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Great Britain's flag Great Britain's RAF aircraft marking

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.3,4 The design work on the Beaufighter started in late 1938.4

The early Hercules engines were replaced by Merlins and the first one flew on July 26, 1940.1

The observer's rear bubble could have a Vickers "K" Machine gun installed.1

In the rear fuselage was an emergency store of food and water.1

When carrying a torpedo the Beaufighter had some instabilities so a dihedral tail plane was installed.1

The Beaufighter Mk VI was introduced in 1942.3

The Beaufighter TF.X was especially designed for low level attacks.3 It could also carry a AI Mk. VIII air surface radar.3 To help cure a stability problem, late models had a dorsal fin extension.3

The Beaufighter Mk XIC couldn't carry a torpedo like the TF.X but was similar in many ways.2

The Beaufighter Mk XXI (Mk 21) could have a Sperry autopilot.2 It also could not carry a torpedo.2

Prototype

The first Beaufighter Type 156 prototype flew on July 17, 1939.1,2,3,4,5 Orders were already made for 300 Beaufighter Mk IF fighters before the prototype first flew.3,4

The Beaufighter Mk IIF prototype flew for the first time in July 1940.3

Production

Produced by Bristol and Australian factories.1

  • Beaufighter Mk I prototype: 43
  • Beaufighter Mk IC and Beaufighter Mk IF: 9103
    • Manufactured by Bristol and Fairey3
  • Beaufighter Mk IIF: 4503
    • Manufactured by Bristol3
  • Beaufighter Mk VI prototype: 13
  • Beaufighter Mk VIC and Beaufighter Mk VIF: 1,8324, 1,8513
    • Manufactured by Bristol, Fairey, and Rootes3
  • Beaufighter TF.X: 2,2053
    • Manufactured by Bristol and Rootes3
  • Beaufighter Mk XIC: 1633
  • Beaufighter Mk XXI: 3653
    • Manufactured in Australia3
  • Total: 5,5622,4, 5,5641, 5,5843
    • Manufacturer: Bristol Aeroplane Co. Ltd.4

Variants

  • Beaufighter Mk IC: Produced for Coastal Command.2,5 Night fighter.2,5
  • Beaufighter Mk IF: Produced for Fighter Command.2,5 Night fighter.2,5 Had AI.Mk IV radar.2
  • Beaufighter Mk IIF: Powered by Rolls-Royce Merlin XX inline engines.2 Joined night fighter squadrons in 1941.2 Had dihedral tail plane to help with stability.3
  • Beaufighter Mk IIC: Produced for Coastal Command.5
  • Beaufighter Mk III: Was to have two fins and rudders.3 Never produced.3,5 Had two Bristol Hercules III, X, or XI engines.5
  • Beaufighter Mk IV: Was to have Rolls-Royce Merlin XX engines.3,5 Never produced.3
  • Beaufighter Mk IVC: Produced for Coastal Command.2 Used Bristol Hercules radial engines.2 Had rear firing Vickers MG firing from navigator's hatch.2
  • Beaufighter Mk V: Was to have a Boulton Paul dorsal turret with four guns.3,5 Two prototypes were tested in 1942.3,5 Was to have two Rolls-Royce Merlin XX engines.5
  • Beaufighter Mk VIF: Produced for Fighter Command.2,3 Used Bristol Hercules radial engines.2 Had centimetric AI Mk VII radar in a larger nose.2
  • Beaufighter Mk VI: Had an extended dorsal fin to help counter the swing of the tail on takeoff.2
  • Beaufighter Mk VIC: Some carried an 18" / 0.447 m torpedo.2 Produced for Coastal Command.2 Could be armed with rockets.7
  • Beaufighter Mk VII: Was to have two Bristol Hercules VIII engines and four bladed propellars.5 None were produced.5
  • Beaufighter Mk VIII: Was to have two Bristol Hercules XVII engines5 Was to be manufactured in Australia.5 None were produced.5
  • Beaufighter Mk IX: Was to have two Bristol Hercules XVII engines5 Was to be manufactured in Australia.5 None were produced.5
  • Beaufighter TF.X: had a thimble shaped nose with centimetric radar to detect surface ships.1,3

Usage

The first 50 produced shot down 60 enemy planes during the night battles over Britain in 1941.1

United States

US Army Air Force in the Middle East and Mediterranean had Beaufighter Mk IVs in the 1st Tactical Air Command.1,5

Against Japan

The Japanese nicked named it the "Whispering Death."1,3,4,7

In 1945 Australian units outfitted with Beaufighters sank more than 400 Japanese ships.1

