The Fairey Gannet was a dedicated anti-submarine platform primarily serving the Fleet Air Arm of the British Royal Navy during the Cold War years. She was an aircraft design originating from a 1945 British Admiralty initiative (GR.17/45) requiring an advanced, carrier-based, anti-submarine warfare (ASW) platform. Both Fairey Aviation Company and Blackburn Aircraft responded with prototypes "Fairey 17" and "B-54" respectively. Both were of outwardly similar design, sporting conventional monoplane wings, stout reinforced airframes, internal bomb bays and a tricycle undercarriage. The "gannet" name was derived from the species of large seabirds common to the North Atlantic, the southern regions of Africa and the South Pacific (near Australia and New Zealand). Their predatory nature is such that they dive, at speed, upon unsuspecting prey in the water and can continue the chase of said prey while remaining submerged.
The Blackburn B-54 featured a piston engine while the follow-up prototype, the B-88, was fitted with a gas-powered turbine engine driving a large-radius contra-rotating propeller system. The internal bomb bay was affixed to the underside of the fuselage. The pilot and his observer sat in tandem under a framed canopy. The empennage was conventional, featuring a single vertical tail fin with a pair of horizontal planes. A radar scanner was mounted under the base of the empennage in a cylindrical fitting and was retractable into the fuselage. First flight was recorded on September 20th, 1949. Only three Blackburn prototypes were produced in all before the program was shelved in favor of the Fairey product.
The Fairey design (attributed to engineer H.E. Chaplin) made use of the Armstrong Siddeley Mamba gas-turbine engine in a dual configuration arrangement earning the pair the collective name of "Twin Mamba" or "Double Mamba". The arrangement showcased the engines in a side-by-side seating coupled to a single gearbox and powering contra-rotating propellers fitted to the nose of the aircraft. The engines exhausted from oblong ports along the sides of the fuselage, just above and aft of the wing trailing edges. The aircraft could be flown on just one engine in the event of a failure or to conserve fuel and could also operate with kerosene or diesel fuel as opposed to the more volatile high-octane fuel common to carrier piston engine aircraft of the time. The initial crew complement included the pilot, seated in the forward cockpit, and an observer, seated in a rear cockpit just aft of the pilot. Like the Blackburn design, the Fairey 17 also sported a retractable radome assembly under the base of the tail and an internal bomb bay compartment under the fuselage. The wings were cranked upwards outboard of the main landing gear legs. As the design was intended to be fielded from British carriers, the wings were designed to fold for optimal storage space; the assemblies took on a very distinct "Z" shape as a result, folding at two hinged locations and effectively "stacking" the wing vertically upon itself. The nose landing gear leg of the tricycle undercarriage gave the aircraft a distinct "nose up" appearance when at rest.
After the prototype was developed, the design was slightly revised to include a third crewmember as an additional observer. This added a third segregated cockpit to the layout, set just aft of amidships behind the wing yet ahead of the tail assembly. Of course this addition was not without effect and it was found to disrupted the airflow along the stabilizers on the tail forcing the use of small "finlets" along the fuselage sides aft of the wing assemblies to counter the issue. First flight of the Fairey 17 occurred on September 19th, 1949. On June 19th, 1950, the prototype made her first evaluation landing on the deck of the HMS Illustrious carrier. Content with the results, British authorities ordered the type for production as the Fairey "Gannet" AS Mark 1 (AS.Mk I) before the end of 1953. Deliveries of the first 100 aircraft began in April of 1954. That same year, a modified trainer variant was flown and accepted, entering service in 1955 as the T Mark 2 (T.Mk II). The first Gannet squadron for the Fleet Air Arm became 826 NAS, stationed on the HMS Eagle.
Production ran from 1953 until 1959 to which 348 examples were ultimately delivered by Fairey.
The AS Mark 1 (AS.Mk I) was the primary 3-seat production model of which 180 examples were built. The T Mark 2 (T.Mk II) became the primary training variant of the AS 1 production model. 35 of this type were produced. The AS Mark 4 (AS.Mk 4) soldiered on as an improved anti-submarine platform with a revised engine featuring greater output and was essentially the 170th production model onwards of the AS.Mk I. Eighty-two examples were produced. The COD Mark 4 (COD.Mk 4) were AS.Mk 4 production models revised for use as carrier-based transport aircraft. The T Mark 5 (T.Mk 5) was the trainer version of the AS.Mk 4 production model though only eight of this type were delivered. The A.Mk 6 were AS.Mk 4 models fitted with new and improved radar systems and revised electronics. The ECM.Mk 6 was an electronic countermeasures (ECM) land-based Gannet variant. The last production Gannet became the AEW.Mk 3 utilized by the Royal Navy as an airborne early warning (AEW) platform beginning in 1958. Forty-four examples of this type were ultimately built with first flight recorded on August of 1958. AEW.Mk 3 equipped four flights of No. 849 Squadron.
