Fairey Albacore was a British single-engine carrier-borne biplane
torpedo bomber built by
Fairey Aviation between 1939 and 1943 for the
Fleet Air Arm
Fleet Air Arm and used during the Second World War. It had
a three-man crew and was designed for spotting and reconnaissance as
well as level bombing, dive bombing and as a torpedo bomber. The
Albacore, popularly known as the "Applecore", was conceived as a
replacement for the ageing Fairey Swordfish, which had entered service
in 1936. The Albacore served with the Swordfish and was retired before
it, being replaced by the
Fairey Barracuda and Grumman Avenger
monoplane torpedo bombers.
1 Design and development
2 Operational history
4 Surviving aircraft
5 Specifications (Albacore)
6 See also
8 External links
Design and development
The Albacore prototypes were built to meet Specification S.41/36 for a
three-seat TSR (torpedo/spotter/reconnaissance) for the FAA to replace
the Swordfish. The Albacore was designated TBR
(torpedo/bomber/reconnaissance) and like the Swordfish, was capable of
The Albacore was designed for diving at speeds up to 215 knots (400
km/h) IAS with flaps either up or down, and it was certainly steady in
a dive, recovery being easy and smooth...
and the maximum under wing bomb load was 4 × 500 lb
(230 kg) bombs. The Albacore had a constant speed
propeller, a more powerful engine than the Swordfish and was more
aerodynamically refined. It offered the crew an enclosed and heated
cockpit and had an automatic liferaft ejection system that triggered
in the event of the aircraft ditching.
The first of two prototypes flew on 12 December 1938 and production of
the first batch of 98 aircraft began in 1939. Early Albacores were
fitted with the
Bristol Taurus II engine and those built later
received the more powerful Taurus XII.
Boscombe Down testing of the
Albacore and Taurus II engine, in February 1940, showed a maximum
speed of 160 mph (258 km/h), at an altitude of 4,800 ft
(1,463 m), at 11,570 lb (5,259 kg), which was achieved with
four under-wing depth charges, while maximum speed without the depth
charges was 172 mph (277 km/h). An Albacore fitted with
the Taurus II engine and carrying a torpedo weighed 11,100 lb
A total of 800 Albacores were built, including two prototypes which
were all built at Fairey's Hayes Factory and test flown at what is now
London Heathrow Airport.
Fairey Albacore N4389, 827 Naval Air Squadron, HMS Victorious.
Shot down during raid on Kirkenes, July 1941. Salvaged, rebuilt and
now on display in the FAA Museum
826 Naval Air Squadron
826 Naval Air Squadron was specially formed to operate the first
Albacores in March 1940, being used for attacks against harbours and
shipping in the English Channel, operating from shore bases and for
convoy escort for the rest of 1940. HMS Formidable's 826 and
829 Squadrons were the first to operate the Albacore from a carrier,
with operations starting in November 1940. Initially, the Albacore
suffered from reliability problems with the Taurus engine, although
these were later solved, so that the failure rate was no worse than
the Pegasus equipped Swordfish. The Albacore remained less popular
than the Swordfish, as it was less manoeuvrable, with the controls
being too heavy for a pilot to take much evasive action after dropping
Eventually, there were 15 first-line FAA squadrons equipped with the
Albacore which operated widely in the Mediterranean. Albacores
played a prominent role in the ill-fated raid on
Kirkenes and Petsamo
in July 1941. Albacores participated with more success in the Battle
of Cape Matapan and the fighting at El Alamein as well as supporting
the landings at
Sicily and Salerno. During the period September 1941
to end of June 1943, No. 828 Squadron, based at RAF Hal Far, Malta,
operated a squadron of Albacores under severe blitz conditions during
the siege of Malta, mainly against Italian shipping and shore targets
Albacore in flight. The markings place it around 1940.
