Bristol Brigand Anti-Ship Bomber / Dive Bomber / Strike Aircraft
The Bristol Brigand replaced the wartime Beaufighter of the Royal Air Force and saw combat service in the Malayan Emergency.
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In 1942, the British Air Ministry sought to replace its Bristol Beaufighter heavy fighter fleet with a newer, faster, twin-engine design which could fulfill the roles of maritime strike and torpedo bombing. The specification became "H.7/42" and the Air Ministry went on to adopt yet-another Bristol-led design in the "Type 164". The Type 164 reconstituted the wings and tail assemblies of the existing Bristol "Buckingham" twin-engine medium bomber, applying the appendages to an all-new fuselage design. Power would be served through in-house Bristol engines which simplified manufacture logistics.
Type 164 was given a conventional twin-engined design configuration. The fuselage was well-streamlined and supported the cockpit, standard armament and tail unit while the high-mounted wings each held an underslung engine nacelle. Each engine drove a four-bladed propeller while the nacelles also housed the single-wheeled main landing gear legs (a small, single-wheeled leg was fitted under the tail). The empennage utilized a single horizontal plane joining two outboard vertical tail fins. The cockpit was set ahead of amidships in the usual way, under a glazed canopy, and aft of a short, rounded nose cone assembly. The crew was made up of three personnel and standard armament included 4 x 20mm Hispano Mk V series cannons fitted under the cockpit floor. There were also external provisions for up to 16 x RP-3 series rockets, up to 2,000lbs of conventional drop bombs and 1 x 559mm torpedo.
Power for the Brigand was served through 2 x Bristol Centaurus 57 series radial piston engines, each developing 2,165 horsepower. This provided the airframe with a maximum speed of 358 miles per hour, a range out to 2,100 miles, a service ceiling of 26,000 feet and a rate-of-climb nearing 1,500 feet per minute.
Four prototype Brigands were completed and these with Centaurus VII series engines. These eventually paved the way for the adoption of the torpedo-carrying bomber variant in the Brigand TF.1 mark. Eleven of this version were produced. The dedicated conventional bomber became the Brigand B.1 mark which lacked the rear gun emplacement but added support for rockets and external bombs. 106 of this type were manufactured and their numbers were later increased when the original TF.1 models were modified to the B.1 standard. Training versions became the Brigand T.4 and T.5 variants - the latter an improved form over the original T.4 model. The Type 165 "Brigand II" was a proposed training platform while some 16 examples of the post-war Brigand MET.3 were produced for meteorological data collection.
The Brigand did not find many takers outside of the UK during its service life, only fielded by the burgeoning Pakistani Air Force during the post-war years. For the British, the type served through No. 8, No. 45, No. 84, No. 1301, No. 228 and No. 238 squadrons before her history was written.
The Bristol Brigand arrived too late to see combat service in World War 2 so the original first batch torpedo bomber models were sent to RAF Coastal Command where they saw service from 1946 into 1947. It was during the Malayan Emergency (June 16, 1948 - July 12, 1960) that the Brigand found both her best and worst operating years. A communist insurgency attempted to take control of the country against a combined force of UK, Australian and New Zealand forces. The war ended with a Commonwealth victory.
During the conflict, the Brigand unveiled some notable flaws in her design, a design originally intended for maritime operations over European waters. Instead, the aircraft was pressed into service in an unforgiving tropical environment where the airframe experiences structural and mechanical failings, often times with lives lost. Problems were countered as they arose and air crews generally liked their Brigand aircraft. Leadership eventually proposed limitations to her active fielding which soon limited their tactical usefulness in the Malaysian theater. Brigands were eventually removed from frontline service and the last model retired in 1958.
In all, some 147 Bristol Brigand examples were produced. Her issues in the field marked her as a limited success while her low production numbers allowed her to fade into history without much fanfare.