Mk I

The Beaufighter Mk I was used by Australia, Britain, Canada, and New Zealand.1

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.1 By November night fighter versions were operational.1

First Success

A Beaufighter Mk IF shot down its first enemy plane on the night of November 19, 1940.1,2 It was a Junkers Ju 88 shot down by the 604 Squadron.1

Western Desert

The Beaufighter Mk IF was used as a long range fighter in the Western Desert and from Malta.1

Coastal Command

The Beaufighter Mk IC replaced the Blenheim Mk IVFs in the Royal Air Force's Coastal Command.1 It was used from the Bay of Biscay to Norway.1

Mk II

The Beaufighter Mk II was used by Australia, Britain, Canada, and New Zealand.1

Mk VI

Australia, Britain, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, and the United States used the Beaufighter Mk VIs.3,5

Royal Air Force (RAF) squadrons with Beaufighter Mk VIs were located in Cyprus, India, Malta, North Africa, and Sardinia.3

Night Fighters

Fourteen RAF night fighter squadrons were equipped with the Beaufighter Mk VIF.3 These were used until 1944 when they were replaced by Mosquitos.3

In the Mediterranean four USAAF squadrons were equipped with the Beaufighter Mk VIF.3

Strike Fighters

Coastal Command used the Beaufighter Mk VIC in Strike Wings.3 They were used on the coasts of Western Europe and up to Norway.3

From April 1943 the Beaufighter Mk VICs were used in operations equipped with a torpedo.3 In May 1943 they could be equipped with rockets.3

Far East

In the Far East the Japanese nicknamed the Beaufighters the "Whispering Death" because of the nose its engines made.3

Mk X

The Bristol Beaufighter Mk X was used by Australia, Britain, and New Zealand.3

The Beaufighter TF.X entered service in 1943.3,7 The first unit equipped with them was No 39 Squadron in Great Britain and No 47 Squadron in North Africa.7

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.3

After World War II Serve

The Beaufighter TF.X soldiered on into May 1960 with the last one used as a target tower.3

