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Blackburn Firebrand

United Kingdom (1945)
Picture of Blackburn Firebrand Strike Fighter / Fleet Fighter Aircraft

The high-performance Blackburn Firebrand navy fighter arrived too late to see action in World War 2.


Detailing the development and operational history of the Blackburn Firebrand Strike Fighter / Fleet Fighter Aircraft.  Entry last updated on 5/5/2017. Authored by Staff Writer. Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com

The Blackburn Firebrand was a carried-based strike fighter aircraft developed by Blackburn Aircraft of the United Kingdom. She was a design of G.E. Petty and went on to live a troubled development before reaching operation status thanks to an engine switch that effectively doomed the Firebrand to mediocrity. Despite the aircraft appearing during the middle years of World War 2 and achieving first flight by February 27th, 1942, the Blackburn Firebrand - in its definitive production form - simply arrived too late in the conflict to ever see combat.

The British Air Ministry brought about Specification N.11/40 requiring a capable, high-performance, single-seat fighter for use on Royal Navy carriers. The selected powerplant for the new fighter was to be the impressive Napier Sabre III, a 24-cylinder H-type inline engine. Blackburn responded with its Firebrand proposal and developed the unarmed B-36 prototype. This was followed by the armed F.Mk I prototype that produced 9 working examples.

At the same time that the Firebrand was being developed, the Hawker Typhoon was ready to hit the assembly lines and effectively "stole" the available Napier Sabre III engines. As such, Blackburn was forced to re-engine their design and settle on the Bristol Centaurus VII 18-cylinder radial piston powerplant. This redesign also forced a rethinking in the intended roles of the Firebrand. Along with its fighter duties, the Firebrand was now envisioned to double as a strike platform capable of delivering bombs, rockets and even a torpedo (ala the Hawker Typhoon). The new design was fitted with lengthened wings and appropriate munitions provisions in the form of pylons. The resulting product became the B-45 model - achieving first flight on March 31st, 1943 - and entered production as the TF.Mk II. Like the F.Mk I model before it, the TF.Mk II was limited to just 12 production examples.
An attempt at improving the Firebrand line came in the form of the Centaurus VII-engined TF.Mk III model. This "improved" design revealed flaws in low-speed flight thanks to poor rudder control and a tremendous amount of torque output from the new engine. A first flight was achieved on December 21st, 1943 and further testing resulted in the deaths of two test pilots along with months of re-evaluation before the Firebrand was even successfully test-landed on a carrier deck. Despite the successful landing, the aircraft was deemed too dangerous for use as a production aircraft. As such, this particular Firebrand model was dropped from production contention.

Model B-46 became the true improved Firebrand as the TF.Mk IV model, first flying on May 17th, 1945. A new engine - the Bristol Centaurus IX engine - was allocated to the TF.Mk IV as well as a revised tail with increased surface areas. Dive brakes were installed on both the upper and lower wing assemblies for improved control. The TF.Mk IV became the first quantitative and somewhat definitive Firebrand in production with 102 examples produced. At least 40 of these aircraft were later converted to the newer TF.Mk 5 standard.

Externally, design of the Firebrand showcased some similarities to the Hawker Tempest with its slim and streamlined fuselage and large propeller spinner. The cockpit was situated at the middle of the fuselage and featured a two-piece bubble-style canopy affording the pilot with relatively excellent all-around vision. Wings were low-mounted monoplane systems with dihedral and positioned fairly forward along the fuselage sides. The empennage was dominated by a large vertical tail fin with horizontal planes positioned well behind the vertical tail unit. The undercarriage was of a conventional "tail-dragger" arrangement featuring two main landing gears and a single tail wheel. All three systems were fully retractable.

As with most of the British fighters of the time, cannon armament was the standard firepower for the Firebrand. This consisted of 4 x 20mm Hispano Mk II series cannons mounted in pairs on each wing. For a more direct increase to its lethality, the Firebrand could sport a single 1,850lb 18" Mark XVII series torpedo running centerline under the fuselage or 2 x 1,000lb bombs under the wings - one to a wing pylon.

The definitive TF.Mk IV Firebrand sported the Bristol Centaurus IX series, 18-cylinder, air-cooled, radial piston engine with a listed output of 2,500 horsepower powering a four-bladed propeller system. Performance specifications included a top speed of 350 miles per hour with a listed cruise speed of 289 miles per hour. Range was equivalent to 1,250 miles when fitted with drop tanks. A rate-of-climb of 2,600 feet-per-minute was possible with a service ceiling of approximately 28,500 feet.

