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Great Britain's Short Stirling bomber

Photos

  • Short Stirling bomber
  • Short Stirling bomber
  • Short Stirling bomber
  • Short Stirling bomber
  • Short Stirling bomber
  • Short Stirling bomber
  • Short Stirling bomber
  • Short Stirling bomber
  • Short Stirling bomber
  • Short Stirling B Mk I bomber
  • Short Stirling Mk I bomber
  • Short Stirling MK I bomber
  • Short Stirling Mk I bomber
  • Short Stirling Mk I bomber
  • Short Stirling Mk I bomber
  • Short Stirling GT Mk IV glider towing
  • Short Stirling GT Mk IV glider towing
  • Short Stirling Mk V bomber
  • Short Stirling Mk V bomber
  • Short Stirling Mk V transport
  • Short Stirling bomber
  • Short Stirling bomber

Design

The Short Stirling was the Great Britain's first four engine monoplane.1,3,4,5,7 It was designed to meet Air Ministry Specification B.12/36.2,4,5,7 S.29 was its Short designation.3

Bomb bay

The bomb bay of the Stirling was 13 m long and divided into six cells.1 These cells were divided by longitudinal girders and armed members.1 Each had a hinged door.1 The maximum size of bomb the Stirling could carry was 2,000 lb / 907 kg.3

Tail

The tail was a single fin with the rudder and tail plane of similar shape and size.1

Fuselage

The center of the fuselage was braced at the top to allow for crew to pass from the front to the rear of the Stirling.1 Behind the center section was the main flare chutes.1

The crew of the Stirling entered through a door in the port side.1

Propellers

The Short Stirling's constant speed propellers were 3 bladed de Havillands.1

Gun turrets

The nose turret was a Frazer-Nash FN.5A, the dorsal turret a FN.7A, and the rear turret a FN.20A.1,6

Fuel tanks

The fuel tanks were located in the wings and were self sealing.1,6

Wings

To fit in existing hangers, the wing span for the Stirling was limited.1,4 This caused the Stirling to be restricted in its altitude performance primarily because of the small wings.3,4

Prototype

The first prototype, S.31, was 1/2 scale.2,3,4,5,7 It first flew in September 1938.3,4

The first full size prototype flew on May 19397 / May 14, 1939, but crashed on landing.1,2,3,4,5 The second prototype flew on autumn 19397 / December 3, 1939.3

Production

Short Stirlings were produced in three factories.1 The main factory was Short & Harland, located in Belfast.1

The Stirling Mk I first flew on May 7, 1940.3 Deliveries began in August 1940.3

  • Prototypes: 23
  • Short Sterling Mk I: 7073, 7124, 7562,5
  • Short Stirling Mk II: 15
  • Short Sterling Mk III: 8752,5, 1,0593
  • Short Sterling Mk IV: 4433, 5772,5
  • Short Sterling Mk V: 1602,3,4,5, 1621
  • Total: 2,3713,4, 2,3741,2
    • Manufacturer: Austin3, Short Brothers Ltd.3,4

Variants

  • S.31: 1/2 scale prototype.3 Had four Pobjoy Niagara radial engines (90 HP).3
  • Prototype: Had four Hercules II engines (1,375 HP).3,7
  • Short Sterling Mk I: Bomber.1 No dorsal turret.7
  • Short Sterling Mk II: Prototype only.2,5
  • Short Sterling Mk III: Bomber.1 Some Sterling Mk Is were converted to Sterling Mk IIIs.2 First to have two gun dorsal turret.2,5,7 The dorsal turret was a new design.4 Entered service in late 1942.3,4
  • Short Sterling Mk IV: Bomber.1 Was used transport7 and glider tug.2,3,4,5 The nose and dorsal turrets weren't included.2,5,7 First used in the return to France on June 6, 1944.3,4 Conversion of Mk III.7
  • Short Sterling Mk V: Transport.1,5,7 First flown in August 1944 and entered service in January 1945.1,3 Nose hinged upwards to allow loading of freight.7 Loading door in rear fuselage was 9' 6" x 5' 1" / 2.9 m x 1.53 m.7

Usage

The Stirling's early reputation was that it would be a fire trap for the crews.1 However, this was an exaggeration and many crews had great confidence in the Stirling.1

