Fairey Fox was a British light bomber and fighter biplane of the
1920s and 1930s. It was originally produced in Britain for the RAF,
but continued in production and use in
Belgium long after it was
retired in Britain.
1 Development and design
1.1 Fox I
1.2 Second generation Foxes
2 Operational history
5 Specifications (
Fairey Fox VIR)
6 See also
9 External links
Development and design
In 1923, Charles Richard Fairey, founder and chief designer of Fairey
Aviation, disappointed with his Fawn bomber, which owing to the
Air Ministry specifications, was slower than the Airco
DH.9A which it was meant to replace while carrying no greater
bombload, conceived the idea of a private venture bomber not subject
to official limitations, which could demonstrate superior performance
and handling. On seeing the Curtiss CR, powered by a
Curtiss D-12 V-12
liquid-cooled engine of low frontal area and in a low drag
installation, win the 1923
Schneider Trophy race, Fairey realised that
this engine would be well suited to a new bomber and acquired an
example of the engine and a licence for production.
Fairey commenced design of a bomber around this engine, with detailed
design carried out by a team at first led by Frank Duncanson and then
by the Belgian Marcel Lobelle. The resultant aircraft, the Fairey Fox,
was a single-bay biplane with highly staggered wings, with a
composite wood and metal structure. The
Curtiss D-12 was installed
in a closely cowled tractor installation, with one radiator mounted on
the underside of the upper wing, and a second retractable radiator
that could be wound in and out of the fuselage as required. Pilot
and gunner sat close together in two tandem cockpits, with the gunner
armed with a
Lewis gun on a specially designed high-speed gun mounting
that allowed the gun to be stowed to reduce drag, with the pilot armed
with a single synchronised Vickers machine gun. Up to 460 lb
of bombs could be carried under the wings, aimed by the gunner
whose seat folded to allow use of a bombsight.
The prototype Fox first flew at
RAF Hendon on 3 January 1925, piloted
by Norman Macmillan, quickly demonstrating good performance and
handling. Despite this, there was much resistance to the new bomber
within the Air Ministry, with the Fox not designed to an official
specification and having several features, such as fuel tanks within
the fuselage, that went against official norm, and most importantly,
it featured an American engine.[a] However, on seeing the prototype
Fox being demonstrated on 28 July 1925,
Air Chief Marshal
Air Chief Marshal Hugh
Trenchard, the Chief of the Air Staff, announced that "Mr Fairey, I
have decided to order a squadron of these machines", thus shortcutting
official channels, an initial order for 18 Foxes following.
Second generation Foxes
In 1926, the
Air Ministry drew up Specification 12/26 for a new
light-bomber for the Royal Air Force. This time, unlike previous
specifications, high performance was stressed, and many of the overly
prescriptive elements which had previously limited performance
removed. At first, Fairey was not informed of the new specification,
and only received a copy after protesting to the Air Ministry. To meet
this requirement, Lobelle's team designed the Fox IIM, an effectively
all-new aircraft with a metal structure as demanded by the
Specification, and powered by a Rolls-Royce F.XIB (later designated
the Rolls-Royce Kestrel. It first flew on 25 October 1929. However,
Hawker Hart and
Avro Antelope prototypes had been flying
for over a year by this time, and the Hart had received an initial
production order in June 1929.
Although the Fox IIM was not wanted by the RAF, Fairey demonstrated it
to the Belgian Air Force, which had a requirement for a light bomber
to replace its Breguet 19, and which had already purchased Fairey
Firefly II fighters from Fairey which had also set up a Belgian
subsidiary, Avions Fairey, to build the Firefly. The Fox IIM was
successful, winning an initial order for 12 Fox II reconnaissance
aircraft to be built in England, with further production to come from
The Fox entered service with
No. 12 Squadron RAF
No. 12 Squadron RAF in June 1926. The
Fox proved to have spectacular performance, being 50 mph
(80 km/h) faster than the Fairey Fawns that it replaced in 12
Squadron, and as fast as contemporary fighters. Such was the
performance of the Fox that 12 Squadron was instructed to fly no
faster than 140 mph (225 km/h) during annual Air Defence
Exercises in order to give the defending fighters a chance.
