The Fairey Battle was a single engined light bomber that was operational at the start of the Second World War. As such it played a large although somewhat unsuccessful role in the RAF’s efforts to blunt the advance of the German forces. The aircraft was conceived in the days when there was a belief that bombers could be built fast enough to outrun enemy fighters. Unfortunately every advance that made bombers faster could also be applied to fighters and so the fighter always had an advantage. It was however an improvement over the previous Hawker Hart and Hind biplanes that it replaced.
Power came from the same Rolls-Royce Merlin engine as the Spitfire and Hurricane but was heavier and therefore not as fast (top speed was 257mph) or nimble. The aircraft had just two guns; a single .303 machine gun in the starboard wing for straffing and a single .303 in the rear of the cockpit for defence. For offensive operations the aircraft could carry four 250lb bombs internally and two 500lb bombs on external hardpoints.
The aircraft has been mired by the savagery at which the Germans destroyed them. The aircraft proved disappointing but recently military historians have put more blame on the way the aircraft was used rather than the design itself. They were used as level day bombers which left them incredibly vulnerable. Had the aircraft been used more like the remarkably similar and infinitely more successful Il-2 Shturmovik of the Soviet Air Force then it might have proven more useful.
Before it was withdrawn from frontline service in 1940 however it did achieve its greatest claim to fame – this was the first RAF aircraft to shoot down a German plane in the war when on 20th September 1939, a Luftwaffe Bf109 fighter was shot down by Sgt. F. Letchard during a a patrol over France.
- Role: Light Day Bomber
- Crew: 3
- Powerplant: 1 × Rolls-Royce Merlin II liquid-cooled V12 engine, 1,030 hp (768 kW)
- Maximum speed: 257 mph (223 kn, 413 km/h) at 15,000 ft (4,600 m)
- Range: 1,000 miles
- Service ceiling: 25,000 ft
- Length: 42 ft 4 in (12.91 m)
- Wingspan: 54 ft 0 in (16.46 m)
- Height: 15 ft 6 in (4.72 m)
- Wing area: 422 ft² (39.2 m²)
- Empty weight: 6,647 lb (3,015 kg)
- Loaded weight: 10,792 lb (4,895 kg)
1× .303 in (7.7 mm) Browning machine gun in starboard wing
1× .303 in (7.7 mm) Vickers K machine gun in rear cabin
4× 250 lb (110 kg) bombs internally
500 lb (230 kg) of bombs externally