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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. It was designed to meet Air Ministry Specification B.12/36. S.29 was its Short designation.

Bomb bay

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

Tail

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

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. Behind the center section was the main flare chutes.

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

Propellers

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

Gun turrets

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

Fuel tanks

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

Wings

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

Prototype

The first prototype, S.31, was 1/2 scale. It first flew in September 1938.

The first full size prototype flew on May 1939 / May 14, 1939, but crashed on landing. The second prototype flew on autumn 1939 / December 3, 1939.

Production

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

The Stirling Mk I first flew on May 7, 1940. Deliveries began in August 1940.

  • Prototypes: 2
  • Short Sterling Mk I: 707, 712, 756
  • Short Stirling Mk II: 1
  • Short Sterling Mk III: 875, 1,059
  • Short Sterling Mk IV: 443, 577
  • Short Sterling Mk V: 160, 162
  • Total: 2,371, 2,374
    • Manufacturer: Austin, Short Brothers Ltd.

Variants

  • S.31: 1/2 scale prototype. Had four Pobjoy Niagara radial engines (90 HP).
  • Prototype: Had four Hercules II engines (1,375 HP).
  • Short Sterling Mk I: Bomber. No dorsal turret.
  • Short Sterling Mk II: Prototype only.
  • Short Sterling Mk III: Bomber. Some Sterling Mk Is were converted to Sterling Mk IIIs. First to have two gun dorsal turret. The dorsal turret was a new design. Entered service in late 1942.
  • Short Sterling Mk IV: Bomber. Was used transport and glider tug. The nose and dorsal turrets weren't included. First used in the return to France on June 6, 1944. Conversion of Mk III.
  • Short Sterling Mk V: Transport. First flown in August 1944 and entered service in January 1945. Nose hinged upwards to allow loading of freight. Loading door in rear fuselage was 9' 6" x 5' 1" / 2.9 m x 1.53 m.

Usage

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

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

A total of eleven / 15 Bomber Command squadrons were outfitted with the Stirling.

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

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

No. 7 Squadron

In August 1940 the first unit to receive the Short Stirlings was the No. 7 Squadron.

First Raid

The No. 7 Squadron conducted its first raid on the night of February 10-11, 1941. This raid was against oil storage tanks in Rotterdam.

Berlin Raided

The first raid on Berlin by Stirlings was in April 1941.

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.

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.

Normandy invasion

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

Stirling's last raid

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

Arnhem and Rhine

The Stirlings were used as glider tugs in the operations at Arnhem and the crossing of the Rhine in March 1945.

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.

Retired

The last of the Stirlings were retired in March 1946.

