The Fairey Barracuda was a torpedo bomber that was used by Great Britain during World War II.

Description

The Barracuda Mk I had a Rolls-Royce Merlin 30 engine that was capable of propelling it at speeds of up to 337 kilometers per hour. This relatively low maximum speed came from the fact that the Mk I was severely underpowered and as such was quickly replaced by the Mk II which not only used a better engine, added an additional propeller blade for a total of four. Regardless, thirty Mk I aircraft were still produced during the war. Their operational range was around 1,165 kilometers while their service ceiling was about 6,500 meters. [1]

Its armament consisted of either a single 735 kilogram torpedo, six 110 kilogram bombs, or four 200 kilogram depth charges with an additional two 7.7mm machine guns mounted in the rear of the aircraft for defense. In order to operate effectively, at least two men, a pilot and gunner, were required though an additional crew member, the navigator, could also and often did fly in the aircraft. The total weight of the Barracuda was around 3,900 kilograms unloaded while its total length was around 12.2 meters and wingspan was 14.9 meters. 

Notably, the Barracuda had its wings mounted at 'shoulder height' at the top of the air frame and being initially designed as a reconnaissance aircraft, had a far better view for the observer/navigator than for the pilot. Furthermore, many of its crews described the aircraft as 'very ugly' from its outward appearance.

Variants

The first variant of the Barracuda series was the Mk II which aimed to correct the Mk I's underpowered engine issue by instead using a Rolls-Royce Merlin 32 engine now with four propeller blades.[2] Doing this increased the top speed to 367 kilometers per hour and garnered more satisfying results for the air frame. Furthermore, the Mk II also had a new ASV II radar installation added and was the most produced version. 

A Fairey Barracuda inflight in May 1945

The Mk III was modified to act as a pure anti-submarine conversion with improved ASV III radar to aid in its searches. The final variant in the series was the Mk V which had a largely improved Griffon 37 engine, a revised tail section, and wingpod mounted radar for use in the Pacific. However by war's end, only thirty actual production models had been made. 

History

The Fairey Barracuda was initially developed in 1940 following a 1937 order to replace the quickly aging Fairey Albacore biplane torpedo bomber. Development progressed relatively smoothly with an estimated delivery for the first units set in 1942. However when the production of the Rolls-Royce Exe engine ended, production became delayed with a search for a new engine to suit the air frame. Furthermore, it was decided that the Fairey Firefly would take more precedence in development over the Barracuda. When the Barracuda entered service in 1943, it became the Fleet Air Arm's first monoplane torpedo bomber of the war.[3] Their first combat experiences came from combat off the coast of Norway in 1943 and supporting the Salerno landings, also in 1943. In the Pacific however, the first fought in Sumatra but were severely outclassed by the Grumman TBF/TBM Avenger, largely due to a failure increase in the Barracuda caused by the hot, humid climate of the Pacific. More success came with the attacks against the battleship Tirpitz in 1944. Barracudas would continue to see service with the Fleet Air Arm until the mid-1950s with a total of 2,607 aircraft being produced.

References


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