Blackburn Skua was it that bad?

Discussion in 'Aviation' started by fastmongrel, Nov 2, 2009.

  1. fastmongrel

    fastmongrel Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    May 28, 2009
    Messages:
    2,336
    Likes Received:
    405
    Trophy Points:
    83
    Gender:
    Male
    Occupation:
    Motor Mechanic
    Location:
    Lancashire
    The Blackburn Skua always seems to be in peoples lists of worst aircraft of WWII but was it really that bad as a dive bomber. It seems to have had similar performance figures as other contemporary dive bombers and going on what I have read it was the first aircraft to sink a major warship during combat. The only problems I can see was it could only carry a 500 pound bomb and the engine was a bit underpowered. Was it a flawed aircraft in any way or has it just had a bad press.
     
  2. Shortround6

    Shortround6 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jun 29, 2009
    Messages:
    9,761
    Likes Received:
    793
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Occupation:
    retired Firefighter
    Location:
    Central Florida Highlands
    Probably just bad press.

    It was powered by an engine that was just too low powered. If it had an engine that could have been developed to give 1200hp or so (about a 33% increase) it might be remembered a bit differently.

    It doesn't seem to have aquired quite the reputation of the Brewster dive bomber or the last Curtiss as being unpleasant to fly.
     
  3. Thorlifter

    Thorlifter Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jun 10, 2004
    Messages:
    7,905
    Likes Received:
    189
    Trophy Points:
    63
    Occupation:
    IT Nerd
    Location:
    Dallas, Tx Jubail, Saudi Arabia
    From what I know about it, it was a good plane in the right element. It could handle its own against bombers or other dive bombers, but against newer fighters, it was a sitting duck.
     
  4. fastmongrel

    fastmongrel Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    May 28, 2009
    Messages:
    2,336
    Likes Received:
    405
    Trophy Points:
    83
    Gender:
    Male
    Occupation:
    Motor Mechanic
    Location:
    Lancashire
    Doing a bit of research (okay reading wikipedia) it seems there was a larger 26.8 liter 1635 cubic inch Perseus 100 engine that produced 1200 horsepower. It doesnt say if it was contemporary with the Skua though probably post war I think, most war time engines seem to have used roman numeral engine numbers.
     
  5. tomo pauk

    tomo pauk Creator of Interesting Threads

    Joined:
    Apr 3, 2008
    Messages:
    7,988
    Likes Received:
    433
    Trophy Points:
    83
    Skua was the best carrier-capable dive bomber when introduced, and it gave a good account despite having a low powered engine. I don't recall any bad press about Skua - was that maybe about Roc that was not up to the task of carrer-borne fighter?

    As for 'better Skua', RN had a couple of more options to upgrade (=change) the engine: Taurus (1000+ HP) and early Hercules (around 1300HP) do come in mind.
     
  6. parsifal

    parsifal Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Apr 6, 2008
    Messages:
    10,676
    Likes Received:
    676
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Occupation:
    Urban Design/Strategic Studies Tutor
    Location:
    Orange NSW
    Skuas performed most often as fighters, and in this role were quite effective. though it would be foolhardy to mix it with a first line figter, it did perform quite well in places like the med.

    Perhaps it was not responsible for large losses to the enemy, but iet provided valuable fleet defence, at a time when the RN needed all the aircover it could lay its hands on
     
  7. tomo pauk

    tomo pauk Creator of Interesting Threads

    Joined:
    Apr 3, 2008
    Messages:
    7,988
    Likes Received:
    433
    Trophy Points:
    83
    So, the RN could've used a better performing planes in the 1st half of war after all.
    Good to know :)
     
  8. Juha

    Juha Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jan 8, 2007
    Messages:
    3,734
    Likes Received:
    65
    Trophy Points:
    48
    Location:
    Helsinki
    Hello Tomo
    Taurus has reliability problems even in late 1940 so it was unacceptable engine for a single-engine carrier plane at that time.

