Military Review

Bristol Beaufighter: first fighter with radar

Bristol Beaufighter - British double heavy fighter (night fighter), which during the war years was also used as a torpedo bomber and light bomber. The aircraft was truly multipurpose, but entered history mainly for the reason that it became the first serial combat aircraft in history, on board of which radar appeared. The presence of airborne radar was typical for the version of the Bristol Beaufighter Mk IF, which was quite successfully used as a two-seater night fighter.

At the beginning of World War II, it was Britain that was one of the leading leaders in the field of radar. The armed forces of this country at that time had the opportunity to use an extensive network of radar warning about air attacks, radars were quite widely used on warships of the British Navy, aviation and in air defense. It was the British armed forces that were among the first in the world to use radars in wartime, largely predetermining the development of radar for many years to come.

The first aircraft radar, designated AI Mark I, was put into service on the 11 June 1939. Due to the large weight (about 270 kg) and large enough size, and also because it required additional crew members to service, the radar could only be installed on Bristol Beaufighter heavy fighter-interceptor fighters that were created on the basis of the bomber torpedo bristol beaufort. It was on the heavy Beaufighter fighter that the British were testing the new system, of all the types of aircraft that at that time were at the disposal of the Royal Air Force, it was this machine that was best suited for this.

Bristol Beaufighter: first fighter with radar

Antenna radar AI Mk. IV in the bow of the fighter Bristol Beaufighter

In May, 1940, even before the start of the air “Battle of Britain”, the Royal Air Force received a new model of the airborne radar - AI Mark II. Such airborne radar stations were equipped with 6 interceptor fighter squadrons. And the first British truly massive aviation radar (Airborne Interception radar) was the AI ​​Mark IV model (it had working indices SCR-540 or AIR 5003). This radar model began to enter service in July 1940. The radar operated at a frequency of 193 MHz and, with a power of 10 KW, ensured the detection of air targets at a distance of up to 5,5 kilometers. A total of about 3 thousands of stations of this model were produced, they were massively enough put on the aircraft Bristol Beaufighter, Bristol Beaufort, de Havilland Mosquito, Lockheed Ventura and Douglas A-20 Havoc.

It should be noted that in the USSR when installing the onboard radar on the plane faced the same problems as the British. The station kit with power supplies and cables weighed about 500 kg, so it could not be installed on single-seat fighters of its time. As a result, it was decided to install similar equipment on the Pe-2 double dive bomber. It was on this plane that the first Russian Gneiss-2 radar appeared. The radar was placed on a reconnaissance Pe-2Р modification; in this configuration, the aircraft could be used as a night fighter. The first Soviet airborne radar Gneiss-2 was put into service in the 1942 year. In just two years, more than 230 such stations were collected. And in the victorious 1945 year, the specialists of the Fazotron-NIIR enterprise, today part of KRET, launched the production of a new Gneiss-5 radar with target detection range reaching 7 kilometers.

Heavy double fighter Bristol Beaufighter

The new design of the Bristol aircraft. The 156 Type Beaufighter was born as the fruit of improvisation from the designers of the company Roy Fedden and Leslie Fraes. By that time, the company, located in the suburbs of the city of the same name in the southwestern part of England, had actually completed work on the project of a torpedo bomber under the designation Beaufort. The proposal of the designers of the company Bristol was to use ready-made units of torpedo in the construction of a new heavy fighter. The main essence of the idea they proposed was to borrow the wing, the tail elements and the chassis of the Beaufort model in combination with the power plant, consisting of two Hercules piston engines. The company's engineers believed that representatives of the British Air Force would be interested in a new, well-armed multi-purpose aircraft, and they were right.

Bristol Beaufighter Mk.IF

Sketch proposals for the new aircraft were ready in just a few days, after which October 8 1938 was presented to employees of the UK Ministry of Aviation. After reviewing the drawings, the ministry placed an order for an 4 prototype aircraft. The management of the British military-air department made a new impression due, especially they were delighted with the strong firepower of the car. It was obvious that the new aircraft would be able to occupy the niche of a long-range heavy fighter vacant in the Royal Air Force.

