Britten-Norman Defender - United Kingdom, 1989
Detailing the development and operational history of the Britten-Norman Defender Reconnaissance / Transport / Patrol Aircraft.
Entry last updated on 5/12/2010; Authored by Staff Writer; Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com
The Britten-Norman Defender was developed from the similar Britten-Norman Islander transport aircraft.
The Britten-Norman Defender is a militarized version of the successful Britten-Norman Islander twin turboprop-powered aircraft. The Islander originated in the 1960s and became a global entity, seeing over 1,200 examples produced and delivered by the end of her tenure. Within these orders, the type proved versatile enough to handle a wide range of sortie requirements that only served to strengthen her legacy as a durable Short Take-Off and Landing (STOL) airframe. Following financial difficulties, Britten-Islander was bought by a pair of Omani business men (brothers in the Zawawi family) and formed into B-N Group. Both the Islander and the Defender continue to be marketed today under various product faces to enhance her reach. The Islander/Defender replaced the Beaver in the British Army inventory and is only one of two types of fixed-wing aircraft currently in service with the Army Air Corps.
The Defender has since served in a variety of roles including that of counter-insurgency (extensively so during Northern Ireland operations), reconnaissance, surveillance and utility light transport. Among other sortie types in the Defender's forte became light attack and forward air control (FAC) when necessary. The Defender has proven a capable and robust platform since her inception into service leading to the "Maritime Defender" - a designation covering the armed maritime version of the base Defender multi-role utility transport. The Defender was officially added to the ranks of the British Army on March 10th, 1989.
Design is wholly utilitarian and is most characteristically defined by the high-mounted monoplane wings. Each wing maintains an Allison 250-B17F turboprop engine powering a three-bladed propeller. The cockpit compartment is held well forward in the squared off fuselage with slab sides and features a useful sloped nose for improved downward visibility. The undercarriage is a conventional tricycle arrangement and made up of two double-tired main landing gear legs and a single-tired nose landing gear leg - as a whole, the undercarriage is non-retractable. The empennage is dominated by a single large-area vertical tail fin clipped at the top and sporting some sweep along the leading edge. Horizontal tailplanes are affixed to the vertical fin tail. Typical accommodations are for two pilots and up to six passengers. Entry/exit is via side doors, two forward and two aft. Her gross weight is listed at 7,000lbs. Each wing can field four hardpoints for various munition options to include gun pods, rocket pods and bombs if need be or external fuel tanks for extended loitering times and operational range. Specialized reconnaissance and surveillance mounts are fitted with applicable tailored equipment, cameras and jamming pods as well as a bevy communications options. Airborne Early Warning (AEW) Defenders sport a hideous-looking nose radome that quickly identifies the type and its role.
In 2003, the UK military purchased three (some sources state four) Defenders to help with the deteriorating conditions in Iraq following the 2003 coalition invasion. These aircraft carried the designation of Defender 4S AL Mk 1 and sported underwing dispensers to protect against surface-to-air guided munitions. This model was furthered defined by the implementation of an electro-optical turret under the extreme end of the nose.
The Defender 4000 is the current military version of the Defender series and first flight of this system was achieved in August of 1994. The Defender 4000 features a larger wing component similar to that of the Trislander and operates with increased weight tolerances. Her engines are more powerful than previous versions and she sports an enlarged nose section for the fitting of search radar. Top speed is a reported 225 miles per hour.