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Short S25 Sunderland - United Kingdom, 1937

Detailing the development and operational history of the Short S25 Sunderland Long-Range Maritime / Reconnaissance Flying Boat.

 Entry last updated on 6/19/2017; Authored by Staff Writer; Content ¬©

  Short S25 Sunderland  
Picture of Short S25 Sunderland
Picture of Short S25 Sunderland Picture of Short S25 SunderlandPicture of Short S25 SunderlandPicture of Short S25 Sunderland

The British Short Sunderland became one the finest flying boat aircraft to serve in World War 2.

The Short Sunderland was the premiere flying boat of British military aviators during World War 2. Oft regarded as one of the best flying boats of the war, the Sunderland played up to some inherent design strengths including a potent defensive armament arrangement and excellent operational ranges. Both of these qualities played a large part in countering the lethal presence of marauding German U-boat submarines through infested waters in and around Allied interests. It was through these head-on engagements with German U-boats that the Sunderland series would become famous for.

Designed from the airliner transport Short C-class "Empire" model, the Short Sunderland became the militarized version of the same flying boat. Fitted with four engines the aircraft became an integral part of Search and Rescue (SAR) missions, maritime patrol and anti-submarine warfare throughout the course of the war. Crew accommodations amounted to 10 personnel including pilots and machine gunners as well as systems and missions specialists as needed.

Standard armament consisted of 2 x bow-mounted 7.7mm fixed, forward-firing machine guns, 2 x machines in a bow turret, 2 x 7.7mm machine guns in a dorsal turret and 4 x 7.7mm machine guns in a rear tail turret. This defensive array allowed the Sunderland to repel enemy fighters when she herself was attacked and she proved quite the capable aircraft for such work. Her network of machine guns earned her the nickname of "Porcupine" from German pilots. However, it was in her ordnance-carrying capacity that the Sunderland would truly shine. She could be outfitted with naval mines, depth charges and conventional drop bombs - enemy submarines being her primary targets. The aircraft series was so feared by German U-boat crews, in fact, that they worked hard to avoid direct entanglements with Sunderlands whenever possible.

Short Sunderlands gained a mighty reputation for their capabilities - most often remembered for their anti-submarine role - but equally respected for their search and rescue capabilities. In the end, nearly 700 examples were produced in four distinct marks - Mk I, Mk II, Mk IIIA and, the most potent form, the Mk V with its Pratt & Whitney radial piston engines - and each varied in powerplants and radar installed through the course of the war. Operational groups based from England could reach out across Greece and Crete airspace as well as other areas in the operating radius. A multitude of British squadrons fielded this versatile flying boat and most were often seen accompanying advancing Allied convoys at sea - a testament to its effectiveness in large scale operations. Additional operators included Australia, Canada, France, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal and South Africa.

Short S.25 Sunderland Mk V Specifications

Service Year: 1937
Type: Long-Range Maritime / Reconnaissance Flying Boat
National Origin: United Kingdom
Manufacturer(s): Short Brothers - UK
Total Production: 777

Structural (Crew, Dimensions, Weights)

Operating Crew (Typical): 9 to 11
Overall Length: 85.30 feet (26 meters)
Overall Width: 112.73 feet (34.36 meters)
Overall Height: 34.51 feet (10.52 meters)

Weight (Empty): 36,901 lb (16,738 kg)
Weight (MTOW): 60,001 lb (27,216 kg)

Power / Performance (Engine Type, Top Speed)

Engine: 4 x Pratt & Whitney R-1830-90 Twin Wasp 14-cylinder air-cooled radial engines developing 1,200 horsepower each.

Maximum Speed: 188 knots (217 mph; 349 kph)
Maximum Range: 2,573 nautical miles (2,961 miles; 4,765 km)
Service Ceiling: 17,864 feet (5,445 meters; 3.38 miles)
Rate-of-Climb: 750 feet-per-minute (229 m/min)

Armament / Mission Payload

2 x 7.7mm forward-fixed firing machine guns
2 x 7.7mm machine guns in dorsal turret
2 x 7.7mm machine guns in bow turret
4 x 7.7mm machine guns in tail turret

Some models as many as 16 x 7.7mm machine guns, Some fielded with additional 2 x 12.7mm Browning heavy machine guns as well.

Maximum bombload of 4,960 lb. Ordnance included bombs, depth charges and naval mines.

Global Operators (Customers, Users)

Australia; Canada; France; New Zealand; Norway; Portugal; South Africa; United Kingdom

Model Variants

Mk I - Initial Production Variant; 75 examples produced.
Mk II - Fitted with Pegasus radial engines and II radar system; 55 examples produced; redesigned planing bottom.
Mk IIIA - Fitted with ASV.Mk III radar; 407 examples produced.
Mk V - Final Production Variant; fitted with Pratt & Whitney radial piston engines and ASV.Mk VIc radar system; 143 examples produced.

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