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Weapons of World War Two

The Battle of Taranto (Nov 1940)

Fairey Swordfish

Fairey Swordfish

When in 1922 the Italian Regia Aeronautica dedicated itself to designing a "high-sea torpedo launcher seaplane", its attempts of developing this new offensive utilization of the aerial weapon were followed with interest by several nations, but one in particular paid attention to these tests: Britain, which was as well effectuating studies in such direction. So, the British industry, after years of tests and investigations, presented the 31st December 1935 the first prototype of the new torpedo bomber: the Fairey Swordfish. In truth, the appearance of this aircraft was not modern at all; it was a monoplane of open cockpit and with so many struts and strings that it soon received the nickname "Stringbag". Albeit its speed was not impressive, about 260 kilometers/hour, its good characteristics of manageability and maneuverability were very appreciated by all of the pilots who had the chance to fly it. The first Swordfish which entered service were those of the Torpedo Test Unit based at Gosport, the 19th February 1936. Robust and versatile aircraft, the Swordfish was used in other diverse tasks such as the training of pilots, observers, telegraphist-machine gunners and, later, radar operators. At the beginning of the conflict, within the scope of a descentralization program to favor productivity according to criteria of war economy and security, the aircraft, until then produced by Fairey alone, was produced also by Blackburn and other four sub-companies: Appleyards, for the wings and the flaps; Greens, for the landing gear; Hudswell, for the ailerons and the steering surfaces; and Tates, which assembled the central section and the cockpits of the pilot and the observer. The Swordfish was a single-engine biplane aircraft, built with a framework structure totally coated with fabric, and fitted with folding wings to allow its transportation onboard aircraft carriers. In 1943, the lower surface of the lower wings was coated with metal to allow the installation of rockets. The engine, a radial Bristol Pegasus of nine cylinders cooled by air, had a maximum power of 750 horsepower. The aircraft was built in four versions, some of them fitted with seaplane floaters: the Mark I, the basic one; the Mark II, with metalized wings; the Mark III, with radar; and the Mark IV, with enclosed cockpit, sold to Canada. The Swordfish, which fought for the first time in Trondheim attacking the German cruisers with torpedoes, achieved during the war brilliant victories such as that of Taranto or the sinking of the Bismarck. In the late 1941 the "Stringbag" fitted with radar began to be used as a submarine hunter, and when in May 1943 it was fitted with rocket projectiles it was a fearsome weapon despite its already outdated formula. Its last war action was effectuated by an aircraft from the 119th Squadron, which attacked a German pocket submarine in the English Channel barely four hours before the surrender of Germany.

Fairey Swordfish
First flight/Entry into service: 31 December 1935 (Mark I); 1943 (Mark II and Mark III)

Wingspan: 15.25 meters

Wing area: 18.50 square meters

Length: 10.90 meters

Height: 3.75 meters

Full load/Empty weight: 3500/2130 kilograms (Mark II and Mark III)

Payload/Crew: ?/2 (Mark I); 1370 kilograms/2 (Mark II and Mark III)

Engine: Bristol Pegasus III M 3 (Mark I); Bristol Pegasus 30 of 750 horsepower (Mark II and Mark III)

Maximum speed: 260 kilometers/hour as bomber or torpedo bomber (237 kilometers/hour as seaplane); 267 kilometers/hour as reconnaissance aircraft

Service ceiling: 3250 meters (Mark II and Mark III)

Defensive armament: One Vickers 7.7-millimeter machine gun and another orientable one in the rear cockpit

Drop armament: One 455-millimeter torpedo or one 680-kilogram mine or 680 kilograms of bombs

Particular details: Metallic coating in lower wings (Mark II); radar ASV Mark X (Mark III)

Operational range: 1010 kilometers as torpedo bomber (at full load and without auxiliary tanks); 2048 kilometers as reconnaissance aircraft (with auxiliary tanks)

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