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Blackburn Dart

Biplane Torpedo Bomber Aircraft

United Kingdom | 1922

"The Blackburn Dart torpedo biplane bomber was built to a British Air Ministry requirement of 1920 - serving the Fleet Air Arm branch of the Royal Air Force during the decade."

Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited: 01/31/2019 | Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com | The following text is exclusive to this site; No A.I. was used in the generation of this content.
The Blackburn "Dart" beat out competition from Handley Page to become the Royal Air Force's Fleet Air Arm (FAA) next carrier-based torpedo bomber. In the immediate post-World War 1 period, the service relied upon the aging Sopwith Cuckoo in the role so a new, all-modern successor was sought by late-1920. This resulted in Specification 3/20 and involved a single-seat, biplane-configured naval combat aircraft capable of carrying a single torpedo under the belly with good low-speed, low-altitude handling.

By this point, Blackburn was already privately fleshing out such an aircraft which was known internally as the T.1 "Swift". Engineers elected for a twin-bay biplane wing configuration of equal span utilizing parallel struts and a folding feature was built-in. A typical tail-dragger twin-wheeled undercarriage was used for ground-running. The sole pilot sat in an open-air cockpit aft and under the upper wing member with the engine directly forward of him - driving a two-bladed propeller unit. The tail unit was conventional (single rudder, low-set horizontal planes).

The prototype Swift form made its maiden flight during September of 1920 and it was soon found to have inherent balance and directional stability issues, resulting in engineers adding a few degrees of sweepback to the mainplanes and revising the tail fin some. Vision out-of-the-cockpit was also poor but this proved a common failing of many biplanes of the era - only rectified with the shift to monoplane wings in the next decade. As with all of the Specification 3/20 aircraft prototypes, the Swift carried the Napier "Lion" IIB 12-cylinder engine of 450 horsepower output.

In this guise, the Swift was accepted by the FAA for further evaluation and given the definitive name of "Dart" in the process. A prototype (the first of three contracted for trials) bearing this name and finalized configuration went airborne for the first time in October of 1921 - proving the design largely sound. From this serial production was ordered under the "Dart T.2" designation and this work spanned from 1922 until 1928 to which some 149 were competed in all.

The FAA took the Dart into service in 1923 and operated the type from the deck of the Royal Navy aircraft carriers HMS Courageous, HMS Eagle, and HMS Furious for their time at-sea. At least three of the Dart stock were modified into floatplane-equipped forms to serve as seaplanes and advanced trainers during the latter part of the 1920s. In 1926, a Dart was used to record the first-ever successful night time deck landing (aboard HMS Furious on May 6th, 1926). The series also went on to form the first torpedo bomber squadrons of the RAF in 1929.

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The Dart T.2 held a crew of one and an overall length of 35.4 feet, a wingspan of 45.5 feet, and a height of 12.10 feet. Empty weight reached 4,000lb against an MTOW of 6,400lb. The Napier powerplant, coupled to the biplane airframe, reached a maximum speed of 107 miles-per-hour with a range out to 355 nautical miles, and a maximum altitude of 12,700 feet. Rate-of-climb was 600 feet-per-minute.

Armament included a 0.303 Vickers Machine Gun in a fixed, forward-firing mounting over the nose and synchronized to fire through the spinning propeller blades. For those versions incorporating a rear observers/gunner's cockpit, there was a 0.303 Lewis Machine Gun atop a trainable mounting. The standard war load was a single 18" (457mm) aerial torpedo or 2 x 520lb drop bombs in its place.

There existed an export form, retaining the "Swift" name, and eight were built to various standards. The Swift Mk.II were seven export forms built and the United States Navy (USN) trialed the "Swift F" model under the "BST-1" name. Both the Japanese and Spanish navy services also looked into the Swift Mk II version.

Other Dart operators were the Greek Navy who took a stock of sixteen (under the designation of "Velos T.3") in 1925 of which twelve were built locally under license. These differed mainly in their twin-seat arrangement to reduce pilot workloads. The Velos T.3A were six biplanes built to a trials-and-demonstration standard by Blackburn.

