Bristol Beaufighter

Bristol Beaufighter

:The "Bristol Beaufighter is also the name of a car produced by Bristol Cars in the 1980s. Infobox Aircraft
name= Type 156 Beaufighter
type= Heavy fighter / strike aircraft
manufacturer= Bristol Aeroplane Company
Fairey Aviation Company
Ministry of Aircraft Production (UK)
Department of Aircraft Production (Australia)

caption= Beaufighter TF Mk.X
designer= Leslie Frise Roy Fedden
first flight= 17 July 1939
introduction= 27 July 1940
retired= avyear|1960 (Australia)
primary user= Royal Air Force
more users= Royal Australian Air Force
produced= May 1940 – 1946
number built= 5,928
unit cost=
variants with their own articles=
developed from=Bristol Beaufort

The Bristol Type 156 Beaufighter, often referred to as simply the Beau, was a British long-range heavy fighter modification of the Bristol Aeroplane Company's earlier Beaufort torpedo bomber design. The name Beaufighter is a portmanteau of "Beaufort" and "fighter".

Unlike the Beaufort, the Beaufighter had a long career and served in almost all theatres of war in the Second World War, first as a night fighter, then as a fighter bomber and eventually replacing the Beaufort as a torpedo bomber. A unique variant was built in Australia by the Department of Aircraft Production (DAP) and was known in Australia as the DAP Beaufighter.

Design and development

The idea of a fighter development of the Beaufort was suggested to the Air Ministry by Bristol. The suggestion coincided with the delays in the development and production of the Westland Whirlwind cannon-armed twin-engined fighter. By converting an existing design the "Beaufort Cannon Fighter" could be expected to be developed and produced far quicker than starting a completely fresh design from scratch. Accordingly the Air Ministry produced specification F.11/37 written around Bristol's suggestion for an "interim" aircraft pending proper introduction of the Whirlwind. Bristol started building a prototype by taking a part-built Beaufort out of the production line. This prototype first flew on 17 July 1939, a little more than eight months after the design had started and possible due to the use of as many of the Beaufort's design and parts. A production contract for 300 machines had already been placed two weeks before the prototype flew, as F.17/39.

In general, the differences between the Beaufort and Beaufighter were minor. The wings, control surfaces, retractable landing gear and aft section of the fuselage were identical to those of the Beaufort, while the wing centre section was similar apart from certain fittings. The bomb-bay was dispensed with, and a forward-firing armament of four Hispano 20 mm cannons was mounted in the lower fuselage area. These initially were fed from 60-round drums, necessitating the radar operator having to manually change the ammunition drums — an arduous and unpopular task, especially at night and in the midst of a chase with a bomber target. As a result, they were soon replaced by a belt-feed system. The cannons were supplemented by six 0.303 inch (7.7 mm) Browning guns in the wings; four in the starboard wing and two to port. The areas for the rear gunner and bomb-aimer were removed, leaving only the pilot in a fighter-type cockpit. The navigator / radar operator sat to the rear under a small perspex bubble where the Beaufort's dorsal turret had been located.

The Bristol Taurus engines of the Beaufort would not be sufficient for a fighter and were replaced by the more powerful Bristol Hercules. This extra power presented problems with vibration. In the end they were mounted on longer, more flexible struts, which stuck out from the front of the wings. This had the side effect of moving the centre of gravity (CoG) forward, generally a bad thing for an aircraft design. It was then moved back into place by cutting back the nose area, which was no longer needed for the bombardier in the fighter role. This put most of the fuselage behind the wing and moved the CoG back to where it should be, with the engine cowlings and propellers now further forward than the tip of the nose, the Beaufighter had a characteristically stubby appearance.

Production of the Beaufort in Australia, and the highly successful use of British-made Beaufighters by the Royal Australian Air Force, led to Beaufighters being built by the Australian Department of Aircraft Production (DAP), from 1944 onwards. The DAP's variant was an attack/torpedo bomber, known as the Mark 21: design changes included Hercules CVII engines, dihedral to the tailplane and enhanced armament.

By the time British production lines shut down in September 1945, 5,564 Beaufighters had been built in England, by a number of manufacturers as well as Bristol: Fairey Aviation Company, (498) Ministry of Aircraft Production (3336) and Rootes Securities (260).

When Australian production ceased in 1946, 365 Mk.21s had been built.

Operational service

By fighter standards, the Beaufighter Mk.I was rather heavy and slow. It had an all-up weight of 16,000 lb (7,000 kg) and a maximum speed of only 335 mph (540 km/h) at 16,800 ft (5,000 m). Nevertheless this was all that was available at the time, as the otherwise excellent Westland Whirlwind had already been cancelled due to production problems with its Rolls-Royce Peregrine engines.