    Juha
     
  9. tomo pauk

    tomo pauk Creator of Interesting Threads

    Joined:
    Apr 3, 2008
    Messages:
    7,988
    Likes Received:
    433
    Trophy Points:
    83
    That leaves us with Hercules.
    Not bad, since it was feasible for 1939 (Beaufighter was airborne in July 39 with those). If we decide to have only 1 crew member in order to save weight, the resulting plane would weight almost same as Skua. So 1270HP would've had to deal with 2500-2700kg empty weight. Later, engine power climbs to 1350 (1940) to 1700HP (later in war).
    So we don't need Roc, Sea Hurricane, Seafire, Fulmar, Firefly (yuck for later two).

    Not bad for an ugly duckling :)
     
  10. Juha

    Juha Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jan 8, 2007
    Messages:
    3,734
    Likes Received:
    65
    Trophy Points:
    48
    Location:
    Helsinki
    Hello Tomo
    IIRC also Hercules run into difficulties and was running late but of course one could change priorities but on the other hand RAF desperately needed Beau in late 40 and for a while after that and Mk II, with Merlins, wasn't very successful. IIRC, also Wimpy Mk II was problematic, which made Wimpy Mk III, Hercules powered, very important.

    Juha
     
  11. freebird

    freebird Active Member

    Joined:
    Nov 12, 2007
    Messages:
    2,658
    Likes Received:
    3
    Trophy Points:
    38
    Location:
    British Columbia
    Considering that it was developed in the late 30's, before the advent of the Me109E or Spitfire, it performed quite well indeed in it's role. It replaced some slow biplanes in the FAA, like the Sea Gladiator. It was reasonably comparable with the early WWII Italian fighters like the CR 32 or CR 42, with which it would have had much more chance for interaction in the Med
     
  12. tomo pauk

    tomo pauk Creator of Interesting Threads

    Joined:
    Apr 3, 2008
    Messages:
    7,988
    Likes Received:
    433
    Trophy Points:
    83
    Actually, Skua was a late 1930s design, contemporary of 109, or Hurricane. It was a good dive bomber, but FAA realy needed a better fighter. Moreso since their planes were fighting in Norway France too.
    The Italian air threat was more in shape of bombers (eg. SM-79 was faster then Skua/Roc/Fulmar trio) , while MC-200 was the main fighter back in 1940.
     
  13. tomo pauk

    tomo pauk Creator of Interesting Threads

    Joined:
    Apr 3, 2008
    Messages:
    7,988
    Likes Received:
    433
    Trophy Points:
    83
    #13 tomo pauk, Nov 5, 2009
    Last edited: Nov 5, 2009
    Why was RAF desperately needed Beaufighters in late 1940?

    EDIT: I see, you probably mean the night-fighter variant. Well, the Merlin XX with 1300HP was ready in summer 1940, so that would do for Beau.
     
  14. buffnut453

    buffnut453 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jul 25, 2007
    Messages:
    2,174
    Likes Received:
    227
    Trophy Points:
    63
    Gender:
    Male
    Location:
    Virginia, US of A
    Always had a soft spot for the Skua ever since, as a nipper, I found an old Novo kit of the aircraft (along with a Tupolev SB-2) in a newsagent's in Wales. I think as a dive bomber it was quite adequate in the role, and as such was very much "of its time". As a fighter, it was much less successful but then designing an aircraft with mixed roles from the outset often seems fraught with problems, presumably due to the number of design compromises required (eg Skua, Fulmar, Tornado GR1), whereas bolting on new roles to aircraft that excel in one role often seems more successful (eg Mosquito, F-15E, P-47 etc). It's also worth remembering that the requirements for naval aircraft in the UK have often been somewhat bemusing (to whit the Firebrand - a single seat fighter that can launch a torpedo...and why would anyone want to do that???).
     
  15. freebird

    freebird Active Member

    Joined:
    Nov 12, 2007
    Messages:
    2,658
    Likes Received:
    3
    Trophy Points:
    38
    Location:
    British Columbia
    Contemporary perhaps, but the Skua is a 2-seat Fighter/bomber, so comparing it to an Me109E or Spitfire is like apples oranges.

    The Skua was a good, versatile aircraft, but it was never intended to operate agains land-based fighters.

    From "History of War"

    It was a compromise between a straight bomber/TB (the Swordfish,) too slow to be used as a fighter, and a straight fighter with limited or no ability as recon/diveB.

    If you compare it with theNorthrop A-17 the two aircraft are quite similar, and it was a good bit faster than the Devastator.

