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Blackburn B.48 / YA.1 (Firecrest)

United Kingdom (1947)
Picture of Blackburn B.48 / YA.1 (Firecrest) Carrier-based Naval Strike Fighter Prototype Aircraft

Just three of the proposed Blackburn Firecrest strike fighters were completed for Britain in the late-1940s, the project ultimately cancelled when little could be had from the design.


Detailing the development and operational history of the Blackburn B.48 / YA.1 (Firecrest) Carrier-based Naval Strike Fighter Prototype Aircraft.  Entry last updated on 9/11/2017. Authored by Staff Writer. Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com

During World War 2 (1939-1945), constant issues in the development of the Blackburn "Firebrand" single-seat, single-engine navy strike fighter (detailed elsewhere on this site) ensured that the type would have an uphill battle in reaching operational capability (indeed it entered service only after the war in 1945 and, in the end, only 220 were acquired by the British Royal Navy (RN)). This led the Blackburn engineering team to pursue an all-new design to shore up the Firebrand's limitations and this work ultimately produced the Blackburn "Firecrest", also recognized under the designations of "B-48" and "Y.A.1". The Firecrest would undertake the same type of carrier-based strike roles envisioned for the Firebrand and also serve the RN's Fleet Air Arm (FAA) if it could prove itself a sounder product.

Air Ministry Specification S.28/43 was established for the development of the Firecrest ("Firecrest" was its unofficial name) and three flyable prototypes were commissioned.

To go along with the "clean-sheet" approach, the design team worked on an all-new wing structure in 1943 promising performance and stability gains. The engine of choice became the Bristol "Centaurus" series and this was set to drive a pair of contra-rotating propellers at the nose. Proposed armament was 2 x 20mm automatic cannons and a bomb load of up to 1,800lb. Both streamlined and lighter-in-weight when compared to the Firebrand, the Firecrest was, at least on paper, already proving itself a better investment.
Like the Firebrand before it, the Firecrest also fought through a troubled development period as it suffered from ever-changing service requirements which worked against the aircraft to the point that only two of the three ordered prototypes were ever flown - and these served as simple data-collecting platforms. The third went on to see life as a strength-testing subject. Before the end, the Firecrest's structure was reworked for the rigors of naval attack operations and the engine was changed to another installation once the contra-rotating propeller quality was dropped. These sorts of revisions naturally affected other components of the aircraft to the point that the design became something of a complicated mess at every turn.

Ground tests finally occurred in February of 1947 though, by this point, World War 2 had been over for some time (mid-1945). A first flight was had on April 1st, 1947 and, in this form, the aircraft featured a relatively deep fuselage and sat its pilot (under a bubble canopy) towards the nose for better out-of-the-cockpit vision (a strong quality to have for carrier-based combat aircraft). The wing mainplanes (with noticeable dihedral) were set ahead of midships and the tail unit consisted of a single fin and low-set horizontal planes. A traditional "tail-dragger" wheeled undercarriage was fitted (retractable). The propeller unit at the nose sported a large spinner. Dimensions included a length of 39.3 feet, a wingspan of 44.11 feet and a height of 14.5 feet. Weight was 10,515lb against a Maximum Take-Off Weight (MTOW) of 15,300lb.

The aircraft carried the Bristol Centaurus 59 series 18-cylinder air-cooled radial piston engine of 2,475 horsepower and this driving a five-bladed propeller. Maximum speed was 612 miles per hour with cruising near 215 mph. Range was out to 900 miles and the service ceiling reached 31,600 feet. Rate-of-climb was 2,500 feet-per-minute.

Proposed armament was 2 x 12.7mm M2 Browning heavy machine guns at the wings and support for 8 x RP-3 rockets and 1 x 2,100lb torpedo (under the fuselage) or 2 x 250lb drop bombs (under the wings).

The first prototype was marked "RT651" and ended its days back in the hands of the Blackburn company when the Air Ministry had completed its flying tests (it was later scrapped). The second prototype became "RT656" and was used in structure tests before being scrapped in 1952. "VF172", the third airframe of the lot, soldiered on as a research platform, testing out the intricacies of power-boosted ailerons during 1948 and was sold back to Blackburn the following year only to join her sisters in being scrapped.

Beyond its troubled development phase, the Firecrest was further rendered obsolete with the arrival of the jet age and all-new turboprop technology which promised far greater gains than what the Firecrest could offer - limiting its development to just the three mentioned prototypes. Other similar platforms of the period to reach varying levels of operational success included the Westland "Wyvern" and the American Martin AM "Mauler" and classic Douglas AD "Skyraider" - all detailed elsewhere on this site.






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: 400mph
Lo: 200mph
    This entry's maximum listed speed (382mph).

    Graph average of 300 miles-per-hour.
City-to-City Ranges
NYC
 
  LON
LON
 
  PAR
PAR
 
  BER
BER
 
  MOS
MOS
 
  TOK
TOK
 
  SYD
SYD
 
  LAX
LAX
 
  NYC
Graph showcases the Blackburn B.48'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
3
3


  * Commercial Market High belongs to Cessna 172.

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


Altitude Visualization
Small airplane graphic
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National Flag Graphic
Origin: United Kingdom
Year: 1947
Type: Carrier-based Naval Strike Fighter Prototype Aircraft
Manufacturer(s): Blackburn Aircraft - UK
Production: 3
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 Blackburn B.48 model. Common measurements, and their respective conversions, are shown when possible.

Operational
CREW


Personnel
1


Dimension
LENGTH


Feet
39.37 ft


Meters
12 m


Dimension
WIDTH


Feet
44.95 ft


Meters
13.7 m


Dimension
HEIGHT


Feet
14.50 ft


Meters
4.42 m


Weight
EMPTY


Pounds
10,582 lb


Kilograms
4,800 kg


Weight
LOADED


Pounds
14,650 lb


Kilograms
6,645 kg

Engine icon
Installed Power - Standard Day Performance:
1 x Bristol Centaurus 59 18-cylinder air-cooled radial piston engine developing 2,475 horsepower and driving a five-bladed propeller unit at the nose in puller fashion.

Performance
SPEED


Miles-per-Hour
382 mph


Kilometers-per-Hour
615 kph


Knots
332 kts


Performance
RANGE


Miles
901 mi


Kilometers
1,450 km


Nautical Miles
783 nm


Performance
CEILING


Feet
31,594 ft


Meters
9,630 m


Miles
5.98 mi


Performance
CLIMB RATE


Feet-per-Minute
2,500 ft/min


Meters-per-Minute
762 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 (3):

PROPOSED, FIXED, STANDARD:
2 x 0.50 caliber Browning M2 heavy machine guns at the wings.
8 x RP-3 air-to-surface rockets held under the wings.

OPTIONAL:
1 x 2,100lb torpedo under fuselage centerline OR 2 x 250lb drop bombs under wings.
Variants: Series Model Variants
• B.48 - Base Series Designation
• "Firecrest" - Unofficial nickname
• YA.1 - SBAC designation
• RT651 - First prototype
• RT656 - Second prototype
• VF172 - Third prototype