In August 1940 the Stirling was made operational.4 It was initially used as both a day and night bomber.4 Until mid 1943 the Stirling was used as a night bomber.4 The Stirling then was used as a transport and a glider tug.4

A total of eleven / 152,5 Bomber Command squadrons were outfitted with the Stirling.1

The Stirling was used in 18,440 sorties.1 It dropped 27,821 tons / 28,268 tonnes of bombs.1 The Stirling was also used in laying 20,000 mines.1

769 Stirlings were destroyed during World War II with 641 of those lost in action.1

No. 7 Squadron

In August 1940 the first unit to receive the Short Stirlings was the No. 7 Squadron.1,2,5

First Raid

The No. 7 Squadron conducted its first raid on the night of February 10-11, 1941.1,2,5,7 This raid was against oil storage tanks in Rotterdam.3

Berlin Raided

The first raid on Berlin by Stirlings was in April 1941.2

Oboe Operations

The Short Stirling was the first to be outfitted with the Oboe, a pathfinding device which was first used operationally in August 1942.5

Secondary Roles

By 1943 the Stirling was relegated to secondary roles such as glider towing and transporting as the Halifaxes and Lancasters were becoming operational.3

Normandy invasion

The Stirlings were used as glider tugs and for air supply.1

Stirling's last raid

On September 8, 1944 was the Stirlings last bombing raid.1,4,5 It was against Le Harve, France.1

Arnhem and Rhine

The Stirlings were used as glider tugs in the operations at Arnhem and the crossing of the Rhine in March 1945.1

Victoria Crosses Awarded

Flight Sergeant R. H. Middleton of the 149th Squadron and Flight Sergeant A. L. Aaron of the 218th Squadron were awarded Victoria Crosses posthumously.2,5

