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Blackburn Skua (B-24)

United Kingdom (1938)
Picture of Blackburn Skua (B-24) Twin-Seat, Single-Engine Dive Bomber / Fighter Aircraft

Both a fighter and a dive bomber, the Blackburn Skua excelled only in the latter for the British Fleet Air Arm during the early fighting of World War 2.


Detailing the development and operational history of the Blackburn Skua (B-24) Twin-Seat, Single-Engine Dive Bomber / Fighter Aircraft.  Entry last updated on 10/24/2017. Authored by Staff Writer. Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com

The Blackburn "Skua" (B-24) was a pre-World War 2 naval (carrier-capable) two-seat, single-engine dive bomber / fighter design of Britain. The aircraft was designed by G.E. Petty and first-flew in prototype form on February 9th, 1937, saw series introduction in November of 1938 and fought on until 1941 by which time it was made obsolete as a frontline solution. It continued in second-line roles up until March 1945 and the war in Europe ended that May. A total of 192 Skua aircraft were built for the Fleet Air Arm (FAA) of the British Royal Navy for service in the war (notable as its first monoplane fighter).

The Skua was born from Air Ministry Specification O.27/34 of 1934 and was of an all-modern design for its time (biplanes with open-cockpits were still the relative norm for the FAA). Metal skinning was used throughout its construction and an enclosed cockpit and retractable undercarriage was featured along with the aforementioned monoplane wings. The engine was set conventionally at the nose and drove a three-bladed propeller unit. The tail unit was comprised of a single, rounded vertical fin and low-mounted stabilizers. The crew of two were seated in tandem (back-to-back) under a lightly-framed canopy.

Armament-wise, the aircraft was completed with a battery of fixed, forward-firing 7.7mm Browning machine guns in the wings and the rear operator managed a single 7.7mm Vickers K machine gun on a flexible mounting. In this way, the aircraft held a quality more akin to a heavy fighter than a high-performance fighter mount. There was also a provision to carry a 250lb or 500lb bomb along fuselage centerline for the dive bombing role (integral air brakes helped in the action). Each wing could also be outfitted with racks for up to 8 x bombs of smaller diameter.
After its successful testing and evaluation phase, the aircraft was brought into service with the 800 Naval Air Squadron in late-1938. The type then found its way aboard British Royal Navy carriers heading into 1939 so, when war broke out in September of 1939, the Skua was on hand in useful numbers and pushed into service by the FAA.

Despite their classification as fighters, Skuas performed poorly in the dedicated fighter role due to their design being underpowered and heavy but they excelled in the dive bombing role for which they were also designed. A shortage of modern fighters by the British forced the type to see more combat in the dedicated fighter role despite their being outclassed by German types like the Messerschmitt Bf 109 series. Nevertheless, Skuas were credited with shooting down the first German aircraft of World War 2, this on September 25th, 1939 (a Luftwaffe Dornier 18). Skuas were then pressed into service for the Norway Campaign where their dive bombing capability was put to good use and several enemy ships were claimed (including KMS Konigsberg sunk by three direct hits).

Beyond this action, the series operated in all of the early fronts involving British navy warplanes: the North Sea, Atlantic and Mediterranean. More and more they were pressed into the escort role for other bomber types and it was not until 1941 that better alternatives became available - namely the Fairey Fulmar and the Hawker Hurricane. As such, the Skua was relegated to secondary roles of trainer and target tug until the end of the war in 1945.

A true unsung hero of the early-going for the British in World War 2, no fewer than 27 Fleet Air Arm squadrons were equipped with Skua fighters. The Royal Air Force (RAF) also operated a contingent as part of the Anti-Aircraft Co-operation force.

