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.
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.
Open source materials