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Great Britain's Bristol Beaufighter fighter
Nickname: "Whispering Death"

Photos

  • Bristol Beaufighter
  • Bristol Beaufighter fighter
  • Bristol Beaufighter Mk I
  • Bristol Beaufighter Mk I
  • Bristol Beaufighter Mk IC
  • Bristol Beaufighter Mk IF fighter
  • Bristol Beaufighter Mk II
  • Bristol Beaufighter Mk II
  • Bristol Beaufighter Mk IIF night fighter
  • Bristol Beaufighter Mk V prototype
  • Bristol Beaufighter NF Mk VI night fighter
  • Bristol Beaufighter Mk X
  • Bristol Beaufighter TF Mk X
  • Bristol Beaufighter TF Mk X fighters
  • Bristol Beaufighter
  • Bristol Beaufighter

Design

The Bristol Beaufighter was designed privately from some of the components of the Beaufort. The design work on the Beaufighter started in late 1938.

The early Hercules engines were replaced by Merlins and the first one flew on July 26, 1940.

The observer's rear bubble could have a Vickers "K" Machine gun installed.

In the rear fuselage was an emergency store of food and water.

When carrying a torpedo the Beaufighter had some instabilities so a dihedral tail plane was installed.

The Beaufighter Mk VI was introduced in 1942.

The Beaufighter TF.X was especially designed for low level attacks. It could also carry a AI Mk. VIII air surface radar. To help cure a stability problem, late models had a dorsal fin extension.

The Beaufighter Mk XIC couldn't carry a torpedo like the TF.X but was similar in many ways.

The Beaufighter Mk XXI (Mk 21) could have a Sperry autopilot. It also could not carry a torpedo.

Prototype

The first Beaufighter Type 156 prototype flew on July 17, 1939. Orders were already made for 300 Beaufighter Mk IF fighters before the prototype first flew.

The Beaufighter Mk IIF prototype flew for the first time in July 1940 / March 22, 1941 at Filton.

Production

Produced by Bristol and Australian factories.

  • Beaufighter Mk I prototype: 4
  • Beaufighter Mk IC and Beaufighter Mk IF: 910
    • Manufactured by Bristol and Fairey
  • Beaufighter Mk IIF: 450
    • Manufactured by Bristol
  • Beaufighter Mk VI prototype: 1
  • Beaufighter Mk VIC and Beaufighter Mk VIF: 1,832, 1,851
    • Manufactured by Bristol, Fairey, and Rootes
  • Beaufighter TF.X: 2,205
    • Manufactured by Bristol and Rootes
  • Beaufighter Mk XIC: 163
  • Beaufighter Mk XXI: 365
    • Manufactured in Australia
  • Total: 5,562, 5,564, 5,584
    • Manufacturer: Bristol Aeroplane Co. Ltd.

Variants

  • Beaufighter Mk IC: Produced for Coastal Command. Night fighter.
  • Beaufighter Mk IF: Produced for Fighter Command. Night fighter. Had AI.Mk IV radar.
  • Beaufighter Mk IIF: Powered by Rolls-Royce Merlin XX inline engines. Joined night fighter squadrons in 1941. Had dihedral tail plane to help with stability.
  • Beaufighter Mk IIC: Produced for Coastal Command.
  • Beaufighter Mk III: Was to have two fins and rudders. Never produced. Had two Bristol Hercules III, X, or XI engines.
  • Beaufighter Mk IV: Was to have Rolls-Royce Merlin XX engines. Never produced.
  • Beaufighter Mk IVC: Produced for Coastal Command. Used Bristol Hercules radial engines. Had rear firing Vickers MG firing from navigator's hatch.
  • Beaufighter Mk V: Was to have a Boulton Paul dorsal turret with four guns. Two prototypes were tested in 1942. Was to have two Rolls-Royce Merlin XX engines.
  • Beaufighter Mk VIF: Produced for Fighter Command. Used Bristol Hercules radial engines. Had centimetric AI Mk VII radar in a larger nose.
  • Beaufighter Mk VI: Had an extended dorsal fin to help counter the swing of the tail on takeoff.
  • Beaufighter Mk VIC: Some carried an 18" / 0.447 m torpedo. Produced for Coastal Command. Could be armed with rockets.
  • Beaufighter Mk VII: Was to have two Bristol Hercules VIII engines and four bladed propellers. None were produced.
  • Beaufighter Mk VIII: Was to have two Bristol Hercules XVII engines Was to be manufactured in Australia. None were produced.
  • Beaufighter Mk IX: Was to have two Bristol Hercules XVII engines Was to be manufactured in Australia. None were produced.
  • Beaufighter TF.X: had a thimble shaped nose with centimetric radar to detect surface ships.

