Fairey Firefly
Fleet Air Arm Firefly "Q"


The Fairey Firefly was initially designed under specifications N.8/39 and N.9/39, but the prototype later updated to also fit under specification N.5/40. Designed as a two-seat Fleet reconaissance fighter based on the Fairey Fulmar,  the prototype first flew on 22 December 1941. It had a low-wing monoplane configuration with a wide-track undercarriage, smaller than the Fulmar, and provided with a more powerful engine, a single 2,250hp Rolls Royce Griffin 74 engine. The design was deliberately conventional, to bring it into service quickly, and with the trailing edge provided with patented Youngman flaps for use at low speeds and in cruise. Unlike the installation on the Barracuda, these flaps could be recessed into the wing.. Early Fireflies had a deep 'beard' radiator, later models had wing leading root intakes. The aircraft went into production on 26 August 1942 and the first production aircraft was delivered from Fairey’s Great Western Aerodrome (now London Heathrow International Airport) to RNAS Yeovilton on 4 March, 1943 where the first operational squadron, 1770, was formed in October, 1943. A total of 1623 Firefly were built.
It was mainly used as a carrier based anti-submarine, reconnaissance and strike aircraft, with a crew of pilot and oberver.  The plane carried four 20mm guns mounted in the wings and sixteen 60lb rockets or two 1,000 lb bombs. The Firefly was regarded as a versatile aircraft, taking part not only in WWII but also in the Korean war. The last of the 1702 built was delivered in 1956. The Firefly ended its naval career as a target drone.

The Fairey Aviation Company's original prototype first flew in 1941 and, two years later, the aircraft became operational with the Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm. In total, 1623 Fireflies left the assembly lines. One of the aeroplane's most interesting features is the housing of the pilot and navigator/weapons officer in separate compartments. In addition, the innovative wing flaps, when extended, increased both the wing area and, in turn, their lift. This last feature made the heavy Firefly docile during  landings on aircraft carrier decks.

Two-seat reconaissance fighter. It was a low-wing monoplane with a wide-track undercarriage, smaller than the fulmar that preceded it, and provided with a more powerful engine. The design was deliberately conventional, to bring it into service quickly. Early Fireflies had a deep 'beard' radiator, later models had wing leading root intakes. The concept of the two-seat fighter may have been mistaken, but the Firefly was a versatile aircraft, taking part not only in WWII but also in the Korean war. The last of the 1702 built was delivered in 1956. The Firefly ended its career as a target drone.

Postwar the Firefly was used by the Navcal Air arms of Australia, Canada, and Holland. The Royal Canadian Navy employed 65 Fireflies of the Mk AS-5 variety on board its own aircraft carriers between 1946 and 1954,m for use in the anti-submarine role.

The Royal Australian Navy operated Fireflies in 816 and 817 FAA squadron, with Firefly FR.I, Firefly NF.I, Fairey Firefly FR.4, Fairey Firefly FR.5, Fairey Firefly FR.6 between 1945-1948. 816 and 817 served onboard HMAS Sydney, or shore based at RANAS Nowra (HMAS Albatross). Firefly were also used for training at Albatross by 723, 724, 725 and 851 Squadrons.

Netherlands employed Fairey Firefly 30 Mark F.1 fighter aircraft from Royal Navy, delivered 18 January to 20 June 1946. Of these, 15 aircraft went to the Netherlands East Indies. Used by 860, 861 and 1 sqns .


