The Short Sunderland was the premiere flying boat of British military aviators during World War 2 (1939-1945). Oft-regarded as one of the best flying boats of the conflict, the Sunderland played up to some inherent design strengths including a potent defensive armament scheme and excellent operational range. Both of these qualities played a large part in countering the lethal presence of marauding German U-boat attack submarines through infested waters in and around Allied interests. It was through these head-on engagements with the enemy 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 750 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.
Status Retired, Out-of-Service
Crew 9 to 11
Production 749 Units
Short Brothers - UK
Argentina (commercial); Australia; Canada; France; New Zealand; Norway; Portugal; South Africa; United Kingdom; Uruguay (commercial)
- Navy / Maritime
- Reconnaissance (RECCE)
85.30 ft (26 m)
112.73 ft (34.36 m)
34.51 ft (10.52 m)
36,901 lb (16,738 kg)
60,001 lb (27,216 kg)
(Showcased weight values pertain to the Short S.25 Sunderland Mk V production model)
4 x Pratt & Whitney R-1830-90 Twin Wasp 14-cylinder air-cooled radial engines developing 1,200 horsepower each.
217 mph (349 kph; 188 kts)
17,864 feet (5,445 m; 3.38 miles)
2,961 miles (4,765 km; 2,573 nm)
750 ft/min (229 m/min)
(Showcased performance values pertain to the Short S.25 Sunderland Mk V production model; Compare this aircraft entry against any other in our database)
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.
(Showcased armament details pertain to the Short S.25 Sunderland Mk V production model)
Mk I - Initial Production Variant; 75 examples produced.
Mk II - Fitted with Pegasus radial engines and ASV.mk 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.
Values are derrived from a variety of categories related to the design, overall function, and historical influence of this aircraft in aviation history.
The overall rating takes into account over 60 individual factors related to this aircraft entry. The rating is out of a possible 100.
Relative Maximum Speed
This entry's maximum listed speed (217mph).
Graph average of 225 miles-per-hour.
Short S.25 Sunderland Mk V operational range when compared to distances between major cities.
Aviation Era Span
Showcasing era cross-over of this aircraft design.
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