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Bristol Type 159 (Beaubomber) - United Kingdom, 1939

Detailing the development and operational history of the Bristol Type 159 (Beaubomber) Four-Engine Heavy Bomber Aircraft Proposal.

 Entry last updated on 10/2/2017; Authored by Staff Writer; Content ¬©

  Bristol Type 159 (Beaubomber)  
Picture of Bristol Type 159 (Beaubomber)

The Bristol Type 159 Beaubomber heavy bomber project was to reflect a new generation of attack aircraft for Britain heading into World War 2 - none were built.

Prior to the British entry into World War 2 (1939-1945), the Royal Air Force (RAF) was already on the lookout for a successor to its heavy bomber lineup (made up primarily of the Avro Manchester, Short Stirling and Handley Page Halifax - all detailed elsewhere on this site). The design would be powered by no less than four engines, carry an internal bombload of at least 9,000lb and sport 20mm automatic cannon as defensive armament. One of the submissions put forth arrived from the Bristol Aeroplane Company and involved its "Type 159". However, the project was suspended in early-mid-1940 as Britain became evermore committed to its defensive was against the Axis powers. As such only a partially-completed mockup was had of the Type 159 design.

The Type 159's short-lived development was covered by Specification B.1/39. During its run, the Type 159 was referred to as the "Beaubomber" falling in line with other Bristol products like the "Beaufighter" and "Beaufort". The Type 159 competed against the Handley Page HP.60 proposal which was an offshoot of the company's own Halifax bomber design.

The Type 159 proposal featured a teardrop-shaped fuselage with a glazed-over nose section and stepped cockpit flight deck. A dorsal turret (4 x guns) was fitted over the spine and a rear-facing gun emplacement was carried below in a gondola-type assembly. The wing mainplanes were low-mounted under the fuselage with noticeable dihedral and the engines protruded from the wing leading edges in traditional fashion. The tail unit incorporated a twin-finned arrangement common to many British bombers of the period. A tricycle undercarriage was proposed instead of the more common "tail-dragger" arrangement which was to give this bomber a most modern appearance when on the groun.

Power to the large aircraft was to come from 4 x Bristol "Hercules VII" air-cooled radial piston engines of 1,500 horsepower each and these would be used to drive three-bladed propellers in typical "puller" fashion. Engineers also included future support for the Rolls-Royce "Griffon" inline engine series. The crew would number seven and include pilots, a navigator, bombardier and dedicated gunners. The crew spaces would also be armored for survivability against FlaK and fighter attacks. Empty weight of the completed specimen was estimated at 37,350lb with an MTOW of 71,000lb. Performance specifications, also estimated, included a maximum speed of 302 miles per hour, a range out to 2,500 miles and a service ceiling up to 25,300 feet. It is assumed the dorsal and ventral gun positions would mount 20mm automatic cannon for point defense against enemy fighters.

Bristol managed to complete wind tunnel models and subsequent stability testing in the run-up to prototype construction. The Air Ministry contracted for two flyable prototypes but these never materialized - a full-scale mockup was completed of the Type 159 but British needs of the time moved on to fighter production for the defense of the country particularly after the Fall of France in June of 1940 so there proved little need for an all-new heavy bombing platform.

With work officially suspended after May-June of 1940, little more was had on the Type 159 project before the design completely fell away to history.

Bristol Type 159 Specifications

Service Year: 1939
Type: Four-Engine Heavy Bomber Aircraft Proposal
National Origin: United Kingdom
Manufacturer(s): Bristol Aeroplane Company - UK
Total Production: 0

Structural (Crew, Dimensions, Weights)

Operating Crew (Typical): 7
Overall Length: 82.02 feet (25 meters)
Overall Width: 114.83 feet (35.00 meters)
Overall Height: 20.18 feet (6.15 meters)

Weight (Empty): 37,479 lb (17,000 kg)
Weight (MTOW): 77,162 lb (35,000 kg)

Power / Performance (Engine Type, Top Speed)

Engine: 4 x Bristol Hercules VII air-cooled radial piston engines OR 4 x Rolls-Royce "Griffon" liquid-cooled inline piston engines driving three-bladed propeller units.

Maximum Speed: 265 knots (304 mph; 490 kph)
Maximum Range: 2,173 nautical miles (2,501 miles; 4,025 km)
Service Ceiling: 23,704 feet (7,225 meters; 4.49 miles)

Armament / Mission Payload

4 x 20mm cannons in dorsal turret.
4 x 20mm cannons in rear-facing ventral position.

Up to 15,000lb of conventional drop stores held internally.

Global Operators (Customers, Users)

United Kingdom (cancelled)

Model Variants

Type 159 - Base Series Designation

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