Usage

The first 50 produced shot down 60 enemy planes during the night battles over Britain in 1941.

United States

US Army Air Force in the Middle East and Mediterranean had Beaufighter Mk IVs in the 1st Tactical Air Command.

Against Japan

The Japanese nicked named it the "Whispering Death."

In 1945 Australian units outfitted with Beaufighters sank more than 400 Japanese ships.

Mk I

The Beaufighter Mk I was used by Australia, Britain, Canada, and New Zealand.

Battle of Britain

The first production models reached the Royal Air Force's Fighter Command in September 1940, just in time for the Battle of Britain. By November night fighter versions were operational.

First Success

A Beaufighter Mk IF shot down its first enemy plane on the night of November 19, 1940. It was a Junkers Ju 88 shot down by the 604 Squadron.

Western Desert

The Beaufighter Mk IF was used as a long range fighter in the Western Desert and from Malta.

Coastal Command

The Beaufighter Mk IC replaced the Blenheim Mk IVFs in the Royal Air Force's Coastal Command. It was used from the Bay of Biscay to Norway.

Night Fighter Units

  • No 25, No 29, No 68, No 141, No 153, No 219, No 256, No 600, No 604

Mk II

The Beaufighter Mk II was used by Australia, Britain, Canada, and New Zealand.

  • Units: No 255, No 307

Mk VI

Australia, Britain, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, and the United States used the Beaufighter Mk VIs.

Royal Air Force (RAF) squadrons with Beaufighter Mk VIs were located in Cyprus, India, Malta, North Africa, and Sardinia.

Night Fighters

Fourteen RAF night fighter squadrons were equipped with the Beaufighter Mk VIF. These were used until 1944 when they were replaced by Mosquitos.

In the Mediterranean four USAAF squadrons were equipped with the Beaufighter Mk VIF.

On April 30, 1943, off Setif, Fight Sergeant Downing and Sergeant Lyons shot down five Junkers Ju 52/3m transports within 10 minutes.

Units:

  • United Kingdom: No 29, No 68, No 96, No 125, No 141, No 153, No 219, No 255, No 256, No 272, No 307, No 600, No 604
  • Middle East: No 46, No 89, No 108, No 144, No 252
  • Far East: No 27, No 89, No 176, No 177

Strike Fighters

Coastal Command used the Beaufighter Mk VIC in Strike Wings. They were used on the coasts of Western Europe and up to Norway.

From April 1943 the Beaufighter Mk VICs were used in operations equipped with a torpedo. In May 1943 they could be equipped with rockets.

Far East

In the Far East the Japanese nicknamed the Beaufighters the "Whispering Death" because of the nose its engines made.

Mk X

The Bristol Beaufighter Mk X was used by Australia, Britain, and New Zealand.

The Beaufighter TF.X entered service in 1943. The first unit equipped with them was No 39 Squadron in Great Britain and No 47 Squadron in North Africa.

U-boat's Enemy

The TF.X was very effective against U-boats and in the course of two days in March 1945, the No 236 and No 254 Squadrons sank five.

After World War II Serve

The Beaufighter TF.X soldiered on into May 1960 with the last one used as a target tower.

Mk XI

The Bristol Beaufighter Mk XI was used by Australia, Britain, and New Zealand.

Mk XXI

The Bristol Beaufighter Mk XXI was used by Australia, Britain, and New Zealand.

After The War

The last Mk XXI was retired in 1957 after being a target tug.

