Best Fleet Air Arm (Royal Navy) Aircraft of WW2

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Senior Airman
Feb 19, 2004
I think the best British Naval fighter used during the war was the Fairey Firefly

First flew on December 22nd 1941 (soon after Pearl Harbour was bombed) and was a two-seater naval fighter - it was built under the understanding that (in the Royal Navys opinion at the time) all Navy fighters should have a navigator onboard to navigate for the pilot while at sea (several incidents of pilots becoming disorientated and lost while flying bombing missions and long-range partols in bad weather in combat conditions led to this decision) so the Firefly was no different.
The Firefly became fully operational in October 1943 on board the carrier HMS Indefatigable (the aircraft carrier my grandfather served on was the HMS Implacable - the Indefatigables sister ship) and escorted bombers during their attacks (most notably against the Tirpitz in 1944)
The fireflys were often used to 'scout ahead' to claer enemy fighters from the area before the bombers came through

It was used as a nightfighter in 1943 and often intercepted V1s and Heinkel He111s during raids

whilst stationed in the Pacific in 1945 Fireflys took part in the destruction of an Oil refinery in Sumutra - they had a tremendous operation record whilst fighting in the Pacific proving to be a versatile opponent for the Japanese - operating both day and night as a recon plane or fighter bomber

In June 1945 Fireflies of 1771 Squadron, operating from HMS Implacable, took part in attacks in the Carolinas, while in July 1772 squadron aircraft, from HMS Indefatigable, were flying strikes against shipping and ground targets in the Japanese home islands, becoming the first FAA aircraft to fly over the Japanese mainland. On 24 July, 1945 aircraft from 1772 Squadron became the first British aircraft to fly over Tokyo :ramboface:

They were also used to drop supplies to prisoners of war during these historic trips over Tokyo

It performed well in dogfights despite the Firefly's size and was armed with four 20mm cannons as well as rockets and mines (for the bomber role)

These are its stats:

Speed: 316mph
Ceiling: 28,000ft
Range: 1300miles
Wingspan: 44ft
Length: 37ft 7in
Weight: 14,020lb

It was so successful as a Naval fighter that it continued to be used on Royal Navy carriers during the Korean war

I think this plane was the best naval plane designed by Britain solely for use on carriers (i.e the American planes such as Hellcats and Corsairs don't count! ;))
The Barracuda had its uses and it was a damn fine aircraft but it wasn't as versatile as the Firefly - the Swordfish was also fantastic but again it was limited in what it could do because of poor defences and slow speed (even the authorities admitted it was outdated by the outset of WW2 #-o )
nutter said:
i go for the swordfish because it helped destroy the italian fleet at taranto and sunk the bismark:)

The Swordfish is also my pick. Provided its performance limitations were kept in mind, it was astonishingly versatile, being used in roles it was never designed for, including as a fighter! I don't know the details for that last one, but someone, somewhere, used a "Stringbag" as a fighter one time. The shocking thing is that it apparently shot down an enemy aircraft! Anyone know anything about this?
Yeah - the Swordwish was HOPELESS as a fighter - it was slow, had no armour - hardly any weapons (it had one fixed forward firing .303 and another in the rear for christ sake!) and not very manouvorable - i think the only plane it could manage to shoot down kitted out like that was a Ju87! but a kid with a peashooter could manage that :lol:

don't forget it was the swordfish that flew in the infamous 'channel dash' in 1942 that cost all six swordfish crews their lives :(

don't get me wrong the Swordfish was truly a great plane and its sucessful campaigns easily outweigh its disasterous ones and i would be very foolish :stoopyd: to say it wasn't one of the best aircraft the Brits had during WW2 but the Firefly was a better aircraft (in my opinion)
Fireflys could do almost anything the Swordfish could do and do the jobs better (although the firefly couldn't use torpedos, it could attack shipping with its rockets and cannons)

More Fireflys were built and they were still being used in the Korean war wereas the Swordfish had ended its production in 1944

The firefly was more versatile (see first post for details)

