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Swordfish

Discussion in 'Aircraft' started by GunSlinger86, Nov 19, 2020.

  1. GunSlinger86

    GunSlinger86 Well-Known Member

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    Is there any particular reason the British kept using a Bi-Plane on their aircraft carriers when they had excellent monoplane fighters in the RAF?
     
  2. R Leonard

    R Leonard Member

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    None of which couldn't haul torpedoes, nor, without a lot of re-working, which was eventually done, could these "excellent monoplane fighters" operate from aircraft carriers (though still unable to to manage torpedoes) . . . not to mention, after 1939 the Fleet Air Arm was no longer a red-headed step-child rolled into the Royal Air Force, instead was lock, stock, and barrel in the Royal Navy, obviously two different services.
     
    Last edited: Nov 19, 2020
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  3. Takao

    Takao Ace

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    The standard British thinking at the time was that naval aircraft would always be second best to land-based aircraft, due to the additional weight & extra fuel.

    Also, they were looking into multi-role aircraft to keep to a minimum the number of different types of aircraft carried aboard.

    The attack aircraft(Swordfish & Albacore) were around for longer, because the British had many troubles with the Baracuda. The Rolls-Royce Exe engine was very problematic & eventually cancelled. The early Merlin engine that replaced it left the Baracuda underpowered. Later mark Merlin brought the power to required levels, but it was early-1943, before the Baracuda became operational.
     
  4. R Leonard

    R Leonard Member

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  5. CAC

    CAC Ace of Spades

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    The Swordfish was an excellent aircraft for its task...plenty of wing for lift and a steady platform to release a torpedo...was superior in many ways to the Albacore.
     
  6. Takao

    Takao Ace

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    Well....the Swordfish not facing any real German/Italian air opposition went a long way towards the Swordfish achieving its task.

    The TBD Devastators probably would have achieved their task too...Except for all those pesky Mitsubishi Zeroes.
     
  7. Takao

    Takao Ace

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    Norman Friedman discusses the British carrier aircraft development in some detail in his "Fighters over the Fleet - Naval Air Defence from Biplanes to the Cold War".
     
  8. ARWR

    ARWR Active Member

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    The Blackburn Firebrand could
     
  9. R Leonard

    R Leonard Member

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    Yes, but the Blackburn Firebrand did not enter active squadron service until September 1945 after a long, long incubation and never saw combat. The Swordfish was no longer in active service after May 1945.

    Somehow I don't think the OP even had the Firebrand on the radar in his question.

    "Winkle" Brown evidently thought the Firebrand was a dog performance-wise and a deck crash looking for a place to happen.

    Bottom line for the Swordfish was that it was good enough for the job at hand, but like most circa 1940 torpedo planes was a mount that was in the most self-sacrificing job in all naval aviation.
     
    Last edited: Nov 20, 2020
  10. ARWR

    ARWR Active Member

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    A squadron of Firebrands original model was in service in 1942 but never used in action
     
  11. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake Member

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    The Swordfish was also able to land on the decks of MAC carriers too shiort for many more modern aircraft . This extended its role as an Anti Submarine aircraft a long way from air opposition.
     
  12. R Leonard

    R Leonard Member

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    Oh, yes, all 12 of them to 708 squadron, Mk II's, a test/trials unit, not a combat unit, at RNAS at Lee-on-Solent, a service which apparently resulted in even further changes to the design . . . part of that long incubation towards a heavy attack aircraft rather than the originally envisioned fighter. Firebrand's development problem was that at every turn over the course it was OBE . . . Wildcats, Seafires, Hellcats, Corsairs, all performing yeoman's service in the FAA, as a fighter the Firebrand simply was not needed. And the Avenger/Tarpon presence on RN carrier decks starting in 1943 may have had something to do with the ho-hum progress of development.
     
    Last edited: Nov 21, 2020
  13. ARWR

    ARWR Active Member

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    But it does illustrate that had effort and resources been applied the Navy could have had a high performance strike fighter. However given that it had been agreed that Britain would lead naval warfare in the West and the USA in the East requirements would be different. The Kriegsmarine could offer no major surface fleet threat and the Swordfish and Albacore could offer STOL performance to allow operation from escort carriers. For naval operations in the East it made sense to deploy aircraft compatible with the USN such as the Avenger
     
  14. ARWR

    ARWR Active Member

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    It is worth noting that the Fieseler Fi-167A torpedo bomber developed for the uncompleted Graf Zeppelin class of carriers was a biplane with ultra STOL capabilities.
     
