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The principal types of aircraft operated by R.A.F. during WW2


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Bristol Beaufighter

The Bristol Type 156 Beaufighter (often referred to simply as the "Beau") is a multi-role aircraft developed during the Second World War by the Bristol Aeroplane Company in the United Kingdom (UK).

It was originally conceived as a heavy fighter variant of the Bristol Beaufort bomber. Upon its entry to service, the Beaufighter proved to be well suited to the night fighter role, for which the Royal Air Force (RAF) initially deployed the type during the height of the Battle of Britain, in part due to its large size allowing it to accommodate both heavy armaments and early airborne interception radar without major performance penalties.

Sources: From Wikipedia

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The Beaufighter Mk X with rockets (By Canadian Forces)

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Bristol Blenheim

The Bristol Blenheim is a British light bomber aircraft designed and built by the Bristol Aeroplane Company that was used extensively in the first two years of the Second World War. It was originally developed as the civil-orientated Type 142 in response to Lord Rothermere's challenge to produce the fastest commercial aircraft in Europe. The Type 142 first flew in April 1935, and the Air Ministry, impressed by its performance, ordered a modified design as the Type 142M to serve in the Royal Air Force (RAF) as a bomber. Deliveries of the newly named Blenheim to RAF squadrons commenced on the 10th of March 1937.

The Blenheim was one of the first British aircraft to feature an all-metal stressed-skin construction, retractable landing gear, flaps, a powered gun turret and variable-pitch propellers. The design of the Blenheim proved to be readily adaptable, and was modified to serve in roles such as an interim long-range fighter and as a night fighter, pending the availability of a more advanced fighter derivative of the Blenheim, the Beaufighter. A more capable bomber derivative, the Beaufort, was also developed, being both larger and heavier than the Blenheim.

A Canadian-built variant named the Bolingbroke was used as an anti-submarine patrol aircraft and trainer. The Blenheim Mk I outran most biplane fighters in the late 1930s but stood little chance against the German Messerschmitt Bf 109 during daylight operations of the Second World War, though it proved successful as a night fighter.[1] The Mark IV variant was equally unsuccessful in its daylight bombing role, suffering many losses in the early stages of the war.[2] The Blenheim was also used by a wide range of overseas operators, as well being produced under licence in Finland and Yugoslavia.


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The first production Type 142M with the registration K7033 ( Royal Air Force)

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de Havilland DH.98 Mosquito

The de Havilland DH.98 Mosquito is a British multi-role combat aircraft with a two-man crew. It served during and after the Second World War. It was one of few operational front-line aircraft of the era constructed almost entirely of wood and was nicknamed The Wooden Wonder.[4][nb 1] The Mosquito was also known affectionately as the "Mossie" to its crews.[5] Originally conceived as an unarmed fast bomber, the Mosquito was adapted to roles including low to medium-altitude daytime tactical bomber, high-altitude night bomber, pathfinder, day or night fighter, fighter-bomber, intruder, maritime strike aircraft, and fast photo-reconnaissance aircraft. It was also used by the British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC) as a fast transport to carry small high-value cargoes to, and from, neutral countries, through enemy-controlled airspace.[6] A single passenger could ride in the aircraft's bomb bay when it was adapted for the purpose.[7]

When Mosquito production began in 1941, it was one of the fastest operational aircraft in the world.[8] Entering service in autumn 1941, the first Mosquito variant was an unarmed high-speed, high-altitude photo-reconnaissance aircraft. Subsequent versions continued in this role throughout the war. From mid-1942 to mid-1943, Mosquito bombers flew high-speed, medium or low-altitude missions against factories, railways and other pinpoint targets in Germany and German-occupied Europe. From late 1943, Mosquito bombers were formed into the Light Night Strike Force and used as pathfinders for RAF Bomber Command heavy-bomber raids. They were also used as "nuisance" bombers, often dropping Blockbuster bombs – 4,000 lb (1,812 kg) "cookies" – in high-altitude, high-speed raids that German night fighters were almost powerless to intercept.

As a night fighter from mid-1942, the Mosquito intercepted Luftwaffe raids on Britain, notably those of Operation Steinbock in 1944. Starting in July 1942, Mosquito night-fighter units raided Luftwaffe airfields. As part of 100 Group, it was flown as a night fighter and as an intruder supporting Bomber Command heavy bombers that reduced losses during 1944 and 1945.[9][nb 2] As a fighter-bomber in the Second Tactical Air Force, the Mosquito took part in "special raids", such as Operation Jericho an attack on Amiens Prison in early 1944 and in precision attacks against Gestapo or German intelligence and security forces. Second Tactical Air Force Mosquitos supported the British Army during the 1944 Normandy Campaign. From 1943, Mosquitos with RAF Coastal Command attacked Kriegsmarine U-boats (particularly in 1943 in the Bay of Biscay, where significant numbers were sunk or damaged) and intercepted transport ship concentrations.

