BRISTOL BEAUFIGHTER

The Bristol Beaufighter was one of the most successful multi-role aircraft developed during the WWII and was commonly operated as a night fighter, particularly during the Battle of Britain.

Mass production of the type had coincidentally occurred at almost exactly the same time as the first British airborne interception radar sets were becoming available; the two technologies quickly became a natural match in the night fighter role.

With the aircraft's four 20 mm cannons being mounted in the lower fuselage, the vacant nose could accommodate the numerous radar antennas needed, and while early airborne interception equipment was too bulky to fit in single-engine fighters of the day, this limitation was not present with the spaceous Bristol Beaufighter.

By March 1941, over half of the 22 German aircraft claimed by British fighters were by Beaufighters; during the night of 19/20 May 1941, during one air raid upon London, a total of 24 aircraft were shot down by Beaufighters against two that were downed by anti-aircraft ground fire.

As its wartime service continued, the Beaufighter was used in many different roles; as a rocket-armed ground attack aircraft, a torpedo bomber against Axis shipping and in later operations, as a maritime strike/ground attack aircraft with RAF Coastal Command.

The Royal Australian Air Force also made extensive use of the Beaufighter in the maritime anti-shipping role, such as during the Battle of the Bismarck Sea during which Beaufighters were used in a fire-suppression role in a mixed force with USAAF Douglas A-20 Boston and North American B-25 Mitchell bombers.

The Beaufighter's armament was located in various positions on the lower fuselage and wings. The bomb bay of the Beaufighter had been entirely omitted although a small bomb load could be carried externally. A total of four forward-firing 20 mm Hispano Mk III cannons were mounted in the lower fuselage area. These were initially fed from 60-round drums, requiring the radar operator to change the ammunition drums manually - an arduous and unpopular task, especially at night and while chasing a bomber. This was soon replaced by a belt-feed system.

The cannons were also supplemented by six .303 in Browning machine guns in the wings which made the Beaufighter the most heavily armed fighter aircraft in the world, capable of delivering up to 780lb of firepower per minute.

With a strengthening of the Japanese offensive in the South Pacific theatre and its direct threat to the Australian mainland, the RAAF quickly found themselves without a suitable long range heavily armed fighter/bomber - especially for maritime patrols. Although ordered in 1939 it was not until mid 1942 that they received the first batch of the British built aircraft.

With demand far outstripping supply the Australian government quickly entered into an agreement to build an Australian version of the Beaufighter (DAP Mk21) under licence and over 370 were built at the Australian Government Aircraft Factory by the close of hostilities.  

All Bristol Beaufighter Instruments listed below come complete with detailed Scale Model, Mango Wood Stand & Plaque plus Printed Fact Sheet featuring photo of instrument in aircraft cockpit.

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