By the middle of the 1960s, the Fairey Gannet series - and its respective tasks - was being replaced by the Westland Whirlwind series of land- and carrier-based helicopters. The primary role of the Gannet now shifted wholly to use as electronic countermeasures platforms while some were revised as dedicated transports for passengers and cargo alike. It was about this time that the system was purchased by foreign parties including Australia, West Germany and Indonesia. The last of the Fairey Gannets was retired for good on December 15th, 1978, ending her long, yet useful, tenure for multiple naval parties.
The largest operator of the Fairey Gannet was the Fleet Air Arm of the British Royal Navy. The type was fielded through 700, 703, 703X, 719, 724, 725, 737, 744, 796, 810, 812, 814, 815, 816, 817, 820, 824, 825, 826, 831, 847, 849 Naval Air Squadrons. There was also B Flight on the HMS Ark Royal and D Flight on the HMS Eagle as well as the 1840 Naval Air Squadron of the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve.
The Fairey Gannet was operated by the 724, 725, 816 and 817 squadrons of the Royal Australian Navy. The German Navy also operated the type with Marinefliegergeschwader 2 and Marinefliegergeschwader 3 up until 1963 and 1966 respectively. The aircraft was purchased in small quantities by the Indonesian Navy as well.
Australia; West Germany; Indonesia; United Kingdom
(OPERATORS list includes past, present, and future operators when applicable)
✓Special-Mission: Airborne Early Warning (AEW)
Specially-equipped platform providing over-battlefield Command and Control (C2) capability for allied aerial elements.
✓Special-Mission: Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW)
Equipped to search, track, and engage enemy underwater elements by way of specialized onboard equipment and weapons.
Equipped to search, track, and engage enemy surface elements through visual acquisition, radar support, and onboard weaponry.
✓Special-Mission: Electronic Warfare (EW)
Equipped to actively deny adversaries the ElectroMagnetic (EM) spectrum and protect said spectrum for allied forces.
✓Maritime / Navy
Land-based or shipborne capability for operating over-water in various maritime-related roles while supported by allied naval surface elements.
General transport functionality to move supplies/cargo or personnel (including wounded and VIP) over range.
43.0 ft (13.11 m)
54.4 ft (16.57 m)
13.7 ft (4.17 m)
14,528 lb (6,590 kg)
22,487 lb (10,200 kg)
+7,959 lb (+3,610 kg)
(Showcased structural values pertain to the Fairey Gannet AS Mark 4 production variant)
Mission-specific. Up to 2,850lbs of internal and external stores including:
2 x Torpedoes (held internally)
16 x 60lb air-to-surface rockets
Conventional Drop Bombs
(Not all ordnance types may be represented in the showcase above)
Hardpoint Mountings: 2
Gannet AS.Mk I - Anti-Submarine Model; 180 examples produced.
Gannet T.Mk II - Trainer Model based on the AS Mark 1 production model; 35 examples produced.
Gannet AEW.Mk 3 - Airborne Early Warning aircraft platform; 44 examples produced; Royal Navy use.
Gannet AS.Mk 4 - Anti-Submarine Model; improved performance from new engine; 82 examples produced.
Gannet COD.Mk 4 - Passenger/Cargo Transport based on AS Mark 4 models.
Gannet T.Mk 5 - Trainer Model based on the AS Mark 4 production model; 8 examples produced.
Gannet AS.Mk 6 - Improved Gannets fitting new electronics and radar systems; limited production.
Gannet ECM.Mk 6 - Electronic Countermeasures (ECM) Model; lad-based Gannets.
Values are derrived from a variety of categories related to the design, overall function, and historical influence of this aircraft in aviation history.
The overall rating takes into account over 60 individual factors related to this aircraft entry.
Rating is out of a possible 100 points.
Relative Maximum Speed
This entry's maximum listed speed (300mph).
Graph average of 225 miles-per-hour.
Fairey Gannet AS Mark 4 operational range when compared to distances between major cities (in KM).
Max Altitude Visualization
The 3 qualities we look at for a balanced aircraft design are altitude, speed, and range.
Aviation Era Span
Showcasing era cross-over of this aircraft design.
Unit Production (348)
This entry's total production compared against the most-produced military and civilian aircraft types in history (Ilyushin IL-2 and Cessna 172, respectively).
Ribbon graphics not necessarily indicative of actual historical campaign ribbons. Ribbons are clickable to their respective aerial campaigns / operations / aviation periods.
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