Fairey Barracuda was a British carrier-borne torpedo and dive
bomber used during the Second World War, the first of its type used by
the Royal Navy's
Fleet Air Arm
Fleet Air Arm to be fabricated entirely from metal.
It was introduced as a replacement for the
Fairey Swordfish and Fairey
Albacore biplanes. It is notable for its role in attacking the German
battleship Tirpitz, and known for its ungainly appearance on the
1 Design and development
2 Operational history
2.1 British service
2.2 Canadian service
3 Surviving aircraft
6 Specifications (Barracuda Mk II)
7 See also
9 External links
Design and development
The Barracuda resulted from
Air Ministry Specification S.24/37 issued
in 1937 for a monoplane torpedo bomber to meet Operational Requirement
OR.35. Of the six submissions, the designs of
Fairey Aviation and
Supermarine (Type 322) were selected and two prototypes of each
ordered. The first Fairey prototype flew on 7 December 1940. The
Supermarine Type 322 first flew in 1943 but with the Barracuda already
in production it did not progress further.
The Barracuda was a shoulder-wing cantilever monoplane with an oval,
all-metal fuselage. It had a retractable landing gear and
non-retracting tailwheel. The hydraulically-operated main landing gear
struts were of an "L" shape and retracted into a recess in the side of
the fuselage, with the wheels held in the wing. A flush arrestor hook
was fitted ahead of the tail wheel. The crew of three were in tandem
under a continuous glazed canopy. The pilot had a sliding canopy and
the other two crew members' canopy was hinged. The two rear-crew had
alternate locations in the fuselage, with the navigator having bay
windows below the wings for downward visibility. The wings had
large Fairey-Youngman flaps that doubled as dive brakes. Originally
fitted with a conventional tail, flight tests suggested stability
would be improved by mounting the stabiliser higher, similar to a
T-tail, which was implemented on the second prototype. For carrier
stowage, the wings folded back horizontally at the roots; the peculiar
small vertical protrusions on the upper wingtips held hooks that
attached to the horizontal stabilizers.
A Barracuda Mk II carrying an 18-inch (46 cm) aerial torpedo. The ASV
radar "Yagi" antennae are visible above the wings.
The Barracuda was originally intended to use the
Rolls-Royce Exe X
block, sleeve valve engine, but production of this powerplant was
abandoned, which delayed the prototype's trials. The prototypes
eventually flew with the lower-powered 12-cylinder Vee type
Rolls-Royce Merlin 30 engine (1,260 hp/940 kW) and a
three-bladed de Havilland propeller. Further experience with the
prototypes and the first production machines (Barracuda Mk I) revealed
the aircraft to be underpowered as a result of the weight of extra
equipment that had been added since the initial design. Only 30 Mk Is
were built (including five by Westland Aircraft), and used only for
trials and conversion training. Replacing the Merlin 30 with the more
powerful Merlin 32 (1,640 hp/1,225 kW) and a four-bladed
propeller resulted in the definitive Barracuda Mk II variant of which
1,688 were manufactured; by Fairey (at
Stockport and Ringway) (675),
Blackburn Aircraft (700),
Boulton Paul (300), and Westland (13). The
Mk II carried metric wavelength ASV II (Air to Surface Vessel) radar,
with the Yagi-Uda antennae carried above the wings.
The Barracuda Mk III was the Mk II optimised for anti-submarine work,
with the metric wavelength ASV set replaced by a centimetric variant,
the scanner for which was housed in a blister under the rear fuselage.
852 Mk IIIs were eventually produced (406 by Fairey, 392 by Boulton
Paul). A total of 2,607 of all marks of Barracuda were built.
A Barracuda Mk. V; notice the squared off wing tips and the enlarged
radiator and spinner for the Griffon engine. The lack of the larger
fin and wing radar pod suggests that this is the prototype.
Stockport-built Barracuda V with final enlarged pointed fin at Ringway
in May 1946
The Barracuda Mk IV never left the drawing board; the next and final
variant was the Barracuda Mk V, in which the Merlin powerplant was
replaced with the Rolls-Royce Griffon. The increased power and torque
of the Griffon required various aerodynamic changes; the vertical
stabiliser was enlarged and the wing span was increased with the tips
clipped. The Mk V, converted from a Mk II, did not take to the air
until 16 November 1944, and Fairey built only 37 before the war in
Europe was over.
