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Bristol Type 156 Beaufighter

The Bristol Type 156 Beaufighter was a British twin-engine fighter aircraft of World War II.

It was developed from the Beaufort torpedo bomber.

Originally conceived as a long-range fighter, it was also built and used as a night fighter, torpedo bomber, anti-ship and low-attack aircraft.

In all these roles, the pattern was considered very successful.

The Beaufighter was one of the first aircraft with on-board radar for night-time hunting.

However, their night hunter role was taken over by the Mosquito after it was available in sufficient numbers.

The Beaufighter focused on low-level attacks and ship-fighting.

Heavily armed with torpedoes, rockets, machine guns and machine guns, the pattern was used very successfully against enemy ships.

The prototype first flew on July 17, 1939.

Production ended in September 1945 after 5562 copies.


Beaufighter Mk IF 

Two-seat night fighter variant

Beaufighter Mk IC

The “C” stood for coastal command variant; many were modified to carry bombs

Beaufighter Mk IIF 

However well the Beaufighter performed, the Short Stirling bomber program by late 1941 had a higher priority for the Hercules engine, and the Rolls-Royce Merlin XX-powered Mk IIF night fighter was the result

Beaufighter Mk III/IV 

The Mark III and Mark IV were to be Hercules and Merlin powered Beaufighters with a new, slimmer fuselage, carrying an armament of six cannons and six machine guns that improved performance.

The necessary costs of the changes to the production line led to the curtailing of the marks.

Beaufighter Mk V 

The Vs had a Boulton Paul turret with four 0.303 in (7.7 mm) machine guns mounted aft of the cockpit supplanting one pair of cannons and the wing mounted machine guns.

Only two (Merlin-engine) Mk Vs were built.

When tested by the A&AEE, R2274 was capable of 302 mph (486 km/h) at 19,000 ft (5,800 m).

Beaufighter Mk VI 

The Hercules returned with the next major version in 1942, the Mk VI, which was eventually built to over 1,000 examples.

Beaufighter Mk VIC 

Coastal Command version, similar to the Mk IC

Beaufighter Mk VIF 

Night fighter equipped with AI Mark VIII radar

Beaufighter Mk VI (ITF) 

Interim torpedo fighter version

Beaufighter Mk VII 

Proposed Australian built variant with Hercules 26 engines, not built

Beaufighter Mk VIII 

Proposed Australian built variant with Hercules XVII engines, not built

Beaufighter Mk IX 

Proposed Australian-built variant with Hercules XVII engines, not built

Beaufighter TF Mk X 

Two-seat torpedo fighter aircraft, dubbed the “Torbeau”.

Hercules XVII engines with cropped superchargers improved low-altitude performance.

The last major version (2,231 built) was the Mk X.

The later production models featured a dorsal fin.

Beaufighter Mk XIC 

Coastal Command version of the Mk X, with no torpedo gear

Beaufighter Mk XII 

Proposed long-range variant of the Mk 11 with drop tanks, not built

Beaufighter Mk 21 

The Australian made DAP Beaufighter.

Changes included Hercules XVII engines, four 20 mm cannons in the nose, four Browning .50 in (12.7 mm) in the wings and the capacity to carry eight 5 in (130 mm) High Velocity Aircraft Rockets, two 250 lb (110 kg) bombs, two 500 lb (230 kg) bombs and one Mk 13 torpedo.





41 ft 4 in (12.60 m)


57 ft 10 in (17.63 m)


15 ft 10 in (4.83 m)

Wing area

503 sq ft (46.7 m2)



RAF-28 (18%) 

RAF-28 (10%)

Empty weight

15,592 lb (7,072 kg)

Max take-off weight

25,400 lb (11,521 kg) with one torpedo

Fuel capacity

550 imp gal (660 US gal; 2,500 l) normal internal fuel

Maximum fuel capacity

682 imp gal (819 US gal; 3,100 l) (with optional 2x 29 imp gal (35 US gal; 130 l) external tanks / 1x 24 imp gal (29 US gal; 110 l) tank in lieu of port wing guns / 1x 50 imp gal (60 US gal; 230 l) tank in lieu of stbd wing guns


2 × Bristol Hercules XVII or Bristol Hercules XVIII 14-cylinder air-cooled sleeve-valve radial piston engines, 1,600 hp (1,200 kW) each


3 bladed constant-speed propellers


Maximum speed

320 mph (510 km/h, 280 kn) at 10,000 ft (3,000 m)


1,750 mi (2,820 km, 1,520 nmi)

Service ceiling

19,000 ft (5,800 m)

Rate of climb

1,600 ft/min (8.1 m/s



  4 × 20 mm (0.787 in) Hispano Mk II cannon (240 rpg) in nose

1 × manually operated 0.303 in (7.7 mm) Browning for observer


8 × RP-3 60 kg (130 lb) rockets


2× 250 lb (110 kg) bombs


1× British 18 inch torpedo


1x Mark 13 torpedo.


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