Military Factory logo

Fairey Spearfish

United Kingdom (1945)
Picture of Fairey Spearfish Torpedo / Dive Bomber Aircraft Prototype

Brought to life in 1943, the Fairey Spearfish was only ever completed in five examples due to the end of the war in 1945.

Detailing the development and operational history of the Fairey Spearfish Torpedo / Dive Bomber Aircraft Prototype.  Entry last updated on 12/21/2016. Authored by Staff Writer. Content ©

Fairey Aviation, founded as early as 1915, had been designing, developing and building warplanes since World War 1 (1914-1918) when it took on the charge to fulfill a British military specification for a new torpedo / dive bomber in April of 1943. World War 2 (1939-1945) had been waging for four long years up to now with seemingly no end in sight and the British Fleet Air Arm (FAA) of the Royal Navy (RN) was in the hunt for a modern solution to meet a new demand - particularly in its ever-growing commitment in the Pacific Theater. The specification was named O.5/43 and ultimately answered by Fairey along with competitors Blackburn, Cunliffe-Owen and Folland. The hope by the Admiralty was to have the new aircraft available no later than early 1946.

Fairey returned with two proposed design, one being a single-engined aircraft and the other of a twin-engined configuration. The Admiralty elected for the practicality and familiarity of the former housing and this to house a single Bristol Centaurus engine to which three prototypes were ordered during August of 1943. The aircraft would have to possess good speed and handling over water, proper strength in a full-speed dive and able to withstand the rigors of carrier operations over vast distances - sometimes thousands of miles without any land in view. A crew of two was envisioned to help alleviate the expected workload of the light bomber. In October of 1943, the design was granted the name of "Spearfish".

The initial flight of the first prototype, delayed from the originally selected date by the Centaurus engine of choice, was not recorded until July 5th, 1945. This showpiece example was fitted with the Bristol Centaurus 57 series 18-cylinder radial piston engine of 2,585 horsepower output. However, by this time, the war in Europe had drawn to a close and the Japanese Empire in the Pacific and Far East was falling to the island-hopping campaign of the Allies. The requirement for such a new carried-based bomber dwindled until altogether lost by September of 1945 when the Japanese capitulated.

This left many-a-military-project in limbo or cancelled altogether. The Spearfish program did not suffer either fate though its production contract was no more (envisioned as 150 "TD.Mk 1" production examples). Instead, the three prototypes were allowed completion in a flyable form used in research. These were then followed by a forth prototype which flew in December of 1945 and it, itself, was followed by an order for three more aircraft. To that end, only five were ever really completed and all eventually lost to the scrap heap once their usefulness had ended.
In testing, the Spearfish proved heavy at the controls and required a large turning radius. Despite its Centaurus engine of 2,585 horsepower, it was underpowered for and aircraft of its size. The size was also detrimental for deck handling and storage on space-strapped British carriers. Vision out of the cockpit was more-or-less sound thanks to light framing - though the wing elements and long nose contributed to blind spots consistent with other aircraft of the period.

As completed, the Spearfish sat its two operators in tandem with the pilot in the forward cockpit and his observer/gunner aft. The aircraft exhibited a running length of 45 feet with a span of 60 feet and a height of 16 feet. Wings were straight appendages with clipped tips and mid-mounted along the fuselage sides just under the cockpit floor. The fuselage itself was relatively deep when viewed in the side profile. The engine sat in a forward compartment within a lengthened nose assembly, driving a five-bladed propeller. The tail unit was conventional with a single, rounded vertical fin and low-set horizontal planes. The undercarriage was wholly-retractable and of the "tail-dragger" configuration which saw two main landing gear legs and a tail wheel used. An arrestor hook was added well-aft on the ventral side of the tail, this intended for catching deck wires upon landing. Empty weight was listed at 12,435lbs with a Maximum Take-Off Weight (MTOW) of 22,050lbs. The Spearfish was cleared to carry up to 2,000lbs of ordnance through an internal bomb bay - this being either a single torpedo, several conventional drop bombs or naval depth charges as required.

Beyond its bomb-/torpedo-/charge-carrying capabilities, the Spearfish was further armed through 2 x 0.50 M2 Browning fixed, forward-firing, air-cooled heavy machine guns - one to a wing . There were 2 x M2 Brownings also to be fitted into a Frazer-Nash FN95 remote-controlled dorsal barbette for protecting the aircraft's vulnerable "six" from danger. Underwing rails were also to provide fixed hardpoints for up to 16 x RP-3 series rockets for maritime strike.

Published performance specifications included a maximum speed of 300 miles per hour with a cruise speed of 260 miles per hour. Range reach 895 miles with a service ceiling up to 23,600 feet and a rate-of-climb nearing 1,720 feet per minute. The famous American Grumman TBF Avenger - a stalwart throughout the war since 1942 and produced in 9,839 examples - already managed a top speed of 275 miles per hour with a range out to 1,000 miles and service ceiling of 30,100 feet, all the while cleared for carrying 2,000lb of ordnance including a torpedo or drop bombs.