Early Merlin 30-powered Mk 1 Barracudas were underpowered and suffered
from a poor rate of climb. Once airborne, however, the type proved
easy to fly. Trials of the Mk 1 at
Boscombe Down in October 1941
showed a weight of 12,820 lb (5,830 kg) when equipped with
1,566 lb (712 kg) torpedo; at this weight the Mk 1 showed a
maximum speed of 251 mph (405 km/h) at 10,900 ft (3322
m), a climb to 15,000 ft (4572 m) took 19.5 minutes, with a
maximum climb rate of 925 fpm (4.7 m/s)at 8,400 ft (2,560
m), and a 19,100 ft (5,822 m) service ceiling.
The later Mk II had a more powerful Merlin 32 with a 400 hp
(300 kW) increase in power.
Boscombe Down testing of the Mk II in
late 1942, at 14,250 lb (6,477 kg) showed a climb to
10,000 ft (3048 m) in 13.6 minutes, with a maximum climb rate
of 840 fpm (4.3 m/s) at 5,200 ft and an effective ceiling of
15,000 ft (4,572 m). Further testing at
Boscombe Down in June
1943, showed a maximum range, with either a 1,630 lb
(750 kg) torpedo or a single 2,000 lb bomb (909 kg), of
840 statute miles (1,355 km), and a practical range of 650
statute miles (1,048 km), while carrying 6 x 250 lb
(114 kg) bombs reduced the range to 780 miles (1,258 km) and
625 miles (1,008 km), respectively.
Pilots came to appreciate the powerful flaps / airbrakes; carrier
landings were simple due to the flaps and good visibility from the
cockpit. Retracting the airbrakes at high speeds, whilst
simultaneously applying rudder caused a sudden change in trim which
could throw the aircraft into an inverted dive. This proved fatal
on at least five occasions during practice torpedo runs, but the
problem was identified, and appropriate pilot instructions issued,
before the aircraft entered carrier service.
During the earlier part of its service life, the Barracuda suffered a
fairly high rate of unexplained fatal crashes, often involving
experienced pilots. In 1945 this was traced to small leaks
developing in the hydraulic system. The most common point for the leak
was at the point of entry to the pilot's pressure gauge and was
situated such that the resulting spray went straight into the pilot's
face. The chosen hydraulic fluid contained ether and as the aircraft
rarely were equipped with oxygen masks (and few aircrew wore them
below 10,000 ft/3,000 m anyway) the pilot quickly became
unconscious leading to a crash. An
Admiralty order issued at the
end of May 1945 required all examples of the type to be fitted with
oxygen as soon as possible, and for pilots to use the system at all
830 Naval Air Squadron Barracuda taking off from Furious at the
start of Operation Mascot. The aircraft is carrying a 1600 lb bomb.
The first Barracudas entered service on 10 January 1943 with 827
Squadron and were deployed in the North Atlantic. A total of 24
front-line squadrons were eventually equipped with Barracudas. From
1944 onwards, the Mk IIs were accompanied in service by
radar-equipped, but otherwise similar, Mk IIIs, which were used for
The Barracuda first saw action with 810 Squadron aboard
HMS Illustrious off the coast of Norway in July 1943 before
deploying to the Mediterranean to support the Salerno landings.
The following year they entered service in the Pacific Theatre.
Royal Air Force
Royal Air Force used the Barracuda Mk II, initially in 1943 with
No. 567 Sqn. at RAF Detling. In 1944, similar models went to 667 Sqn.
(RAF Gosport), 679 Sqn. (RAF Ipswich) and 691 Sqn. (RAF Roborough).
All the aircraft were withdrawn between March and July 1945.
Barracudas were used as dive bombers and played a part in a major
attack on the German battleship Tirpitz. On 3 April 1944
(Operation Tungsten), 42 aircraft from British carriers
HMS Victorious and Furious scored 14 direct hits on Tirpitz with
1,600 lb (730 kg) and 500 lb (230 kg) bombs at the
cost of one bomber. The attack disabled Tirpitz for over two
months. However, the slow speed of the Barracudas contributed to the
failure of the
Operation Mascot and Operation Goodwood attacks on
Tirpitz during July and August.