On 9 March 1942, 12 Albacores from HMS Victorious were launched
to attack the German
Bismarck-class battleship Tirpitz at sea near
Narvik. Based on information from one of six radar equipped aircraft
already airborne, Albacores from 817 and 832 Squadrons launched
torpedoes and some also attacked with their machine guns. One attack
came within 30 feet (9.1 m) of success at the bow but the FAA's
only torpedo attack on Tirpitz at sea failed, with the loss of two
aircraft and damage to many others.
In 1943, the Albacore was progressively replaced in Fleet Air Arm
service by the Barracuda. The last FAA Albacore squadron, No. 841
Squadron, which had been used for shore based attacks against shipping
in the Channel for the whole of its career with the Albacore,
disbanded in late 1943.
Royal Air Force
Royal Air Force deployed some Albacores; No. 36 Squadron based at
Singapore acquired five to supplement its Vickers Vildebeests at RAF
Seletar in December 1941. The remnants of the squadron was
captured by the Japanese in March 1942. In 1943, No. 415 Squadron RCAF
was equipped with Albacores (presumably ex-FAA) before the Flight
operating them was transferred and reformed as 119 Squadron at RAF
Manston in July 1944. The squadron deployed later to Belgium and their
Albacores were disposed of in early 1945, due to spares shortages, in
favour of the inferior but ASV radar-equipped Swordfish Mk.IIIs that
the squadron kept until the end of the war on 8 May. This was to
combat German mini-submarines attacking Allied shipping entering the
River Scheldt on its way to Antwerp Port. The Aden Communication
Flight used 17 Albacores between the middle of 1944 and August 1946.
Some of these were delivered by sea on the SS Empire Arun in
December 1945 (all from
Royal Navy stock).
Royal Canadian Air Force
Royal Canadian Air Force took over the Albacores and used them
during the Normandy invasion, for a similar role until July 1944. The
Albacore was the last biplane to be used in combat by the RCAF.
Royal Canadian Air Force
No. 415 Squadron RCAF
Fairey Albacore Mk I of
820 Naval Air Squadron
820 Naval Air Squadron operating from HMS
Formidable during the North African landings, November 1942
Royal Air Force
No. 36 Squadron RAF
No. 119 Squadron RAF
Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm
700 Naval Air Squadron
733 Naval Air Squadron
747 Naval Air Squadron
750 Naval Air Squadron
753 Naval Air Squadron
754 Naval Air Squadron
756 Naval Air Squadron
763 Naval Air Squadron
766 Naval Air Squadron
767 Naval Air Squadron
768 Naval Air Squadron
769 Naval Air Squadron
771 Naval Air Squadron
774 Naval Air Squadron
775 Naval Air Squadron
778 Naval Air Squadron
781 Naval Air Squadron
782 Naval Air Squadron
783 Naval Air Squadron
785 Naval Air Squadron
786 Naval Air Squadron
787 Naval Air Squadron
788 Naval Air Squadron
789 Naval Air Squadron
791 Naval Air Squadron
793 Naval Air Squadron
796 Naval Air Squadron
797 Naval Air Squadron
799 Naval Air Squadron
810 Naval Air Squadron
815 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
826 Naval Air Squadron
827 Naval Air Squadron
828 Naval Air Squadron
829 Naval Air Squadron
830 Naval Air Squadron
831 Naval Air Squadron
832 Naval Air Squadron
841 Naval Air Squadron
Albacore (N4389) at the
Fleet Air Arm
Fleet Air Arm Museum
Only one Albacore is known to survive, on display at the Fleet Air Arm
Museum, which was built using parts of Albacores N4389 and N4172
recovered from crash sites.