    The Skua would be very capable as a fighter against the type of aircraft that it was expected the RN might encounter, the Japanese Mitsu G3M, or the Italian SM 81/79. If the British had the Hermes with a dozen Skuas available to sail with the Repulse/PoW, it is unlikely in the extreme that the Japanese would have been able to sink them.
     
  16. parsifal

    parsifal Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Apr 6, 2008
    Messages:
    10,676
    Likes Received:
    676
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Occupation:
    Urban Design/Strategic Studies Tutor
    Location:
    Orange NSW
    Actually the need for a long range twin was more extensive than that. Beaifighters were needed to protect convoys from Condors, there was of course the need for night fighter defences. Beaifighters were also needed as strike fighters, providing long range escort, and a very effective ground attack and sea interdiction role.

    About the only thing the beau did not do, and this is not as a result of any design shortcoming, was use as an air superiority fighter.

    In my opinion the beau was a success where the Me 110 was a failure, it was a far superior design in every respect
     
  17. riacrato

    riacrato Member

    Joined:
    Oct 17, 2009
    Messages:
    669
    Likes Received:
    4
    Trophy Points:
    18
    Occupation:
    Project Manager in FADEC industrialization
    How so. It performed well when not engaged by single engine fighters (just like the 110) and was in big trouble whenever that happened. Pretty similar.
     
  18. parsifal

    parsifal Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Apr 6, 2008
    Messages:
    10,676
    Likes Received:
    676
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Occupation:
    Urban Design/Strategic Studies Tutor
    Location:
    Orange NSW
    In Norway the Skua was still effective, even when faced with the prospect of an Me 109 equipped force. You are looking at the problem in an essentially continental fashion, that is that the fleet defence fighter has to take and hold control of the skies in which it operates. this is a fundamentally flawed appraisal of the the fleet defence role. All that had to be done in fact was for the fighter to survive the enemy escorting fighters, and to engage the attacking bombers so as to break up or disrupt their attacks. This was done time and again by the FAA most famously during the pedestal convoys, but it happened all the time. and while a better fleet defence fighter would have been a "nice to have" option, it was never essential to the completion of the RNs task, and infact would have been a distraction to the development of land based air fighhters, which did have the responsibility for air superiority

    The fighters you deride were actually very effective in this capacity. Fulmars sucesfully carried out this mission against Me 109 escorted attacks in the med, for example, losing very few aircraft, and very effectively protecting the ships they were attached to.

    it never ceases to amaze me just how ignorant people from non-maritme nations are as to the role and significance naval power has on European affairs throughout history. By extension carrier based air power is the miodern day extension of that influence.
     
  19. freebird

    freebird Active Member

    Joined:
    Nov 12, 2007
    Messages:
    2,658
    Likes Received:
    3
    Trophy Points:
    38
    Location:
    British Columbia
    Sure, but even with some modern fighters, because of the small capacity of RN carriers, the FAA still needed multi-role aircraft for bombing, that could still be used as fighter defence against bombers

    Fighting in France? The FAA was never designed for extended fights near land, but to provide air superiority away from land, or raids against ports ships

    The bomber was of very limited danger to capital ships unless using torpedoes, in which case the Skua was perfectly able to match the Italian or Japanese bombers in 1940.

    The Fulmar was as fast as a SM 79, and while the Skua was slower, it was optimised for a much lower altitude, I don't think the SM 79 was faster at sea level. Does anyone have a speed comparison of a Skua vs a Nell or SM 79 at sea level?

    And further, a squadron of Skua's defending a fleet against bombers on a Torp attack could stay at altitude, and dive down on the TB's as they closed in for the attack.

    And out of range for operations in the central Med
     
  20. buffnut453

    buffnut453 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jul 25, 2007
    Messages:
    2,174
    Likes Received:
    227
    Trophy Points:
    63
    Gender:
    Male
    Location:
    Virginia, US of A
    Alternatively, if Adm Phillips had woken up when he sighted the Japanese reconnaissance aircraft shadowing Force Z and asked for air support from Singapore, where a whole squadron of Buffalos was on immediate readiness with 2 more standing-by, the ships wouldn't have been sunk...at least not on 10 December 1941.
     
Loading...

Share This Page