From April 1944, Barracudas of No 827 Squadron aboard Illustrious
started operations against Japanese forces, taking part in raids
against Sabang in
Sumatra (Operation Cockpit). The Barracuda's
performance was reduced by the high temperatures[N 1] of the Pacific,
with its combat radius being reduced by as much as 30%, and the
torpedo bomber squadrons of the fleet carriers of the British Pacific
Fleet were re-equipped with Grumman Avengers.
The Barracuda's primary problem in the Pacific was the need to fly
over Indonesian mountain ranges to strike at targets on the eastern
side of Java, which necessitated a high-altitude performance that the
Barracuda's low-altitude-rated Merlin 32 engine with single stage
supercharger could not provide. [N 2] Additionally, carrying maximum
underwing bomb loads caused extra drag which further reduced
performance over a Barracuda armed with a torpedo. However the
Light Fleet Carriers of the 11th ACS which joined the BPF in June 1945
were all equipped with a single Barracuda and single Corsair squadron,
VJ day the BPF had five Avenger and four Barracuda squadrons
embarked on its carriers.
Barracudas were used to test several innovations including RATOG
rockets for takeoff and a braking propeller which slowed the aircraft
by reversing the blade pitch.
The Barracuda continued in
Fleet Air Arm
Fleet Air Arm service until the mid-1950s,
by which time they were all replaced by Avengers.
Royal Canadian Navy
Royal Canadian Navy took delivery on 24 January 1946 of 12
radar-equipped Mk II aircraft; this was a Canadian designation, in
British service these were the Mk. III. The first acquired aircraft
were assigned to the newly formed 825 Sqn. aboard aircraft carrier
HMCS Warrior. Canadian aircraft mechanics had been trained in the UK
during the war serving on British aircraft carriers, notably
HMS Puncher and Nabob which along with some Canadian pilots, the
RCN crewed and operated for the RN. Warrior paid off in 1948 and
returned to Britain along with the Barracuda aircraft.
Over 2500 Barracudas were delivered to the Fleet Air Arm, more than
any other type ordered by the
Royal Navy at that date. Unlike other
aircraft of its era, none were retained for posterity and no complete
examples exist today. Since the early 1970s the
Fleet Air Arm
Fleet Air Arm Museum
has been collecting Barracuda components from a wide variety of
sources throughout the British Isles, with the long-term aim of
rebuilding an example. In 2010 help was sought from the team
rebuilding Donald Campbell's speed boat, Bluebird, as the processes
and skills involved were related to those needed to recreating the
aircraft from the crashed remains, so between May 2013 and February
2015 'The Barracuda Project' operated as a sister project to the
Bluebird rebuild. During this time the entire tail section of LS931
was successfully reconstructed using only original material. In
September 2014 wreckage of an entire rear fuselage was delivered to
the workshops to undergo the same processes. In February 2015 the
Barracuda sections were sent back to the
Fleet Air Arm
Fleet Air Arm Museum, where
the work now continues.
Two prototypes (serial numbers P1767 and P1770) based on the Fairey
Type 100 design.
First production version,
Rolls-Royce Merlin 30 engine with
1,260 hp (940 kW), 30 built
Upgraded Merlin 32 engine with 1,640 hp (1,225 kW),
four-bladed propeller, ASV II radar, 1,688 built
Anti-submarine warfare version of Mk II with ASV III radar in a
blister under rear fuselage, 852 built
Mk II (number P9976) fitted with a
Rolls-Royce Griffon engine with
1,850 hp (1,380 kW), first flight 11 November 1944,
abandoned in favour of Fairey Spearfish.