Fairey Albacore Mk.1
Data from The British Bomber since 1914
Length: 39 ft 10 in (12.14 m)
Wingspan: 50 ft 0 in (15.24 m)
Height: 14 ft 2 in (4.62 m)
Wing area: 623 ft² (57.9 m²)
Empty weight: 7,250 lb (3,295 kg)
Loaded weight: 10,460 lb (4,755 kg)
Max. takeoff weight: 12,600 lb (5,727 kg)
Powerplant: 1 ×
Bristol Taurus II (Taurus XII) 14-cylinder radial
engine, 1,065 hp (1,130 hp) (794 kW (840 kw))
Maximum speed: 140 kn (161 mph, 259 km/h)
Cruise speed: 122 kn (140 mph, 225 km/h) (maximum cruise)
Stall speed: 47 kn (54 mph, 87 km/h) (flaps down)
Range: 817 nmi (930 mi, 1,497 km) (with torpedo)
Service ceiling: 20,700 ft (6,310 m)
Climb to 6000 ft 8 min
1 × fixed, forward-firing .303 in (7.7 mm) machine gun in starboard
1 or 2 × .303 in (7.7 mm) Vickers K machine guns in rear cockpit.
Bombs: 1 × 1,670 lb (760 kg) torpedo or 2,000 lb (907 kg) bombs
Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era
Fieseler Fi 167
List of aircraft of World War II
List of aircraft of the Fleet Air Arm
^ Brown, p. 66.
^ Brown 1980, p. 66.
^ Harrison 2002, p. 87.
^ Goebel, Greg. "The Fairey Swordfish, Albacore, & Barracuda."
vectorsite.net, 2009. Retrieved: 25 October 2009.
^ Mason 1994, p. 321.
^ Mason 1998, pp. 292, 306.
^ Mason 1998, p. 292.
^ a b Mason 1994, p. 323.
^ Harrison 2004, p. 11.
^ Mondey 2006, p. 101.
^ a b c d Thetford 1994
^ Harrison 2004, p. 17.
^ a b Mason 1994, p. 322.
^ a b Shores et al. 1992, p. 146.
^ Jefford 2001, p. 60.
^ Rucker, D. "Fairey Albacore." Archived 31 October 2012 at the
Wayback Machine. fleetairarmarchive.net, 3 April 2000. Retrieved: 11
^ Harrison 2004, p. 13.
^ Air Transport Auxiliary Ferry Pilots Notes (reproduction).
Elvington, York, UK: Yorkshire Air Museum, 1996.
^ Brown 1980, p. 68.
^ Mondey, David. The Hamlyn Concise Guide to British Aircraft in World
War II. Hamlyn. p. 101. ISBN 978-0-753714-62-1.
Brown, Eric, CBE, DCS, AFC, RN., William Green and Gordon Swanborough.
"Fairey Albacore." Wings of the Navy, Flying Allied Carrier Aircraft
of World War Two. London: Jane's Publishing Company Ltd, 1980,
pp. 60–69. ISBN 0-7106-0002-X.
Fairey Albacore (Warpaint Series No. 52). Luton,
Bedfordshire, UK: Warpaint Books Ltd., 2004.
Fairey Swordfish and Albacore. Wiltshire, UK: The
Crowood Press, 2002. ISBN 1-86126-512-3.
Jefford, Wing Commander C.G., MBE, BA, RAF(retd). RAF Squadrons, a
Comprehensive Record of the Movement and Equipment of all RAF
Squadrons and their Antecedents since 1912. Shrewsbury, Shropshire,
UK: Airlife Publishing, 2001. ISBN 1-84037-141-2.
Mason, Francis K. The British Bomber Since 1914. London: Putnam
Aeronautical Books, 1994. ISBN 0-85177-861-5.
Mason, Tim. The Secret Years: Flight Testing at Boscombe Down
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Mondey, David. The Hamlyn Concise Guide to British Aircraft in World
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Shores, Christopher, Brian Cull and Yasuho Izawa. Bloody Shambles:
Volume One: The Drift to War to the Fall of Singapore. London: Grub
Street, 1992. ISBN 0-948817-50-X.
Smith, Peter C. Dive Bomber!. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute
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Thetford, Owen. British Naval Aircraft Since 1912 (Fourth Edition).
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