Specifications

  Beaufighter
Type Day fighter, Night fighter, Reconnaissance, Torpedo bomber, Bomber
Crew 2
Pilot, Observer
Engine (Type)  
Propellers Constant speed
Fuel Capacity 463 gallons
Dimensions  
Span 57' 10"
17.65 m
Length 41' 4"
12.6 m
Height 15' 10"
4.84 m
Armament  
Nose 4: 20 mm
Wings 6: 0.303" MG
Rear 1: 0.303" Vickers MG
  Beaufighter Mk I
Type Day fighter, Night fighter
Engine (Type) 2: Bristol Hercules IV
HP 1,220 each
Dimensions  
Span 57' 10"
Length 41' 4"
Height 15' 10"
Weight  
Loaded 21,000 lb
Performance  
Speed 330 mph
Range 1,500 miles
Armament  
Nose 4: MG
Wings 6: MG
  Beaufighter Mk IC
Type Anti shipping strike fighter
Crew 2
Pilot, navigator/radio operator
Engine (Type) 2: Bristol Hercules III
OR 2: Bristol Hercules XI
Cylinders Radial 14
HP 1,400 each
OR 1,590 each
Propeller blades 3 each
Dimensions  
Span 57' 10"
17.63 m
Length 41' 4"
12.6 m
Height 15' 10"
4.83 m
Weight  
Empty 14,069 lb
6,382 kg
Loaded 21,100 lb
9,571 kg
Performance  
Speed at 15,000' / 4,572 m 323 mph
520 kph
Climb 1,850'/minute
564 m/minute
Climb to 10,000' / 3,050 m 5.8 minutes
Service ceiling 28,900'
8,808 m
Range 1,170 miles
1,883 km
Armament  
Nose 4: 20 mm
Wings 6: 0.303" MG
  Beaufighter Mk IF
Type Fighter, Night fighter, Long range day fighter
Crew 2
Pilot, radio operator
Engine (Type) 2: Bristol Hercules III
OR 2: Bristol Hercules XI
Cylinders Radial 14
Cooling Air
HP 1,400 each
Propeller blades 3 each
Dimensions  
Span 57' 10"
17.63 m
Length 41' 4"
12.6 m
Height 15' 10"
4.83 m
Weight  
Loaded 21,000 lb
Performance  
Speed at 15,000' / 4,572 m 321 mph
Service ceiling 26,500'
Range 1,170 miles
Armament  
Nose 4: 20 mm
Wings 6: MG
6: 0.303" MG
Wings - Port 2: 0.303" MG
Wings - Starboard 4: 0.303" MG
  Beaufighter Mk II
Engine (Type) 2: Rolls-Royce Merlin XXX
2: Rolls-Royce Merlin XX
Cylinders V 12
Cooling Liquid
HP 1,280 each
Dimensions  
Span 57' 10"
Length 41' 4"
Height 15' 10"
Weight  
Loaded 21,000 lb
Performance  
Speed 330 mph
Range 1,500 miles
  Beaufighter Mk IIF
Type Fighter, Night fighter, Long range day fighter
Engine (Type) 2: Rolls-Royce Merlin XX
Cylinders V 12
HP 1,280 each
Propeller blades 3 each
Dimensions  
Span 57' 10"
17.63 m
Length 41' 4"
12.6 m
Height 15' 10"
4.83 m
Armament  
Nose 4: 20 mm
Wings 6: 0.303" MG
  Beaufighter Mk VIC
Type Anti shipping strike fighter
Crew 2
Engine (Type) 2: Bristol Hercules VI
OR 2: Bristol Hercules XVI
Cylinders Radial 14
HP 1,670 each
Propeller blades 3 each
Dimensions  
Span 57' 10"
17.63 m
Length 41' 8"
12.7 m
Height 15' 10"
4.83 m
Weight  
Empty 14,600 lb
6,623 kg
Loaded 21,600 lb
9,798 kg
Performance  
Speed at 15,600' / 4,755 m 333 mph
536 kph
Climb to 15,000' / 4,572 m 7.8 minutes
Service ceiling 26,500'
8,077 m
Range 1,540 miles
2,478 km
Armament  
Nose 4: 20 mm
Wings 6: 0.303" MG
Navigator dorsal hatch 1: 0.303" MG
Bombs / Rockets 8: Rockets
OR  
Torpedo 1: 18"
1: 46 cm or 57 cm
  Beaufighter Mk VIF
Type Night fighter
Crew 2
Engine (Type) 2: Bristol Hercules VI
OR 2: Bristol Hercules XVI
Cylinders Radial 14
HP 1,670 each
Propeller blades 3 each
Dimensions  
Span 57' 10"
17.63 m
Length 41' 8"
12.7 m
Height 15' 10"
4.82 m, 4.83 m
Wing area 503 ft2
46.73 m2
Weight  
Empty 14,600 lb
6,623 kg
Loaded 21,600 lb
9,798 kg
Performance  
Speed at 14,000' / 4,420 m 315 mph
507 kph
Speed @ 15,600' / 4,755 m 333 mph
536 kph
Climb to 15,000' / 4,570 m 7.8 minutes
Climb to 15,000' / 4,572 m 7.8 minutes
