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Bristol Beaufort - United Kingdom, 1940

Detailing the development and operational history of the Bristol Beaufort Torpedo Bomber Aircraft.

 Entry last updated on 9/20/2016; Authored by Staff Writer; Content ¬©

  Bristol Beaufort  
Picture of Bristol Beaufort

The Bristol-brand Beaufort served as the RAFs principle torpedo bomber from 1940-1943, then replaced by the more capable Beaufighter.

The Bristol Beaufort enjoyed a strong run between the war years of 1940-1943 as the primary British torpedo bomber in service. Designed as the successor to the aged biplane Vildebeest design by Vickers, the Beaufort saw success in the role until being eventually replaced itself by the more capable Bristol-brand Beaufighter. Nevertheless, the Beaufort would be used in good number throughout a number of fronts that would include the Pacific Theater, the Middle East and the Mediterranean.

The Bristol Beaufighter featured accommodations for four personnel. The twin engine Mk I design was originally fitted with Bristol-type Taurus VI piston engines with the later Mk II marks featuring American-brand Pratt & Whitney radials. Defensive armament consisted of 7.7mm machine guns: two mounted in the nose position and an additional two in a dorsal gun position. It should be noted, however, that some Beauforts fitted additional 7.7mm machine guns in beam (waist gunner) positions and a rear-firing array under the nose assembly. Bombload capacity was a respectable 2,000lbs of traditional drop bombs. A 1,605lb torpedo could be fitted in place of the bombs. The aircraft was also quite capable of mine laying sorties and produced a plethora of such missions with successful results during its years of service with the RAF.

Design was of a conventional approach. The wings were of monoplane layout and low-mounted on the fuselage. The identifiable dorsal turret was mounted at rear as part of the upper fuselage design, limiting the arc of fire to the rear, above and sides only. The nose assembly was of a greenhouse style design with the cockpit mounted behind the nose area and above.

Beauforts were largely responsible for the disruption of Axis supply lines in the English Channel and the Mediterranean. Australia produced the Beaufort as a local version in the form of the Mk V-IX series for their Royal Australian Air Force. Operations for the RAF were also present in the Middle East under British control. The last models of the Beaufort were produced as trainers with the top turret completely removed. As mentioned earlier, the system as a whole was eventually replaced by the Bristol Beaufighter in the middle years of the war. The Beaufighter is detailed elsewhere on this site.

Bristol Beaufort Mk I Specifications

Service Year: 1940
Type: Torpedo Bomber Aircraft
National Origin: United Kingdom
Manufacturer(s): Bristol - UK
Total Production: 2,080

Structural (Crew, Dimensions, Weights)

Operating Crew (Typical): 4
Overall Length: 44.26 feet (13.49 meters)
Overall Width: 57.81 feet (17.62 meters)
Overall Height: 14.24 feet (4.34 meters)

Weight (Empty): 13,100 lb (5,942 kg)
Weight (MTOW): 21,228 lb (9,629 kg)

Power / Performance (Engine Type, Top Speed)

Engine: 2 x Bristol Taurus VI radial piston engines developing 1,130 horsepower each.

Maximum Speed: 230 knots (265 mph; 426 kph)
Maximum Range: 1,390 nautical miles (1,600 miles; 2,575 km)
Service Ceiling: 16,499 feet (5,029 meters; 3.12 miles)

Armament / Mission Payload

2 x 7.7mm machine guns in nose
2 x 7.7mm machine guns in dorsal turret

Maximum bomb load of up to 2,000 lb.

1 x 1,605 lb 457mm torpedo
1 x 7.7mm rear-firing machine gun under nose
2 x 7.7mm machine guns in beam positions

Global Operators (Customers, Users)

Australia; Canada; New Zealand; South Africa; Turkey; United Kingdom

Model Variants

Mk I - Initial Production Version; fitted with Bristol Taurus II 1,010hp powerplants; 965 produced.
Mk II - Fitted with American Pratt & Whitney Twin Wasp radial piston engines; 415 produced.
Trainer - Final production versions completed sans dorsal turret.

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