Military Factory logo
Icon of F-15 Eagle military combat fighter aircraft
Icon of AK-47 assault rifle
Icon of Abrams Main Battle Tank
Icon of navy warships
Icon of a dollar sign
Icon of military officer saluting

Saunders-Roe A.36 Lerwick

Reconnaissance Flying Boat Aircraft

Saunders-Roe A.36 Lerwick

Reconnaissance Flying Boat Aircraft


Design flaws limited SARO Lerwick production to just 21 airframes - and ten of these were lost to accidents.
National Flag Graphic
ORIGIN: United Kingdom
YEAR: 1939
STATUS: Retired, Out-of-Service
OPERATORS: Canada; United Kingdom

Unless otherwise noted the presented statistics below pertain to the Saunders-Roe A.36 Lerwick model. Common measurements, and their respective conversions, are shown when possible.
LENGTH: 63.62 feet (19.39 meters)
WIDTH: 80.81 feet (24.63 meters)
HEIGHT: 20.01 feet (6.1 meters)
WEIGHT (MTOW): 28,506 pounds (12,930 kilograms)
ENGINE: 2 x Bristol Hercules II 140cylinder air-cooled radial engines developing 1,375 horsepower each.
SPEED (MAX): 216 miles-per-hour (348 kilometers-per-hour; 188 knots)
RANGE: 1,541 miles (2,480 kilometers; 1,339 nautical miles)
CEILING: 13,993 feet (4,265 meters; 2.65 miles)
RATE-OF-CLIMB: 880 feet-per-minute (268 meters-per-minute)

1 x 7.7mm machine gun in nose
2 x 7.7mm machine guns in dorsal turret
4 x 7.7mm machine guns in tail turret

Up to 2,000lbs (907kg) of depth charges, mines or bombs.
Graphical image of an aircraft medium machine gun
Graphical image of an aircraft conventional drop bomb munition

Series Model Variants
• A.36 "Lerwick" - Base Series Designation; 21 units produced.


Detailing the development and operational history of the Saunders-Roe A.36 Lerwick Reconnaissance Flying Boat Aircraft.  Entry last updated on 2/20/2018. Authored by Staff Writer. Content ©
Along with the Short Brothers and Supermarine, Saunders-Roe (SARO) was a principle flying boat developer for the United Kingdom in the prewar and World War 2 years. The SARO "Lerwick" (Model A.36) was perhaps one of its more forgettable designs in that design flaws and tricky handling severely hampered its service record, leading to just twenty-one of the aircraft being delivered. Its accident rate proved so high that the type was retired as soon as 1942 though the series was only in service since mid-1939. First flight of a prototype was in November of 1938 and operators were limited to the British Royal Air Force (RAF) while Canadians also trained on the type.

SARO engineers adopted the proven flying boat form with high-mounted wings and leading edge engine nacelles. The fuselage sported a boat-like hull underside for water-borne landings and the flightdeck was seated high over and aft of the nose assembly for excellent vision out-of-the-cockpit. Pontoons were affixed under each wing (outboard of the engine installations) to prevent tipping during water-running and when on choppy seas. The tail unit was traditional in its arrangement, featuring a single vertical tail fin and low-mounted horizontal planes. Its crew numbered six in all and dimensions included a length of 19.4 meters with a wingspan out to 24.6 feet and height of 6 meters. Maximum Take-Off Weight (MTOW) was listed at 33,200lb.

Power was served through 2 x Bristol Hercules II series radial piston engines, each developing 1,375 horsepower and driving three-blade propeller units. The engines were mounted in a position where pilots held clear views of them to identify any dangers (particularly fires). Maximum speeds reached 215 miles per hour while cruising was typically done in the 165 mile per hour range. Operational ranges were out to 1,540 miles and the aircraft's service ceiling was 14,000 feet. Rate-of-climb was a pedestrian 880 feet per minute - though expected for an aircraft of this size and role.

As a military airplane, the Lerwick was outfitted for both the defensive and offensive role. Her slow speed and unenviable size dictated that a defensive-minded network of machine guns be used and this constituted a total of seven 7.7mm Vickers K series machine guns being carried. One was fitted within a turret at the nose of the aircraft with a further four in another turret mounted to the tail (at the rear base of the vertical tail fin). The remaining pair of guns were manned through a dorsal turret along the fuselage spine near midships. These installations were all intended to protect the aircraft from incoming enemy interceptors from virtually any angle - save for the vulnerable belly. For the maritime strike role, she carried up to 2,000lb of conventional drop ordnance including depth charges. The aircraft could therefore be called upon to hit targets near the coast, engage unarmed enemy shipping, or attempt to hunt enemy submarines.