Mk XI

The Bristol Beaufighter Mk XI was used by Australia, Britain, and New Zealand.3

Mk XXI

The Bristol Beaufighter Mk XXI was used by Australia, Britain, and New Zealand.3

After The War

The last Mk XXI was retired in 1957 after being a target tug.2

Specifications

  Beaufighter
Type Day fighter5, Night fighter5, Reconnaissance5, Torpedo bomber5, Bomber5
Crew 25
Pilot, Observer5
Engine (Type)  
Propellers Constant speed5
Fuel Capacity 463 gallons5
Dimensions  
Span 57' 10"5
17.65 m5
Length 41' 4"5
12.6 m5
Height 15' 10"5
4.84 m5
Weight  
Loaded  
Performance  
Speed  
Range  
Armament  
Nose 4: 20 mm5
Wings 6: 0.303" MG5
Rear 1: 0.303" Vickers MG5
  Beaufighter Mk I
Type Day fighter6, Night fighter6
Engine (Type) 2: Bristol Hercules IV6
HP 1,220 each6
Dimensions  
Span 57' 10"6
Length 41' 4"6
Height 15' 10"6
Weight  
Loaded 21,000 lb6
Performance  
Speed 330 mph6
Range 1,500 miles6
Armament  
Nose 4: MG6
Wings 6: MG6
  Beaufighter Mk IC
Type Anti shipping strike fighter1,5
Crew 21
Pilot, navigator/radio operator5
Engine (Type) 2: Bristol Hercules III1,5
OR 2: Bristol Hercules XI1,5
Cylinders Radial 141
HP 1,400 each1
OR 1,590 each1
Propeller blades 3 each1
Dimensions  
Span 57' 10"1
17.63 m1
Length 41' 4"1
12.6 m1
Height 15' 10"1
4.83 m1
Weight  
Empty 14,069 lb1
6,382 kg1
Loaded 21,100 lb1
9,571 kg1
Performance  
Speed @ 15,000' /
4,572 m
323 mph1
520 kph1
Climb 1,850'/minute1
564 m/minute1
Climb to 10,000' /
3,050 m
5.8 minutes1
Service ceiling 28,900'1
8,808 m1
Range 1,170 miles1
1,883 km1
Armament  
Nose 4: 20 mm1
Wings 6: 0.303" MG1
  Beaufighter Mk IF
Type Fighter4, Night fighter1,5, Long range day fighter1
Crew 21,4,5
Pilot, radio operator5
Engine (Type) 2: Bristol Hercules III5
OR 2: Bristol Hercules XI4,5
Cylinders Radial 144
Cooling Air4
HP 1,400 each4
Propeller blades 3 each1
Dimensions  
Span 57' 10"1,4
17.63 m1
Length 41' 4"1,4
12.6 m1
Height 15' 10"1,4
4.83 m1
Weight  
Loaded 21,000 lb4
Performance  
Speed @ 15,000' /
4,572 m
321 mph4
Service ceiling 26,500'4
Range 1,170 miles4
Armament  
Nose 4: 20 mm1,4,5
Wings 6: MG4
6: 0.303" MG1
Wings - Port 2: 0.303" MG5
Wings - Starboard 4: 0.303" MG5
  Beaufighter Mk II
Engine (Type) 2: Rolls-Royce Merlin XXX2
2: Rolls-Royce Merlin XX3
Cooling Liquid3
HP 1,280 each2
Dimensions  
Span 57' 10"2
Length 41' 4"2
Height 15' 10"2
Weight  
Loaded 21,000 lb2
Performance  
Speed 330 mph2
Range 1,500 miles2
  Beaufighter Mk IIF
Type Fighter5, Night fighter1, Long range day fighter1
Engine (Type) 2: Rolls-Royce Merlin XX1
Cylinders V 121
HP 1,280 each1
Propeller blades 3 each1
Dimensions  
Span 57' 10"1
17.63 m1
Length 41' 4"1
12.6 m1
Height 15' 10"1
4.83 m1
Armament  
Nose 4: 20 mm1
Wings 6: 0.303" MG1
  Beaufighter Mk VIC
Type Anti shipping strike fighter3
Crew 23
Engine (Type) 2: Bristol Hercules VI3,5
OR 2: Bristol Hercules XVI3,5
Cylinders Radial 143
HP 1,670 each3
Propeller blades 3 each3
Dimensions  
Span 57' 10"3
17.63 m3
Length 41' 8"3
12.7 m3
Height 15' 10"3
4.83 m3
Weight  
Empty 14,600 lb3
6,623 kg3
Loaded 21,600 lb3
9,798 kg3
Performance  
Speed @ 15,600' /
4,755 m
333 mph3
536 kph3
Climb to 15,000' /
4,572 m
7.8 minutes3
Service ceiling 26,500'3
8,077 m3
Range 1,540 miles3
2,478 km3
Armament  
Nose 4: 20 mm3
Wings 6: 0.303" MG3
Navigator dorsal hatch 1: 0.303" MG3
Bombs / Rockets 8: Rockets3
OR  
Torpedo 1: 18"3
1: 46 cm or 57 cm3
  Beaufighter Mk VIF
Type Night fighter1,3
Crew 21
Engine (Type) 2: Bristol Hercules VI1,3
OR 2: Bristol Hercules XVI1,3
Cylinders Radial1 143
HP 1,670 each1,3
Propeller blades 3 each3
Dimensions  
Span 57' 10"1,3
17.63 m1,3
Length 41' 8"1,3
12.7 m1,3
Height 15' 10"1,3
4.82 m1, 4.83 m3
Wing area 503 ft2 1
46.73 m2 1
Weight  