The first experienced double heavy fighter, the Bristol Beaufighter, took to the skies 17 July 1939. The aircraft was a cantilevered all-metal mid-plane (with the exception of the steering surfaces, which had a plain skin) with the traditional design of the semi-monocoque and plumage type. The fuselage power elements located along the bottom carried a concentrated load in the form of 20-mm aircraft guns. The landing gear was retractable, three-point with a tail wheel. The main landing gear folded back into the engine nacelles, and the tail wheel was retracted into the fuselage of the car. Airplane brakes were pneumatic.

The two-spar wing of a heavy fighter consisted of three main parts - the central section and two consoles with detachable tips. The central section of the wing was the basis of the entire design of the machine, namely it was joined by engine nacelles with engines, consoles, the front and rear parts of the aircraft fuselage, as well as the main landing gear. The entire wing of the heavy two-seater fighter had working trim, which increased its maneuverability. The aircraft nacelles housed two 14-cylinder double-row radial piston engines Bristol Hercules. The engine was very successful and was mass produced in the UK in various versions; more than 57 thousands of such engines were produced. Three different modifications of the engines presented were installed on the four experienced Beaufighter fighters; the third and fourth aircraft received engines Hercules II. The fuel for the engines was located in four aluminum welded tanks equipped with a self-tightening coating: two (885 liters each) were located in the central section of the wing, one each with a capacity of 395 liters - in the consoles.

Bristol Beaufighter Mk.IF

Comments on the glider of the new aircraft on the test results turned out to be insignificant. The only changes were to increase the keel area and the appearance of a more rigid elevator control circuit. Also with a reserve for the future, the chassis was updated, which received a larger stroke of shock absorbers. This was done in view of the further possible increase in the mass of the aircraft and the mitigation of strong blows, which could have been observed when making heavy landings at night.

Much more questions caused the power plant of the aircraft, which has become a subject of special concern. The first prototype demonstrated on tests the speed of 539 km / h at an altitude of 5120 meters. But the problem was that the experienced aircraft in full combat gear reached only 497 km / h at an altitude of 4580 meters. This speed somewhat disappointed the military, especially given the fact that the engines of the next stage of the Hercules III, which developed at a height of maximum power about 1500 hp, could not significantly improve the situation. In addition, Hercules engines were needed for installation on other serial machines, which could lead to problems. As a result, it was decided that the Bofighter part would initially be equipped with Rolls-Royce Merlin XX engines, the first production modification of the Merlin engine with a two-speed supercharger.

Another important issue was the selection of the composition of the weapons of a heavy fighter. Since the very first version of the aircraft, the Beaufighter Mk IF, was considered to be a night fighter (the military quickly realized that there was enough space inside the fuselage to accommodate a cumbersome radar to intercept air targets), this required the vehicle to be concentrated in high density fire. Such a concentration of fire was necessary for the guaranteed destruction and decommissioning of enemy aircraft immediately after the fighter exited radar guidance to the optimum distance for opening fire. The search-aimed radar - the radar (AI) Mk IV - was located in the forward fuselage. Four 20-mm Hispano Mk.I aircraft cannon, located in the lower nose of the fuselage, became standard armament of the Mk IF variant. The guns had drum food stores, designed for 60 shells. After the release of the first 50 serial fighters, the Beafter’s weaponry was further strengthened, adding six Browning 7,7-mm machine guns at once, four of which were located in the right wing of the wing, and the remaining two in the left. This made the Bristol Beaufighter the most armed fighter used by the Royal Air Force during the Second World War.

Quite large orders were received for the aircraft, which required the deployment of three assembly lines at once: at the Bristol plant located in Filton, at the new plant in Westen-super-Mare (Somerset), and also at the Fairey plant in Stockport (Lancashire). During the war, many modifications of the Beaufighter aircraft were implemented, which suggested various options for combat use. For example, due to the acute need for a day long-range fighter for fighting in the Sahara and the Mediterranean, the 80 model aircraft of the Mk IF model were adapted for flying in the sands, and their flight range was increased by placing an additional fuel tank of 227 liters in the fuselage.

Since May 1940 to 1946, the 5928 Bofaiter aircraft of various modifications have been released. After the war, these aircraft were used, including as towing air targets. The latest Bristol Beaufighter aircraft were decommissioned in Australia in 1960.