In British service, Darts were eventually succeeded by the Blackburn Rippon and Blackburn Baffin aircraft of the early-1930s - both detailed elsewhere on this site.

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Power & Performance
Those special qualities that separate one aircraft design from another. Performance specifications presented assume optimal operating conditions for the Blackburn Dart T.2 Biplane Torpedo Bomber Aircraft.
1 x Napier Lion IIB 12-cylinder water-cooled piston engine developing 450 horsepower and driving a two-bladed wooden propeller at the nose.
106 mph
170 kph | 92 kts
Max Speed
13,123 ft
4,000 m | 2 miles
Service Ceiling
410 miles
660 km | 356 nm
Operational Range
600 ft/min
183 m/min
City-to-City Ranges
Operational range when compared to distances between major cities (in KM).
The nose-to-tail, wingtip-to-wingtip physical qualities of the Blackburn Dart T.2 Biplane Torpedo Bomber Aircraft.
35.4 ft
10.78 m
O/A Length
45.4 ft
(13.85 m)
O/A Width
12.8 ft
(3.91 m)
O/A Height
4,189 lb
(1,900 kg)
Empty Weight
6,614 lb
(3,000 kg)
Design Balance
The three qualities reflected below are altitude, speed, and range. The more full the box, the more balanced the design.
Available supported armament and special-mission equipment featured in the design of the Blackburn Dart Biplane Torpedo Bomber Aircraft .
1 x 0.303 (7.7mm) Vickers Machine Gun in fixed, forward-firing mounting and synchronized to fire through the spinning propeller blades.

1 x 0.303 (7.7mm) Vickers Machine Gun in fixed, forward-firing mounting and synchronized to fire through the spinning propeller blades.
1 x 0.303 (7.7mm) Lewis Machine Gun on trainable mounting in rear cockpit.

1 x 18" Mark VIII/IX torpedo (fuselage centerline) OR 2 x 520lb drop bombers (under wing).
Notable series variants as part of the Blackburn Dart family line.
"Dart" - Base Series Name.
Swift T.1 - In-house designation
Dart T.2 - Initial, definitive production model; 117 completed.
Swift Mk.II - Export variant; seven completed.
Swift F - USN trials model by Blackburn.
BST-1 - USN designation of Swift F.
Velos T.3 - Greek Navy twin-seat variant; 16 completed with twelve locally under license.
Velos T.3A - Six trials and demonstration aircraft by Blackburn.
Global customers who have evaluated and/or operated the Blackburn Dart. Nations are displayed by flag, each linked to their respective national aircraft listing.

Total Production: 149 Units

Contractor(s): Blackburn Aircraft - UK
National flag of modern Japan National flag of Spain National flag of the United Kingdom National flag of the United States

[ Imperial Japan; Spain; United Kingdom; United States ]
Relative Max Speed
Hi: 120mph
Lo: 60mph
Aircraft Max Listed Speed (106mph).

Graph Average of 90 MPH.
Era Crossover
Pie graph section
Showcasing Aircraft Era Crossover (if any)
Max Alt Visualization
Small airplane graphic
Production Comparison
Entry compared against Ilyushin IL-2 (military) and Cessna 172 (civilian) total production.
MACH Regime (Sonic)
RANGES (MPH) Subsonic: <614mph | Transonic: 614-921 | Supersonic: 921-3836 | Hypersonic: 3836-7673 | Hi-Hypersonic: 7673-19180 | Reentry: >19030
Aviation Timeline
1 / 1
Image of the Blackburn Dart
Image from the Public Domain.

Mission Roles
Some designs are single-minded in their approach while others offer a more versatile solution to airborne requirements.
Some designs stand the test of time while others are doomed to never advance beyond the drawing board; let history be their judge.
Going Further...
The Blackburn Dart Biplane Torpedo Bomber Aircraft appears in the following collections:
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