Empty 14,600 lb1,3
6,623 kg1,3
Loaded 21,600 lb1
9,798 kg1
Performance  
Speed at 14,000' /
4,420 m
315 mph5
507 kph5
Speed @ 15,600' /
4,755 m
333 mph1,3
536 kph1,3
Climb to 15,000' /
4,570 m
7.8 minutes1
Climb to 15,000' /
4,572 m
7.8 minutes3
Rate of Climb 2,000' per minute5
610 m per minute5
Service ceiling 26,000'5, 26,500'1,3
7,930 m5, 8.075 m1, 8,077 m3
Range 1,480 miles1, 1,540 miles3,5
2,382 km1, 2,478 km3, 2,480 km5
Armament  
Nose 4: 20 mm1,3
Port wing 2: 7.7 mm MG1
Starboard wing 4: 7.7 mm MG1
Wings 6: 0.303" MG3
  Beaufighter Mk X, Beaufighter TF.X
Type Anti shipping strike fighter3, Fighter bomber4, Torpedo and rocket carrier5
Crew 2 - 34
Engine (Type) 2: Bristol Hercules XVII3,4,5
OR 2: Bristol Hercules XVIII3,5
Cylinders Radial 143,4
Cooling Air4
HP 1,735 each3, 1,770 each4
Propeller blades 3 each3
Dimensions  
Span 57' 10"3,4
17.63 m3
Length 41' 4"4, 41' 8"3
12.7 m3
Height 15' 10"3,4
4.83 m3
Weight  
Empty 15,600 lb3
7,076 kg3
Loaded 25,200 lb4, 25,400 lb3
11,521 kg3
Performance  
Speed @ 1,300' 303 mph4
Speed at 10,000'
3,050 m
320 mph5
515 kph5
Service ceiling 26,500'4
Range 1,400 miles5, 1,470 miles4
2,253 km5
Armament  
Nose 2: 20 mm4
4: 20 mm5
Observer 1: 0.303" MG5
Torpedo 1: 18"5
1: 1,700 lb5, 2,717 lb4
  Beaufighter TF Mk X
Type Low level strike fighter1,7
Crew 21,7
Engine (Type) 2: Bristol Hercules XVII7
2: Bristol Hercules XVIII piston1
Cylinders Radial1,7
HP 1,770 each1,7
Propeller blades 31
Dimensions  
Span 57' 10"7, 58'1
17.63 m1,7
Length 41' 8"7, 42'1
12.7 m1,7
Height 15' 10"7, 16'1
4.83 m1,7
Wing area 503 sq ft1,7
46.73 sq m1,7
Weight  
Empty 15,507 lb1, 15,600 lb7
7,076 kg1,7
Loaded 25,200 lb1,7
11,431 kg1,7
Performance  
Speed at 1,300' / 395 m 303 mph7
488 kph7
Speed at 1,312' / 400 m 330 mph1
488 kph1
Speed at 10,000' / 3,050 m 318 mph3
512 kph3
Cruising speed 205 mph3
330 kph3
Climb 1,600'/minute3
488 m/minute3
Climb to 5,000' / 1,525 m 3 minutes 30 seconds7
Service ceiling 15,000'7, 19,000'3, 29,000'1
4,570 m1,7, 5,792 m3
Range 1,470 miles1,3,7
2,365 km7, 2,366 km1,3
Armament  
Nose 4: 20 mm3
4: 20 mm Hispano7
Wings 6: 0.303" MG3
Forward firing 6: 7.7 mm MGs
OR 4: 20 mm1
Dorsal position 1: 7.7 mm Vickers "K"1
1: 7.7 mm / 0.303" MG3,7
Bombs 230 lb bombs1
113 kg bombs1
2: 250 lb3,7 OR 1: 500 lb3 OR 2: 500 lb7
2: 113 kg3,7 OR 1: 227 kg3 OR 2: 227 kg7
OR  
Rockets 8: 60 lb / 27.2 kg7, 90 lb / 41 kg1 air to surface rockets
8: Rockets3
OR  
Torpedo 1: 22.5"3
1: 57 cm3
OR 1: 18"3,7
1: 45.7 cm7, 46 cm3
  Beaufighter Mk XI
Type Anti shipping strike fighter3
Crew 23
Engine (Type) 2: Bristol Hercules XVII3
OR 2: Bristol Hercules XVIII3
Cylinders Radial 143
HP 1,735 each3
Propeller blades 3 each3
Dimensions  
Span 57' 10"3
17.63 m3
Length 41' 8"3
12.7 m3
Height 15' 10"3
4.83 m3
Weight  
Empty 15,600 lb3
7,076 kg3
Loaded 25,400 lb3
11,521 kg3
  Beaufighter Mk XIC
Type Anti shipping strike fighter3
Crew 23
Engine (Type) 2: Bristol Hercules XVII3
OR 2: Bristol Hercules XVIII3
Cylinders Radial 143
HP 1,735 each3
Propeller blades 3 each3
Dimensions  
Span 57' 10"3
17.63 m3
Length 41' 8"3
12.7 m3
Height 15' 10"3
4.83 m3
Weight  
Empty 15,600 lb3
7,076 kg3
Loaded 25,400 lb3
11,521 kg3
  Beaufighter Mk XXI
Type Anti shipping strike fighter3
Crew 23
Engine (Type) 2: Bristol Hercules XVII3
OR 2: Bristol Hercules XVIII3
Cylinders Radial 143
HP 1,735 each3
Propeller blades 3 each3
Dimensions  
Span 57' 10"3
17.63 m3
Length 41' 8"3
12.7 m3
Height 15' 10"3
4.83 m3
Weight  
Empty 15,600 lb3
7,076 kg3
Loaded 25,400 lb3
11,521 kg3
Armament  
Wings 4: 0.5" MG3
Rockets 83
OR  
Bombs 1,000 lb3
454 kg3

 

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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