Three completed Lerwicks served as prototypes for the flight testing phase. Evaluations showcased a heavy, underpowered aircraft that could not operate on one engine and required a good deal of attention at the controls. This period of testing led to several modifications of the base design including increased wing surfaces for added control but these held a limiting effect over the course of the Lerwick's operational career. The wings eventually became a notable weak spot in the design - the fault proven in operational service through several aircraft losing their wings, particularly during or after rough water landings.

Lerwicks were delivered in the summer of 1939, just prior to Britain's formal involvement in World War 2 (to come in September). However, issues were already apparent in the short time the aircraft was in operation for the fleet was grounded as soon as October with the much more well-regarded (and aged) SARO London flying boats being used in their place for the interim. Nevertheless, short of many war-making goods, the British still pushed use of the Lerwick and production continued into 1940 and, during this period, the accident rate of the aircraft began to climb, forcing more restricted use of the type. The aircraft were, however, still used for maritime patrol and strikes though success ultimately proved elusive.

With the arrival of Consolidated PBY "Catalina" flying boats from the United States beginning in April of 1941, the Lerwick was officially withdrawn from frontline service with the RAF in May. From here, the type was used to train future flying boat aviators and crew as well as mechanics on the finer points of operating such unique aircraft. These also served to train Canadian airmen before the line was given up for good by 1943. No airframes were spared the scrapman's torch and, as such, non exist in flyable or showpiece form today.

Of the twenty-one aircraft delivered, eleven were lost and ten of these to accidents. With that said, the product was not a success for the storied SARO concern.


Our Data Modules allow for quick visual reference when comparing a single entry against contemporary designs. Areas covered include general ratings, speed assessments, and relative ranges based on distances between major cities.

Image of collection of graph types

Relative Maximum Speed
Hi: 300mph
Lo: 150mph
This entry's maximum listed speed (216mph).

Graph average of 225 miles-per-hour.
City-to-City Ranges
Graph showcases the Saunders-Roe A.36 Lerwick's operational range (on internal fuel) when compared to distances between major cities.
Aviation Era
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Useful in showcasing the era cross-over of particular aircraft/aerospace designs.
Unit Production (21)
Comm. Market HI*: 44,000 units
Military Market HI**: 36,183 units

  * Commercial Market High belongs to Cessna 172.

  ** Military Market High belongs to Ilyushin Il-2.

Altitude Visualization
Small airplane graphic
Supported Roles
Ground Attack
Aerial Tanker
A2A=Air-to-Air; UAV=Unmanned; CAS=Close Support; ASW=Anti-Submarine; AEW=Airborne Early Warning; MEDEVAC=Medical Evac; EW=Electronic Warfare; SAR=Search-Rescue
Commitments / Honors
Military lapel ribbon for Operation Allied Force
Military lapel ribbon for the Arab-Israeli War
Military lapel ribbon for the Battle of Britain
Military lapel ribbon for the Battle of Midway
Military lapel ribbon for the Berlin Airlift
Military lapel ribbon for the Chaco War
Military lapel ribbon for the Cold War
Military lapel ribbon for the Cuban Missile Crisis
Military lapel ribbon for pioneering aircraft
Military lapel ribbon for the Falklands War
Military lapel ribbon for the French-Indochina War
Military lapel ribbon for the Golden Age of Flight
Military lapel ribbon for the 1991 Gulf War
Military lapel ribbon for the Indo-Pak Wars
Military lapel ribbon for the Iran-Iraq War
Military lapel ribbon for the Korean War
Military lapel ribbon for the 1982 Lebanon War
Military lapel ribbon for the Malayan Emergency
Military lapel ribbon representing modern aircraft
Military lapel ribbon for the attack on Pearl Harbor
Military lapel ribbon for the Six Day War
Military lapel ribbon for the Soviet-Afghan War
Military lapel ribbon for the Spanish Civil War
Military lapel ribbon for the Suez Crisis
Military lapel ribbon for the Vietnam War
Military lapel ribbon for Warsaw Pact of the Cold War-era
Military lapel ribbon for the WASP (WW2)
Military lapel ribbon for the World War 1
Military lapel ribbon for the World War 2
Military lapel ribbon for the Yom Kippur War
Military lapel ribbon for experimental x-plane aircraft
* Ribbons not necessarily indicative of actual historical campaign ribbons. Ribbons are clickable to their respective campaigns/operations.

Site Disclaimer  |  Privacy Policy  |  Cookies  |  Site Map Site content ©2003-, All Rights Reserved.

The "Military Factory" name and logo are registered ® U.S. trademarks protected by all applicable domestic and international intellectual property laws. All written content, illustrations, and photography are unique to this website (unless where indicated) and not for reuse/reproduction in any form. Material presented throughout this website is for historical and entertainment value only and should not to be construed as usable for hardware restoration, maintenance, or general operation. We do not sell any of the items showcased on this site. Please direct all other inquiries to militaryfactory AT

Part of a network of sites that includes GlobalFirepower, a data-driven property used in ranking the top military powers of the world.

Facebook Logo YouTube Logo