Air Ministry specification 37/22 sought a land or ship-based aircraft to provide naval reconnaissance and fleet spotting to replace the existing Blackburn R1 Blackburn and the Avro 555 Bison. Blackburn’s offering was a three-crew high-wing monoplane powered by a 385 hp Armstrong Siddeley Jaguar III radial engine.
The type was the first monoplane to be built by Blackburn after the end of the First World War. The wings were designed to fold using an inclined hinge so that they lay, leading edge down, alongside the fuselage, when folded. The wings were of an unusual lozenge-shaped planform and were of mixed construction, with a wooden structure braced internally with metal drag struts and tie rods.
The three crew comprised the pilot, sat high and forward of the wing leading edge; a navigator / wireless operator within the fuselage; and an observer / gunner in a rear cockpit shielded by an overhanging roof. The navigator’s cabin was provided with windows fore and aft and could be accessed from the pilot’s cockpit. A set of subsidiary controls was provided so that the navigator could fly the aircraft if the pilot left his seat.
The aircraft was equipped with a fixed forward-firing 0.5in Vickers gun and a 0.303in Lewis gun mounted on a Scarff ring in the rear cockpit. Bombs could be carried externally, beneath the fuselage.
The aircraft was fitted with a wide-track undercarriage with a cross-axle and rubber-in-compression main legs. Arrester claws were fitted at the outboard ends of the cross-axle for shipboard use. Blackburn’s trials revealed the need to strengthen the undercarriage, resulting in additional bracing struts being fitted.
Blackburn received a contract for two prototypes (N188 and N189 designated R2 Airedale). These aircraft were built at Leeds and moved to Brough for flight testing. The first (N188) was flown in August or September 1925, but was crashed in December 1925 when being taken-off in a crosswind. Unfortunately, it was being flown by a Service Pilot, who was intending to deliver it to Martlesham Heath for official trials.
The second prototype (N189) was similar to the first and incorporated the revised undercarriage from the outset. It was also fitted with subsidiary vertical fins mounted beneath the tailplane to improve directional stability. This aircraft did not reach Martlesham Heath for trials until June 1926.
The Air Ministry took the view that the R2 Airedale and its competitors did not offer a sufficient advance over the existing in-service aircraft to warrant a production contract and decided to withdraw the requirement.
Two prototypes only, serial numbers N188, N189.
|Powerplant||One 385 hp Armstrong Siddeley Jaguar III radial engine|
|Span||46 ft 0 in|
|Maximum Weight||4,942 lb|
|Capacity & Armament||Three crew: pilot, navigator / wireless operator, observer / gunner; on fixed forward-firing 0.5in Vickers gun, one 0.303 Lewis gun fired from rear cockpit|
|Maximum Speed||120 mph at sea level|