  15. R Leonard

    R Leonard Member

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    Maybe, if it wasn't hauling a 2000 lbs torpedo and loaded or not would have been lunch meat for the contemporary F4Fs wandering about the North Atlantic aboard various RN carriers, especially escort types, not to mention late F6Fs and F4Us operating off RN fleet carriers, again in the Atlantic . . . nope, not impressed with the Luftwaffe's efforts in carrier torpedo plane development, no more than impressed with the floating joke, and a poor one at that, called Graf Zeppelin.
     
  16. ARWR

    ARWR Active Member

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    You miss my point which was that when the design was initiated (pre WW2) both Britain and Germany seem to have prioritised matters like STOL and gone for biplanes.
     
  17. R Leonard

    R Leonard Member

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    Okay, you can have it your way, but, and just my opinion, mind you, you are straw-grasping to make some point not related to the original question.

    Regardless, Swordfish take-off distances, to clear 50ft, at maximum load, 725 yds (2,175 feet). Deck run, into 20 kt wind, at maximum weight, 180 yds (540 feet); into 30 kt wind, 115 yds (345 feet). However, the airplane’s manual is quite clear in the Limitations sections:

    “5. Wind Limits
    “a. The normal wind limit is 25 ± 5 knots. Crosswind should not exceed 15 knots (10 knots until experienced).
    “b. The aircraft is susceptible to wake turbulence and slipstream. When conducting a stream take-of it is to occupy the upwind side of the runway.”


    I seriously doubt anybody at either the Naval or Air Ministries was pondering “oh, perhaps we should pursue this Swordfish thing a little bit longer to keep our fingers in the STOL pie,” and bye-the-bye, STOL was not common WWII era nomenclature/acronym. I mean really, if you want to get in and out of small places, how about a Lysander?

    Looking at the progression of take-off distances, it would appear that like anything remotely STOL-like for the Swordfish would come about only under very contrived, outside published limitations, conditions. It would appear that, strictly deck runs, under the rated operating limits even with a 30 knot wind over the deck, one would need about half the length of the typical fleet carrier flight deck and about 70% of the flight deck length of a CVE . . . not quite your fulsome STOL contention.

    As far as the Fi167, from what I can find, I believe you are being somewhat overly generous with your praise of a very minor and obscurely used design. Designed in 1937, all production and development stopped in 1940. Eventually the remaining aircraft, none of which were in the idealized naval configuration, folding wings, and such, apparently went to one or more German allies in the Balkans as the Luftwaffe could find no use for them. It wasn’t considered for deployment or even further development when construction on the Graf Joke was briefly restarted in 1942. The plane never operated from a carrier, so we really don’t know how it would have performed.

    At least your 1945 Firebrand eventually saw post-war carrier squadron service. I did note that you dropped the Firebrand to pursue some STOL path. Of course, the planned follow-on to the Swordfish was the Fairey Albacore, also (gasp!) a biplane . . . did not quite fill the bill, but with a production of 798 (compared to the Swordfish’s 2931) and service in some 45 FAA squadrons, the Albacore performed its share of useful service before being largely phased out in 1944 and supplanted primarily by the Fairey Barracuda (that which was to be the follow-on of the Swordfish-Albacore progression) and the Grumman Avenger (although in one of those little WW2 quirks, some Albacores in RCAF service were replaced by Mark III, radar equipped, version Swordfish).

    Absolutely none of which, Firebrands or STOL concepts, has to do with answering the question as to why the Swordfish was used when the RAF had “exceptional monoplane fighters”. Can you try that one instead of red-herrings? Could it be so simple as that for its time and place the Swordfish (and the Albacore, for that matter) was sufficient for the job at hand? And there’s always the even simpler Swordfish was Royal Navy, and these “exceptional monoplane fighters” (my emphasis of the OP’s original question) were Royal Air Force.
     
    Last edited: Nov 24, 2020 at 2:06 PM
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  18. ARWR

    ARWR Active Member

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    As time went on more and more Swordfish operations were from escort carriers often in sub optimum weather
     
  19. R Leonard

    R Leonard Member

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    Well, that is certainly a surprise.
     
  20. von Poop

    von Poop Waspish WW2|ORG Editor

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    Had a History teacher that served on Swordfish. Taranto etc.
    If you couldn't face double history on the sodding Aztecs or similar, you just had to find a way to say "Weren't Swordfishes rubbish, sir?" to trigger a long and forceful lecture on why they were not, with diagrams and much arm-waving.

    Seem to recall he said 'robust' a lot.
    If crew loyalty to a machine means anything, he certainly had it in spades.
     

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