Combat use of Bristol Beaufighter with radar

Since the design of the aircraft is very widely used parts and elements already produced at that time serially torpedo bomber “Beaufort”, the appearance of “Beaufighter” in the army was not long in coming. From the moment of the first flight until the appearance of a new heavy fighter in the army, only about 13 months passed, the plane managed to begin the air battle for Britain. Since September 1940, the first British fighter squadrons began to arm themselves with mass-produced vehicles.

Bristol Beaufighter Mk.IF

8 September 1940, the first heavy double-seat fighters with a "magic mirror", as the pilots called it, began to enter the 600 squadron of air defense for military tests. Since November of the same year, the production of the “radar” version of the Beaufighter fighter has become serial. On the night of 19 on 20 in November, the first successful combat interception of an aerial target occurred using the onboard radar of the aircraft. During a combat patrol, the radio operator Sergeant Philipson reported to the pilot, Lieutenant Kanninhem, that an aerial target was observed five kilometers to the north. The pilot changed course and, passing through a continuous chain of clouds, became close to the aircraft observed on the radar screen, which soon became visible to the naked eye. Cunningham recognized the German twin-engine bomber Ju.88 in the enemy. Unnoticed by the enemy’s crew, he approached the bomber from behind and fired a volley from all the available barrels from a distance of 180 meters. The next morning, the wreckage of the shot down Junkers was found near the city of Whittering.

Until May, 1941, pilot John Canninham, had already won aerial victories with new radio operator Sergeant Rowley. All in all, by the end of the war 8 shot down enemy planes, which he destroyed in night battles, he shot down most of the enemy aircraft, flying on a heavy Beaufighter fighter.

The appearance of the "magic mirror" has revolutionized the tactics of night air combat. As the number of fighters with radar systems in British aviation increased, so did the losses of German bombers. If during the Battle of Britain, the Hurricanes and the Spitfires defended Britain from the Luftwaffe's daytime raids, then in the following months the Bethaiteers showed the Germans that it would not be possible to bomb English cities with impunity at night. By the spring of 1941, the Beafeaters were armed with six air defense squadrons. Of these, the 604 Squadron, which by that time was commanded by John Canninham, showed the greatest performance.

Bristol Beaufighter Mk.IF

Prior to 1 June 1941, the crews of the squadron of Kanninham shot down 60 enemy aircraft. At the same time in the squadron, armed with a heavy fighter Bristol Beaufighter, recruited pilots only the highest class. In order to become a night fighter pilot, a candidate needed to have at least 600 hours of flight time, of which at least 30 hours of blind flights, as well as make 40 landings at night. Despite such criteria for the selection of a catastrophe and an accident taking into account night fighters in those years were not uncommon, moreover, Beaufighter was distinguished by strict management and lack of exchange rate and lateral stability.

It is also worth noting that during the first months of combat use, the Bofaighters achieved greater success without the help of a radar station than with it. The fact is that interceptions using only the Mk IV radar were ineffective at the time, this was due, among other things, to the shortcomings of the early radar model. This continued until January 1941, until a ground intercept control service was deployed in England. Ground control posts began to bring night fighters with radar to the detection zone of enemy aircraft. Under these conditions, the combat potential of the Betafighters was revealed in full and they began to justify the hopes placed on them. In the future, their success only grew, until on the night from 19 to 20 on May 1941 of the Luftwaffe, during its last large raid on London, 26 lost its aircraft, 24 of which were shot down by British night fighters and only two cars were victims of anti-aircraft fire from the ground.

Flight technical characteristics of the Bristol Beaufighter Mk.IF:
Overall dimensions: length - 12,70 m, height - 4,83 m, wing span - 17,63, wing area - 46,73 м2.
Empty weight - 6120 kg.
Maximum take-off weight - 9048 kg.
The power plant - 2 PD 14-cylinder Bristol Hercules III horsepower 2 x1500
The maximum flight speed is 520 km / h.
Cruising flight speed - 400 km / h.
Practical range - 1830 km.
Practical ceiling - 9382 m.
Armament - 4X20-mm automatic guns Hispano Mk.I (60 shells per barrel) and 6x7,7-mm Browning machine guns.
Crew - 2 person.