There were only two variants of the Skua line built, Skua Mk.I and Skua Mk.II. The former covered two prototypes outfitted with Bristol Mercury engines. The latter were production-quality, in-service aircraft carrying Bristol Perseus engines in revised cowlings. The Blackburn "Roc" (detailed elsewhere on this site) was a notable Skua offshoot that introduced a fully-powered, multi-machine-gun turret over the rear fuselage (as in the Bolton Paul Defiant fighter). One-hundred thirty-six of these were made.

Performance-wise, the definitive Mk.II model had a maximum speed of 225 miles-per-hour and cruised near 185 mph. Range was out to 435 miles and the service ceiling reached 20,200 feet. Rate-of-climb was 1,580 feet-per-minute.






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 (227mph).

    Graph average of 225 miles-per-hour.
Relative Operational Ranges
NYC
 
  LON
LON
 
  PAR
PAR
 
  BER
BER
 
  MOS
MOS
 
  TOK
TOK
 
  SYD
SYD
 
  LAX
LAX
 
  NYC
Graph showcases the Blackburn Skua Mk.II's operational range (on internal fuel) when compared to distances between major cities.
Aviation Era Impact
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
192
192


  * Commercial Market High belongs to Cessna 172.

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


Altitude Visualization
Small airplane graphic
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Supported Mission Types:
Air-to-Air
Interception
Unmanned
Ground Attack
Close-Air Support
Training
Anti-Submarine
Anti-Ship
Airborne Early Warning
MEDEVAC
Electronic Warfare
Maritime/Navy
Aerial Tanker
Utility/Transport
Passenger Industry
VIP Travel
Business Travel
Search/Rescue
Recon/Scouting
Special Forces
X-Plane/Development
National Flag Graphic
National Origin: United Kingdom
Service Year: 1938
Classification Type: Twin-Seat, Single-Engine Dive Bomber / Fighter Aircraft
Manufacturer(s): Blackburn Aircraft - UK
Production Units: 192
Operational Status: Retired, Out-of-Service
Global Operators:
United Kingdom
Structural - Crew, Dimensions, and Weights:
Unless otherwise noted the presented statistics below pertain to the Blackburn Skua Mk.II model. Common measurements, and their respective conversions, are shown when possible.

Operational
CREW


Personnel
2


Dimension
LENGTH


Feet
35.60 ft


Meters
10.85 m


Dimension
WIDTH


Feet
46.26 ft


Meters
14.1 m


Dimension
HEIGHT


Feet
12.47 ft


Meters
3.8 m


Weight
EMPTY


Pounds
5,512 lb


Kilograms
2,500 kg


Weight
LOADED


Pounds
8,267 lb


Kilograms
3,750 kg

Installed Power - Standard Day Performance:
1 x Bristol Perseus XII air-cooled radial piston engine developing 890 horsepower and driving a three-bladed propeller unit at the nose.

Performance
SPEED


Miles-per-Hour
227 mph


Kilometers-per-Hour
365 kph


Knots
197 kts


Performance
RANGE


Miles
435 mi


Kilometers
700 km


Nautical Miles
378 nm


Performance
CEILING


Feet
20,210 ft


Meters
6,160 m


Miles
3.83 mi


Performance
CLIMB RATE


Feet-per-Minute
1,580 ft/min


Meters-per-Minute
482 m/min

Armament - Hardpoints (1):

STANDARD:
4 x 7.7mm Browning machine guns in fixed, forward firing mounts.
1 x 7.7mm Lewis OR Vickers K medium machine gun on flexible mounting in rear cockpit.

OPTIONAL:
1 x 500lb conventional drop bomb under fuselage centerline.
8 x Smaller-diameter bombs (conventional or practice) at underwing hardpoints.
Visual Armory:

Graphical image of an aircraft medium machine gun
Graphical image of an aircraft conventional drop bomb munition
Variants: Series Model Variants
• Skua - Base Series Name
• Skua Mk.I - Prototype models with Bristol Mercury engine; two examples, differing in nose section.
• Skua Mk.II - Fitted with Bristol Perseus engine; revised nose section; 190 examples.