Blackburn
B-48 Firecrest

A powerful carrier-based strike aircraft based on an improved Blackburn Firebrand.
Blackburn B-48 Firecrest RT651 air to air A fine air-to-air photograph of RT651, the first Blackburn B-48 Firecrest.
 
The Blackburn Aircraft Company B-48, unofficially known as the Blackburn B-48 Firecrest, was given the S.B.A.C designation YA.1 and was a naval strike fighter destined for service with the British Fleet Air Arm (FAA) after World War II. 
 
Designed against Air Ministry Specification S.28/43, which sought 'an improved development of the Blackburn B-37 Firebrand', but with much more emphasis being placed on improving forward view for the pilot and an increased maximum speed.
 
The resultant design featured the required evolution of the Blackburn B-37 Firebrand fuselage with a raised and repositionsed cockpit, which was also moved significantly forward.
 
A completely new wing design was employed featuring an anhedral centre-section and a new thinner 'laminar flow' wing section on the outer. In some respects, Blackburn Aircraft Company were employing lessons learned from other types, such as the Chance Vought Corsair, the NA Mustang and the Hawker Tempest.  
 
For carrier compatibility, hydraulically-powered wing folding were provided with an unusual double inward folding geometry. As with the Blackburn B-37 Firebrand, the highly effective 'Fowler flap' system was fitted to give good low-speed handling. The aircraft was also fitted with retractable wing-mounted dive brakes.
 
Blackburn B-48 Firecrest RT651 wings folded The first B-48 Firecrest photographed in February 1947, with wings folded.
 
The intended armament included a single torpedo or two underwing 250 lb bombs. Provision was also made for the carriage of rockets and two underwing Browning 0.5 inch machine gun pods or long range drop tanks.
 
Two aircraft were initially built at Brough, East Yorkshire (RT651 and VF172) although neither was fitted with gun armaments.
 
The first Blackburn B-48 Firecrest (RT651) flew for the first time from RAF Leconfield, on 1st April 1947. This 'clean aircraft' was found to be some 40 mph faster than the Blackburn B-37 Firebrand, achieving a maximum speed of 380 mph (at 19,000 ft) when powered by a 2,475 hp Bristol Centaurus 59 engine. 
 
The second Blackburn B-48 Firecrest prototype (RT656) never actually flew, being utilised for structural testing before being scrapped in 1952
 
A third Blackburn B-48 Firecres prototype was ordered in April 1945 (VF172) with reduced dihedral on the outer wing surfaces, as well as power-assisted ailerons. This aircraft was displayed in public for the first time on 21st August 1948, prior to flying at the Farnborough SBAC Show in September of that year. 
 
After a drastically reduced flight test program, during which test pilots described it as 'disappointing', it was agreed that there was no purpose in conducting further tests.
 
 
Blackburn B-48 Firecrest VF172 in flight The second Blackburn B-48 VF172 in flight, showing its reduced wing dihedral.
 
Development of the Blackburn B-48 Firecrest did not proceed any further as it was clear that jet or  at least turboprop power would be adopted for future military aircraft use.
 
This was further illustrated by the Fleet Air Arm who adopted the Westland Wyvern and the Fairey Gannet for shipboard strike and anti-submarine use, with the Supermarine Attacker and Hawker Sea Hawk serving in the fighter role.
 
Blackburn Aircraft Company switched their attention to the Blackburn B-54 (YA7, YA8) and Blackburn B-88 (YB1) which were both unsuccessfully offered in competition to the Fairey Gannet - these types are described elsewhere on this website.

 

Specification


Powerplant One 2,475 hp Bristol Centaurus 59 engine
Span 44 ft 11.5 in
Maximum Weight 15,280 lb
Capacity and armament Single pilot and provision for torpedo, underwing rockets, drop tanks or two 0.5 inch Browning gun pods.
Maximum Speed Clean:380 mph at 19,000 ft
Range Clean: 900 miles at 213 mph at 15,000 ft; With torpedo: 750 miles at 272 mph at 10,000 ft

 

Number built


Two prototypes only RT651 and VF172                                                          

 

Survivors


None

 

Other information