In 1930-s, the leadership of the Air Force of many countries adhered to the concept of creating a universal multi-purpose biplane, suitable for reconnaissance, bombing, and also used as an attack aircraft (in the USSR, this plane was the P-5, created at the Polikarpov Design Bureau).
In the early 30s in the UK, Fair Aviation Company led by engineer Marcel Lobell began work on the creation of a similar aircraft, which was originally focused on export orders. After extradition by the British Ministry aviation The specifications for the deck-based reconnaissance spotter were finalized.
In addition to intelligence and bombing, one of the main tasks of the projected biplane was to be the ability to deliver torpedo attacks and the possibility of carrier-based, which was reflected in the designation: TSR II (Torpedo, Strike, Reconnaisanse - torpedo, shock, intelligence).
The aircraft was a biplane with a metal power frame, covered with linen covering, with the exception of some light alloy panels in front of the fuselage. The aircraft had a non-retractable wheeled chassis with a tail wheel (which could be replaced by floats), the traditional drag and tail assembly and powerplant in the form of an 9-cylinder star-shaped engine Bristol Pegasus (Bristol Pegasus) IIIM with 690 horsepower, later it was upgraded to 750 hp
The maximum speed of the aircraft was 222 km / h.
Cruising speed: 207 km / h.
Practical range: 1700 km.
Ceiling: 3260 m.
The crew was located in two open cockpits: the pilot in the front and two more crew members in the rear. To save space when basing on an aircraft carrier wings folded. Crew armor and oxygen equipment were missing. A short-wave radio station was mounted in the rear fuselage and (in a wheeled version) the arresting hook was hooked.
Tests of the aircraft at the factory airfield began in April 1934. In 1935, the TSRII was tested on a naval test base in Gosport with an established rifle and torpedo weapons.
The aircraft could carry a combat load with a total weight of up to 730 kg on the suspension nodes. On the main ventral node, an air pilotage of caliber 457 mm, a naval mine weighing 680 kg or a suspended fuel tank with a capacity of 318 liters lurched. Underwing nodes allowed the use of various types of weapons: high-explosive bombs weighing 250 and 500 pounds, depth, lighting and incendiary bombs, and modifications Mk.II and Mk.III - rockets. Rifle armament consisted of a course synchronous machine gun rifle caliber "Vickers K" with band power installed on the right side of the fuselage, and the same machine gun, but with a disk magazine, on the turret at the gunner-radio operator.
Like all British naval aircraft, the Suordfish was equipped with an inflatable liferaft with a means of survival. The raft was placed in a special container in the root of the left upper console. When the plane fell into the water, the container opened automatically.
The aircraft was commissioned by the naval aviation - FAA (Fleet Air Arm). He was given the name "Suordfish" (English Swordfish - "swordfish"). The first serial "Suordfish" began to arrive in the line of units in the spring of 1936.
A biplane covered with a percalem with a non-retractable landing gear and an open cockpit was not fundamentally different from earlier deck-mounted aircraft of a similar purpose. Sharp-tongued sea pilots gave the car the ironic nickname "Stringbeg" - "string bag".
By and large, the plane was already outdated by the time it was launched into mass production, but it was the only deck torpedo carrier in service with the British Navy at the time of the start of World War II. Before the outbreak of hostilities was built 692 aircraft. 12 squadrons "Suordfish" was based on the aircraft carrier "Arc Royal", "Koreyjes", "Eagle", "Glories" and "Furys". Another float aircraft was assigned to the battleships and cruisers.
Already on April 5, 1940, the Swordfish from the Furis aircraft carrier launched the first torpedo attack in the Second World War on German destroyers in Trondheim Bay in Norway. One torpedo hit the target, but did not explode. Soon, the crew of the Swordfish from the battleship Worspite distinguished themselves - on April 13, 1940, he sank a submarine U-64 at Narvik - the first German submarine destroyed naval aviation. During the battles in Norway, the Swordfish were also used over land as light bombers against advancing German motorized convoys, where they proved to be very vulnerable from German small-caliber anti-aircraft guns. Two Swordfish squadrons were lost along with the Glories aircraft carrier, which was sunk by the battleships Scharnhorst and Gneisenau during the evacuation of the Narvik bridgehead.
The aircraft carrier "Glories" - the former "British light battle cruiser" rebuilt after the First World War.
After Germany entered the war of Italy on the island of Malta, the 24 torpedo bomber was transferred there to the British in the Mediterranean. For nine months, they staged a real terror for the Italian convoys, sinking up to 15 ships and barges monthly. "Suordfish" also bombed objects in Sicily, were involved in escorting convoys. Airplanes from the Ark Royal and Eagle aircraft carriers operated in the same area. After the capitulation of France "Suordfish" from Ark Royal 4 on July 1940, they attacked Mers-el-Kebir, causing heavy damage to the French battleship Dunkirk, and from July Hermes on Richelieu in Dakar.
