Blackburn B-37 Firebrand
Fleet Air Arm Firebrand ON383 OC


The Blackburn Firebrand was born out of a 1939 specification calling for a two seat, inline engined fleet fighter. When it finally entered Royal Navy operational service in September 1945 it was in the form of a single seat, radial engined torpedo-fighter-bomber.

The Firebrand was originally designed as a naval fighter N.11/40. The Firebrand was designed as a carrier fighter powered by a Napier Sabre engine, but because of engine unreliability and poor handling it was unacceptable. It was then redesigned to become a fast strike aircraft carrying a large torpedo, and powered by a Bristol Centaurus radial.

Three protypes were built. The first prototype, DD804, was flown on 27 February, 1942 at Leconsfield. It was then sent to A Flight A&AEE, Boscombe Down in April 1942 and undertook its initial service trials in October 1942 at Machrihanish. The Firebrand undertook deck landing trials in February 1943 on HMS Illustrious. Unfortunately, the Firebrand was never much of a carrier aircraft. Its powerful Bristol Centaurus engine and thirteen-foot diameter propeller produced extreme torque swing on takeoff, which could only be countered by the abnormally large vertical tail fin and rudder. The Firebrand was also very difficult to deck land, since the pilot sat closer to the tail than the nose, with predictably poor visibility. While many of its pilots appreciated the fact that the aircraft was built like a battleship, particularly during landing accidents, they did not care for its bulky weight. Finally, the Naval Staff's concept of a torpedo-bomber/fighter combination to which the aircraft was designed was just too much of a compromise, with the end result that the Firebrand was never successful in either role. Still it had a service life from 1945 to 1953. 156 built.

F.Mk.I - first production version, a heavy fighter
TF.Mk.II - torpedo bomber based on F.Mk.I
TF.Mk.III - upgraded torpedo bomber with radial engine, scrapped because of extreme instability at landing speeds
TF.Mk.IV - reworked TF.Mk.III with fixed control problems

Wartime colour photograph of prototype Firebrand
The Fleet Air Arm ordered 156 Firebrand under contract no 156337/40/C.20.b to spec N.11/40. The first service model was entitled Firebrand TF.IV and built under contract no Ctts/Acft/981 to spec N.11/40

The first aircraft, DK365, was delivered to IFD Flight at A&AEE, Boscombe Down  for intensive flight trials in July 1943, and also for radio tests and Carbon Monoxide contamination (DK365). In September 1943 the Royal Navy evaluations were carried out at Lee on Solent with Firebrand DK3709.

In October 1944, 708 squadron was formed at Lee On Solent, as the Firebrand Tactical Trials Unit. It was equipped with Firebrand TF.IIs, some of the aircraft being fitted with 8 rocket projectiles and flew combat sorties against Seafires which were also attached to the squadron. 708 squadron received Firebrand from November 1944 and carried out Deck landing trials on HMS Glory and HMS Pretoria Castle. In August 1945 the first Firebrand TF.IIIs arrived (eg EK613), and following torpedo trials at Stokes Bay, 708 squadron moved to Ford in September 1945, where the Commanding Officer and pilots provided the nucleus to form 813 squadron, the first operational Firebrand squadron. The squadron received most of its Firebrand TF.IV in August and September 1945 at Ford. These aircraft were used till at least 1946. The type saw service with the FAA until 1956.

Fleet Air Arm history
Total FAA 1939-1945:            156
First delivered to RN:              9.1944 (first RN evaluation)
Squadron 1939-1945:               778 sqdn Feb 1943 (DD815), 708 sqdn to Lee-on-Solent Sept 1944 (DK370)(8th prodtn model)
First Operational Sqdn:            813 sqdn September 1945 at Ford (eg EK613)
Last served with RN                Post war used till 1956
Aircraft Type:
Blackburn B-37 Firebrand
Primary Role:
Carrier-based torpedo-strike fighter
First Flight: 
27 Feb 1942
Date operating with FAA squadrons:
One 2,520 hp Bristol Centaurus XI I two-row radial radial engine 
One 2,250 hp Napier Sabre III
 Wing Span: Length: Height: Wing Area: 
Wing Span: 15.63m Length: 11.81m Height: 4.04m Wing Area: 35.58m2
Empty Weight: Max.Weight:
Empty5,197 kg 
Max: 7,575 kg



Speed: 560km/h Ceiling: 8690m Range: 1200km
Guns:  4 fixed forward firing "Hispano" 20mm cannon in wings 
One 1850lb Torpedo, or two 1000lb bombs, or rockets.
708, 764,778, 803 
Battle honours:
None with FAA 1939-1945
Additional references and notes:

Battle Honours
None with FAA 1939-1945

Fleet Air Arm Firebrand TF Mk5 of 827 squadron in 1952

Surviving aircraft and relics

No complete Firebrand exists anyway in the world, however a cockpit section of a Mk TF. 4 is preserved in the Fleet Air Arm Museum.

Associations and reunions
No information
ADC Blackburn Firebrand in British Aircraft of the Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm
and the RAF
Firebrand - a single-seat carrier-borne fighter whose development was slowed by an engine change that became the first single-seat torpedo fighter in the FAA just after the end of the war. Downloadable ADC pdf file of technical specifications.The ADC sets are available directly online as PDF files that can be read with Adobe's Acrobat Reader.
Aircraft Profiles by FAUCONBERG AEROGRAPHICS  An A-Z of Aircraft Profiles by FAUCONBERG AEROGRAPHICS including BLACKBURN FIREBRAND T.F. Mk. 5, 827 Squadron, Fleet Air Arm, H.M.S. Eagle, 1952-1953
Sturtivant, R. & Burrow, M (1995) 'Fleet Air Arm Aircraft 1939 to 1945'  Published by Air Britain (Historians) Ltd, 1995 ISBN: 085130 232 7 
Air Forces International, November 1989: Fly Navy - Blackburn Firebrand. Pgs. 338-341

Air International Vol.15 No.1, July 1978: Blackburn's Baby Battleship by Capt. Eric Brown. Pgs.
25-31, 46, 47

Aviation News Plans Service: Blackburn Firebrand Scale Drawings.

Modelaid Quarterly International Issue No. 3, July 1984: Fly Navy - A Fishy Hotrod. Pg. 58

Sturtivant, Ray: The Squadrons of the Fleet Air Arm. Air Britain Productions, Tonbridge, Kent, 1984.

Created 3-4-1999, Modified 3-4-2000


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