Fairey Barracuda Torpedo / Dive Bomber
The Fairey Barracuda stocked the inventory of many Fleet Air Arm squadrons during World War 2 action.
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The Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm (FAA) attempted to replace its aging Fairey Swordfish biplane torpedo bomber line of World War 2 (1939-1945) through several more modern designs - the Fairey "Albacore" and the Fairey "Barracuda" - but neither of these would ever replicate the success and popularity of the 1930s Swordfish. The Albacore was a serviceable aircraft but its reach numbered under 800 units and crews still preferred their sturdy Swordfish platforms. The Barracuda was limited throughout its career by its choice of engine and was further delayed in its service entry by the British wartime production commitment. All of the aforementioned Fairey Aviation aircraft were designed around the torpedo delivery role with conventional dive bombing as secondary.
The Fairey Barracuda emerged from Specification S.24/37 of 1937 calling for an all-modern fast monoplane bomber. As the Albacore was designed to succeed the Swordfish, so too was the Barracuda designed to succeed the Albacore and, by default, the Swordfish, which remained in service during the war years despite its age. The Barracuda would be powered by the in-development Rolls-Royce "Exe" engine (named after the River Exe) which promised the required performance. A long, three-man cockpit was set under an equally lengthy greenhouse-style canopy. Window panes were added to the fuselage sides for improved observation of the surrounding terrain. The engine was mounted in the front of the airframe with a conventional tail unit fitted at rear - the tail featured its horizontal planes set high on the single rudder fin. The wing mainplanes were straight, high-mounted appendages, a departure from the biplane arrangements used in the Swordfish and Albacore. A wheeled, tail-dragger undercarriage was fitted with only the main legs retractable.
Fixed armament of the aircraft was 2 x 7.7mm Vickers K machine guns in the rear cockpit position. The bomb load maximum was approximately 1,800 pounds or 1 x 1,620 pound torpedo held underneath.
Development on the Rolls-Royce powerplant began in the 1930s and was intended for a new generation of FAA aircraft - the Barracuda being one of its earliest primary candidates. However, work on the powerplant was halted during August of 1939 and all commitment was officially ended the following year leaving the Barracuda prototype to fit the Rolls-Royce Merlin 30 engine of lower 1,260 horsepower output driving a three-bladed propeller unit. The ultimate abandonment of the Exe engine delayed the Barracuda program substantially and lowered performance expectations considerably - especially since the Barracuda was designed with a certain specialized equipment fit in mind, making for an inherently large and heavy aircraft.