Fairey Barracuda[1]

The Fairey Barracuda was a carrier based dive/torpedo bomber used by the Royal Navy.


The Barracuda originated from Specification 8.24/37 to which six companies tendered, Fairey gaining an order for two prototypes in July 1938. The engine originally selected was the 1,200-hp (895-kW) Rolls-Royce Exe unit but, after the development of this engine was halted in favour of the Merlin, Peregrine and Vulture, it was decided to use the 1,300-hp (969-kW) Merlin 30 to power the Barracuda Mk I.

When flown on 7 December 1940, the first prototype was seen to be a shoulder-wing cantilever monoplane of all-metal construction, the fold-able wings incorporating Fairey-Youngman trailing-edge flaps that gave the aircraft performance much improved over that of its predecessors. The fuselage accommodated a crew of three in tandem in a long cockpit enclosed by a long ‘greenhouse’ canopy, and housed the main units of the tail-wheel landing gear when retracted. Flight testing revealed that the low-set tailplane was badly positioned and a strut based horizontal surface mounted high on a taller and narrower fin was designed for the second prototype. Because of the priority afforded to the construction of fighters and bombers, this aircraft did not fly until 29 June 1941, and it was not until February 1942 that service trials and evaluation were completed.

These showed the need for airframe strengthening which, together with the addition of equipment not included in the original specification, resulted in the Barracuda suffering a weight problem that persisted through its service life. It played havoc with takeoff and climb performance and after the completion of 30 Barracuda Mk ls, there appeared the Barracuda Mk ll with the 1,640-hp (1223-kW) Merlin 32,[2] with the first 12 examples being assigned to No 827 Squadron, which was re-forming at Stretton.[3]

Barracudas built by Blackburn and Boulton Paul began to enter service in the spring of 1943, and although additional orders were placed, some of these were cancelled with the end of the war in Europe. In all, 1,688 Barracuda Mk IIs were built in addition to the 30 Barracuda Mk ls and two prototypes.

The Barracuda Mk Ill was evolved to take a new ASV radar installation, with a blister radome beneath the rear fuselage. The prototype, converted from a Barracuda Mk ll, flew first in 1943. Following orders placed that year, production of this version began in early 1944. Built alongside the Barracuda Mk ll, the 852[N 1] Barracuda Mk III aircraft were manufactured by Boulton Paul and Fairey.

The final production variant was the Barracuda Mk V (the Mk IV being an unbuilt project). and this differed considerably in appearance although the basic structure was unchanged. The shortfall in power of the Merlins available in 1941 made the designers consider alternatives, and the decision was taken to use the Rolls-Royce Griffon. Initial development was slow and the first Griffon-powered aircraft, converted from a Barracuda Mk ll, did not fly until 16 November 1944. In production form the Barracuda Mk V had a longer, squarer wing than earlier versions, enlarged fin area to counteract the greater torque of the 2,030-hp (1514-kW) Griffon 37, and increased fuel capacity. This development had come too late, however, and of the 140 Barracuda Mk Vs ordered, only 30 had been delivered before the end of the war brought cancellation of the outstanding balance.

The Barracuda's operational service life began when No. 827 Squadron received 12 Barracuda Mk IIs on being re-formed during 10 January 1943. A conspicuous action came when 42 aircraft dive-bombed the German battleship Tirpitz on 3 April 1944, inflicting heavy damage, and further attacks were made on the same target during the next four months. The Barracuda squadrons of HMS Illustrious, Nos 810 and 847, introduced the type to the Pacific theatre in April 1944, supporting US Navy dive-bombers in an attack on Japanese installations in Sumatra. The Barracuda flew from small escort carriers on anti-submarine patrols in European operations, using rocket-assisted take-off gear for lift-off from these carriers’ short decks. Most squadrons were disbanded soon after VJ-Day, or re-equipped with other aircraft, and after some shuffling within squadrons the last Barracudas in front-line service were replaced in 1953 by Grumman Avengers.

The Barracuda Mk Vs never entered front-line service, being used for training until 1950.[2]

At least 2,572 examples of all versions were produced. In addition to the Royal Navy, The Fleet Air Arms of the French and Danish navies also operated the type.[4]

Fairey Barracuda Mk ll SpecificationEdit

  • Powerplant: one Rolls-Royce Merlin 32 Vee piston engine rated at 1,640 hp (1223 kW)
  • Performance: maximum speed 228 mph (367 km/h) at 1,750 ft (535 m); cruising speed 193 mph (311 km/h) at 5,000 ft (1525 m); climb to 5,000 ft (1525 m) in 6 minutes; service ceiling 16,600 ft (15060 m); range 684 miles (1101 km) with torpedo armament
  • Weights: empty 9,350 lb 14241 kg); maximum takeoff 14,100 |b (6396 kg)
  • Dimensions: wingspan 49 ft 2 in (14.99 m); length 39 ft 9 in (12.12 m); height 15ft1 in (4.60 m); wing area 367.00 sq ft (34.09 m2’)
  • Armament: two 0.303-in (7.7-mm) Browning trainable rearward-firing machine-guns in the rear of the cockpit, plus up to 2,000 lb (907 kg) of disposable stores carried on one under fuselage and six underwing hard points, and generally comprising one 1,572 lb (713-kg) 18-in (457-mm) Mk XIIA torpedo, or 1,500-lb (726-kg) bomb or 1,500-lb (680-kg] mine carried under the fuselage, or three 500-lb (227-kg) bombs carried under the fuselage and inner underwing hard points, or four 450-lb (204 kg) Mk Vlll or 285-lb I120-kg) Mk Xl depth charges carried on the inner underwing hard points, or six 250-lb (113-kg) bombs carried on the underwing hardpoints.[2]



  1. The World Bomber Encyclopedia entry states that 912 Mk IIs were built.


  1. Tangmere Museum
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 World Aircraft Information Files Aviation Partwork. Midsummer Books Ltd. File 894 Sheet 8 (A-Z of Aircraft:F - Fairey III (continued) to Fairey Battle)
  3. Crosby, Francis. The World Encyclopedia of Bombers. Anness Publishing Ltd. 2013. ISBN 1 78019 205 3 Page 92
  4. Crosby, Francis. Page 93