Model Airplane News|
Model Airplane News Cover Art for November, 1941
by Jo Kotula
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The Bristol Type 156 Beaufighter, or the "Beau", was a British long-range heavy fighter modification of the Bristol Aeroplane Company's earlier Beaufort torpedo bomber. The name "Beaufighter" is a combination of "Beaufort" and "fighter". Unlike the Beaufort, the Beaufighter had a long career and served in almost all theatres of war in the Second World War, first as a night fighter, then as a fighter bomber and eventually replacing the Beaufort as a torpedo bomber.
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The idea of a fighter development of the Beaufort was suggested to the Air Ministry by Bristol. The suggestion coincided with the delays in the development and production of the Westland Whirlwind cannon-armed twin-engine fighter. By converting an existing design Bristol argued that the "Beaufort Cannon Fighter" could be developed and produced far more quickly than starting a completely fresh design. The prototype first flew a little more than eight months after the design had started. A production contract for 300 machines had already been placed two weeks before the prototype flew.
In general, the differences between the Beaufort and Beaufighter were minor. The wings, control surfaces, retractable landing gear and aft section of the fuselage were identical to those of the Beaufort; the bomb-bay was omitted, and four forward-firing 20 mm cannons were mounted in the lower fuselage area. The cannons were supplemented by six 30 caliber Browning guns in the wings; The areas for the rear gunner and bomb-aimer were removed, leaving only the pilot in a fighter-type cockpit. The navigator / radar operator sat to the rear under a small perspex bubble where the Beaufort's dorsal turret had been located. By the time British production lines shut down in September 1945, 5,564 Beaufighters had been built.
Here is a video of the Bristol Beaufighter:
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