Bringing 94 Vintage Aircraft to Life
Home Aircraft Database Articles Museums & Memorials Sit in a Spitfire
Home  -  Aircraft Database  -  British Aircraft  -  Short Sunderland

Short Sunderland

 Jump to: Variants : Photos : On Display

Given the nickname the 'Flying Porcupine' by the Germans, the Sunderland was a vital part of Coastal Commands fight against the U-boats. With an impressive range of around 3,000 miles the Short Sunderland continued in service long after World War 2 had ended.

Quick Facts
Sorry, no image available
First flight
16th October 1937
Entered service
June 1938
Total built

Front view
Sorry, no view photo available
Side view
Sorry, no view photo available
Rear view
Sorry, no view photo available

Imperial Airways had used flying boats during the 1930's to establish long distance air routes using the C class flying boat, deriving out of this came the S.25 flying boat, the Sunderland, built to comply with specification R.2/33 which the Air Ministry revised in March 1936 as R.22/36, the revision enabled an order for 21 Sunderlands. Flying from the River Medway, Rochester, the prototype made its first flight on the 16th October 1937, and featured a British flying boat first, of power operated turrets being fitted.

90 Short Sunderland Mk Is were built with 8 0.303in machine guns to provide defensive armament and was able to carry either bombs, mines or depth charges, the power for this giant aeroplane was from four Pegasus 22, 29 or 32 engines. August 1941 saw the Mk II appear powered by four Pegasus XVIII engines, and a power operated turret replaced the beam guns that the Mk I had.

No. 230 Squadron based at Seletor, Singapore were the first squadron to be equipped with Sunderlands, beginning in June 1938 and being completed six months later. This squadron was to operate from North Africa, Egypt and East Africa during the war.

On the home front at the outbreak of World War Two the RAF could call on 3 Sunderland squadrons, including No. 228 Squadron, who in November 1938 had their Supermarine Stranraers replaced, and who on the 31st January 1940 gave Coastal Command it's first U-boat kill. Then on the 3rd April 1940, the Short Sunderland earned it's nickname the 'Flying Porcupine' after 1 fended off an attack from 6 Junkers Ju 88s destroying 1, repelling 4 and 1 into a forced landing in Norway.

The Short Sunderland Mk III, featured a revised planning bottom and was fitted with Air-to-Surface Vessel (ASV) Mk II radar, which had also been fitted to both the Mk I and Mk II Sunderlands, this new Mk flew for the first time on the 15th December 1941.

Powered by four Pratt & Whitney wasp radial engines, the Short Sunderland Mk V, introduced during March 1944, featured the new engines to overcome the engine wear problem on the Pegasus engines as a result of having to run them on full power. ASV Mk IVC radar was also fitted and a number of Mk IIIs were upgraded to Mk V standard later on.

The Sunderland also played a part in the Berlin Airlift during 1948 and 1949 before eventually being retired from RAF service in 1959, after which it was used on selected passengers routes during the 1960's.


Click on the aeroplane image to view a larger version.

Max Speed Range Service Ceiling Armament
Sunderland Mk I 209 mph 2,980 miles 17,900 ft eight 0.303-in machine-guns
2,000lb of bombs
Sunderland Mk II 205 mph 2,800 miles 17,300 ft eight 0.303-in machine-guns
2,000lb of bombs
Sunderland Mk III 199 mph 3,000 miles 14,993 ft eleven 0.303-in machine-guns
two 0.50-in machine-guns
4,950lb of bombs
Sunderland Mk IV Became the Short Seaford.
Sunderland Mk V 213 mph 2,690 miles 17,900 ft ten 0.303-in machine-guns
two 0.50-in machine-guns
2,000lb of bombs


On Display

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

Variant Location
Sunderland Mk V Imperial War Museum, Duxford
Sunderland Mk ? Royal Air Force Museum, London

Back to British aircraft

Tags Spitfire Grumman Messerschmitt Hawker Bristol North American Avro Curtiss Fairey


Hawker Sea Hurricane (R)

de Havilland Mosquito

The History of Invasion Stripes (R)

Hawker Typhoon

Avro Anson

Comments or Suggestions?

Back to the top