This week in 1946

The Fairey “Spearfish”

With the Second World War over, The Engineer was free to reveal the details of many of the UK’s feats of wartime engineering. Among these was the Fairey Spearfish — a prototype dive bomber designed to attack ships with aerial torpedos. Developed by the Fairey Aviation Company, the rather cumbersome-looking aircraft was, wrote The Engineer, ’the largest aircraft so far ordered by the Royal Navy’. The article said that the multiple-duty plane was ’equipped for all-weather flying in any part of the world and can be employed in defensive or offensive roles’.
With a maximum range of more than 1,000 miles and a top speed of nearly 300mph the aircraft’s five-bladed propeller was driven by a Bristol Centaurus 18-cylinder engine.

Running through its dimensions, the article continued: ’The wings have a span of 60ft 3in and fold hydraulically within a breadth of 20ft. With the wings folded and tail wheel on ground or deck the maximum overall height is 17ft 3in, but with the five-bladed screw arranged in the best position for stowage the overall maximum height is reduced to 16ft 4in. The overall length is 44ft 7in.’

The aircraft featured an internal weapons bay, as well a remotely controlled gun turret. ’It can,’ wrote the magazine, ’carry a heavy-calibre torpedo, a variety of bombs and mines and the latest forms of radar equipment. In addition to four 0.5 in Browning guns — two in the wings firing forward and two in the barbette — 16 rocket projectiles may be carried externally beneath the outer planes.’

The article continued: ’When the aircraft is used for dive bombing, a special bob injector is installed in the bomb bay. This, when in operation, throws the bob clear of the aircraft even in the steepest dive.’

The first prototype Spearfish flew on 5 July 1945, but only five aircraft were built before the victory over Japan. The aircraft was followed by the Fairey Gannet, which in 1950 became the first turboprop aircraft to make a deck landing.