 F.Mk I                    Initial production model
 F.Mk IA F.Mk I    Conversion to F.R. Mk I standard; ASH radar
 F.Mk III                 One prototype only with Griffon 61 engine, first flight 1944
 F.Mk IV                 2,100hp Griffon 74 engine, new outr wing nacelles that could both carry fuel or
                                ASH scanner to port and fuel to starboard. 160 built, first flight 1944.
 F.R.Mk I                Reconnaisance version  - modified Mk I; ASH radar
 F.R.Mk IV              See F.Mk IV
 F.R.Mk V               Reconnaisance version with Rolls-Royce "Griffon" 74 2212 hp engine
 F.R.6/A.S.6            Post-war variants
 N.F.Mk I                Night-fighter version; F.R. Mk I conversions; Exhaust shrouds and a AI.Mk 10
                                radar pod-mounted beneath the engine
 N.F.Mk II              Night-fighter version; Lengethened nose. AI. Mk 10 radar, 37 built
 N.F.Mk 5
 AS.Mk 5                ASW conversion of F.Mk 5 with American sonobuoys and equipment
 AS.Mk 6D             British equipped ASW conversion; 133 built
 AS.Mk 7                Griffon 59 engine, first flight October 1951, beard radiator. Limited producton.
 T.Mk 1                   Unarmed dual-control Mk I pilot trainer conversion
 T.Mk 2                   Cannon Armed dual-control pilot trainer
 T.Mk 3                   ASW trainer
 T.Mk 5                   Australian trainer conversion from AS.Mk 5
 T.Mk 7                   ASW trainer converison of AS.Mk 7
 TT.Mk 1                Target tug conversion
 TT.Mk 4                Target tug conversion of F.Mk 4
 TT.Mk 5                Australian target tug conversion from AS.Mk 5
 TT.Mk 6                Australian target tug conversion from AS.Mk 5
 U.Mk 8                   Pilotless drone, conversion from Mk.4
 U.Mk 9                   Pilotless drone, conversion from Mk.5
Fleet Air Arm history

   Total FAA 1939-1945:           1700 including post war
   First delivered to RN:             3.1943
   Squadron 1939-1945:              9.1943
   First Operational Sqdn:           9.1943
   Last served with RN               1956

200 Fairey Firefly I ordered 12.6.40 from Fairey, Hayes under Contract no B1203375/40.
Serial Numbers: Z1826-Z2126. 12 aircraft cancelled and renumbered TW677 to TW688

Total built:                188 built
Prototype:                  Z1826 first prototype flight 22.12.41, RN A&AEE 28.2.42, thence
                                to 778 sqdn Arbroath 2.43
Second prototype         First flight 29.5.42 (Z1827)
First prodtn flight:       15.9.42 (Z1829).
Deld                          3.43 to Yeovilton (Z1830) and IFD Flt A&AEE 5.43 (Z1837)
Sqdn                         9.43 to 787 sqdn (Z1879), 1770 10.43 (Z1832) at Yeovilton
Last RN aircraft:          7. 1946 Z1870 at 768 sqdn Easthaven. Many others still serving
                                FAA after 1945 including in 767 sqdn. Z2028 on Gosport Dump 6.53

200 Fairey Firefly F.I ordered under Contract no ctts/acft/936 from General Aircraft Ltd
Serial Numbers: DK414 – DK667.
Total built:                132 built, cancelled from DK570
Last:                         DK505 in 787 sdqn 5.47 . DK568 sold from Fairey in 7.48 to
                                SE-BRA at TT.1 deld 12.48. Many of this order were still in the
                                FAA after 1945

100 Fairey Firefly F.I ordered from Fairey, Heaton Chapel
Serial Numbers: DT926-DV150. 41 aircraft cancelled and renumbered TW689-TW744
Total built                59
Delivered:                 DT931 deld 15MU 6.44
Sqdn:                       1771 10.44 Hatston

300 Fairey Firefly FR.I ordered from Fairey, Heaton Chapel.
Serial Numbers: MB378-MB758. 290 completed. MB450-MB459 cancelled and renumbered TW745-TW754
Delivered                  9.44 15 MU (eg MB378)
Sqdn:                      1772 11.44 (eg MB380)

200 Fairey Firefly F.I ordered 17.7.43 under Contract No B.103375/40 from Fairey, Heaton Chapel.
Serial Numbers: PP391-PP660.

Number delivered:    7 delivered (PP391-PP397) by Sept 1945 rest delivered after war.