All Spearfish aircraft were later scrapped, bringing an end to their aviation tenure. A high-performance version of the same aircraft saw a short-lived, yet somewhat renewed, life when Specification O.21/44 came about - this calling for a two-seat naval strike platform with a coupled Merlin engine arrangement driving contra-rotating propellers. Like the Spearfish before it, this aircraft was never realized as an operational product.

Our Data Modules allow for quick visual reference when comparing a single entry against contemporary designs. Areas covered include general ratings, speed assessments, and relative ranges based on distances between major cities.

Image of collection of graph types

Relative Maximum Speed Rating
Hi: 300mph
Lo: 150mph
    This entry's maximum listed speed (298mph).

    Graph average of 225 miles-per-hour.
City-to-City Ranges
Graph showcases the Fairey Spearfish's operational range (on internal fuel) when compared to distances between major cities.
Aviation Era
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Useful in showcasing the era cross-over of particular aircraft/aerospace designs.
Unit Production Comparison
Comm. Market HI*: 44,000 units
Military Market HI**: 36,183 units

  * Commercial Market High belongs to Cessna 172.

  ** Military Market High belongs to Ilyushin Il-2.

Altitude Visualization
Small airplane graphic
  Compare this entry against other aircraft using our Comparison Tool  
National Flag Graphic
Origin: United Kingdom
Year: 1945
Type: Torpedo / Dive Bomber Aircraft Prototype
Manufacturer(s): Fairey Aviation - UK
Production: 5
Global Operators:
United Kingdom (cancelled)
Historical Commitments / Honors:

Military lapel ribbon for Operation Allied Force
Military lapel ribbon for the Arab-Israeli War
Military lapel ribbon for the Battle of Britain
Military lapel ribbon for the Battle of Midway
Military lapel ribbon for the Berlin Airlift
Military lapel ribbon for the Chaco War
Military lapel ribbon for the Cold War
Military lapel ribbon for the Cuban Missile Crisis
Military lapel ribbon for the Falklands War
Military lapel ribbon for the French-Indochina War
Military lapel ribbon for the Golden Age of Flight
Military lapel ribbon for the 1991 Gulf War
Military lapel ribbon for the Indo-Pak Wars
Military lapel ribbon for the Iran-Iraq War
Military lapel ribbon for the Korean War
Military lapel ribbon for the 1982 Lebanon War
Military lapel ribbon for the Malayan Emergency
Military lapel ribbon for the attack on Pearl Harbor
Military lapel ribbon for the Six Day War
Military lapel ribbon for the Soviet-Afghan War
Military lapel ribbon for the Spanish Civil War
Military lapel ribbon for the Suez Crisis
Military lapel ribbon for the Vietnam War
Military lapel ribbon for Warsaw Pact of the Cold War-era
Military lapel ribbon for the WASP (WW2)
Military lapel ribbon for the World War 1
Military lapel ribbon for the World War 2
Military lapel ribbon for the Yom Kippur
* Ribbons not necessarily indicative of actual historical campaign ribbons. Ribbons are clickable to their respective campaigns/operations.
Measurements and Weights icon
Structural - Crew, Dimensions, and Weights:
Unless otherwise noted the presented statistics below pertain to the Fairey Spearfish model. Common measurements, and their respective conversions, are shown when possible.




44.95 ft

13.7 m


60.04 ft

18.3 m


16.08 ft

4.9 m


12,434 lb

5,640 kg


22,046 lb

10,000 kg

Engine icon
Installed Power - Standard Day Performance:
1 x Bristol Centaurus 57 18-cylinder radial piston engine developing 2,858 horsepower.


298 mph

480 kph

259 kts


556 mi

895 km

Nautical Miles
483 nm


23,622 ft

7,200 m

4.47 mi


1,720 ft/min

524 m/min

Supported Weapon Systems:

Graphical image of an aircraft medium machine gun
Graphical image of an aircraft heavy machine gun
Graphical image of an aircraft air-to-surface missile
Graphical image of aircraft aerial rockets
Graphical image of an aircraft aerial torpedo
Graphical image of an aircraft conventional drop bomb munition
Armament - Hardpoints (0):

2 x 0.50 caliber Browning M2 heavy machine guns in fixed, forward-firing positions on wings.
2 x 0.50 caliber Browning M2 heavy machine guns in Frazer-Nash FN95 remote-controlled dorsal barbette.

Up to 2,000lbs of stores in an internal bomb bay.

1 x Torpedo or equivalent in conventional drop bombs.
16 x RP-3 air-to-surface rockets under wings
Variants: Series Model Variants
• "Spearfish" - Base Series Designation; five examples completed.
• TD.Mk I - Proposed production designation; 150 on order; never produced nor delivered to the FAA.