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Blackburn B.44

United Kingdom (1942)

Detailing the development and operational history of the Blackburn B.44 Floatplane Fighter Prototype.

 Entry last updated on 9/12/2017; Authored by Staff Writer; Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com



  Blackburn B.44  
Picture of Blackburn B.44 Floatplane Fighter Prototype


The Blackburn B.44 was proposed as a single-seat, single-engine floatplane fighter during World War 2 - it was not furthered.

For a time in military aviation history there was a particular focus on the "floatplane fighter", an offensive-minded attack design that attempted to maintain the best qualities of a floatplane (sea-based landings and take-offs, operational range) and a fighter (stable gun platform, general performance, maneuverability). In November 1942, with World War 2 already raging, the British Air Ministry developed Specification N.2/42 for this very type of combat aircraft and Blackburn delivered what became the "B.44".

In its earlier B.20 and B.40 projects, both of which were flying boats, the company centered the designs on a retractable hull which could be lowered for landing and raised when flying, thus improving aerodynamic efficiency in the latter action. The concept was proven somewhat through the B.20 prototype (detailed elsewhere on this site) but this aircraft was lost in testing (killing three of its six crew). The B.40 was not developed beyond drawings as interest in the type soon waned on the part of the Royal Air Force (RAF).

The same concept was now driven through a single-seat, single-engine fighter design which could operate near the frontlines in areas where there were next-to-now support systems available - namely wide expanses of ocean where small islands (either natural or man-made) were all that could be had.
Two prototypes were ordered by the Air Ministry and these would be powered by the Napier "Sabre" engine outputting 2,240 horsepower and driving a pair of three-bladed, contra-rotating propellers at the nose. To expedite development, much of the existing work done on the Blackburn Firebrand land-based fighter (detailed elsewhere on this site) was used in constructing the B.44 floatplane fighter. The basic airframe was to have low-set monoplane wings seated ahead of midships. The engine would be positioned at front in the traditional way and the tail would be made up of a single vertical fin and low-mounted, forward-set horizontal stabilizers. As the boat-like hull was built into the fuselage's design (supported / retracted by a system of struts) no complex landing gear arrangement was needed. Two outboard (folding) pontoons were set near the ends of each wing for stability when running on the water's surface. The pilot sat under a framed canopy ahead of midships with the fuselage spine running directly behind his position, the extra internal volume adding fuel stores for longer operation ranges. Armament centered on 4 x 20mm automatic cannons (two fitted to each wing) and provision was to be made for carrying 2 x 500lb drop bombs under the wings.

As the war progressed, and economically-minded "Escort Carriers" proved viable warships for carrying warplanes to-and-fro, the need for the B.44 lessened. Additionally, proven in the actions of the Pacific Theater, the Allies were able to construct air bases at speed in areas where it was not thought possible - providing forward operating areas for future assaults or assault support in general. As such, the B.44 was abandoned after only a full-scale mockup had been completed.

Of particular note in the development of the B.44 floatplane fighter is the lack of faith had by RAF officials in the design with concerns ranging from on-water stability and water spray at the engine and propeller components to general control factors when in flight. The work on the B.44 was not even publicized until the post-war period in 1947.
Blackburn B.44 Specifications
National Flag Graphic
United Kingdom
Year: 1942
Type: Floatplane Fighter Prototype
Manufacturer(s): Blackburn Aircraft - UK
Production: 0
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
Structural
Crew: 1
Width: 50.03 ft (15.25 m)
MTOW: 13,999 lb (6,350 kg)


Installed Power
1 x Napier Sabre IV liquid-cooled inline piston engine developing 2,240 horsepower driving 2 x three-bladed propeller units at the nose in contra-rotating fashion.

Standard Day Performance
Maximum Speed: 360 mph (580 kph; 313 kts)
Service Ceiling: 38,009 ft (11,585 m; 7.20 mi)
Rate-of-Climb: 2,000 ft/min (610 m/min)


Armament
PROPOSED:
4 x 20mm cannons (two per wing mainplane).

A bombload of up to 2 x 500lb conventional drop bombs, one hardpoint per wing.


Operators List
United Kingdom (cancelled)

Series Model Variants
• B.44 - Base Project Designation; cancelled; full-scale prototype completed.


Supported Weapon Systems
Graphical image of an aircrat automatic cannon
Graphical image of an aircraft conventional drop bomb munition