22 August 1940, in the harbor of Sidi Barran, a link under the command of Captain Patch managed to destroy four ships with three torpedoes. Two submarines and vehicles loaded with ammunition were blown up. The explosion on board smashed to shattered not only the ship itself, but also the destroyer moored to it.
In August 1940, the British Mediterranean forces were joined by the new aircraft carrier Illastris with the Sundfish 36 on deck. November 11 crews of these machines hit the main forces of the Italian fleet, concentrated in the bay of the port of Taranto. There were concentrated 5 battleships, 5 heavy cruisers and 4 squadron destroyers. To prevent torpedo attacks, the bay was blocked by anti-torpedo networks. The Italians did not take into account that changes were made to the design of British torpedoes, allowing them to dive to a depth of 10,5 meters and pass under anti-torpedo barriers.
Aircraft carrier "Illastris"
The operation was carefully planned, each pilot knew his goal in advance. In total, the 24 Suordfish has risen from the Illastris deck. Some cars carried lighting and ordinary bombs. At first, “chandeliers” were hung over the port's water area, after which two aircraft bombed the fuel storage. In the light of fire and lighting bombs torpedo bombers rushed into the attack. Three battleships, two cruisers and two destroyers were hit by torpedoes. The success of the operation was facilitated by the fact that the anti-aircraft artillery opened fire with great delay, and it was led stupidly, the British lost only two torpedo bombers. After this night, Italy lost its superiority in the large warships on the Mediterranean.
In the winter of 1940-1941, the “Battle of the Atlantic” began, during which Germany, using wolf-packs of submarines and surface raiders, tried to strangle Britain in the blockade.
18 May 1941, on its first trip to intercept British convoys, together with the heavy cruiser “Prince Eugen,” launched the battleship Bismarck, the most powerful warship ever sailed under the German flag. Already 24 May "Bismarck" was sunk by the British heavy cruiser "Hood". But the battleship itself was damaged in an artillery duel with the British.
The British gathered all the available forces to intercept the Bismarck in the north of the Atlantic, not allowing to the numerous convoys crossing the ocean. Behind the German raider were the British cruisers “Norfolk” and “Suffolk” and the battleship “Prince of Wales”. From the northeast, a squadron moved in the battleship “King George V”, the battle cruiser “Ripals” and the aircraft carrier “Viktories”. From the east there were the battleship “Rodney”, the cruisers “London”, “Edinburgh”, “Dorsetshir” and several destroyer fleets. From the west, the battleships “Rammiles” and “Rivend” were being advanced. From the south, a squadron moved in the aircraft carrier Ark Royal, the battle cruiser Rinaun and the cruiser Sheffield.
Leaving unguarded all their convoys and routes of transports, the British pulled their ships into a huge ring in the northeast Atlantic, hoping for a huge superiority in forces. After the 26 of May 1941, the German battleship was detected from the board of the flying reconnaissance boat Catalina, torpedo bombers from the aircraft carrier “Ark Royal”, located in 130 kilometers from the battleship “Bismarck”, played a decisive role in its destruction.
In the afternoon of May 26, Suordfish rises into the air in the hardest weather conditions, it rains continuously, large waves overwhelm the takeoff deck, and the pitching of the aircraft carrier reaches 30 degrees. Visibility does not exceed hundreds of meters. In such a situation, ten aircraft still fly and take a course on the enemy. But the first on their combat course is the English cruiser Sheffield, adopted in disgusting visibility for the battleship Bismarck. Fortunately for the British, not a single torpedo hits the target.
Torpedo "Suordfish" in flight over the aircraft carrier "Ark Royal"
Despite the even worsening weather, the British command decides to repeat the raid in the evening, 15 crews take off from the rocking deck of the aircraft carrier and head for Bismarck. Some of them got lost in the rain and low clouds, but the rest managed to reach the target.
The anti-aircraft artillery of the battleship Bismarck encounters low-speed biplanes with powerful fire. The air above the ship is surrounded by a dense ring of breaks. Breaking through it, the British attack on different courses and at different heights. Their perseverance brings success. One torpedo hit the center of the hull and did not cause the Bismarck much harm, but the other turned out to be fatal. The blast damaged the screws and jammed the steering wheel, after which the giant ship lost control and was doomed.
Crew members of the Suordfish, who took part in the attack on the Bismarck
The Germans and Italians drew certain conclusions from what happened, abandoning risky raids on the high seas and began to pay more attention to the air defense of coastal waters with the involvement of fighters. Against the "Messerschmitt" "Suordfish" was completely defenseless.