The Mosquito flew with the Royal Air Force (RAF) and other air forces in the European, Mediterranean and Italian theatres. The Mosquito was also operated by the RAF in the South East Asian theatre and by the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) based in the Halmaheras and Borneo during the Pacific War. During the 1950s, the RAF replaced the Mosquito with the jet-powered English Electric Canberra.


Sources: From Wikipedia

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Mosquito B Mk IV serial DK338 before delivery to 105 Squadron – this aircraft was used on several of 105 Squadron's low-altitude daylight bombing operations during 1943. (Royal Air Force)

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The Hawker Hurricane

The Hawker Hurricane is a British single-seat fighter aircraft of the 1930s–1940s that was designed and predominantly built by Hawker Aircraft Ltd for the Royal Air Force (RAF). Although overshadowed by the Supermarine Spitfire, the aircraft became renowned during the Battle of Britain, accounting for 60 percent of the RAF air victories in the battle, and served in all the major theatres of the Second World War.

The Hurricane originated from discussions during the early 1930s between RAF officials and British aircraft designer Sir Sydney Camm on the topic of a proposed monoplane derivative of the Hawker Fury biplane. Despite an institutional preference for biplanes at the time and repeated lack of interest by the Air Ministry, Hawker chose to continue refining their monoplane proposal, which resulted in the incorporation of several innovations that would become critical to wartime fighter aircraft, such as a retractable undercarriage and the newly developed Rolls-Royce Merlin engine. In late 1934, the Air Ministry placed an order for Hawker's "Interceptor Monoplane". On 6 November 1935, the prototype Hurricane, K5083, performed its maiden flight.

In June 1936, the Hurricane was ordered into production by the Air Ministry; the type entered squadron service on 25 December 1937. The manufacture and maintenance of the aircraft was greatly eased by its use of conventional construction methods, which enabled squadrons to perform many major repairs themselves without much external support. The Hurricane was rapidly procured prior to the outbreak of the Second World War in September 1939, by which point, the RAF operated a total of 18 Hurricane-equipped squadrons. The aircraft quickly found itself being heavily relied upon to defend against the vast and varied German aircraft operated by Luftwaffe, including dogfighting with the capable Messerschmitt Bf 109, across multiple theatres of action. It is perhaps best known for its contribution to Britain's home defences during the Battle of Britain.

Sources: From Wikipedia

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Avro Manchester

The Avro 679 Manchester was a British twin-engine medium bomber developed and manufactured by the Avro aircraft company in the United Kingdom. While not being built in great numbers, it was the forerunner of the famed and vastly more successful four-engined Avro Lancaster, which would become one of the most capable strategic bombers of the Second World War.

Avro designed the Manchester in conformance with the requirements laid out by the British Air Ministry Specification P.13/36, which sought a capable medium bomber with which to equip the Royal Air Force (RAF) and to replace its inventory of twin-engine bombers, such as the Armstrong Whitworth Whitley, Handley Page Hampden and Vickers Wellington. Performing its maiden flight on 25 July 1939, the Manchester entered squadron service in November 1940, barely twelve months following the outbreak of the conflict.

Operated by both RAF and the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF); primarily as a result of its underdeveloped, underpowered and unreliable engines, the Manchester came to be regarded as an operational failure. Production was terminated in 1941, however the Manchester was redesigned into a four-engined heavy bomber, powered by the Merlin engine instead, which became known as the Lancaster.

Sources: From Wikipedia

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Avro Lancaster

The Avro Lancaster is a British four-engined Second World War heavy bomber. It was designed and manufactured by Avro as a contemporary of the Handley Page Halifax, both bombers having been developed to the same specification, as well as the Short Stirling, all three aircraft being four-engined heavy bombers adopted by the Royal Air Force (RAF) during the same wartime era.

The Lancaster has its origins in the twin-engine Avro Manchester which had been developed during the late 1930s in response to the Air Ministry Specification P.13/36 for a capable medium bomber for "world-wide use". Originally developed as an evolution of the Manchester (which had proved troublesome in service and was retired in 1942), the Lancaster was designed by Roy Chadwick and powered by four Rolls-Royce Merlins and in one version, Bristol Hercules engines. It first saw service with RAF Bomber Command in 1942 and as the strategic bombing offensive over Europe gathered momentum, it was the main aircraft for the night-time bombing campaigns that followed. As increasing numbers of the type were produced, it became the principal heavy bomber used by the RAF, the RCAF and squadrons from other Commonwealth and European countries serving within the RAF, overshadowing contemporaries such as the Halifax and Stirling.[2]