Despite this, no further RAF squadrons were equipped with the Fox, and
only 28 were purchased in total, with later aircraft being powered by
Rolls-Royce Kestrel engine and surviving Curtiss engined aircraft
being re-fitted with the Kestrel. 12 Squadron, which later adopted a
fox's mask as squadron badge in memory of their sole usage of the
aircraft, remained equipped with the Fox until 1931, being finally
replaced by the Hawker Hart. Foxes remained in use as dual control
trainers at the
Royal Air Force
Royal Air Force College Cranwell until 1933.
Two superannuated Fox Mk.Is took part in the 1934 MacRobertson Air
London to Melbourne. One of them occasioned the only
fatalities of the race when it crashed in Italy. The other, commanded
Ray Parer (a veteran of the 1919 England to Australia
Air Race), had struggled no further than
Paris when news came through
that the race winner had completed the course. Parer and co-pilot
Geoff Hemsworth continued an epic and eventful journey, taking nearly
four months to reach Melbourne.
The first Fox IIs entered service with the
Belgian Air Force
Belgian Air Force in early
1932 in the reconnaissance role, with one winning the "Circuit of
the Alps" race for two-seat military aircraft at the 1932 Zurich
Aviation meeting. The Fox continued in production at Avions Fairey
Gosselies for much of the 1930s, forming the backbone of the
Belgian Air Force, being used in the pure reconnaissance,
reconnaissance-bomber and two-seat fighter roles. Later aircraft were
fitted with enclosed canopies and more powerful Hispano-Suiza 12Y
Over 100 Foxes were still in front-line service with the Belgian Air
Force at the time of the German invasion on 10 May 1940. Although
massively outclassed by the aircraft of the
Luftwaffe they flew about
75 sorties and even claimed one kill of a Messerschmitt Bf
Mixed construction light bomber for RAF. Powered by 450 hp
Curtiss D-12 engine (also known as Fairey Felix). 25
built (including prototype).
Fox I powered by 490 hp (366 kW)
Rolls-Royce Kestrel engine.
Three built as new plus eight conversions.
Metal construction light bomber powered by 480 hp (358 kW)
Rolls-Royce Kestrel IB. One prototype.
Production version of IIM for Belgium. Supercharged Kestrel IIS
engine. 12 built by Fairey in Britain, and a further 31 under
licence by Belgian
Avions Fairey at
Gosselies (including two Fox IIS
dual control aircraft).
Designation used for British built, Kestrel powered demonstrator
(later designated Fox IV) and for Belgian built dual control trainer
(also Fox Trainer) powered by 360 hp (270 kW) Armstrong
Siddeley Serval engine.
Fox Trainer converted with Kestrel IIMS. Five additional production
aircraft by Avions Fairey.
Kestrel IIS and two forward-firing machine guns. 13 built at
(C for Combat) - Bomber/reconnaissance version for
Belgium powered by
Kestrel IIS, with provision for underwing bombs, two forward-firing
machine guns and enclosed cockpit. 48 built in Belgium, including
one Fox Mk IIICS dual-control trainer. Last few fitted with
600 hp 448 kW) Kestrel V engine.
Used for British built demonstrator (ex Fox III).
Fox II converted with Hispano-Suiza 12Ybrs engine. First flew 31
British built floatplane (Fox Floatplane). Six were produced for the
Peruvian Air Force
Peruvian Air Force to serve during the Colombia-
Peru War of 1933, but
by the time they had been delivered (in October 1933), the war was
over. They later (with the floats removed) carried out observation
duties in the
Ecuadorian-Peruvian war in 1941.