Griffon 37 engine with 2,020 hp (1,510 kW), payload
increased to 2,000 lb (910 kg), ASH radar under the left
wing, revised tailfin, 37 built
Royal Canadian Navy
French Air Force
French Air Force - Postwar
Dutch Naval Aviation Service
Dutch Naval Aviation Service in exile in the United Kingdom
No.860 Squadron (Dutch) Fleet Air Arms
Fleet Air Arm
810 Naval Air Squadron
812 Naval Air Squadron
814 Naval Air Squadron
815 Naval Air Squadron
816 Naval Air Squadron
817 Naval Air Squadron
818 Naval Air Squadron
820 Naval Air Squadron
821 Naval Air Squadron
822 Naval Air Squadron
823 Naval Air Squadron
824 Naval Air Squadron
825 Naval Air Squadron
826 Naval Air Squadron
827 Naval Air Squadron
828 Naval Air Squadron
829 Naval Air Squadron
830 Naval Air Squadron
831 Naval Air Squadron
831 Naval Air Squadron
837 Naval Air Squadron
841 Naval Air Squadron
847 Naval Air Squadron
860 Naval Air Squadron
700 Naval Air Squadron
701 Naval Air Squadron
702 Naval Air Squadron
703 Naval Air Squadron
705 Naval Air Squadron
706 Naval Air Squadron
707 Naval Air Squadron
710 Naval Air Squadron
711 Naval Air Squadron
713 Naval Air Squadron
714 Naval Air Squadron
716 Naval Air Squadron
717 Naval Air Squadron
719 Naval Air Squadron
731 Naval Air Squadron
733 Naval Air Squadron
735 Naval Air Squadron
736 Naval Air Squadron
737 Naval Air Squadron
744 Naval Air Squadron
747 Naval Air Squadron
750 Naval Air Squadron
753 Naval Air Squadron
756 Naval Air Squadron
764 Naval Air Squadron
767 Naval Air Squadron
768 Naval Air Squadron
769 Naval Air Squadron
774 Naval Air Squadron
778 Naval Air Squadron
783 Naval Air Squadron
785 Naval Air Squadron
786 Naval Air Squadron
787 Naval Air Squadron
796 Naval Air Squadron
798 Naval Air Squadron
799 Naval Air Squadron
Royal Air Force
No. 567 Squadron RAF
No. 618 Squadron RAF
No. 667 Squadron RAF
No. 679 Squadron RAF
No. 691 Squadron RAF
Specifications (Barracuda Mk II)
Orthographic projection of the Barracuda Mk.II, with wings unfolded
and folded. Profile detail of the Griffon-engined Barracuda Mk.V.
Data from Fairey Aircraft since 1915
Length: 39 ft 9 in (12.12 m)
Wingspan: 49 ft 2 in (14.99 m)
Height: 15 ft 2 in (4.62 m)
Wing area: 405 ft² (37.62 m²)
Empty weight: 9,350 lb (4,250 kg)
Loaded weight: 13,200 lb (6,000 kg)
Max. takeoff weight: 14,100 lb (6,409 kg)
Powerplant: 1 ×
Rolls-Royce Merlin 32 liquid-cooled V12 engine, 1,640
hp (1,225 kW)
Maximum speed: 228 mph (198 kn, 367 km/h) at 1,750 ft (533 m)
Cruise speed: 195 mph (170 kn, 314 km/h) at 5,000 ft (1,524 m)
Range: 686 mi (597 nmi, 1,104 km) with 1,620 lb (736 kg) torpedo
Service ceiling: 16,600 ft (5,080 m)
Wing loading: 32.6 lb/ft² (159 kg/m²)
Power/mass: 0.12 hp/lb (0.20 kW/kg)
Climb to 5,000 ft (1,524 m): 6 min
Guns: 2 × 0.303 in (7.7 mm) Vickers K machine guns in rear
Bombs: 1× 1,620 lb (735 kg) aerial torpedo or 4× 450 lb (205 kg)
depth charges or 6× 250 lb (110 kg) bombs
Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era
Curtiss SB2C Helldiver
Douglas TBD Devastator
Grumman TBF Avenger
Supermarine Type 322
List of aircraft of World War II
List of aircraft of the Fleet Air Arm
^ All aircraft are adversely affected by increased temperature and
humidity. The effect is to lower engine output and increase the
takeoff run. Additionally, windless conditions are common very near
the equator, further increasing the takeoff run for carrier
^ " Illustrious then exchanged her Barracudas for the Avengers of 832
and 851 before the next operation, an attack on the oil refineries at
Soerbaya, Java. For this strike, the aircraft would have to fly across
the breadth of Java. The mountainous spine of the island averages
10,000 ft in height, and this minimum height, coupled with the
distance to be flown, about 240 miles, prohibited the use of the
essentially low altitude Barracuda."
