The Blackburn 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 made its first flight from the Humber on 14th August 1926, undergoing trials at 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) and 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 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 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 in 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 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, 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 Ripon II (N231) flew in 1927 and was 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 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 carry the Mk VIII / Mk X torpedo or an 1,100 lb smoke canister or alternatively, 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 Ripon IIC which featured all-metal wing construction.
In all, thirty-one Ripon IIC variants were built although its designation remains something of a mystery given the complete absence of a Ripon IIB.
The original Ripon II prototype (N231) had been modified to Ripon IIC standard for trials but the first true prototype (S1468) modified on the production line from a 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 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. (This type is described separately).
In August 1928, the Finnish Government negotiated a licence to produce the Blackburn Ripon and they ordered a 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, variously powered by either a 480 hp Gnome-Rhone Jupiter VIAK, a 535 hp Armstrong Siddeley Panther IIA or a 580 hp Bristol Pegasus IIM.3 engine with trial installations flown with several other engine types.
The Finnish-built 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 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 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 & Numbers 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|