The Beaufighter found itself coming off the production line at almost exactly the same time as the first British Airborne Intercept (AI) radar sets. With the four 20 mm cannons mounted in the lower fuselage, the nose could accommodate the radar antennas, and the general roominess of the fuselage enabled the AI equipment to be fitted easily. Even loaded down to an even heavier 20,000 lb (9 t), the plane was still fast enough to catch German bombers. By early 1941, it was an effective counter to Luftwaffe night raids. The various early models of the Beaufighter soon commenced service overseas, where its rugged build and reliability soon made the aircraft popular with its crews.

A night-fighter Mk VIF was supplied to squadrons in March 1942, equipped with AI Mark VIII radar. As the faster de Havilland Mosquito took over in the night fighter role in mid to late 1942, the heavier Beaufighters made sterling contributions in other areas, such as anti-shipping, ground attack and long-range interdiction in every major theatre of operations.

In the Mediterranean, the USAAF's 414th, 415th, 416th and 417th Night Fighter Squadrons received 100 Beaufighters in the summer of 1943, achieving their first victory in July 1943. Through the summer the squadrons conducted both daytime convoy escort and ground-attack operations, but primarily flew defensive interception missions at night. Although the Northrop P-61 Black Widow fighter began to arrive in December 1944, USAAF Beaufighters continued to fly night operations in Italy and France until late in the war.

By the autumn of 1943 the Mosquito was available in enough numbers to replace the Beaufighter as the primary night fighter of the RAF. By the end of the war some 70 pilots serving with RAF units had become aces while flying Beaufighters.

Coastal Command

1941 saw the development of the Beaufighter Mk.IC long-range heavy fighter. This new variant entered service in May 1941 with a detachment from No. 252 Squadron operating from Malta. The aircraft proved so effective in the Mediterranean against shipping, aircraft and ground targets that Coastal Command became the major user of the Beaufighter, replacing the obsolete Beaufort and Blenheim. Coastal Command began to take delivery of the up-rated Mk.VIC in mid 1942. By the end of 1942, Mk VICs were being equipped with torpedo-carrying gear, enabling them to carry the British 18-inch or the US 22.5-inch torpedo externally. The first successful torpedo attacks by Beaufighters came in April 1943, with No. 254 Squadron sinking two merchant ships off Norway.

The Hercules Mk XVII, developing 1,735 hp at 500 feet was installed in the Mk VIC airframe to produce the TF Mk.X (Torpedo Fighter) - commonly known as the "Torbeau." The Mk X became the main production mark of the Beaufighter. The strike variant of the "Torbeau" was designated the Mk.XIC. Beaufighter TF Xs would make precision shipping attacks at wave-top height with torpedoes or rockets. Early models of the Mk Xs carried metric-wavelength ASV (air-to-surface vessel) radar with "herringbone" antennae carried on the nose and outer wings, but this was replaced in late 1943 by the centimetric AI Mark VIII radar housed in a "thimble-nose" radome, enabling all-weather and night time attacks.

The North Coates Strike Wing (Coastal Command), based at RAF North Coates on the Lincolnshire coast, developed attack tactics combining large formations of Beaufighters on anti-flak suppression with cannon and rockets while the Torbeaus attacked on low level. These tactics were put into practice in mid 1943 and in a 10 month period 27,000 tonnes of shipping were sunk. Tactics were further adapted when shipping was moved from port during night hours. North Coates Strike Wing operated as the largest anti-shipping force of the Second World War, and accounted for over 150,000 tons of shipping and 117 vessels for a loss of 120 Beaufighters and 241 aircrew killed or missing. This was half the total tonnage sunk by all strike wings between 1942-45.

Pacific war

The Beaufighter arrived at squadrons in Asia and the Pacific in mid-1942. It has often been said — although it was most probably a propaganda invention — that Japanese soldiers referred to the Beaufighter as "whispering death", supposedly because attacking aircraft often were unheard (or seen) until it was too late. (The Beaufighter's Hercules engines featured sleeve valves which lacked the noisy valve gear common to poppet valve engines. This was most apparent in a reduced noise level at the front of the engine.)

outh east Asia

In the South-East Asian Theatre, the Beaufighter Mk VIF operated from India on night missions against Japanese lines of communication in Burma and Thailand. The high-speed, low-level attacks were highly effective, despite often atrocious weather conditions and the makeshift repair and maintenance facilities.

outh west Pacific

Before DAP Beaufighters arrived at Royal Australian Air Force units in the South West Pacific theatre, the Bristol Beaufighter Mk IC was employed in anti-shipping missions.

