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Fairey Firefly Carrier-Borne Fighter

The Fairey Firefly proved to be an underrated success in multiple theaters of operation concerning World War 2.

 Updated: 9/3/2015; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ¬©

The Fairey Firefly was a hugely successful, two-seat, carrierborne fighter aircraft serving with the Royal Fleet Air Arm through the latter half of the Second World War, eventually seeing service up until the mid-1950's. The system was a powerful naval fighter capable of attacking aircraft and sea-going vessels alike and was found to be highly effective on any front it appeared on including the Pacific and European Theaters. The single engine, rounded-wing cantilever monoplane would see over 1,700 examples built before production ceased. Other features that navalized the series would include the all-important arrestor hook and folding wing systems.

The Firefly appeared in various forms throughout its tenure in the Second World War. The original prototype was flown in 1941, spawning the first production models know as the F.Mk I by 1943. The Firefly would be seen in a multitude of variants fulfilling roughly the same roles yet fitted with differing equipment and powerplants. Most distinctly, the Firefly would appear in a nightfighter form fitted with specialized radio and radar equipment.

At its core, the Firefly was fielded with the Rolls-Royce Griffon series of liquid-cooled piston engines. Capable of speeds in excess of 300 miles per hour, the system gained considerable press from its attack on the Tirpitz, one of Germany's great battleships of the war. The aircraft was fielded with a standard array of 4 x 20mm cannons mounted in the wings. Additional armaments would go on to include provisions for carrying up to eight 60lb explosive air-to-surface rockets and two 1,000lb bombs under each wing. Crew accommodations amounted to two with the pilot sitting forward and the additional crewmember midship aft.

Successes in Europe were followed by equal success in the Pacific against Japan by 1945. Targets included Japanese island fortifications en route to the Japanese mainland and then, later, the mainland itself. Additionally, the Firefly series of aircraft would go on to see more than its fair share of action in the upcoming Korean War. UK production of Fairey Fireflies would end in 1956.

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Fairey Firefly F.Mk I Technical Specifications

Service Year: 1943
Type: Carrier-Borne Fighter
National Origin: United Kingdom
Manufacturer(s): Fairey Aviation Company, Ltd - UK
Production Total: 1,702

Structural (Crew Space, Dimensions and Weights)

Operating Crew (Typical): 2
Overall Length: 37.60 feet (11.46 meters)
Overall Width: 44.49 feet (13.56 meters)
Overall Height: 13.58 feet (4.14 meters)

Weight (Empty): 9,751 lb (4,423 kg)
Weight (MTOW): 14,019 lb (6,359 kg)

Installed Power and Standard Day Performance

Propulsion: 1 x Rolls-Royce Griffon IIB V-12 inline piston engine developing 1,735 horsepower.

Maximum Speed: 316 mph (509 kph; 275 knots)
Maximum Range: 1,300 miles (2,092 km)
Service Ceiling: 27,999 feet (8,534 meters; 5.30 miles)

Armament / Mission Payload

4 x 20mm cannons in wings

8 x 60lb rockets
2 x 1,000 lb conventional drop bombs

Global Operators / Customers

Australia; United Kingdom

Model Variants (Including Prototypes)

F.Mk I - Initial Production Model; fitted with Rolls-Royce Griffon XII 1,990hp engine; chin-mounted radiator assembly.
FR.Mk I - Reconnaissance Model Variant; similar to F.Mk I models but fitted with ASH radar system.
F.Mk IA - Modified Mk.I models brought up to FR.Mk I standards.
F.Mk 3 - Trial Modification Model fitted with Griffon 61 engine and nose radiator.
Mk IV - Fitted with 2,100hp Griffon 61; root-based radiators.
F.Mk IV - Variant of the Mk IV model
FR.Mk 4 - Variant of the Mk IV model
FR.Mk 4 - Post-War Reconnaissance Variant; fitted with Griffon 74 engine.
Mk 5 - Improved Model; power-folding wings.
FR.Mk 5 - Base Fighter Model based on the Mk 5.
NF.Mk I - Nightfighter Variant Model; fitted with specialized radio systems; shrouded exhaust ports.
NF.Mk 5 - Nightfighter Model based on the Mk 5.
NF.Mk II - Nightfighter Variant Model; fitted with 2 x AI.MK X radar system, one mounted in each wing; elongated nose assembly; later converted to Mk 1 standard.
AS.Mk 5 - Anti-Submarine Warfare Model based on the Mk 5.
AS.Mk 6 - Similar to the Mk 5 model; Anti-Submarine Reconnaissance / Strike Derivative; 152 produced; utilized British-made sonobuoys instead of American-produced ones.
AS.Mk 7 - Final Production Model; fitted with Griffon 59 2,250hp engine; chin-mounted radiator.
T.Mk 1 - Pilot Trainer
T.Mk 2 - Operation Trainer
T.Mk 3 - Anti-Submarine Warfare Trainer
T.Mk 5 - Trained Model based on the Mk 5.
TT.Mk 4 - Target Tug
U.Mk 9 - Target Drone