The Blackburn Aircraft Company T5 Ripon was designed against Air Ministry Specification 21/23, which sought a replacement for the Blackburn Dart for use by the Fleet Air Arm. The first of two prototypes (N203 Ripon I), made its first flight at Brough on 17th April 1926, powered by a 465 hp Napier Lion V engine.
The second prototype (N204) was initially flown as a seaplane and made its first flight from the Humber River on 14th August 1926, undergoing trials at Marine Aircraft Experimental Establishment (MAEE) Felixstowe from December 1926.
The requirement sought the ability to carry an 18-inch torpedo (or six 230 lb bombs, or three 520 lb bombs) whilst in the reconnaissance role, it called for and endurance of up to 12 hours. Two crew were required with the Navigator / Gunner being provided with a Lewis gun for defensive purposes.
The Blackburn Ripon I was a single-bay biplane of unequal span with divided undercarriage legs to accommodate the carriage of the 18-inch torpedo. The inboard portion of the lower wing featured marked anhedral angle from the fuselage side down towards the main undercarriage mounting. It initially featured a coolant header tank sat on the extreme nose, on top of the engine.
On the second aircraft (N204), this header tank was faired into the upper wing centre section in a much cleaner installation. Other changes introduced on the aircraft included a much neater set of engine cowlings and a raising of the top line of the rear fuselage to align with the tailplane.
The Blackburn Ripon I prototypes performed well in their official trials and a production contract was awarded for a markedly revised version, the T5A Ripon II.
Increased power was provided by a 570 hp Lion XI engine inside a much cleaner cowling, made possible by revising the engine cooling system. This now featured two retractable radiators on the fuselage sides, just aft of the engine bay. The Blackburn Ripon II also featured a much taller rudder of increased area and a revised undercarriage.
The standard fuel capacity was 145 gallons, carried in the centre fuselage, whilst for longer endurance missions an additional 120-gallon tank could be slung between the undercarriage legs and using the torpedo crutches. This then allowed for a maximum endurance of 14 hours. The rear gun mount (initially an exposed Scarff ring) was also lowered, allowing for the gun to be stowed in a slot in the upper rear fuselage when not required.
The prototype Blackburn Ripon II (N231) flew in 1927, being first shown to the Press on 15th May 1928, before finally appearing before the public on 30th June at the 1928 RAF Pageant at Hendon.
Twenty Ripon II production aircraft (fitted with wingtip slots) were built (S1265 – S1271 & S1357 – S1369).
The next variant (and the main version used by the Fleet Air Arm) was the Blackburn T5B Ripon IIA, introduced in 1930.
A total of forty Ripon IIA's were built with this variant having an increased all up weight.
It carried a forward-firing Vickers gun, as well as a defensive Lewis gun . It could also carry the Mk VIII / Mk X torpedo or a 1,100 lb smoke canister. Another option was 6 x 250 lb or 3 x 550 lb bombs under wings and fuselage. The final production version for the Fleet Air Arm was the Blackburn Ripon IIC which featured all-metal wing construction.
In all, thirty-one Blackburn Ripon IIC variants were built, although its designation remains something of a mystery, given the complete absence of a Blackburn Ripon IIB.
The original Blackburn Ripon II prototype (N231) had been modified to Blackburn Ripon IIC standard for trials but the first true prototype (S1468) modified on the production line from a Blackburn Ripon IIA.
From 1932 onward, a number of Ripon II and Ripon IIA aircraft were modified to Ripon IIC standard.
From the end of 1933 the majority of the Blackburn Ripon IIA and IIC aircraft still in service were brought back to the manufacturers to be refurbished and modified to become Blackburn T8 Baffin aircraft with Bristol Pegasus air-cooled radial engines.
In August 1928, the Finnish Government negotiated a licence to produce the Blackburn Ripon and they ordered a Blackburn T5D Ripon IIF (R1-121) to serve as a pattern for this production. This aircraft was powered by a 530 hp Bristol Jupiter VIII radial engine.
The Finnish National Aircraft Factory at Tampere, went onto produce a further twenty five licence-built aircraft. These were powered by either the 480 hp Gnome-Rhone Jupiter VIAK engine, the 535 hp Armstrong Siddeley Panther IIA engine, or the 580 hp Bristol Pegasus IIM.3 engine, with additional trial installations flown with several other engine types.
The Finnish-built Blackburn Ripon aircraft saw action during the 'Winter War', against the Russians in October 1939. It continued in limited service in small numbers, up until 15th December 1944, when the last survivor (R1-140) was struck off charge. This aircraft is now preserved at Päijänne Tavastia Aviation Museum in Asikkala, near Lahti, Finland (near Tampere where the aircraft was originally built) and it is the only surviving example of the Blackburn.
The final Blackburn Ripon variant was the experimental Blackburn T5E Ripon III, which was a substantial revision, being of metal construction throughout. Obvious differences were the square wingtips and rectangular rudder. This aircraft (S1272) was first flown in November 1929, and after further trials it was found necessary to raise the top wing (and modify the nose lines), to improve the pilot’s view when diving and when dropping a torpedo.
The Blackburn Ripon III did not receive a production order and the sole example was used for some time afterwards as a hack aircraft at Brough.
Variants & Number Built
|Prototypes||Ripon I two N203, N204; Ripon II N231, T5D Ripon IIF R1-121, T5E Ripon III S1272|
|T5A Ripon II||20 production aircraft|
|T5B Ripon IIA||40 production aircraft with increased weight and weapon load.|
|T5B Ripon IIC||31 production aircraft with all-metal wing structure|
|Ripon IIF Finland||25 aircraft with various air-cooled radial engines|
|Total production||5 prototypes, 116 production aircraft, of which 25 built in Finland. Total 121 aircraft.|
Specification (Ripon IIA)
|Powerplant||One 570 hp Napier Lion X, XI or XIA|
|Span||45 ft 6.5 in|
|Maximum Weight||7,405 lb||7,866 lb|
|Capacity & Armament||Two crew; one forward-firing Vickers gun, Lewis gun in rear cockpit; One 1,500 lb torpedo or equivalent bomb load|
|Maximum Speed||126 mph||120 mph|
|Range (normal / max)||815 miles / 1,060 miles||315 miles / 960 miles|
|R1-140 Ripon IIF||Päijänne Tavastia Aviation Museum in Asikkala, near Lahti, Finland. www.ilmailumuseot.fi/tuotteet.html?id=20776/237260|