The Fairey Firefly 

Great Britain
Great Britain

side viewfront viewunder view

After 2 years of development from drawing to prototype, and almost another 2 years from prototype to operational entry, the Firefly was still a good carrierborne aircraft, fulfilling his roles as fighter and reconnaissance aircraft. The first operation in which the Firefly was used was the attack on the German battleship KMS Tirpitz, situated in a Norwegian fjord. It's main theatre of operations was the Far East, however, where it was the prime British carrierborne fighter. Usually it was sent ahead to clear the skies over the intended targets from fighters, enabling slower attack aircraft and bombers to deliver their warload unharrassed by enemy fighters.


Further pictures:

The Fairey Firefly prototype
The Fairey Firefly prototype


Technical data on the Fairey Firefly F.Mk I
Powerplant 1 × Rolls Royce Griffon IIB Vee, rated at 1735 hp (1293.42 kW) Role during war
  • Fighter
  • Night-Fighter
  • U-boat Destroyer
  • Anti-shipping Aircraft
  • Reconnaissance Aircraft
Length 37 ft 0 inch Height 15 ft 5.5 inch
Empty weight 9750 lb Operational weight 14020 lb max
Wing Span 44 ft 6 inch 16 ft 0 in folded Wing Aspect ratio 6.04
Wing Area 328 sq ft Service ceiling 29000 ft
Maximum speed 319 mph at 17000 ft Cruising speed 284 mph at sea level
Initial climb rate Climb to 10,000 ft in 5 min 45 sec Range 774 miles typical,
1364 miles max
Fuel capacity internal 191.5 Imp gal (230 US gal) Fuel capacity external 180 Imp gal max, in 2 × 90 Imp gal (108.1 US gal) or 2 × 45 Imp gal (54 US gal) drop tanks
Machine guns -Cannons 4 × 20 mm Hispano Mk II or Mk V fixed forward-firing in the wing, 160 rounds each
Bomb load Up to 2,000 lb distributed on 4 underwing hardpoints. the two inner points each rated at 1,000 lb, the two outer points each rated at 500 lb. General loadout: 2 × 1,000 lb bombs, or 2 × 500 lb bombs Torpedoes/rockets optionally:
  • 2 × 1,000 lb mines
  • 8 x 60 lb rockets
Crew 3: pilot, navigator, radio operator/observer Naval or ground based Naval
First flight (prototype) 22 December 1941 Operational Service October 1943 - 1960's
Manufacturer Fairey Aiviation Co. Ltd. Number produced 1.623 total, 457 this version
Metric system
Length 11.28 m Height 4.71 m
Empty weight 4423 kg Operational weight 6359 kg max
Wing Span 13.56 m 4,88 m folded Wing Aspect ratio 6.04
Wing Area 30.47 m² Service ceiling 8839 m
Maximum speed 513 km/h at 5182 m Cruising speed 457 km/h at sea level
Initial climb rate Climb to 3050 m in 5 min 45 sec Range 1246 km typical,
2195 km max
Fuel capacity internal 871 liters Fuel capacity external 813 liters max, in 2 × 409 liters or 2 × 204 liters drop tanks
Machine guns -Cannons 4 × 20 mm Hispano Mk II or Mk V fixed forward-firing in the wing, 160 rounds each
Bomb load Up to 907 kg distributed on 4 underwing hardpoints. the two inner points each rated at 454 kg, the two outer points each rated at 227 kg. General loadout: 2 × 454 kg bombs, or 2 × 227 kg bombs Torpedoes/rockets optionally:
  • 2 × 454 kg mines
  • 8 × 27 kg rockets

Here is a quick overview of all different versions, without the full technical specifications:

Different versions of the Fairey Firefly 
Fairey Firefly F.Mk I First production type (see above). Some 30 Firefly's were delivered to the Nederlandse Marine Luchtmacht, Dutch naval air arm during 1946. During the production run a number of improvements were incorporated: a taller windscreen without a windscreen wiper, a canopy whose bulge was increased further, faired cannon barrels, the replacement of the two-man dinghy (stowed in the rear fuselage) in favor of individual dinghies and, at the end, the Rolls Royce Griffon XII engine rated at 1,990 hp (1.484 kW) at optimum altitude.
Number built: 457
Fairey Firefly F.Mk IA Conversion from the F.Mk I to the FR.Mk I reconnaissance standard
Number converted: unknown
Fairey Firefly FR.Mk I Identical to the Firefly F.Mk I, fitted with the ASH (Air-toSurface type H) search radar for detection of surface vessels and submarines
Number built: 236
Fairey Firefly NF.Mk I Night-fighter version of the Firefly FR.Mk I with exhaust shrouds and the antenna for the AI.Mk X Air Interception radar in a pod mounted under the engine.
Number built: 140
Fairey Firefly NF.Mk 2 Actually the first Night-fighter variant. The installation of the AI.Mk X radar necessitated a lengthened forward fuselage (by 1 ft 6 in/0,46 m) because the center of gravity was too far to the rear. Soon it was discovered that the FR.Mk I could easily be adopted, without the need for a lengthened fuselage. Production was then halted.
Number built: 37
Fairey Firefly FR.Mk 4 Post-War development of the Firefly: Powered by a Rolls Royce Griffon 74 fitted with a two-speed two-stage supercharger, driving a four-blade propeller, and cooled by radiators installed in the forward-extended leading edges of the center section.
Number built: unknown
Further Fairey Fireflys There were some Mk. II's built, as well as descendants of the FR.Mk 4, but further information is currently unknown by me. All these versions were developed, built and operated after the War.


The Firefly opened his combat account with a series of missions against the German capital ship Tirpitz in Norway in July 1944. These aircraft were flying form the HMS Indefatigable. Most of all however it was used in the Pacific Theatre of Operations against Japan. Highlights in this area were the attacks against the oil refineries on Sumatra. Also, the Firefly was the first British aircraft to fly over Tokyo, in July 1945. After the War some Firefly's were tasked with dropping supplies te POW camps in Japan.




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© by Frans Bonné, 2000
Last revision: 2/9/01