The Fleet Air Arm torpedo bombers: the Fairey Swordfish

(To Francesco Sisto)

Il Fairey Swordfish it was an important torpedo bomber used during the Second World War. The main users of the aircraft were the Fleet Air Arm (the naval aviation of the Royal Navy), the Royal Air Force, the Royal Canadian Air Force and the Royal Netherlands Navy.

The vehicle was produced from 1936 to 1944 and, overall, more than 2300 examples were made.

The first prototype of the Fairey Swordfish (TSR I) first took to the skies in March 1933; the aircraft, however, did not give the desired results.

The second prototype (TSR II) took to the skies for the first time on 17 April 1934 and the results were positive.

Subsequently, the Royal Navy decided to immediately order a batch of the new boarding torpedo bomber. The vehicle went into production between 1935 and 1936.

Giorgio Bonacina, regarding the Fairey Swordfish, writes: “They were extremely old-fashioned looking, ugly and even clumsy biplanes, called stringbags, modestly armed and very slow, but possessed exceptional robustness. Their aeronautical qualities were also excellent”.1

The first Swordfish they entered service with the Royal Navy in the summer of 1936 for embarkation on aircraft carriers.

At the beginning of the Second World War, the vehicle was used as an escort to convoys.

Later, in the Norwegian campaign (April-June 1940) the vehicle began to be used as a real torpedo bomber. In fact, subsequently, the Fairey Swordfish took part in many launch missions and sea missions.

It is worth pointing out that the vehicle distinguished itself during the war.

The aircraft was used practically on all fronts: in the Mediterranean Sea, in the Atlantic Ocean, in the Indian Ocean and on the European continent.

- Swordfish they took part in numerous operations, and among these there is Operation Judgment (for us Italians the Taranto night). Furthermore, the Swordfish contributed to the battleship's demise Bismarck (read article "The war on the seas between the British and the Germans: the sinking of the Bismarck (1941)").

It should be noted that, during the war, the torpedo bomber was capable of sinking more ships (of the Axis powers) than any other Allied aircraft.

The aircraft was withdrawn from active service on 21 May 1945.

Il Fairey Swordfish (I) had a wingspan of 13,87 m, height 3,76 m, length 10,87 m.

The empty weight was 1903 kg, while fully loaded it was 3438 kg.

Engine: 1 Bristol Pegasus, power 690 HP.

The maximum speed was 230 km/h and the ceiling altitude was 5000 m.

The armament consisted of 7,7 mm Vickers machine guns; it could carry one 760 kg torpedo (or one 700 kg mine) and 8 3 lb RP-60 rockets.

The torpedo bomber could count on a crew of 3 men.

1 G. Bonacina, The Fairey Swordfish, in Illustrated History n°189, 1973, p. 95