Rate of Climb 2,000' per minute
610 m per minute
Service ceiling 26,000', 26,500'
7,930 m, 8.075 m, 8,077 m
Range 1,480 miles, 1,540 miles
2,382 km, 2,478 km, 2,480 km
Armament  
Nose 4: 20 mm
Port wing 2: 7.7 mm MG
Starboard wing 4: 7.7 mm MG
Wings 6: 0.303" / 7.7 mm MG
Dorsal 1: 0.303" / 7.7 mm MG
  Beaufighter Mk X, Beaufighter TF.X
Type Anti shipping strike fighter, Fighter bomber, Torpedo and rocket carrier
Crew 2 - 3
Engine (Type) 2: Bristol Hercules XVII
OR 2: Bristol Hercules XVIII
Cylinders Radial 14
Cooling Air
HP 1,735 each, 1,770 each
Propeller blades 3 each
Dimensions  
Span 57' 10"
17.63 m
Length 41' 4", 41' 8"
12.7 m
Height 15' 10"
4.83 m
Weight  
Empty 15,600 lb
7,076 kg
Loaded 25,200 lb, 25,400 lb
11,521 kg
Performance  
Speed at 1,300' 303 mph
Speed at 10,000' / 3,050 m 320 mph
515 kph
Service ceiling 26,500'
Range 1,400 miles, 1,470 miles
2,253 km
Armament  
Nose 2: 20 mm
4: 20 mm
Observer 1: 0.303" MG
Torpedo 1: 18"
1: 1,700 lb, 2,717 lb
  Beaufighter TF Mk X
Type Low level strike fighter
Crew 2
Engine (Type) 2: Bristol Hercules XVII
2: Bristol Hercules XVIII piston
Cylinders Radial
HP 1,770 each
Propeller blades 3
Dimensions  
Span 57' 10", 58'
17.63 m
Length 41' 8", 42'
12.7 m
Height 15' 10", 16'
4.83 m
Wing area 503 sq ft
46.73 sq m
Weight  
Empty 15,507 lb, 15,600 lb
7,076 kg
Loaded 25,200 lb
11,431 kg
Performance  
Speed at 1,300' / 395 m 303 mph
488 kph
Speed at 1,312' / 400 m 330 mph
488 kph
Speed at 10,000' / 3,050 m 318 mph
512 kph
Cruising speed 205 mph
330 kph
Climb 1,600'/minute
488 m/minute
Climb to 5,000' / 1,525 m 3 minutes 30 seconds
Service ceiling 15,000', 19,000', 29,000'
4,570 m, 5,792 m
Range 1,470 miles
2,365 km, 2,366 km
Armament  
Nose 4: 20 mm
4: 20 mm Hispano
Wings 6: 0.303" MG
Forward firing 6: 7.7 mm MG
OR 4: 20 mm
Dorsal position 1: 7.7 mm Vickers "K"
1: 7.7 mm / 0.303" MG
Bombs 230 lb bombs
113 kg bombs
2: 250 lb OR 1: 500 lb OR 2: 500 lb
2: 113 kg OR 1: 227 kg OR 2: 227 kg
OR  
Rockets 8: 60 lb / 27.2 kg, 90 lb / 41 kg air to surface rockets
8: Rockets
OR  
Torpedo 1: 22.5"
1: 57 cm
OR 1: 18"
1: 45.7 cm, 46 cm
  Beaufighter Mk XI
Type Anti shipping strike fighter
Crew 2
Engine (Type) 2: Bristol Hercules XVII
OR 2: Bristol Hercules XVIII
Cylinders Radial 14
HP 1,735 each
Propeller blades 3 each
Dimensions  
Span 57' 10"
17.63 m
Length 41' 8"
12.7 m
Height 15' 10"
4.83 m
Weight  
Empty 15,600 lb
7,076 kg
Loaded 25,400 lb
11,521 kg
  Beaufighter Mk XIC
Type Anti shipping strike fighter
Crew 2
Engine (Type) 2: Bristol Hercules XVII
OR 2: Bristol Hercules XVIII
Cylinders Radial 14
HP 1,735 each
Propeller blades 3 each
Dimensions  
Span 57' 10"
17.63 m
Length 41' 8"
12.7 m
Height 15' 10"
4.83 m
Weight  
Empty 15,600 lb
7,076 kg
Loaded 25,400 lb
11,521 kg
  Beaufighter Mk XXI
Type Anti shipping strike fighter
Crew 2
Engine (Type) 2: Bristol Hercules XVII
OR 2: Bristol Hercules XVIII
Cylinders Radial 14
HP 1,735 each
Propeller blades 3 each
Dimensions  
Span 57' 10"
17.63 m
Length 41' 8"
12.7 m
Height 15' 10"
4.83 m
Weight  
Empty 15,600 lb
7,076 kg
Loaded 25,400 lb
11,521 kg
Armament  
Wings 4: 0.5" MG
Rockets 8
OR  
Bombs 1,000 lb
454 kg

 

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. Jane's Fighting Aircraft of World War II, 1989
  6. Aeronautics Aircraft Spotters' Handbook, Ensign L. C. Guthman, 1943
  7. The Encyclopedia of Weapons of World War II, Chris Bishop, 1998
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