Retired

The last of the Stirlings were retired in March 1946.1

After World War II

A Belgian airline used 24 Stirling Mk Vs as cargo and passenger planes.1

Specifications

  Short Stirling
Type Heavy bomber3,6
Glider tug3
Transport3
Crew 7 - 83
Dimensions  
Span 99'6, 99' 1"3
30.2 m3
Length 87' 3"3,6
26.59 m3
Height 22' 3"6, 22' 9"3
6.93 m3
Weight  
Loaded 70,000 lb6
Performance  
Speed 300 mph6
Range 2,000 miles6
Armament  
Bombs 16,000 lb6
  Short Stirling Mk I
Type Bomber4
Crew 7 - 84
Engine (Type) 4: Bristol Hercules XI3,4,5,75
Cylinders Radial5, Radial 143,4,7
Cooling Air4
HP 1,590 each4, 1,595 each3, 1,600 each7
Propeller blades 3 each3
Dimensions  
Span 99' 1"4
Length 87' 3"4
Height 22' 9"4
Weight  
Empty 44,000 lb3
19,958 kg3
Loaded 59,400 lb3, 70,000 lb4
26,944 kg3
Performance  
Speed at 10,500' 260 mph4
Service ceiling 17,000'4
Range 1,930 miles4
Armament 10: MG4
Nose turret 2: 0.303" MG3
Dorsal turret 2: 0.303" MG3
Tail turret 4: 0.303" MG3
Bombs 14,000 lb3,4
6,350 kg3
  Short Stirling Mk II
Engine (Type) 4: Wright Cyclones2,5
4: Wright Cyclone R-2600-A5B7
Cylinders Radial 147
Cooling Air7
Armament  
Nose turret 2: 0.303" MG3
Dorsal turret 2: 0.303" MG3
Tail turret 4: 0.303" MG3
Bombs 14,000 lb3
6,350 kg3
  Short Stirling Mk III, Short Stirling B Mk III
Type Heavy bomber1,2,5,7
1943: Glider towing7
Crew 77, 7 - 81,2,5
Pilots (2), navigator / bombardier, front gunner / radio operator, air gunners (2), flight engineer / air gunner1,7
Engine (Type) 4: Bristol Hercules XVI piston1,2,3,5,7
OR 4: Bristol Hercules VI piston1,7
Cylinders Radial2,5 , 141,7
Cooling Air1
HP 1,640 each7, 1,650 each1,2,3,4,5
Propeller blades 3 each1,3, 3 blade de Havilland Hydromatic constant speed7
Dimensions  
Span 99'1, 99' 1"2,5,7
30.2 m1,2,5,7
Length 87' 3"1,2,5,7
26.5 m2,5, 26.59 m1, 26.6 m7
Height 22' 9"1,2,5,7
6.93 m1,2,5, 6.94 m7
Wing area 1,460 ft2 2,5,7, 1,482 ft2 1
135.6 m2 2,5,7, 135.63 m2 1
Weight  
Empty 43,109 lb1, 43,200 lb2,5, 44,000 lb7, 46,900 lb3
19,595 kg1, 19,596 kg2,5, 19,950 kg7, 21,274 kg3
Loaded 69,938 lb1, 70,000 lb2,3,5,7
31,751 kg1, 31,752 kg3, 31,780 kg7, 31,790 kg2,5
Performance  
Speed @ 14,500' /
4,420 m
270 mph1,2,3,5
434 kph3, 435 kph1,2,5
Service ceiling 17,000'1,2,3,5
5,180 m1,2,5, 5,182 m3
Range 590 miles1
950 km1
Range with 3,500 lb /
1,588 kg
2,010 miles3
3,235 km3
Range with 14,000 lb /
6,350 kg
590 miles2,3,5
949 km2,5, 950 km3
Armament  
Nose turret 2: 0.303" MG3,5
2: 7.7 mm MG2,5
2: 0.303" / 7.7 mm Browning MG1,7
Dorsal turret 2: 0.303" MG3,5
2: 7.7 mm MG2,5
2: 0.303" / 7.7 mm Browning MG1,7
Tail turret 4: 0.303" MG3,5
4: 7.7 mm MG2,5
4: 0.303" / 7.7 mm Browning MG1,7
Bombs 14,000 lb1,2,3,5, 18,000 lb7
6,350 kg1,2,3,5, 8,170 kg7
  Short Stirling Mk IV
Type Troop transport7
Crew 67
Pilot, Copilot, Navigator, Radio Operator, Flight Engineer, Tail Gunner7
Passengers 24 Paratroops7
OR 34 Airborne troopers7
Engine (Type) 4: Bristol Hercules XVI3
HP 1,650 each3
Propeller blades 3 each3
Weight  
Empty 43,200 lb7
19,600 kg7
Loaded 70,000 lb7
31,780 kg7
Performance  
Speed 280 mph7
448 kph7
Speed at 6,000' /
1,830 m
280 mph7
Cruising Speed at 11,000' /
3,500 m
233 mph7
375 kph7
Climb 800' per minute7
243 m per minute7
Service Ceiling 18,000'7
5,480 m7
Range 3,000 miles7
4,830 km7
Armament  
Tail turret 4: 0.303" MG3
  Short Stirling Mk V
Type Transport7
Passengers 147
OR 12 Stretchers7
OR 40 Troopers7
OR 20 Paratroopers7
OR  
Cargo Jeep7
Trailer7
6 pdr7
4 crew7
OR 2 Jeeps7
8 crew7
Engine (Type) 4: Bristol Hercules XVI3
HP 1,650 each3
Propeller blades 3 each3
Dimensions  
Length 90' 6.75"3,7
27.6 m3,7
Weight  
Empty 43,500 lb7
19,740 kg7
Loaded 70,000 lb7
31,780 kg7
Performance  
Speed at 6,000' /
1,830 m
280 mph7
Cruising Speed at 11,000' /
3,500 m
233 mph7
375 kph7
Climb 800' per minute7
243 m per minute7
Service Ceiling 18,000'7
5,480 m7
Range 3,000 miles7
4,830 km7

Sources:

  1. Aircraft of WWII, General Editor: Jim Winchester, 2004
  2. Fighting Aircraft of World War II, Editor: Karen Leverington, 1995
  3. Aircraft of WWII, Stewart Wilson, 1998
  4. World War II Airplanes Volume 1, Enzo Angelucci, Paolo Matricardi, 1976
  5. The Encyclopedia of Weapons of World War II, Chris Bishop, 1998
  6. Aeronautics Aircraft Spotters' Handbook, Ensign L. C. Guthman, 1943
  7. Jane's Fighting Aircraft of World War II, 1989
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