Next to the PBY Catalina, the British designed and built Short Sunderland was one of the most powerful and widely used flying boats of WWII and was also operated by the Royal Australian Air Force, Royal Canadian Air Force, South African Air Force, Royal New Zealand Air Force, French Navy, Norwegian Air Force, and the Portuguese Navy.
Designed to provide long range surveillance and attack capabilities, the Short Sunderland primary objective was to counter the threat posed by German U-boats in the Battle of the Atlantic.
With their all-metal, flush-riveted construction and fabric covered flight control surfaces over a metal framework the Short Sunderlands were heavily over engineered to withstand the harsh North Atlantic conditions and flight missions that often ran to 14 hours at time.
The Sunderland's thick wings, supporting their four nacelle-mounted Bristol Pegasus XXII radial engines also accommodated six drum style fuel tanks with another four smaller tanks installed in the rear wing spars.
The combined fuel capacity was over 2550 gallons, giving the flying boat a patrol range of over 1100 miles.
With a bomb bay carrying eight depth charges - each set to explode at a depth of 25 to 30ft, the Sunderland often flew at low height using its highly accurate radio altitude system to ensure each charge achieved the maximum damage on a diving U-boat.
On 17 July 1940, a Sunderland from RAAF No. 10 Squadron made the type’s first unassisted U-boat kill, with other Sunderlands sinking 3 U-boats more before the year was out.
Surprisingly, many of the Short Sunderland crews flying cover duty for the Atlantic and Mediterranean convoys were from the RAAF squadrons. In 1939 the RAAF had a batch of nine Sunderlands under construction in the UK and when war was declared, the flying boats and their Australian crews remained in the UK as No.10 Squadron.
The Germans responded to the increasing Sunderland attacks by fitting their U-boats with one or two 37 mm and twin quad 20 mm flak guns to fire back at their attackers. While Sunderlands could suppress flak to a certain extent with their nose turret guns, the U-boats guns had superior range, hitting power and accuracy and succeeded in downing a number of the flying boats.
For the U-boat captains however, going head to head with an attacking aircraft was never a preferred option as it only increased their time and exposure on the surface making them more vulnerable to any closing destroyers. The U-boat’s deck gun crews soul duty was to protect their vessel just long enough for the U-boat to recharge its batteries and send or receive communications with the German command before slipping once more below the surface and the relative safety of deeper water.
Now facing significant defensive firepower, the Sunderlands were equipped with an additional four .303 machine guns on fixed mounts in the nose and single .50 inch M2 Browning machine guns on flexible mounts at all the beam hatches earning it the German name of Fliegendes Stachelschwein ("Flying Porcupine") due to its defensive firepower.
By war’s end, the Short Sunderland was credited with having sunk over 28 U-Boats together with a number of German surface vessels but with advances in aviation design and technology its usefulness as a maritime long-distance patrol aircraft had already been overtaken by the new Avro Shackleton and a number of Sunderlandsfresh off the production line in Belfast were simply taken out to sea and scuttled as there was nothing else to do with them.
In Europe it was removed from service relatively quickly but in the Far East, there was still a need for it, and it remained in service with the RAF Far East Air Force at Singapore until 1959, and with the Royal New Zealand Air Force's No. 5 Squadron RNZAF until 1967. A number of Sunderlands were converted for use within the civil sector, which were known as Short Sandringham; in this configuration, the type continued in airline operation until 1974.
All Short Sunderland 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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SHORT SUNDERLAND RADIO ALTITUDE LIMIT SWITCH
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SHORT SUNDERLAND Mk XIVA 6A/3380 KOLLSMAN ALTIMETER
Short Sunderland Coastal Command Flying Boat Mk XIVA 6A 3380...
SHORT SUNDERLAND 1943, Mk XIIID ALTIMETER
Rare, 1943 British Air Ministry issued Short Sunderland Mk XIIID...