On the morning of February 12, the 1942 of the 6 of the “Suordfish” of the 825 squadron tried to attack the German battleships Scharnhorst and Gneisenau in the English Channel during Operation Cerberus. The purpose of the operation was the redeployment of ships of the “Brest Group” to the ports of Germany.
During the suicide attack, all 6 airplanes under the command of Lieutenant Commander Eugene Esmond were shot down by German cover fighters, unable to break through to the German battleships. This was the last significant episode of using Suordfish as a torpedo bomber. After that, they were replaced on the decks of aircraft carriers with faster and better armed Fairy Barracuda.
British deck torpedo bomber and dive bombard Fairy Barracuda
However, in fairness it is worth saying that the Suordfish survived on the decks of aircraft carriers the biplane Fayre Albacore created for its replacement.
British deck torpedo bogie Fairy Albacore
To remain in the ranks, he had to change his specialization, this seemingly hopelessly outdated biplane turned out to be perfect as a submarine hunter. By the beginning of the “Battle of the Atlantic”, it turned out that the most effective means of fighting German submarines is aircraft. To protect the British convoys, they began to include in their composition the so-called "escort aircraft carriers" - small aircraft carriers, usually converted from transport ships, tankers or light cruisers, with several anti-submarine aircraft on the deck. For such an aircraft was not important high speed and strong protective weapons.
British escort aircraft carrier "Chayser"
The first anti-submarine "Suordfish" were armed with high-explosive and depth charges. Later, in the summer of 1942, they began to mount launchers for 5-inch (127-mm) missiles, for 4-5 pieces under each lower wing. In this part of the linen trim on the wing was replaced with metal panels. Thus, the anti-submarine version Mk.II.
The 127-mm APN rocket Mk.II modification of the 25-mm missile projectile was developed specifically to defeat the hull of shallowly submerged enemy submarines. As a warhead on the rocket used steel armor-piercing blanks that do not contain explosives. With their help, it was possible to confidently hit enemy submarines at a depth of up to 10 meters, i.e. going under the snorkel or at a periscope depth. Although hitting a single rocket into the hull of the boat, as a rule, did not lead to its destruction, but, having been damaged, the submarine was unable to dive and was doomed. 23 May 1943 in the North Atlantic, the first German U-752 submarine was sunk by a volley of armor-piercing missiles from the Soordfish biplane.
At the beginning of the 1943, a new version of the vehicle was launched - the Mk.III with universal rocket and bomb armament and airborne radar. These aircraft were used mainly to search for and destroy submarines that surface at night to recharge batteries. The plastic radio transparent radome of the radar antenna was located on the Mk.III between the main landing gear and the radar itself in the cockpit, instead of the third crew member.
The Suardfish battleships often flew in pairs: the Mk.II carried weapons, and the Mk.III with a radar pointed it at the target, thus sharing duties. The Sukfishs, the Mk.II and Mk.III, were equipped with most of the escort aircraft carriers accompanying the Anglo-American convoys, including those with military assistance in the USSR. These low-speed biplanes proved to be very effective anti-submarine weapons. So, in the convoy PQ-18 was the aircraft carrier "Avenger" with 12 "C Hurricanes" and 3 "Suardfish" on board. One of them 14 August 1942, together with the destroyer "Onslow" sank the submarine U-589. The Suordfish, guarding the RA-57 convoy on the way to Murmansk, destroyed the German U-366, U-973 and U-472 submarines. There were many such examples.
In many ways, this was due to the excellent take-off and landing qualities, which allowed the Sordfish to take off from the small flight decks without deploying the ship to meet the wind. In the case of a favorable wind, Sordfish could take off even from a ship anchored. These biplanes with open cockpits could operate in severe weather conditions, when flights of other more modern aircraft were impossible.
After the opening of the Second Front, the Suordfish anti-submarine patrols began to operate from airfields in Belgium and Norway. Some of them were used to mine the German sea routes and ports from the air.
The Suordfish escort service was carried almost until the last days of the war - the last contact with the enemy submarine was 20 on April 1945. Total units armed with "Sordfish", 14 submarines were destroyed. It is worth noting the high courage of the crews flying on these obsolete single-engine biplanes. Damage or engine failure over the cold waters of the North Atlantic, as a rule, led to rapid death from hypothermia. Despite this, the British pilots honored their duties.
The aircraft was manufactured from 1936 to 1944, in total, about 2400 units were built. To this day, several copies of cars that occupy pride of place in aviation museums of England, Canada and New Zealand have survived. Some of them are in flight condition.