The most famous of these was the Battle of the Bismarck Sea in which they co-operated with USAAF A-20 Bostons and B-25 Mitchells. No. 30 Squadron RAAF Beaufighters flew in at mast height to provide heavy suppressive fire for the waves of attacking bombers. The Japanese convoy, under the impression that they were under torpedo attack, made the fatal tactical error of turning their ships towards the Beaufighters, leaving them exposed to skip bombing attacks by the US medium bombers. The Beaufighters inflicted maximum damage on the ships' anti-aircraft guns, bridges and crews, during strafing runs with their four 20 mm (0.787 in) nose cannons and six wing-mounted .303 in (7.7 mm) machine guns. Eight transports and four destroyers were sunk for the loss of five aircraft, including one Beaufighter.


From late 1944, RAF Beaufighter units were engaged in the Greek Civil War, finally withdrawing in 1946.

The Beaufighter was also used by the Portuguese Air Force, as well as the air forces of Turkey and the Dominican Republic. It was used briefly by the Israeli Air Force.


;Beaufighter Mk IF: Two-seat night fighter variant.

;Beaufighter Mk IC: The "C" stood for Coastal Command variant; many were modified to carry bombs.

;Beaufighter Mk II: However well the Beaufighter performed, the Short Stirling bomber program by late 1941 had a higher priority for the Hercules engine and the Rolls Royce Merlin XX-powered Mk II was the result.

;Beaufighter Mk IIF: Production night fighter variant.;Beaufighter Mk III/IV::The Mark III and Mark IV were to be Hercules and Merlin powered Beaufighters with a new slimmer fuselage carrying an armament of 6 cannon and 6 machine guns which would give performance improvements. The necessary costs of making the changes to the production line led to the curtailing of the Marks. [ Buttler, Tony. "Secret Projects: British Fighters and Bombers 1935 -1950 (British Secret Projects 3)". Leicester, UK: Midland Publishing, 2004. ISBN 1-85780-179-2.]

;Beaufighter Mk V: The Vs had a Boulton Paul turret with four 0.303 machine guns mounted aft of the cockpit supplanting one pair of cannons and the wing-mounted machine guns. Only two Mk Vs were built.

;Beaufighter Mk VI: The Hercules returned with the next major version in 1942, the Mk VI, which was eventually built to over 1,000 examples.

;Beaufighter Mk VIC: Torpedo-carrying variant dubbed the "Torbeau".

;Beaufighter Mk VIF: This variant was equipped with AI Mark VIII radar.

;Beaufighter Mk VI (ITF): Interim torpedo fighter version.

;Beaufighter TF Mk X: Two-seat torpedo fighter aircraft. The last major version (2,231 built) was the Mk X, among the finest torpedo and strike aircraft of its day.

;Beaufighter Mk XIC: Built without torpedo gear for Coastal Command use.

;Beaufighter Mk 21: The Australian-made DAP Beaufighter. Changes included Hercules CVII engines, a dihedral tailplane, four 20 mm in the nose, four Browning .50 in the wings and the capacity to carry eight five-inch High-Velocity Aircraft Rockets (HVAR), two 250 lb bombs, two 500 lb bombs and one Mk13 torpedo.

;Beaufighter TT Mk 10: After the war, many RAF Beaufighters were converted into target tug aircraft.


seealso|List of Bristol Beaufighter operators:

*flag|South Africa|1928
*flag|United States|1912


The National Museum of the United States Air Force in Dayton, Ohio has completed the restoration of a rare Beaufighter Mk I. The aircraft is displayed as the USAAF Beaufighter flown by Capt. Harold Augspurger, commander of the 415th Night Fighter Squadron, who shot down an He 111 carrying German staff officers in September 1944. The Beaufighter went on display on 18 October 2006.

The Royal Air Force Museum at Hendon, London, UK has a Beaufighter TF X on display along with a Bristol Hercules engine.

The Canada Aviation Museum presently is storing Beaufighter TF X RAF serial "RD867" for future restoration. The museum aircraft is a semi-complete RAF restoration with no engines, cowlings or internal components, received in exchange for a Bristol Bolingbroke on 10 September 1969.

A privately owned Beaufighter is currently undergoing a lengthy restoration in the UK. Its owner hopes to eventually restore it to flying condition.

There are two Beaufighter Mk XXI aircraft on static display in museums in Australia, one at Moorabbin [ [ Australian National Aviation Museum - DAP Mark 21 Beaufighter ] ] and the other at Camden.