The Swordfish was only capable of 138mph :backinmyday: , whereas the Firefly could fly at 316mph :deathlyobsessed:
The Swordfishes one .303 forward firing machine gun would fade into obscurity if pitted against the four 20mm cannons of the Firefly :rightfighter7:
The Swordfish could only fly at a max of 19,250ft
The Firefly could reach 28,000ft (not bad for a navy plane)
and of course the swordfish had a fabric skin with no armour whereas the firefly was made mostly of metal with monoplane wings and so therefore - tough armour :werecomingforyou:

The only real disadvantage the firefly had over the Swordfish was that it was bigger (only 2 ft) and it didn't have the same ship-sinking capabilities as the Swordfish but however you must bear in mind that the Firefly was a fighter (not a lover :hippy2: ) - not a torpedo bomber - the Swordfish was arguably the best torpedo bomber in the FAA - i think peoples problem when comparing these aircraft often seems that they look at the romantic images of the planes but ignores the bare facts - the firefly was a better aircraft in general and based on the bare facts i don't think anyone could argue that point - but knowing you lot as i do i'm certain someone will try - bring it on 8)
cheddar cheese said:

the swordfish shouldnt be nicknamed that, as it was in fact high-tention wire - not string :D however, "high-tention-wirebag" doesnt quite have the same ring to it :lol:

I think it was more of a stab at the way it looked rather than its components 8)
the lancaster kicks ass said:
well, for convey defence it's seafire......................

Funny that you should mention the Seafire - apparently it was quite a fragile plane to have as a navy fighter - records show they actually lost four times as many Seafires in landing accidents than they did in combat

The Seafire's wheels were weak and often broke completely during a landing, as it was basically a modified Spitfire and not designed from scatch to land on moving aircraft carriers with tough metal decks

The only reason the navy kept them was as you say...they were good at escorting convoys...just a shame they couldn't get back safely on deck afterwards :rolleyes:

However i was also reading about the Fireflys capabilities...the Firefly was designed around the Fairey Fulmar (another two seater navy plane) and was by design an excellent dogfighter :angry5: it also had excellent handling at low speeds, and a better all-round view than any other tail-wheel fighter in the air at that time - in the hands of a skilled pilot the Firefly was more than a match in a dogfight with an Me109 and several reports of 109s being downed by Fireflys were made - however i also read that the Fireflys in the Pacific had alot of trouble with Japanese fighters :leftfighter1: - i also discovered that the Firefly was capable of carrying 2000lb of bombs and eight 60pound rockets (not bad for a fighter 8) ) by 1945 many models had been converted into night-fighters with radar fitted and these types had some success in the field

All round I am convinced it was the best the British had to offer in terms of home-made naval fighters in that period...i suppose the other obvious advantage was that if the pilot was injured or perhaps became confused during a dogfight out at sea at least he DID have another crewman with him to guide him home...all in all - an excellent plane :toothy7:

(I still think the Japs had better fighters than the Germans :violent3: )
Stringbag" as a fighter one time. The shocking thing is that it apparently shot down an enemy aircraft! Anyone know anything about this?

Commander Charles Lamb mentions this in his book "War in a Stringbag" and all I know about it is , that it was an Italian Fighter that was shot down by a Swordfish . Although Charles Lamb accounted for 2 Italian Fighters himself , which were trying to shoot him down , he threw his Swordfish around the sky , and the Pilots lost control of their aircraft while trying to keep a bead on him , and they crashed into the sea , but as he had not fired his guns he could not claim them .


:lol: :lol: :lol: :lol:


the swordfish shouldnt be nicknamed that, as it was in fact high-tention wire - not string however, "high-tention-wirebag" doesnt quite have the same ring to it

It was apparently nicknamed the "Stringbag" because you could put more in it than the average shopping bag , which was made out of sting at the time .

:lol: :lol: :lol: :lol:
HAHAH! :lol:

oh that cracks me up - the only time the Swordfish brought down an enemy plane was when it was flown by some drunken Italian who crashed his plane into the sea! :lol: :lol:
Of course it wasn't....and it was far from the best Naval aircraft the brits had at their disposal during WW2... 8)

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