Model Airplane News
October, 1937

Model Airplane News Cover for October, 1937 by Jo Kotula Blackburn B-24 Skua

Blackburn B-24 "Skua"
Model Airplane News Cover Art for October, 1937
by Jo Kotula
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The Blackburn B-24 "Skua" was a carrier-based low-wing, 2-seater, single engine aircraft that combined the functions of a dive bomber and fighter. It was designed in the mid-1930s, and saw service with the British Fleet in the early part of the Second World War. It was named after the seabird, a strong, acrobatic flier that is generally aggressive in disposition.

It was the Fleet Air Arm's first service monoplane, and was a radical departure for a service that was primarily equipped with open-cockpit biplanes such as the Fairey Swordfish, the famous torpedo-bomber that was thrown against the German battleship Bismarck.

 The Blackburn B-24 Skua    The Blackburn B-24 Skua      The Blackburn B-24 Skua

Blackburn B-24 "Skua"
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It was a low-wing monoplane of all-metal (duralumin) construction with a retractable undercarriage and enclosed cockpit. The aircraft's bulk and low power made it about 60 mph slower than the opposition. The aircraft's armament of four fixed, forward-firing 30 caliber Browning machine guns in the wings and a rear machine gun made combat somewhat more equal. For dive-bombing, a single 500 lb bomb was carried on a special swinging crutch under the fuselage, which enabled the bomb to clear the propeller arc. 160 pounds of bombs could also be carried in racks under each wing. It had large air brakes/flaps which helped both in dive bombing and landing on aircraft carriers

Skuas are credited with the first confirmed "kill" by British aircraft during the Second World War: a Dornier Do 18 flying boat was downed over the North Sea in September 1939 by three Skuas of 803 Naval Air Squadron, flying from the aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal. On 10 April 1940, 16 Skuas sank the German cruiser Königsberg in Bergen harbour during the German invasion of Norway. This was the first major warship ever to be sunk by dive bombing as well as the first major warship ever sunk in war by air attack.

Though it fared reasonably well against Axis bombers over Norway and in the Mediterranean, the Skua suffered heavy losses when confronted with modern fighters - particularly the Messerschmidt Bf 109 - and they were withdrawn from front-line service in 1941. The aircraft was largely replaced by another two-seater, the Fairey Fulmar, which had twice the Skua's forward armament and also had a speed advantage of some 50 mph. A number of aircraft were converted to target tugs following withdrawal from front-line service. They were also used as advanced trainers. The last Skua in service wasremoved in March 1945.

The Blackburn B-24 "Skua" appears in this compilation video:

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