Information sources:Радары_Великобритании
Open source materials

Subscribe to our Telegram channel, regularly additional information about the special operation in Ukraine, a large amount of information, videos, something that does not fall on the site:

Dear reader, to leave comments on the publication, you must sign in.
  1. irazum
    irazum 9 December 2018 09: 37
    Cool plane, of course. Respect to the author!
  2. san4es
    san4es 9 December 2018 09: 54
    hi ... Bristol Beaufighter is a British double heavy fighter (night fighter), which during the war years was also used as a torpedo bomber and light bomber.
    In total, from May 1940 to 1946, 5928 Bofighter aircraft of various modifications were produced.
  3. Aviator_
    Aviator_ 9 December 2018 10: 27
    Good article. The first mention of our nightly fighter with radar - Pe-2. The performance of our machines is interesting, does the author, by chance, not know this?
    1. Decimam
      Decimam 9 December 2018 15: 48
      Very low. (Http://
      1. dauria
        dauria 9 December 2018 16: 20
        Very low.

        Well, a comparison. Was there anyone to shoot down? The Germans stopped flying to England en masse after the 41st year, and the British with "productivity" came the dead season.
        And on the radar, you can count a little. Firstly, not the whole antenna is in the nose, but one of the elements of the antenna array. Judging by the photo - a half-wave dipole with a reflector. The entire grille is along the leading edge of the wing. Wingspan 17 meters. The length of the grating offhand is 12 meters. At 193 MHz, the wavelength is one and a half meters. Then the resolution in elevation (52 x 1,5 / 12) is about 6 degrees. Well, 5 when you consider the CPV element. This is in azimuth. And there is nothing to determine the elevation angle. Well, not bad for '37. Only here's the thing - the "bast shoes" of the USSR did not lag behind. Massively could not, yes. It was not so easy. I didn't sit behind a puddle.
        1. Decimam
          Decimam 9 December 2018 16: 34
          I kind of gave you a link. Read in any way? Zarathustra does not allow?
          1. hohol95
            hohol95 9 December 2018 17: 50
            The Beaufighter was originally created by a fighter jet.
            The USSR had to use the American A-20 Boston or its own PE-2. In no way intended by their creators for air battles with enemy bombers!
            For a month and a half of combat work in the Breslau area, the regiments completed a total of 246 sorties. In 68 of them, the pilots were able to detect the target (11 times on a tip from the ground with the subsequent use of Gneiss-2, 8 times during free search using the airborne radar, in 15 cases - in the rays of searchlights, and the rest - visually in natural light) . The fighters conducted 13 air battles, in which the crew of Captain Kaznov shot down two He111s, and Lieutenant Shesterikov - an airborne glider.
            In many cases, a meeting with night interceptors forced enemy transport aircraft to abandon a combat mission or to disconnect gliders away from the city. A nervous situation sometimes led to the discharge of paratroopers and cargo anywhere. As a result, about a hundred paratroopers with equipment landed in the battle formations of the Soviet troops.
            An interesting novelty, tested in the 56th IAD, was the RD-1 television communications equipment. On its screen in the cockpit of a fighter was broadcast an image of a ground-based radar indicator, combined with a map of the area, as well as the position of the target and interceptor. Thanks to this device, the aircraft navigator could independently determine its position relative to the target and its course. RD-1 was virtually trouble-free and provided a clear and reliable connection. In the battles near Breslau, another novelty was also used - air command posts based on S-47 transport aircraft equipped with radar (two such machines were in the division).
            Fighters and ground CPNs worked closely with the air defense CP, informing anti-aircraft gunners about the appearance of enemy aircraft and escorting them to the entrance to the anti-aircraft fire zone. The division’s radars used for gun guidance allowed anti-aircraft batteries to conduct targeted fire. In this case, on average, 20–25 times fewer shells were spent on each hijacked aircraft than with barrage without the use of radar.
            The barrier set by the Boston crews and anti-aircraft gunners proved to be quite effective. The Germans had to drastically reduce the supply of the encircled group, and on May 7, the Breslau garrison capitulated. For successful military operations, 16 pilots, navigators and radar operators from the 56th division received orders, and the division itself received the honorary name of Breslav. The developers of the Gneiss-2 radar V.V. Tikhomirov, A. S. Budanov and A. R. Volpert were awarded the Stalin Prize in the field of science and technology in 1944.