^ Taylor 1974, p. 313.
^ Taylor 1974, p. 314.
^ Bridgman, Leonard. Jane's Fighting Aircraft of World War II. New
York: Crescent Books, 1988. ISBN 0-517-67964-7.
^ a b Mason 1998, pp. 294, 306.
^ Air Ministry, p. 19; at a weight of 13,900 lb, the normal takeoff
weight with a 1,630 lb torpedo, the time to climb to 10,000 ft was
12.57 minutes, and climb rates were calculated with the maximum
continuous power of the Merlin 32 engine, rather than the 5 minute
^ Mason 1998, p. 295.
^ a b Brown 1980, pp. 105–106.
^ Popham 1974, p. 163.
^ Kilbracken 1980, p. 197.
^ Lord Kilbracken 1980, p. 203.
^ Willis 2009, pp. 72–73.
^ Jefford 2001, Chapter The Squadrons.
^ Halley 1988, pp. 411, 436, 451, 452, 457.
^ Willis 2009, pp. 74–75.
^ Gunston 1995
^ Roskill 1961, pp. 156, 161–162.
^ Willis 2009, p. 75.
^ "Effect of temperature and altitude on airplane performance."
pilotfriend.com. Retrieved: 26 September 2010.
^ Willis 2009, pp. 75–76.
^ Brown 1971, p. 257.
^ Harrison 2002, p. 29.
^ Watson, Graham. "Royal Navy: Fleet Air Army , August 1945." Archived
2 December 2008 at the Wayback Machine. orbat.com, v.1.0 7 April 2002.
Retrieved: 17 April 2010.
^ Thetford 1982, pp. 162, 172.
^ Lewis 1959, p. 112.
^ Lewis 1959, p. 124.
^ Taylor 1974, p. 325.
^ a b Thetford 1978, pp. 162–163.
Brown, Eric, CBE, DCS, AFC, RN.; William Green, and Gordon
Swanborough. "Fairey Barracuda". Wings of the Navy, Flying Allied
Carrier Aircraft of World War Two. London: Jane's Publishing Company,
1980, pp. 99–108. ISBN 0-7106-0002-X.
Brown, J. David.
Fairey Barracuda Mks. I-V (Aircraft in profile 240).
Windsor, Berkshire, UK: Profile Publications Ltd., 1972.
Brown, David. HMS Illustrious Aircraft Carrier 1939-1956: Operational
History (Warship Profile 11). London: Profile Publications, 1971.
Gunston, Bill. Classic
World War II
World War II Aircraft Cutaways. London: Osprey,
1995. ISBN 1-85532-526-8.
Hadley, D. Barracuda Pilot. London: AIRlife Publishing, 2000.
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Royal Air Force
Royal Air Force &
Commonwealth 1918–1988. Tonbridge, Kent, UK: Air-Britain
(Historians) Ltd., 1988. ISBN 0-85130-164-9.
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UK: Hall Park Books Ltd., 2002.
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Comprehensive Record of the Movement and Equipment of all RAF
Squadrons and their Antecedents since 1912. Shrewsbury, UK: Airlife
Publishing, 2001. ISBN 1-84037-141-2.
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Lewis, Peter. Squadron Histories: R.F.C., R.N.A.S. and R.A.F.
1912–59. London: Putnam, 1959.
Mason, Tim. The Secret Years: Flight Testing at Boscombe Down,
1939-1945. Manchester, UK: Hikoki Publications, 1998.
Pilot's Notes for Barracuda Marks II and III Merlin 32 engine. London:
Air Ministry, February 1945.
Popham, Hugh. Sea Flight. London: Futura Publications, 1974, First
edition, London: William Kimber & Co, 1954.
Roskill, S.W. The War at Sea 1939–1945. Volume III: The Offensive
Part II. London: Her Majesty's Stationery Office, 1961. OCLC 59005418.
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Fifth edition, 1982. ISBN 0-370-30021-1.
Willis, Matthew. "Database: The Fairey Barracuda." Aeroplane Monthly,
May 2009, Vol. 37, No. 5, pp. 57–77.
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