War Machine, Volume 4

Bristol Beaufighter (continued) Night Fighters of World War II engines. The Beaufighter Mk V fea­tured a four-gun Defiant-type dorsal turret but was abandoned as this im­peded the pilot's emergency exit. The Beaufighter Mk VIF then became stan­dard as the RAF's principal night- fighter until the arrival of the de Havil­ land Mosquito Mk II equipping as night-fighters Nos 296896125141,153219255256307600 and 604 Squadrons in the U K and Nos 4689,108144252 and 272 Squadrons in the Middle East during 1942-3. Among the home-based Beaufighter Mk VIF squadrons which moved to the Mediterranean theatre after the North African landings were Nos 255 and 600 Squadrons and with the latter Flight Sergeant Downing and Sergeant Lyons in a Beaufighter Mk VIF shot down five Junkers Ju 52/3m transports in 10 minutes off Setif on 30 April 1943, In the Far East night-fighter Beau­ fighter Mk VIFs served with Nos 27,89,176 and 177 Squadrons principally in the Calcutta area and over Burma, When it first arrived in service the Beaufighter was widely regarded as tricky to fly particularly on one engine indue course the fin area was in­creased and dihedral applied to the tailplane to improve lateral control re­sulting in a fine night-fighter on which the RAF came to depend for two years in the mid-war period. Specification Beaufighter Mk VIF Type: two-seat night-fighter Powerplant:two l,670-hp(1245-kW) Bristol Hercules VI or XVI air-cooled sleeve-valve radial piston engines Performance: maximum speed 536 km/h (333 mph) at 4755 m (15600 ft) climb to 4570 m (15000 ft) in 7 minutes 48 seconds service ceiling 8075 m (26500 ft) normal range 2382 km (1480 miles) Weights: empty 6006623 kg(14 lb) This Bea ufigh ter Mk VIF has a dihedralled tailplane but is still fitted with original AI MkIVradar, with a ‘ harpoonarrowhead on the nose and receiver dipoles on the maximum take-off9798 kg (21600 lb) Dimensions: span 1763 m (57 ft 10 in) length 12.70 m(41 ft8 in) height4.83 m (15 ft 10 in) wing area 46.73 m2 (503 sq ft) wings. The RAF unit is not known but it was home-based because in the Mediterranean inlet air filters were fitted. Armament: four 20-mm cannon in nose and six 7.7-mm (0.303-in) machine- guns in the outer wings and one hand­ held 7-mm 7 (0.303-in) machine-gun in dorsal hatch Boulton Paul Defiant An original Defiant Mk 1 of No. 264 Sqn (COs aircraft) with turret fairings raised and ventral radio masts extended. The saga of the Boulton Paul Defiant Mk I began with the type's short and disastrous service in RAF Fighter Command as a day fighter entering combat at the time of the Dunkirk eva­cuation. By the opening of the Battle of Britain the Luftwaffe had the measure of the British two-seat turret fighter and decimated the two squadrons Nos 141 and 264 so equipped Hurriedly with­drawn as a day fighter at the end of August 1940 the Defiant transferred tonight fighting and gained its first two night victories during the latter half of September Indeed for many years the Defiant was credited with the highest number of victories per interception of any RAF night fighter during the night Blitz: only relatively recently has this distinction been correctly assigned to the Bristol Blenheim in the last four months of 1940 and to the Beaufighter in the first five months of 1941. Early operations by Defiants at night were carried out without the benefit of AI radar the aircraft simply being day fighters flown at night in conjunction with searchlights. The first Defiant squadron formed specifically for night fighting was No. 307 staffed by Polish pilots with the RAF in September 1940, followed by Nos 255 and 256 Squad­rons in November and N o 151 Squad­ron in December. All these became operational in early 1941 when the first conversions to mount AI Mk VI radar became available No. 85 Squadron received Defiants in January 1941 but flew only three operational sorties before discarding the aircraft on receiving orders to con­vert to the Douglas Havoc No 96 Squadron on the other hand flew Defiants from February 1941 until June 1942 initially to provide night defen­sive patrols over Merseyside. Only! two other squadrons flew the Defiant as a night-fighter (apart from the ex­ day squadrons Nos 141 and 264) No. 125 being informed June 1941 and No. 153 in October the same year. All re­mained in the U K .The tactics employed by the Defiant night-fighter were as difficult as they were unique as the turret guns (the only armament possessed by the air­craft) were seldom fired forward be­cause their flash blinded the pilot. In­stead the aircraft using its AI radar, would engage in along stern chase (for the Defiant was slow by compari­son with other fighters) gradually draw alongside or beneath the enemy bomber before opening fire with its rifle-calibre guns. Quick direct hits were needed in vital parts of the target before the enemy gunners returned the fire or the German pilot took violent evasive action by that time both Defiant crew members would have lost all night vision. One other night duty was under­taken by night-flying Defiants when aircraft of No. 515 Squadron specially equipped by TRE (Telecommunica­tions Research Establishment) were used to jam enemy coastal radar from 1942 onwards. Specification Defiant Mk I Type: two-seat night-fighter Powerplant:one l,030-hp(768-kW) Rolls-Royce Merlin III V-12 liquid- cooled piston engine Performance: maximum speed 488 km/h (303 mph) at 5030 m (16500 ft) initial climb rate 579 m (1900 ft)per minute service ceiling 9295 m (30500 ft) range 756 km (470 miles) Weights: empty 2722 kg (6000 lb) maximum take-off3788 kg (8350 lb) Dimensions: span 11.99 m (39 ft 4 in) length 10.77 m(35 ft 4 in) height 3.71 m (12 ft 2 in) wing area 23225 m2 (250 sq ft) Armament: four 7-mm 7 (0.303-in) Browning machine-guns in Boulton Paul power-operated gun turret with 600 rounds per gun In contrast this Defiant Mk II is seen much later in the war serving as a night fighter with No. 151 Sqn oneof the longest-established night fighter units in the world (that was its special task in 1917).723
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