            Aviation and Time 1995 No. 2 (10)
            Night Ruffs (Red Army Air Force Radar Fighters)
            Alexander N. Medved / Moscow, Victor Yu. Markovsky / Kharkov
            1. mr.ZinGer
              mr.ZinGer 9 December 2018 18: 33
              Thanks for the comment and the link, the first time I see printed material about our night radar fighters
              1. hohol95
                hohol95 9 December 2018 22: 26
                hi You cannot read all the literature. Thanks, the Internet sometimes finds similar articles.
            2. bk0010
              bk0010 9 December 2018 21: 37
              In fact, the Pe-2 was created just like a high-altitude fighter.
              It is said that in order to hide the appearance of the radar on the plane, the British counterintelligence began to spread rumors that carrots improve vision. Type - if you chew carrots, you will also see enemy planes at night.
              1. hohol95
                hohol95 9 December 2018 22: 10
                Pe-2 was created based on the processing of the VI-100 machine.
                At the end of May 1940, V. M. Petlyakov was entrusted with an urgent task - for a month and a half - to remake the “VI-100” as a variant of the three-seater high-speed dive bomber “PB-100”, without a main gun and a military missile, with powerful defensive weapons, with speed 550 km / h at an altitude of 5 km. An extremely tight deadline was determined - in September 1940, the PB-100 was to be submitted for state tests. In this regard, the VI-100 state test execution program was interrupted ... Initially, it was planned to release a military series of 10-15 vehicles, but subsequently they did not return to the issue of mass production of the VI-100. [TsAGI_1994-2 (24)]
                On June 4, 1940, it was decided to “re-profile” the high-altitude fighter into a dive bomber, and only 1,5 months were allotted to the drawings for the new aircraft.
                Since July 1940, Petlyakov’s OKB operating in the OTB system has completely switched to developing a machine in the form of a front-line, high-speed diving bomber under the designation “PB-100,” which received the Pe-2 military designation in serial production, and actually inherited from its predecessor "VI-100" flight tactical characteristics of the fighter. [Shavrov_1988 (164,165,166)] [TsAGI_1994-2 (21)]

                And already from Pe-2 they created a long-range twin-engine fighter Pe-3!
                But Pe-2 was used to install the radar!
        2. voyaka uh
          voyaka uh 10 December 2018 01: 48
          "The Germans ceased to fly to England en masse after the 41st year, and the British with" productivity "came the dead season" ////
          After decisively defeating the Luftwaffe over England in 1940, the British launched the bombing of Germany. Ruhr industrial region, mainly.
          But they also flew to Berlin. The Molotov-Ribbentrop negotiations in Berlin in December 1940 took place in a bomb shelter due to British bombing.
          When Ribbentrop suggested to Molotov "to finish off the almost defeated British Empire together," Molotov, without thinking, joked: "Almost defeated? Why are we sitting in a bomb shelter then?" Ribbentrop told a joke to Hitler. The latter got furious and abruptly interrupted the negotiations. The close-minded Molotov received a cap from Stalin in Moscow, but it was too late ...
          1. dauria
            dauria 10 December 2018 02: 54
            The foolish Molotov received a cap from Stalin in Moscow, but it was too late ...

            "And the conclusion is that Molotov is to blame. Otherwise, they would have been allies." Done.
            Yes to These negotiations have already begun the development of the "Barbarossa" plan and the timing of the attack - May 41st. And the "narrow-minded" Molotov and Stalin did not understand anything. You interpret facts beautifully.
            If Russia is defeated, England will lose its last hope. Then Germany will dominate in Europe and the Balkans.
            Conclusion: In accordance with this reasoning, Russia should be eliminated. The deadline is spring 1941.