A long, unobstructed bomb bay meant that the Lancaster could take the largest bombs used by the RAF, including the 4,000 lb (1,800 kg), 8,000 lb (3,600 kg) and 12,000 lb (5,400 kg) blockbusters, loads often supplemented with smaller bombs or incendiaries. The "Lanc", as it was affectionately known,[3] became one of the more famous and most successful of the Second World War night bombers, "delivering 608,612 long tons of bombs in 156,000 sorties".[4] The versatility of the Lancaster was such that it was chosen to equip 617 Squadron and was modified to carry the Upkeep "Bouncing bomb" designed by Barnes Wallis for Operation Chastise, the attack on German Ruhr valley dams. Although the Lancaster was primarily a night bomber, it excelled in many other roles, including daylight precision bombing, for which some Lancasters were adapted to carry the 12,000 lb (5,400 kg) Tallboy and then the 22,000 lb (10,000 kg) Grand Slam earthquake bombs (also designed by Wallis).[5] This was the largest payload of any bomber in the war.

In 1943, a Lancaster was converted to become an engine test bed for the Metropolitan-Vickers F.2 turbojet. Lancasters were later used to test other engines, including the Armstrong Siddeley Mamba and Rolls-Royce Dart turboprops and the Avro Canada Orenda and STAL Dovern turbojets. Postwar, the Lancaster was supplanted as the main strategic bomber of the RAF by the Avro Lincoln, a larger version of the Lancaster. The Lancaster took on the role of long range anti-submarine patrol aircraft (later supplanted by the Avro Shackleton) and air-sea rescue. It was also used for photo-reconnaissance and aerial mapping, as a flying tanker for aerial refuelling and as the Avro Lancastrian, a long-range, high-speed, transatlantic passenger and postal delivery airliner. In March 1946, a Lancastrian of BSAA flew the first scheduled flight from the new London Heathrow Airport.[6] In 1963, the last remaining Lancasters were retired by the RCAF.

Sources: From Wikipedia

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A.W.38 Whitley

The Armstrong Whitworth A.W.38 Whitley was one of three British twin-engined, front line medium bomber types that were in service with the Royal Air Force (RAF) at the outbreak of the Second World War. Alongside the Vickers Wellington and the Handley Page Hampden, the Whitley was developed during the mid-1930s according to Air Ministry Specification B.3/34, which it was subsequently selected to meet. In 1937, the Whitley formally entered into RAF squadron service, it was the first of the three medium bombers to be introduced.

Following the outbreak of war in September 1939, the Whitley participated in the first RAF bombing raid upon German territory and remained an integral part of the early British bomber offensive until the introduction of four-engined "heavies".[2] Its front line service included maritime reconnaissance with Coastal Command and the second line roles of glider-tug, trainer and transport aircraft. The type was also procured by British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC) as a civilian freighter aircraft. The aircraft was named after Whitley, a suburb of Coventry, home of one of Armstrong Whitworth's plants.

Sources: From Wikipedia

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Handley Page Halifax

The Handley Page Halifax was a British Royal Air Force (RAF) four-engined heavy bomber of the Second World War. It was developed by Handley Page to the same specification as the contemporary of the Avro Lancaster, and the Short Stirling, all three aircraft being four-engined heavy bombers.

The Halifax has its origins in the twin-engine HP56 proposal of the late 1930s, which had been produced in response to the British Air Ministry's Specification P.13/36 for a capable medium bomber for "world-wide use". The HP56 was ordered as a backup to the Avro 679, both designs being designed to use the underperforming Rolls-Royce Vulture engine; the Handley Page design was altered at the Ministry to a four-engine arrangement, which was powered by the iconic Rolls-Royce Merlin engine, while the rival Avro 679 was produced as the twin-engine Avro Manchester which, while regarded as unsuccessful mainly due to the Vulture engine, was a direct predecessor of the famed Avro Lancaster. Both the Lancaster and the Halifax would emerge as capable four-engined strategic bombers of which thousands would be manufactured and operated by the RAF and several other services throughout the course of the conflict.

On 25 October 1939, the Halifax performed its maiden flight, and entered service with the RAF on 13 November 1940. It quickly became a major component of Bomber Command, performing routine strategic bombing missions against the Axis Powers, many of which were performed at night. Arthur Harris, the Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief of Bomber Command, described the Halifax as being inferior to the rival Lancaster, in part due to its inability to carry larger individual bombs such as the 4,000 pound "Cookie" blast bomb. Nevertheless, production of the bomber continued until April 1945. During their service with Bomber Command, Halifaxes flew a total of 82,773 operations and dropped 224,207 tons of bombs, while 1,833 aircraft were lost. The Halifax was also operated in large numbers by other Allied and Commonwealth nations, such as the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF), Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF), Free French Air Force and Polish forces.

