The Bristol Beaufort was a torpedo bomber that was used by Great Britain during World War II.
The Beaufort Mk I used two Bristol Taurus VI engines that were able to propel the aircraft at speeds of up to 482 km/h. The Mk I also had a relatively low service ceiling of about 5,000 meters while its operational range was approximately 2,500 kilometers. Furthermore, the Beaufort had a total length of 13.4 meters, with a 17.6 meter wing span, and 5,900 kilogram empty weight. However, the Taurus engines were prone to mechanical difficulties and thus were promptly replaced with future variants of the Beaufort.
The design of the Beaufort was very much derived from the plane it replaced, the Bristol Blenheim. It was larger and its air frame was entirely made of metal. For armament, the Beaufort Mk I was fitted with four 7.7mm machine guns and was capable of either equipping a 457mm torpedo or up to 907 kilograms of bombs.
The first variant to the Beaufort was the Beaufort Mk II which was fitted with far more efficient Pratt & Whitney R-1830-S3C4G Twin Wasp Engines and saw a far larger production run. As a subvariant, the Mk II(T) was produced as a training aircraft for British air crews. Both the Mk III and Mk IV Beauforts never left the prototype stage, but were attempts to upgrade the engines to either the Bristol Taurus XX or Rolls-Royce Merlin XX engine.
The Beaufort Mk V was the first in a new production run of Australian produced Beauforts beginning in 1942. To prevent the inevitable shortage of Taurus engines should they be chosen as the standard, the Mk V was fitted with two Pratt & Whitney R-1830-S3C4 G Twin Wasp Engines just as the British produced Mk II. However, unlike the Mk II, the Mk V only saw a limited production run of fifty units, while its successor, the Mk VI, fitted with Pratt & Whitney R-1830-S1C3 G Engines and Curtiss Electric propellers, only had a production run of forty units. Following the pattern, the Mk VII was again similar to the Mk V except for two Pratt & Whitney R-1830-S1C3 G Engines and Hamilton Standard propellers with a production run of sixty units.
Another subvariant, the Mk Va was fitted with Hamilton Standard propellers and a production run of thirty units. The final two variants of the Beaufort were the Mk VIII and the Mk IX. The Mk VIII was notable for now fitting Curtiss Electric propellers and moving its 7.92mm machine guns from its wings to the nose in a gunner position. Furthermore, the Mk VIII had the ability to switch out its ordnance and weapons between British and American types. Furthermore, it was equipped with an ASV Mk II radar and had a production run of 520 units. Meanwhile, the Mk IX was a converted transport aircraft.
The Beaufort first began its development in 1935 following an Air Ministry requirement for a torpedo bomber that could also serve as a reconnaissance aircraft. The first flight of the Beaufort was in October of 1938 with production beginning in 1939. This was largely because of production delays which meant that few Beauforts were available at first. In the field, the Beaufort was most effective during the Mediterranean Campaigns and in the Pacific in service with Australia. In Europe, the Beaufort first began to see service with British frontline bomber squadrons in 1940. From there on, Beauforts continued to serve with British coastal defense against Kriegsmarine warships. In the Mediterranean, Beauforts saw most of their combat against Axis shipping. The Beaufort went out of service with the RAF by 1944, but Australia by far saw the most usage out of their license produced variants.
Initially, the crews of the Beaufort were untrained in the type and had difficulty using it to the maximum of its potential, however, the Beaufort became a very effective aircraft once its crews had been properly trained in using it. As a maritime patrol aircraft and attack bomber, the Beaufort was able to inflict heavy casulties on Japanese ships. In total, some 2,000 examples of Beaufort had been produced during the war including Australian produced aircraft.
- Lüdeke, Alexander. Weapons of World War II. Parragon Publishing (2007), Page 239