Fairey Swordfish

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Fairey Swordfish
Fairey Swordfish
Type: carrier-supported torpedo bomber
Design country:

United KingdomUnited Kingdom United Kingdom


Fairey Aviation Company

First flight:

April 17, 1934

Number of pieces:


The Fairey Swordfish was a biplane - combat aircraft of the British manufacturer Fairey Aviation Company , which during the Second World War as a carrier based torpedo bomber , reconnaissance aircraft and submarine hunters was used. From 1934 to 1944, 2396 machines were built. The Fairey Swordfish gained fame because the aircraft type was involved in the attack on Taranto against the Italian fleet in 1940 and in the sinking of the German battleship "Bismarck" in 1941.


Fairey Swordfish with swimmers aboard HMS Malaya

The manufacturer Fairey developed the biplane TSR1 on its own initiative , which was destroyed in an accident in September 1933. When the British Ministry of Aviation issued a tender for a torpedo and reconnaissance aircraft for use on aircraft carriers, Fairey constructed the TSR2 biplane . The prototype of the Fairey Swordfish with the military approval K4190 emerged from this construction. The first flight took place on April 17, 1934.


The machine, flown by two to three crew members, was powered by a Bristol Pegasus star engine. The armament consisted of two .303 British (7.7 mm) caliber Vickers machine guns : a synchronized fixed machine gun firing forward through the propeller circle and a moveable gun mounted on a mount for the rear gunner. A 457 mm torpedo or bombs could be carried to combat ships .

The aircraft had good short take-off characteristics and could also be used by commercial aircraft carriers ( MAC ships ) and escort aircraft carriers. Swordfish aircraft were standard equipment on the MAC ships.

The Mk I version was also in use in a variant with floats, without changing the name. These aircraft were intended for the use of warships and the launch by catapult and were used, for example, on board the HMS Warspite and other larger combat ships as board aircraft.

Sinking successes

This type became known when he was instrumental in the sinking of Italian naval units in the port of Taranto ; The airplane also played a central role in the sinking of the Bismarck . Furthermore, an aircraft of this type was responsible for sinking the U 64 submarine . In the fighting during the Cerberus operation in the English Channel , however, the Swordfish machines no longer proved themselves. In March 1944, carrier-supported Swordfish from the Northern Sea Convoy RA 57 sank the submarines U 472 , U 366 and U 973 . At the beginning of May 1944 they sank the submarines U 277, U 959 and U 674 in the same area of ​​the sea during convoy RA 59 .

Since the successor to the Fairey Albacore , a biplane of a very similar design, was unsuccessful due to the unreliability of the Bristol-Taurus engine, the Swordfish remained in active service until the end of the Second World War. Their main task was anti-submarine defense .


  • Swordfish Mk I : basic variant (also with floats for catapult launch)
  • Swordfish Mk II : reinforced wings, rails for eight missiles under the wings
  • Swordfish Mk III : like Mk II, but with radar between the wheels
  • Swordfish Mk IV : like Mk II, but with a closed cabin for the Royal Canadian Air Force

Production numbers

The Swordfish was built in series by Fairey in Hayes (693 copies) until the beginning of 1940 and by Blackburn in Sherburn (1699 copies) from the end of 1940. There were a total of 2392 Swordfish.

Annual production of the Fairey Swordfish
year number
1934 1
1936 150
1937-1938 339
1939 201
1940 3
1941 417
1942 270
1943 594
1944 417
total 2392
Versions of the Fairey Swordfish
version Fairy Blackburn total
prototype 1 1
Mk.I 692 834 1526
Mk.II 545 545
Mk.III 320 320
total 693 1699 2392

Countries of operation

United KingdomUnited Kingdom United Kingdom

Canada 1921Canada Canada

NetherlandsNetherlands Netherlands

Technical specifications

Three-sided tear (Swordfish Mk I)
Parameter Data Fairey Swordfish Mk.I
crew 2-3
length 10.89 m
span 13.86 m
height 3.76 m
Empty mass 2145 kg
Takeoff mass 3419 kg
drive a radial engine Bristol Pegasus III M3 with 690 HP (approx. 510 kW)
Top speed 221 km / h at an altitude of 1525 m
Service ceiling 5870 m
Range 874 km
Armament two machine guns caliber .303 British (7.7 mm) and
either a 730 kg torpedo , a 680 kg mine or an
equivalent bomb load
(the Mk.II had eight missiles ( RP-3 ) instead )

See also


  • Chris Chant, Chris Bishop: Aircraft Carrier , p. 141, MotorBuchVerlag

Web links

Commons : Fairey Swordfish  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Jürgen Rohwer , Gerhard Hümmelchen : Chronik des Maritime War 1939–1945, March 1944 , accessed on May 4, 2019
  2. Jürgen Rohwer, Gerhard Hümmelchen: Chronicle of the Sea War 1939–1945, April 1944 , accessed on May 4, 2019
  3. Aviation Book: Canadian Warbirds 1: The Biplane Era, Fighters, Bombers and Patrol Aircraft
  4. ^ National Archives, Kew, inventory AVIA 10/311; Halley, James J .: The K File. The Royal Air Force of the 1930s, Tunbridge Wells, pp. 336 ff.
  5. ^ Gazeley, Ian: Swordfish 1940-44, in: Air Britain, Aeromilitaria Spring 2001, pp. 17 ff.