            - F. Halder. War diary. Summary of Hitler's speech on July 31, 1940.
            1. voyaka uh
              voyaka uh 10 December 2018 11: 25
              The Barbaross plan was developed in general terms BEFORE these negotiations, you are right, but turned into an operational one (that is, laid down on the table of planning, logistics officers, etc.) AFTER the breakdown of the Berlin talks - in the last days of December 1940. Then the date of the attack appeared - May 1941. Hitler ALWAYS gave six months, no more, to the operational preparation of wars.
              1. Alf
                Alf 10 December 2018 18: 42
                That is, you want to say that the negotiations were disrupted due to Molotov’s joke? Too much Germany was interested in a quiet rear in the East and the supply of raw materials from the USSR to react so sharply. Machine tools were removed from German factories, disrupting the production of military products to send them to the USSR, and you're talking about a joke ...
                1. voyaka uh
                  voyaka uh 10 December 2018 21: 42
                  Not just a bad joke, of course. The joke was the "last straw".
                  Berlin-1940 divided southern Europe and Asia. Hitler, in exchange for a joint struggle with Britain, offered the USSR British Iran and India. And Stalin (through Molotov) asked for Bulgaria and the straits. This was dangerous for Hitler. Romania, the main oil supplier, was under threat of encirclement. Molotov behaved like a gentleman, not flexible. After the defeat of France and Holland, the Fuhrer began "megalomania" and he did not tolerate such a style.
                  Disagreements could be hushed up, since trade with the USSR - raw materials - helped the German economy (you correctly wrote about this factor).
                  Hitler at the end of 1940 hesitated, what to do next? England dangerously hung over its fleet and aircraft. And the blitzkrieg tanks were idle ...
                  If not for the collapse of the Berlin talks, the Second World War could probably be delayed for a couple of years ...
      2. Aviator_
        Aviator_ 9 December 2018 17: 07
        Thanks for the link, very detailed.
        1. Decimam
          Decimam 9 December 2018 17: 08
          You are welcome!
  4. The leader of the Redskins
    The leader of the Redskins 9 December 2018 11: 39
    In Soviet times, he was a little fond of poster modeling. "Beaufighter" was produced on the territory of the USSR and was a welcome exhibit in collections. The boys liked it for the abundance of guns and rockets on the toy)))
    1. Alf
      Alf 9 December 2018 22: 45
      Quote: Leader of the Redskins
      The boys liked the abundance of guns and rockets on the toy)))

      There were just no guns there (on the model), but everyone together hung a torpedo, bombs and NURs on it. At the very same, too lazy to redo. By the way, the backfill question is why in the NOVO model there is a transparent belly? Answer correctly, respect. hi
      1. The leader of the Redskins
        The leader of the Redskins 10 December 2018 00: 24
        I will answer honestly, I don’t know, and I don’t remember what the belly was there. After all, I glued it to 30 years ago ... I remember that a model I came across a nondescript color. Pale green such ...
        1. Alf
          Alf 10 December 2018 18: 43
          Quote: Leader of the Redskins
          Pale green so ...

          The whole series was of this color and only after the 91st plastic became light gray.
      2. The leader of the Redskins
        The leader of the Redskins 10 December 2018 08: 00
        Sorry, so why did the model have a transparent belly and did it correspond to the original or not?))
        1. Alf
          Alf 10 December 2018 18: 37
          Quote: Leader of the Redskins
          Sorry, so why did the model have a transparent belly and did it correspond to the original or not?))

          The fact is that this model, released by FROG, was intended for the Spin series, i.e. for the series, all models of which were produced with electric motors inside for rotation of the screws. After the mold was hit in the USSR, the engine was abandoned, as well as the stand (for NEW, the stands were removed on almost all models), and they did not remake the transparent gate.
  5. 5th point
    5th point 9 December 2018 18: 57
    Yes, the Britons were strong with that. Why they didn’t write about the Germans, because they had Me 110 night radars? I can also add that we put Gneiss M on IL-4 to search for ships. At least experienced in the Black Sea in 1944.
  6. Alf
    Alf 9 December 2018 22: 47
    Author! On the 4th photo, not 1F, but MKII. Merlins were put on "deuces".
  7. rubin6286
    rubin6286 13 December 2018 16: 19
    Dear author!

    I liked your article about "Beaufighter". It is written in an interesting and informative way. The plane in 1940 was one of the fastest and most heavily armed twin-engined fighters in the world. Similar machines were built in other countries (France, Germany, USSR, Japan), but the British were the first to equip them with radars. It was necessary, in my opinion, to dwell on the design features: what was special in the airframe of the car, the landing gear retraction scheme, the placement of the crew and weapons, the fuel supply system, the propulsion system, etc. Many characteristics of the car depend on the power of the engines. "Mosquito" was no less high-speed, but wood predominated in its design. Its further development was the post-war Hornet, but it was already an all-metal machine.