The TF.Mk 5 followed the TF.Mk IV into service with subtle aerodynamic related revisions. Production only lasted through 68 examples. The improved TF.Mk 5A finished up the Firebrand line to which total production amounted to 193 examples, lasting from 1943 through 1947.

The Firebrand served solely with the United Kingdom's Royal Navy (RN) Fleet Air Arm (FAA). The FAA squadrons utilizing the type were the 700, 703, 708, 736, 738, 759, 764, 767, 778, 787, 799, 813 and the 827 Naval Air Squadrons. The Blackburn Firebrand was officially operated by the British Royal Navy from 1943 through 1953 before facing retirement from operational status.






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.

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Relative Maximum Speed Rating
Hi: 400mph
Lo: 200mph
    This entry's maximum listed speed (348mph).

    Graph average of 300 miles-per-hour.
City-to-City Ranges
NYC
 
  LON
LON
 
  PAR
PAR
 
  BER
BER
 
  MOS
MOS
 
  TOK
TOK
 
  SYD
SYD
 
  LAX
LAX
 
  NYC
Graph showcases the Blackburn Firebrand TF.Mk IV'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 Comparison
Comm. Market HI*: 44,000 units
Military Market HI**: 36,183 units
193
193


  * Commercial Market High belongs to Cessna 172.

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


Altitude Visualization
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National Flag Graphic
Origin: United Kingdom
Year: 1945
Type: Strike Fighter / Fleet Fighter Aircraft
Manufacturer(s): Blackburn Aircraft - UK
Production: 193
Global Operators:
United Kingdom
Historical 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 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 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
* Ribbons not necessarily indicative of actual historical campaign ribbons. Ribbons are clickable to their respective campaigns/operations.
Measurements and Weights icon
Structural - Crew, Dimensions, and Weights:
Unless otherwise noted the presented statistics below pertain to the Blackburn Firebrand TF.Mk IV model. Common measurements, and their respective conversions, are shown when possible.

Operational
CREW


Personnel
1


Dimension
LENGTH


Feet
39.37 ft


Meters
12 m


Dimension
WIDTH


Feet
51.25 ft


Meters
15.62 m


Dimension
HEIGHT


Feet
14.93 ft


Meters
4.55 m


Weight
EMPTY


Pounds
11,354 lb


Kilograms
5,150 kg


Weight
LOADED


Pounds
16,226 lb


Kilograms
7,360 kg

Engine icon
Installed Power - Standard Day Performance:
1 x Bristol Centaurus IX 18-cylinder radial engine developing 2,500 horsepower.

Performance
SPEED


Miles-per-Hour
348 mph


Kilometers-per-Hour
560 kph


Knots
302 kts


Performance
RANGE


Miles
1,243 mi


Kilometers
2,000 km


Nautical Miles
1,080 nm


Performance
CEILING


Feet
28,510 ft


Meters
8,690 m


Miles
5.40 mi


Performance
CLIMB RATE


Feet-per-Minute
2,600 ft/min


Meters-per-Minute
792 m/min

Supported Weapon Systems:

Graphical image of an aircrat automatic cannon
Graphical image of an aircraft aerial torpedo
Graphical image of an aircraft conventional drop bomb munition
Armament - Hardpoints (2):

STANDARD:
4 x 20mm Hispano Mk II cannons, two cannons to a wing.

OPTIONAL:
2 x 1,000lb drop bombs OR 1 x 1,850lb torpedo
Variants: Series Model Variants
• B-37 - Unarmed Prototype
• F.Mk I - Armed Prorotype; 9 examples produced.
• TF.Mk II (B-45) - Initial Strike/Torpedo Fighter Variant based on F.Mk I model; increased wingspan; provision for single torpedo under fuselage; 12 production examples.
• TF.Mk III - Fitted with Bristol Centaurus VII series radial engine due to shortage of Sabre engines; never produced due to terrible rudder control and increased torque from Centaurus powerplant.
• TF.Mk IV (B-46) - Fitted with Centaurus IX series engine; increased tail surface area with enlarged rudder; upper and lower wing-mounted dive brakes; first mass production Firebrand with 102 examples produced; at least 40 examples later converted to later TF.Mk 5 standard.
• TF.Mk 5 - Subtle physical improvements throughout; 68 examples produced.
• TF.Mk 5A - Final Production Model; powered ailerons.