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Fairey Battle

United Kingdom (1937)
Picture of Fairey Battle Light Bomber / Trainer Aircraft

By the time of World War 2, the Fairey Battle was wholly-outclassed by smaller, more nimble fighter types unleashed by the Germans.


Detailing the development and operational history of the Fairey Battle Light Bomber / Trainer Aircraft.  Entry last updated on 8/26/2017. Authored by Staff Writer. Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com

The Fairey Battle was a prewar British light bomber design that proved a step-forward for the nation when it was designed during the early-tomid-1930s. However, it was quickly outclassed in the fighting of World War 2 (1939-1945) where it held little advantage against more nimble enemy fighters put forth by the Germans. Nevertheless, Battle crews and British warplanners soldiered on due to the lack of a better alternative and production would eventually range into the thousands. The aircraft was used by several major air arms of the conflict and was not formally retired until the late 1940s.

The Battle was born from Specification P.27/32 appearing during 1933 which called for a two-seat, light-class bomber aircraft to replace the aging stock of Hawker biplanes in the same role. At this time in history, British thinking centered on a compact, light-class bomb delivery platform with France being the assumed future enemy of Britain - thusly range proved of little import. The storied Fairey concern returned with a modern, two-seat, low-wing monoplane which recorded its first flight on March 10th, 1936. By the time the aircraft made it aloft, it had changed considerably from the original direction, now incorporating a greater bomb load capability as well as a third crewmember to help take on more of the operational workload. This forced a long slender fuselage with a long-running, greenhouse-style canopy to be implemented and these changes regrettably increased the airframe's intended weight with the result becoming degraded performance.
Even before the readied prototype (K4303) had even flown, the Air Ministry contracted for 155 of the modern aircraft to offset its outclassed interwar-era biplanes (many air forces were incorporating all-metal, enclosed cockpit aircraft during the period). Production followed as quickly as possible and order numbers grew despite limitations in the design already understood by commanders who would be managing the fleet during wartime. No. 63 Squadron became the aircraft's first recipient during May of 1937 as Europe grew more and more unsettled and by September of 1939, 1,000 Battles stocked the Royal Air Force (RAF) inventory in preparation for total war. Initial variants were recognized rather simply as "Battle Mk I" and these were powered by a Rolls-Royce Merlin I inline piston engine of 1,030 horsepower - the same engine that would make stars out of the Hawker Hurricane and Supermarine Spitfire in due time. Armament was just 1 x .303 (7.7mm) Browning machine gun in a fixed, forward-firing mounting along the right-hand-side wing leading edge with 1 x Vickers K machine gun in an aft mounting in the cockpit. The Battle managed an internal bomb load of 4 x 250lb conventional drop bombs and an additional 500lbs of external stores.

World War 2 (1939-1945) began on September 1st, 1939 when German forces began their campaign to conquer Europe, crossing into sovereign Poland. They were soon joined weeks later by the Soviet offensive in the East which divided Poland in two. Prior to the invasion, the British had already delivered some ten squadrons of Fairey Battles to French soil in anticipation of war.

When Battles were put to the test, it proved itself an already outclassed aircraft type - too slow to counter enemy fighters and holding too small of a bomb load to be an effective strike aircraft. Self-defense was truly lacking and its size worked against the crew, providing a large target and revealing many vulnerable approach angles to the enemy. If left on their own, Battles fended poorly during sorties than when under fighter escort protection - Battles were neither true bombers nor dedicated fighters, instead something of an obsolete cross-breed that realistically held little value in the upcoming war of fluid fronts. During one mission undertaken in September of 1939, five Battles fell to German Messerschmitt Bf 109 fighters with little trouble - such was the German fighter advantage when facing unprotected Battle aircraft.

Following the initial Mk I variant was the slightly improved Battle Mk II with their Rolls-Royce Merlin II inline piston engines outputting at 1,030 horsepower. Performance included a maximum speed of 257 miles per hour with a range out to 1,000 miles. It service ceiling was 25,000 feet with a rate-of-climb nearing approximately 1,250 feet per minute.

The Mk V was then brought online and this mark introduced the Merlin V series engine. From the Mk I, Mk II and Mk V lines was born the converted "Battle T" trainer model. The "Battle IT" trainers were given a turret along the aft end of the fuselage for aerial gunnery practice. The "Battle IIT", appearing October 1940, was a one-off Mk I outfitted with the American Wright Cyclone R1820-G38 engine in case Rolls-Royce Merlins would go into short supply during the war. Others fell to use as target tugs - "Battle TT" and "Battle TT.Mk I".

