266 mph 780 miles 27,200 ft eight 0.303-in machine-guns
500lb bomb



Photos

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Fulmar Mk II



On Display

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

Variant Location
Fulmar Mk II Fleet Air Arm Museum

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