Aircraft Type:
Fairey Firefly
I, FR.I, F.I
Primary Role:
Carrier borne fighter, reconaissance, night fighter, anti-submarine aircraft
First Flight: 
Date operating with FAA squadrons:
August 1942 
Entered service: 1/10/43 till post war
Fairey, Heaton Chapel and Hayes, General Aircraft Ltd
Firefly FR Mk. I One 1730 hp (1280kW) Rolls Royce Griffon IIB
Firefly AS Mk.5 One 1678kW Rolls Royce Griffon 74
 Wing Span: Length: Height: Wing Area: 
Wing Span: 12.55m Length: 8.51m Height: 4.37m Wing Area: 30.66m2
Empty Weight: Max.Weight:
Empty Weight: 4388kg Max.Weight: 7301kg



Firefly FR Mk. I Speed: 513km/h Ceiling: 8500m Range: 2100km
Firefly AS Mk.5 Speed: 621km/h Ceiling: 8655m Range: 2092km
Four 20mm cannon in wings, 907 kg bombs
Eight 60lb rockets or two 1000lb bombs
Battle honours:
Tirpitz, Norway, Palembang, Japan
Additional references and notes:

Battle Honours and Operational History

The Firefly's notable feats include the part it played in the attacks against the German battleship Tirpitz, and on Japanese oil refineries in Sumatra. Fleet Air Arm Fireflies also saw action during the Korean War, operating from carriers against Communist ground targets.

The first operational sortie of the Fairey Firefly was in July 1944, when 1770 squadron flew from HMS Indefatigable and took part in the Barracuda led dive bombing attacks against the German battleship Tirpitz lying at anchor in Kaa Fjord, Northern Norway. In January 1945, the same squadron was involved in the first major action by the Fleet Air Arm against the Japanese, when the oil refineries in Sumatra were set ablaze with rockets.

Fleet Air Arm Firefly MkI Z1946 1772 sqdn HMS Indefatigable 1944

Night-fighter Fireflies were first issued to 746 Squadron, Night Fighter Interception Unit, in May 1943. Based at Ford, the NFIU flew alongside the RAF's FIU, developing night-fighter tactics. Flying from RAF Coltishall during late 1944, NFIU Fireflies undertook night patrols to counter V1 flying bombs air-launched over the North Sea by Luftwaffe He111s.

In June 1945 Fireflies of 1771 Squadron, operating from HMS Implacable, took part in attacks in the Carolinas, while in July 1772 squadron aircraft, from HMS Indefatigable, were flying strikes against shipping and ground targets in the Japanese home islands, becoming the first FAA aircraft to fly over the Japanese mainland. On 24 July, 1945 aircraft from 1772 Squadron became the first British aircraft to fly over Tokyo.

The type again saw action in the Korean War (1950-1953) and over Malaya, this timed with the much modified Firefly Mk4 with its clipped wings, which had first flown in May 1945. During the Korean War, the Royal Australian Navy Fireflies saw operational service over Korea when based on HMAS Sydney.

Surviving aircraft and relics

Approximately 24 Fairey Firefly still survive worldwide, including 4 airworthy examples and at least one being restored to flying condition. The Fleet Air Arm Museum, possesses two Firefly, the latest acquisition arriving in 2000 from the Imperial War Museum Duxford. The other airworthy examples are at the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum, Hamilton near Toronto (Canada), and the Royal Australian Navy Historic Flight, NAS Nowra NSW (Australia). There are even Firefly on the open market -  Firefly for sale 2000 by Courtesy Aircraft Sales, Fairey Firefly Project  AS Mk. 6  WD833 N833WD

The most well known Firefly are those of the Royal Naval Historic Flight, Fairey Firefly MK5 WB271. WB271 entered service with 814 Squadron at RNAS Culdrose, in Cornwall, in July 1949 and spent nine months at sea in HMS Vengeance before going to Fleetlands for maintenance and afterwards to Korea. She was then transferred to the Royal Australian Navy and served in the carrier HMAS Sydney before conversion for target towing duties in 1957. Put up for disposal in 1966, her purchase price of £160 was raised by the ship’s company of HMS Victorious and the aircraft was brought home in 1967 and presented to the Fleet Air Arm Museum at Yeovilton. In 1972 she was restored to flying condition and joined the Historic Flight. She is now painted as "204" in the Korean War markings of 812 Squadron from HMS Glory’s air group.