Reconnaissance version powered by 860 hp (642 kW)
Hispano-Suiza 12Ydrs engine. 24 built for
Belgium and two for
Two-seat fighter version of VIC. 52 built.
Single-seat fighter version of the Fox Mk.VIR (also known as the
Mono-Fox or Kangourou Provision for six machine guns. Only two
aircraft were built. One converted back to Fox VI standard and one
used as personal aircraft by Willy Coppens. One article
printed from information from Fairey even stated that the Fox VII was
a "flying fort" and had four machine guns and a cannon! 
Final production version ordered as a result of international tensions
in 1938. Based on VI but with three-bladed propeller and provision for
four underwing guns. 12 built, with final aircraft completed 25 May
Belgian Air Force
Peruvian Air Force
Swiss Air Force
Swiss Air Force -
Switzerland received two Fox VIR for evaluation.
Royal Air Force
No. 12 Squadron RAF
Fairey Fox VIR)
Data from War Planes of the Second World War: Volume Seven Bombers and
Reconnaissance Aircraft 
Length: 30 ft 9 in (9.38 m)
Wingspan: 37 ft 11 in (11.56 m)
Height: 11 ft 6½ in (3.52 m)
Wing area: 362 ft² (33.7 m²)
Empty weight: 2,920 lb (1,327 kg)
Loaded weight: 5,170 lb (2,350 kg)
Powerplant: 1 × Hispano-Suiza 12 Ybrs liquid-cooled V12 engine, 860
hp (640 kW)
Maximum speed: 224 mph (195 knots, 361 km/h) at 13,100 ft (4,000 m)
Range: 634 mi (551 nmi, 1,020 km)
Service ceiling: 32,800 ft (10,000 m)
Climb to 16,400 ft (5,000 m): 6.5 min
Climb to 19,700 ft (6,000 m): 8.35 min
Guns: 2 × forward firing machine guns and 1 × rear gun
Bombs: 220 lb (100 kg)
Fairey Firefly II
Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era
^ Although Fairey had negotiated a license for the D-12, in the end it
built no engines, with 50 engines being imported.
^ "Historical Listings: Switzerland, (SWT) Archived 9 March 2012 at
the Wayback Machine.."] World Air Forces. Retrieved: 19 May 2011.
^ a b c d Mason 1994, p.167.
^ Jarrett 1993, pp. 27—28.
^ Jarrett 1994, p.45.
^ a b Jarrett 1994, p.47.
^ Taylor 1974, p.136.
^ Taylor 1974, pp. 136—137.
^ Jarrett 1993, p.29.
^ Jarrett 1993, pp. 29—30.
^ Taylor 1994, pp. 196—197.
^ Green 1967, pp. 27—28.
^ Taylor 1974, p.140.
^ Thetford 1994, pp. 34—35.
^ Mason 1994, p.168.
^ Thetford 1994, p.39.
^ Taylor 1974, p.142.
^ a b c Taylor 1974, p.197.
^ "The Zurich Meeting". Flight, 5 August 1932, pp. 723—726.
^ Green 1967, pp.28—32.
^ a b Garcia 2001, p.67.
^ Green 1967, pp. 32—33.
^ a b Jarrett 1994, p.48.
^ a b Thetford 1994, p.38.
^ a b c Taylor 1974, p.206.
^ Green 1967, p.28.
^ Green 1967, p.29.
^ a b c d e Taylor 1974, p.200.
^ a b Green 1967, p.30.
^ Taylor 1974, p.202
^ von Rauch 1984, p.4.
^ a b Green 1967, p.32.
^ a b Green 1967, p.31.
Avions Fairey comes of age". Flight, 2 May 1952, p.52.
^ Taylor 1974, pp. 203—204.
^ "Flying Fort Carries Cannon and Four Machine Guns" Popular
Mechanics, July 1935
^ Green 1967, pp. 31—32.
^ Taylor 1974, p.202.
^ Taylor 1974, p.207.
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