Designated the Bristol Type 152, the Beaufort was twin-engine torpedo bomber design based upon the vast experience gained from the earlier Blenheim light-bombers.
It was a powerful, well-armed high performance aircraft which also led to the Bristol Beaufighter, an aircraft which eventually replaced it in the maritime strike role.
In an unprecedented step, the Beaufort was ordered 'off the drawing board', an indication of the RAF's urgent need for an effective anti-shipping aircraft. Although the design is considered to be similar to the Blenheim, the Beaufort it had a slightly larger wingspan with an extended fuselage, both longer and taller to accommodate a forth crew member and a semi-recessed torpedo.
After a number of teething problems with the Bristol Taurus engines, the prototype (L4441) finally flew on 15th October 1938. Subsequent bombing trials from Boscombe Down revealed 'An exceptionally poor bombing platform' with an excessive tendency to roll - this was corrected on later aircraft with semi-circular plates fitted to the trailing edges of the upper wings which provided the required stability.
The initial order was placed for 320 units which meant that due to its commitment to producing the Blenheim, only 78 units could be built at Filton with Blackburn Aircraft building the remaining 242 in Yorkshire. This production balance was to be redressed later whilst the Department of Aircraft Production in Australia also built huge numbers of what was known as Beaufort DAP which were used to great effect in the Pacific theatre against the Japanese.
Engine development and reliability issues restricted initial UK production aircraft; Australian aircraft used the Pratt & Whitney Twin Wasp and later British aircraft used the improved and more powerful Taurus XX. The Australian-built Mk VIII was used extensively in operations against the Japanese.
In all some 2,130 Beauforts were built, of which 700 were manufactured in Australia with the main production marks being the Beaufort I (1,015 built) and the Beaufort VIII (520 built).
The type saw service in all main fronts of World War 2 including a huge number operating with the RAF in Europe and North Africa. Operating from bases in Egypt and Malta, Beauforts crippled the German supply lines, sinking a number of significant tankers and cargo-vessels.
Throughout the Pacific many consider the role of Beaufort in the conflict to be fundamental to the success of the design.
Sadly, no flying examples survive today and there are a relatively small community of aircraft either on display or under-going restoration.
|Specification||Beaufort I||Beaufort VIII|
|Powerplant||Two 1,130 hp Bristol Taurus VI, XII or XVI.||Two 1,200 hp Pratt & Whitney Twin Wasp S1C3G|
|Span||57 ft 10 in|
|Max Weight||21,230 lb||22,500 lb|
|Capacity||Four crew (pilot, navigator, radio operator, gunner). Later operational aircraft carried six Vickers machine guns (2 in nose, 2 in dorsal turret, 1 in port wing and one pintle mounted to fire laterally from entrance hatch). One 1,650 lb Mk XII 18 inch torpedo or up to 2,000 lb of bombs or mines.|
|Max Speed||260 mph||265 mph|
|Range||1,600 miles||1,450 miles|
|Beaufort I 1,014 built||Two Taurus III, or VI, XII or XVI engines.|
|Beaufort II 415 built||Beaufort I with 1,200 hp Twin Wasp engines.|
|Beaufort IV 1 only||One Beaufort II converted to 1,250 Taurus XX engines with four-gun dorsal turret.|
|Beaufort V to VIII 700 built||Australian-built, 520 of these as Beaufort Mk VIII.|
|Beaufort IX 46 conversions||Transport conversions of Mk VIII with seating for nine occupants.|