Various improved versions of the Halifax were introduced, which incorporated more powerful engines and a revised defensive turret layout and also made it capable of carrying increased payloads. It remained in service until the end of the war, performing a variety of duties in addition to bombing. Additionally, specialised versions of the Halifax were developed for troop-transport and paradrop operations. Following the end of the Second World War, the RAF quickly chose to phase the Halifax out of service, the type having been succeeded in the strategic bombing role by the Avro Lincoln, an advanced derivative of the Lancaster. During the post-war years, the Halifax was operated by the Royal Egyptian Air Force, the French Air Force and the Royal Pakistan Air Force. The type also entered commercial service for a number of years, where it was mainly used as a freighter. A dedicated civil transport variant, the Handley Page Halton, was also developed and entered airline service. 41 civil Halifax freighters were used during the Berlin Airlift. In 1961, the last remaining Halifax bombers were retired from operational use.

Sources: From Wikipedia

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Handley Page HP.52 Hampden

The Handley Page HP.52 Hampden was a British twin-engine medium bomber of the Royal Air Force (RAF). It was one of a trio of then-large twin-engine bombers procured for the RAF, the other two being the Armstrong Whitworth Whitley and Vickers Wellington. The newest of the three medium bombers, the Hampden, was often referred to by aircrews as the "Flying Suitcase" because of its cramped crew conditions.[1] The Hampden served in the early stages of Second World War, bearing the brunt of the early bombing war over Europe, taking part in the first night raid on Berlin and the first 1,000-plane raid on Cologne. As the war went on, it became clear that the Hampden was unsuited to combat missions in the modern air war and, after a period of mainly operating at night, it was retired from RAF Bomber Command service in late 1942. While the Hampden was powered by Bristol Pegasus radial engines, a short-lived variant known as the Handley Page Hereford instead featured in-line Napier Daggers.



Sources: From Wikipedia

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Martin B-26 Marauder

The Martin B-26 Marauder was a World War II twin-engined medium bomber built by the Glenn L. Martin Company from 1941 to 1945. First used in the Pacific Theater in early 1942, it was also used in the Mediterranean Theater and in Western Europe.

After entering service with the US Army, the aircraft received the reputation of a "Widowmaker" due to the early models' high accident rate during takeoffs and landings. The Marauder had to be flown at exact airspeeds, particularly on final runway approach and when one engine was out. The 150 mph (241 km/h) speed on short final runway approach was intimidating to pilots who were used to much slower speeds, and whenever they slowed down to speeds below what the manual stated, the aircraft would stall and crash.

The B-26 became a safer aircraft once crews were re-trained, and after aerodynamics modifications (an increase of wingspan and wing angle-of-incidence to give better takeoff performance, and a larger vertical stabilizer and rudder). After aerodynamic and design changes, the aircraft distinguished itself as "the chief bombardment weapon on the Western Front" according to a United States Army Air Forces dispatch from 1946.[citation needed] The Marauder ended World War II with the lowest loss rate of any USAAF bomber.

A total of 5,288 were produced between February 1941 and March 1945; 522 of these were flown by the Royal Air Force and the South African Air Force. By the time the United States Air Force was created as an independent service separate from the Army in 1947, all Martin B-26s had been retired from US service. The Douglas A-26 Invader then assumed the B-26 designation — before officially returning to the earlier "A for Attack" designation in May 1966.

Sources: From Wikipedia

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Vickers Wellington

The Vickers Wellington was a British twin-engined, long-range medium bomber. It was designed during the mid-1930s at Brooklands in Weybridge, Surrey, led by Vickers-Armstrongs' Chief Designer Rex Pierson; a key feature of the aircraft is its geodesic fuselage structure, principally designed by Barnes Wallis. Development had been started in response to Air Ministry Specification B.9/32; issued in the middle of 1932, this called for a twin-engined day bomber capable of delivering higher performance than any previous design. Other aircraft developed to the same specification include the Armstrong Whitworth Whitley and the Handley Page Hampden. During the development process, performance requirements such as for the tare weight changed substantially, as well as the powerplant for the type being swapped.

The Wellington was widely used as a night bomber in the early years of the Second World War, performing as one of the principal bombers used by Bomber Command. During 1943, it started to be superseded as a bomber by the larger four-engined "heavies" such as the Avro Lancaster. The Wellington continued to serve throughout the war in other duties, particularly as an anti-submarine aircraft. It holds the distinction of being the only British bomber to be produced for the duration of the war and of being produced in a greater quantity than any other British-built bomber. The Wellington remained as first-line equipment when the war ended, although it had been increasingly relegated to secondary roles. The Wellington was one of two bombers named after Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, the other being the Vickers Wellesley.

A larger heavy bomber aircraft designed to Specification B.1/35, the Vickers Warwick, was developed in parallel with the Wellington; the two aircraft shared around 85% of their structural components. Many elements of the Wellington were also reused in a civil derivative, the Vickers VC.1 Viking.

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