After World War II

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

Specifications

  Short Stirling
Type Heavy bomber
Glider tug
Transport
Crew 7 - 8
Dimensions  
Span 99', 99' 1"
30.2 m
Length 87' 3"
26.59 m
Height 22' 3", 22' 9"
6.93 m
Weight  
Loaded 70,000 lb
Performance  
Speed 300 mph
Range 2,000 miles
Armament  
Bombs 16,000 lb
  Short Stirling Mk I
Type Bomber
Crew 7 - 8
Engine (Type) 4: Bristol Hercules XI
Cylinders Radial, Radial 14
Cooling Air
HP 1,590 each, 1,595 each, 1,600 each
Propeller blades 3 each
Dimensions  
Span 99' 1"
Length 87' 3"
Height 22' 9"
Weight  
Empty 44,000 lb
19,958 kg
Loaded 59,400 lb, 70,000 lb
26,944 kg
Performance  
Speed at 10,500' 260 mph
Service ceiling 17,000'
Range 1,930 miles
Armament 10: MG
Nose turret 2: 0.303" MG
Dorsal turret 2: 0.303" MG
Tail turret 4: 0.303" MG
Bombs 14,000 lb
6,350 kg
  Short Stirling Mk II
Engine (Type) 4: Wright Cyclones
4: Wright Cyclone R-2600-A5B
Cylinders Radial 14
Cooling Air
Armament  
Nose turret 2: 0.303" MG
Dorsal turret 2: 0.303" MG
Tail turret 4: 0.303" MG
Bombs 14,000 lb
6,350 kg
  Short Stirling Mk III, Short Stirling B Mk III
Type Heavy bomber
1943: Glider towing
Crew 7, 7 - 8
Pilots (2), navigator / bombardier, front gunner / radio operator, air gunners (2), flight engineer / air gunner
Engine (Type) 4: Bristol Hercules XVI piston
OR 4: Bristol Hercules VI piston
Cylinders Radial , 14
Cooling Air
HP 1,640 each, 1,650 each
Propeller blades 3 each, 3 blade de Havilland Hydromatic constant speed
Dimensions  
Span 99', 99' 1"
30.2 m
Length 87' 3"
26.5 m, 26.59 m, 26.6 m
Height 22' 9"
6.93 m, 6.94 m
Wing area 1,460 ft2 , 1,482 ft2
135.6 m2 , 135.63 m2
Weight  
Empty 43,109 lb, 43,200 lb, 44,000 lb, 46,900 lb
19,595 kg, 19,596 kg, 19,950 kg, 21,274 kg
Loaded 69,938 lb, 70,000 lb
31,751 kg, 31,752 kg, 31,780 kg, 31,790 kg
Performance  
Speed @ 14,500' /
4,420 m
270 mph
434 kph, 435 kph
Service ceiling 17,000'
5,180 m, 5,182 m
Range 590 miles
950 km
Range with 3,500 lb /
1,588 kg
2,010 miles
3,235 km
Range with 14,000 lb /
6,350 kg
590 miles
949 km, 950 km
Armament  
Nose turret 2: 0.303" MG
2: 7.7 mm MG
2: 0.303" / 7.7 mm Browning MG
Dorsal turret 2: 0.303" MG
2: 7.7 mm MG
2: 0.303" / 7.7 mm Browning MG
Tail turret 4: 0.303" MG
4: 7.7 mm MG
4: 0.303" / 7.7 mm Browning MG
Bombs 14,000 lb, 18,000 lb
6,350 kg, 8,170 kg
  Short Stirling Mk IV
Type Troop transport
Crew 6
Pilot, Copilot, Navigator, Radio Operator, Flight Engineer, Tail Gunner
Passengers 24 Paratroops
OR 34 Airborne troopers
Engine (Type) 4: Bristol Hercules XVI
HP 1,650 each
Propeller blades 3 each
Weight  
Empty 43,200 lb
19,600 kg
Loaded 70,000 lb
31,780 kg
Performance  
Speed 280 mph
448 kph
Speed at 6,000' /
1,830 m
280 mph
Cruising Speed at 11,000' /
3,500 m
233 mph
375 kph
Climb 800' per minute
243 m per minute
Service Ceiling 18,000'
5,480 m
Range 3,000 miles
4,830 km
Armament  
Tail turret 4: 0.303" MG
  Short Stirling Mk V
Type Transport
Passengers 14
OR 12 Stretchers
OR 40 Troopers
OR 20 Paratroopers
OR  
Cargo Jeep
Trailer
6 pdr
4 crew
OR 2 Jeeps
8 crew
Engine (Type) 4: Bristol Hercules XVI
HP 1,650 each
Propeller blades 3 each
Dimensions  
Length 90' 6.75"
27.6 m
Weight  
Empty 43,500 lb
19,740 kg
Loaded 70,000 lb
31,780 kg
Performance  
Speed at 6,000' /
1,830 m
280 mph
Cruising Speed at 11,000' /
3,500 m
233 mph
375 kph
Climb 800' per minute
243 m per minute
Service Ceiling 18,000'
5,480 m
Range 3,000 miles
4,830 km

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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