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Fairey Battle

Three-Seat, Single-Engine Light Bomber / Trainer Aircraft

United Kingdom | 1937

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

Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited: 09/11/2018 | Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com | The following text is exclusive to this site; No A.I. was used in the generation of this content.
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.

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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).

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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 Fairey Battle Mk.II Three-Seat, Single-Engine Light Bomber / Trainer Aircraft.
1 x Rolls-Royce Merlin II liquid-cooled, V-12 inline piston engine developing 1,030 horsepower.
257 mph
413 kph | 223 kts
Max Speed
25,000 ft
7,620 m | 5 miles
Service Ceiling
1,000 miles
1,610 km | 869 nm
Operational Range
1,250 ft/min
381 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 Fairey Battle Mk.II Three-Seat, Single-Engine Light Bomber / Trainer Aircraft.
42.4 ft
12.91 m
O/A Length
54.0 ft
(16.46 m)
O/A Width
15.5 ft
(4.72 m)
O/A Height
6,647 lb
(3,015 kg)
Empty Weight
10,792 lb
(4,895 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 Fairey Battle Three-Seat, Single-Engine Light Bomber / Trainer Aircraft .
1 x 7.7mm Browning machine gun in starboard side wing.
1 x 7.7mm Vickers K machine gun in rear fuselage.

Up to 500lbs of external ordnance as well as 4 x 250lb bombs held internally.
Notable series variants as part of the Fairey Battle family line.
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.
Global customers who have evaluated and/or operated the Fairey Battle. Nations are displayed by flag, each linked to their respective national aircraft listing.

Total Production: 2,185 Units

Contractor(s): Fairey Aviation Company; Austin Motor Company - UK / Avions Fairey - Belgium
National flag of Australia National flag of Belgium National flag of Canada National flag of Greece National flag of Ireland National flag of Poland National flag of South Africa National flag of Turkey National flag of the United Kingdom

[ Australia; Belgium; Canada; Ireland; Greece; Poland; South Africa; Turkey; United Kingdom ]
Relative Max Speed
Hi: 300mph
Lo: 150mph
Aircraft Max Listed Speed (257mph).

Graph Average of 225 MPH.
Era Crossover
Pie graph section
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
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Image of the Fairey Battle
Image courtesy of 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 Fairey Battle Three-Seat, Single-Engine Light Bomber / Trainer Aircraft appears in the following collections:
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