WB271 of the RNHF (UK) in 812 sqdn markings during the Korean War
Photograph courtesy of the Swordfish HeritageTrust

Fleet Air Arm FireflyTT4 VH127 "Evelyn Tentions" preserved at the FAA museum

Firefly VH127 of the Fleet Air Arm Museum, is a Mark 1 Firefly painted to represent "Evelyn Tentions" of 1771 Naval Air  Squadron.  This squadron operated from HMS Implacable during 1945 in strikes against the island of Truk and the Japanese mainland.

Other examples include:

Manchester Museum of Science and Industry, Manchester
    Fairey Firefly AS 6 Registration: WB440

Board of Civil Aviation, Stockholm
     Fairey Firefly FR Mk.1 S/N: F6071 (DT989) Registration: SE-BJG

Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum preserved RCN Firefly C-GBDG painted in the markings of 825 sqdn in 1953
Photograph courtesy of the Swordfish HeritageTrust

Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum - The Museum's Mk 5 C-GBDG was the first aeroplane type acquired for CWH's collection, it then went on to be pictured on the CWH decals and letterhead. The Camden Air Museum (Australia)  provided the Museum with the Firefly, which has been restored in the colours and markings of 825 (RCN) Squadron, which flew Mk 5's from the aircraft carrier HMCS 'Magnificent,' circa 1953.

There are still Firefly wrecks found around the world including one example in Australia. On 27 November 1956, two Fairey Fireflies of the RAN (VX381 and WD887) collided over Jervis Bay, both crashing into the bay. The Fireflies, carrier borne anti-submarine torpedo bombers, were based at nearby HMAS Albatross. In 1983, local Charlie Pickering found VX381 at 35° 0' 53"S 150° 44' 2"E. It is intact, apart from some gauges stolen since then. The wings lie flat on the sand or even under the sand at times. The fuselage sticks up from the sand and you can look into the cockpit. The other plane has yet to be located, although some people claim to have found it over the years (In NSW Dive Sites - Articles).

See Classic Wings Magazine Vol 5 #3 Jun - Jul 98 Fairey Firefly - Survivors

Associations and reunions

The Royal Navy Historic Flight and Swordfish Heritage Trust (UK)


Fairey Firefly The Operational Record
Fairey Firefly The Operational Record Written By: W. Harrison Published By: Airlife Publishing
ISBN: 1-85310-196-6
Flightline Firefly History and specifications about the Firefly with profiles of different squadron aircraft
Warbird Alley  Specifications of the Fairey Firefly
Encyclopedia of World Military Aircraft website with article on the Fairey Firefly  Fairey Firefly article contains details of the following:  Picture of Firefly FR.Mk 4s and Specifications 
Firefly specs in the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum, Canada Specifications, photographs and brief history of the Museum Firefly
Aircraft Profiles by FAUCONBERG AEROGRAPHICS An A-Z of Aircraft Profiles including FAIREY FIREFLY F.R. Mk. I, 1771 Squadron, Royal Naval Air Service, H.M.S. Implacable, British Pacific Fleet, March 1945
AIRCRAFT GALLERIES Pages by Mark Russell
[Fairey Swordfish II LS326]
[Fairey Swordfish I W5856]
[Swordfish III NF389 & other RNHF]
[Fairey Firefly AS.5 WB271]
 Tally Ho! decals, Firefly F Mk.II The profiles by Scott Fraser, owner of Tally Ho! decals, Firefly F Mk.II, 1771 Squadron, HMS Implacable 
Olivier warbirds, Le site sur l'aviation de la Seconde guerre mondiale Details of the firefly [in french]
 Sea Fury, Firefly and Sea Venom in Australian Service by Stewart Wilson   Sea Fury, Firefly and Sea Venom in Australian Service by Stewart Wilson 
Classic Wings Magazine  Vol 5 #3 Jun - Jul 98 Fairey Firefly - Survivors 
Sturtivant, R. & Burrow, M (1995) 'Fleet Air Arm Aircraft 1939 to 1945'  Published by Air Britain (Historians) Ltd, 1995 ISBN: 085130 232 7 
Created 3-4-1999, Modified 3-4-2000


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