The Midland Air Museum, Coventry, England has a Beaufighter cockpit section on public display. Its identity is thought possibly to be T5298.

pecifications (Beaufighter TF X)

aircraft specifications
plane or copter?=plane
jet or prop?=prop
ref=Jane's Fighting Aircraft of World War IIBridgeman 1946, pp. 110–111.]
crew=2: pilot, observer
span main=57 ft 10 in
span alt=17.65 m
length main=41 ft 4 in
length alt=12.6 m
height main=15 ft 10 in
height alt=4.84 m
area main=503 ft² March 1998, p.57.]
area alt= 46,73 m²
empty weight main=15,592 lb
empty weight alt=7,072 kg
loaded weight main=
loaded weight alt=
max takeoff weight main=25,400 lb
max takeoff weight alt=11,521 kg
engine (prop)=Bristol Hercules
type of prop=14-cylinder radial engines
number of props=2
power main=1,600 hp
power alt=1,200 kW
max speed main=320 mph
max speed alt=280 knots, 515 km/h
max speed more=at 10,000 ft (3,050 m)
climb rate main=1,600 ft/min
climb rate alt=8.2 m/s
climb rate more=without torpedo
ceiling main=19,000 ft
ceiling alt=5,795 m
ceiling more=without torpedo
range main=1,750 mi
range alt=1,520 nm, 2,816 km
power/mass main=
power/mass alt=
loading main=
loading alt=
* 4× Hispano 20 mm cannon (60 rounds per cannon, 240 rounds total) in nose
*Fighter Command only
** 4× .303 in (7.7 mm) machine gun (outer starboard wing)
** 2× .303 in machine gun (outer port wing)
** 8× RP-3 "60lb" rockets "or" 2× 1000 lb bombs
*Coastal Command only
** 1× manually-operated Vickers GO "or" .303 Browning for observer
** 1× 18 in (457 mm) torpedo

ee also

*Bristol Beaufort
similar aircraft=
* A-20 Havoc
* A-26 Invader
* de Havilland Mosquito
* P-61 Black Widow
* Heinkel He 219
* Kawasaki Ki-45
* List of aircraft of the RAF
* List of fighter aircraft
see also=




* Bingham, Victor. "Bristol Beaufighter". Shrewsbury, UK: Airlife Publishing, Ltd., 1994. ISBN 1-85310-122-2.
* Bowyer, Chaz. "Beaufighter". London: William Kimber, 1987. 0-71830-647-3.
* Bowyer, Chaz. "Beaufighter at War". London: Ian Allan Ltd., 1994. ISBN 0-71100-704-7.
* Bridgeman, Leonard, ed. “The Bristol 156 Beaufighter.” "Jane's Fighting Aircraft of World War II". London: Studio, 1946. ISBN 1-85170-493-0.
* Flintham, V. "Air Wars and Aircraft: A Detailed Record of Air Combat, 1945 to the Present". New York: Facts on File, 1990. ISBN 0-81602-356-5.
* Franks, Richard A. "The Bristol Beaufighter, a Comprehensive Guide for the Modeller". Bedford, UK: SAM Publications, 2002. ISBN 0-9533465-5-2.
* Hall, Alan W. "Bristol Beaufighter (Warpaint No. 1)". Dunstable, UK: Hall Park Books, 1995.
* Howard. "Bristol Beaufighter: The Inside Story". "Scale Aircraft Modelling", Vol. 11, No. 10, July 1989.
* Innes, Davis J. "Beaufighters over Burma - 27 Sqn RAF 1942-45". Poole, Dorset, UK: Blandford Press, 1985. ISBN 0-71371-599-5.
* March, Daniel J., ed. "British Warplanes of World War II". London: Aerospace Publishing, 1998. ISBN 1-874023-92-1.,
* Mason, Francis K. "Archive: Bristol Beaufighter". Oxford, UK: Container Publications.
* Moyes, Philip J.R. "The Bristol Beaufighter I & II (Aircraft in Profile Number 137)". Leatherhead, Surrey, UK: Profile Publications Ltd., 1966.
* Parry, Simon W. "Beaufighter Squadrons in Focus". Walton on Thames, Surrey, Uk: Red Kite, 2001. ISBN 0-95380-612-X.
* Scutts, Jerry. "Bristol Beaufighter (Crowood Aviation Series)". Ramsbury, Marlborough, Wiltshire, UK: The Crowood Press Ltd., 2004. ISBN 1-86126-666-9.
* Scutts, Jerry. "Bristol Beaufighter in Action (Aircraft number 153)". Carrollton, Texas: Squadron/Signal Publications, 1995. ISBN 0-89747-333-7.
* Thomas, Andrew. "Beaufighter Aces of World War 2". Botley, UK: Osprey Publishing, 2005. ISBN 1-84176-846-4.
* Wilson, Stewart. "Beaufort, Beaufighter and Mosquito in Australian Service". Weston, ACT, Australia: Aerospace Publications, 1990. ISBN 0-95879-784-6.

External links

* [ Austin & Longbridge Aircraft Production]
* [ picture of a Merlin-engined Beaufighter II]
* [ Bristol Beaufighter further information and pictures]

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