Bristol 105 Bulldog

A popular and successful single seat fighter that replaced the Siskin in RAF service.
Bristol 105 Bulldog II assembly 1929 Bristol 105 Bulldog IIs in the erection hall in 1929, including J9572.

The prototype Bristol Type 105 Bulldog was built as a private venture with an eye on Air Ministry specification F.9/26 and flown (unmarked) by Cyril Unwins on 17th May 1927.


Designed by Frank Barnwell, the Bulldog was a air-cooled Jupiter-powered single-bay biplane, with a lower wing having reduced chord and span compared with the upper. The overall structure was all-metal with a fabric covering with a semi-circular cut out on the upper wing to provide a maximum field of vision. Armament was provided by twin synchronised Vickers guns. The Air Ministry ordered a single Bulldog Mk II J9480 for trials against the F.9/26 requirement.


Bristol 105 Bulldog II K1085 air to air Air to air photograph of Bristol 105 Bulldog II K1085


A production order followed, the main variants procured for the RAF being the Bulldog II (92 built) and the Bulldog IIA with increased all up weight and Jupiter VIIF (268 built). 18 Bulldog IVA were built with long-chord engine cowlings, the majority being exported to Finland.


Unfortnately, the Bulldog gained notoriaty in 1931 when Douglas Bader crashed his aircraft during unauthorised low-level aerobatics at Woodley Aerodrome near Reading.  His injuries were substantial and both his legs were amputated. Despite this and unsatisfied with a desk job, Bader taled his way into the RAF and played a major part in the Battle of Britain (as portrayed in the Rank blockbuster 'Reach for the Sky').


The aircraft never saw combat with the RAF, being withdrawn from service in 1937 although it did serve in the Sudan to reinforce the Middle East Command.  In 1939, ten Bulldogs of the Finnish Air Force saw service during the Winter War against the Soviet Union, often pitted against more superior opposition.


Bristol Bulldog IVA BU-59 Finn Oct 34 Finnish Bulldog IVA BU59 in October 1934. This aircraft survives and is on display in Finland.


The type was also exported to several countries, including Latvia, Australia, Siam, Sweden, Finland, Estonia, Denmark and Japan, where two examples were manufactured under licence by Nakajima as the JSSF (Japanese Single Seat Fighter). 59 examples of a two seat trainer variant, known as the Bulldog TM were also procured.


A total of 441 Bulldog were built at Filton.


Bristol 105 Bulldog IIA Sweden 5211 Swedish Air Force Bulldog IIA 5211


The type was extensively used as an engine test bed, including the Bristol Aquilla, Perseus and Mercury, Gnome Rhone 9ASB, Napier Rapier, AS Cheetah X and Alvis Leonides among the engines fitted. The Specifications below relate to the main UK production models, the Bulldog II, IIA and TM.


Bristol Bulldog JSSF 701 The first of two Bulldogs built by Nakajima and known as the JSSF (Japanese Single Seat Fighter).




Specifications                 Bulldog II Bulldog IIA Bulldog TM
Powerplant One 440 hp Bristol Jupiter VII One 440 hp Bristol Jupiter VIIF One 450 hp Bristol Jupiter VIFH
Span 33 ft 10 in 34 ft 2 in
Maximum Weight 3,490 lb 3,660 lb 4,500 lb
Capacity  Pilot and gunner Pilot and gunner Pilot and student
Armament Two fixed Vickers guns Nil
Maximum Speed 178 mph 178 mph 168 mph

Variants and number built

Bulldog Mk. I Single-seat fighter prototype, two built
Bulldog Mk. II Initial production version, 92 built
Bulldog Mk. IIA Main production version, 268 built
Bulldog Mk. IIIA 2 only with Mercury IV and Townend ring cowling, one converted to Mk.IV
Bulldog Mk. IVA 18 built, 17 of these sold to Finland
Bulldog TM Type 124; two seat trainer, 59 built
Bulldog JSSF 2 aircraft licence-built by Nakajima in Japan


G-ABBB Bulldog IIA      RAF Museum Hendon painted as K2227. Last flying example, crashed at Farnborough in 1964 and restored as a static exhibit

BU-59 Bulldog IVA Hallinportti Aviation Museum, Kuorevesi, Jämsä, Finland


Other information