As the Germans advanced through the Low Countries and, ultimately, France during May of 1940, the Battles were continually pressed into action simply due to the lack of more viable alternatives in an ever-growing desperate situation. Battles undertook armed reconnaissance/patrols and strike where possible and additional threats remained ground-based anti-aircraft fire leading to increasing losses. The Germans, through their quick Blitzkrieg approach, forced Allied warplanners to catch up on the ever-evolving situation along varied fronts. In one mission on May of 1940, dozens of Battles were lost to Axis fighters which further reduced the type's value in combat. With the fall of France and vital resupply ports along the Channel, the aircraft joined other military equipment that had survived the onslaught back on English soil.

Despite the relocation and their disastrous outings, Battles continued in service throughout what remained of 1940. Targets became Axis positions across the Channel for which Battles were originally designed for. However, results were no better and the line was removed from frontline service by the end of the year. Remaining stocks were then used in the aerial gunnery training role and as target tugs.

Battles were officially retired from all service in 1949, well after the war had ended in 1945. Despite their production total reaching 2,185 (manufactured from the period spanning 1937 to 1940), only five remain today as protected museum showpieces (2014). Beyond their service with the RAF, the aircraft also stocked the inventories of Australia, Belgium, Canada, British India, Ireland (sole target tug example), Greece, Free Polish Forces, South Africa and Turkey. Manufacturers including Fairey itself, Avions Fairey (Goselies, Belgium) and the Austin Motor Company

Some twenty-six RAF squadrons made use of the Battle. Additional service was seen through the Fleet Air Arm (FAA).






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: 300mph
Lo: 150mph
    This entry's maximum listed speed (257mph).

    Graph average of 225 miles-per-hour.
City-to-City Ranges
NYC
 
  LON
LON
 
  PAR
PAR
 
  BER
BER
 
  MOS
MOS
 
  TOK
TOK
 
  SYD
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  LAX
LAX
 
  NYC
Graph showcases the Fairey Battle Mk.II's operational range (on internal fuel) when compared to distances between major cities.
Aviation Era
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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
2185
2185


  * Commercial Market High belongs to Cessna 172.

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


Altitude Visualization
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Origin: United Kingdom
Year: 1937
Type: Light Bomber / Trainer Aircraft
Manufacturer(s): Fairey Aviation Company; Austin Motor Company - UK / Avions Fairey - Belgium
Production: 2,185
Global Operators:
Australia; Belgium; Canada; Ireland; Greece; Poland; South Africa; Turkey; 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 Fairey Battle Mk.II model. Common measurements, and their respective conversions, are shown when possible.

Operational
CREW


Personnel
3


Dimension
LENGTH


Feet
42.36 ft


Meters
12.91 m


Dimension
WIDTH


Feet
54.00 ft


Meters
16.46 m


Dimension
HEIGHT


Feet
15.49 ft


Meters
4.72 m


Weight
EMPTY


Pounds
6,647 lb


Kilograms
3,015 kg


Weight
LOADED


Pounds
10,792 lb


Kilograms
4,895 kg

Engine icon
Installed Power - Standard Day Performance:
1 x Rolls-Royce Merlin II liquid-cooled, V-12 inline piston engine developing 1,030 horsepower.

Performance
SPEED


Miles-per-Hour
257 mph


Kilometers-per-Hour
413 kph


Knots
223 kts


Performance
RANGE


Miles
1,000 mi


Kilometers
1,610 km


Nautical Miles
869 nm


Performance
CEILING


Feet
25,000 ft


Meters
7,620 m


Miles
4.73 mi


Performance
CLIMB RATE


Feet-per-Minute
1,250 ft/min


Meters-per-Minute
381 m/min

Supported Weapon Systems:

Graphical image of an aircraft medium machine gun
Graphical image of an aircraft conventional drop bomb munition
Armament - Hardpoints (2):

STANDARD:
1 x 7.7mm Browning machine gun in starboard side wing.
1 x 7.7mm Vickers K machine gun in rear fuselage.

OPTIONAL:
Up to 500lbs of external ordnance as well as 4 x 250lb bombs held internally.
Variants: Series Model Variants
• Fairey Day Bomber - Prototype Designation; single example.
• Battle Mk.I - Light Bomber Production Model; fitted with Rolls-Royce Merlin I inline piston engine of 1,030 horsepower.
• Battle Mk.II - Light Bomber Production Model; fitted with Rolls-Royce Merlin II inline piston engine of 1,030 horsepower.
• Battle Mk.V - Light Bomber Production Model; fitted with Rolls-Royce Merlin V inline piston engine.
• Battle T - Mk.I, Mk.II and Mk.V production aircraft converted to trainer platforms.
• Battle IT - Mk.I, Mk.II and Mk.V production models modified as trainer aircraft; fitted with turret in aft fuselage.
• Battle IIT - Mk.I production model fitted with Wright Cyclone R-1820-G38 series engine of 840 horsepower; single example.
• Battle TT - Mk.I, Mk.II and Mk.V production models converted to target tugs; 100 examples.
• Mattle TT.Mk I - Target Tug Variant; 226 production examples.