Fast, robust, and able to carry a wide and heavy range of armaments, the Bristol Beaufighter proved to be one of the most successful British-designed strike aircraft of the Second World War. Designed originally as a long-range fighter, it was derived from the Bristol Beaufort torpedo bomber and shared many common components. It entered service with Britain's Royal Air Force (RAF) in September 1940 and was initially employed in its intended role during daylight hours. Fitted with airborne interception radar from November 1940 onwards, it also proved a capable night fighter. From early 1941 the roles of the Beaufighter diversified as it was adapted to carry out anti-shipping strikes and ground-attack missions, and in these capacities gained its fearsome reputation. In the Asia-Pacific theatre the Beaufighter was nicknamed "Whispering Death" because of its quiet engines and heavy firepower. The origin of this nickname is generally attributed to Japanese troops, but there are also accounts that it began with British pilots in Burma.
As with most British aircraft of the Second World War, the Beaufighter was flown by Australian pilots serving with RAF squadrons. It was also operated by seven RAAF squadrons - 455 and 456 in Europe, and 22, 30, 31, 92 and 93 in the South-West Pacific Area. 456 operated the Beaufighter as a night-fighter, 455 in a specialised maritime strike configuration, and the others as a general strike aircraft. The Beaufighter was originally identified as a suitable type for the RAAF, and an order was placed in 1939, but owing to the demands placed on British aircraft production in the early years of the war, the first examples did not arrive in Australia until March 1942.
In total, 5,584 Beaufighters were built between 1939 and 1946, including 365 built by the Department of Aircraft Production in Australia; 581 served with RAAF squadrons in Australia and the South-West Pacific. The last Australian Beaufighter was retired from service in 1957.
Bristol/DAP Beaufighter 21 (Mk TF.X)
|Wing span:||17.63 m|
|Weight (unladen):||7,076 kg|
|Endurance:||Maximum range 2,365 km|
|Armament:||4 x 20-mm cannons|
4 x .5-in machine-guns
907 kg of bombs or 8 x 41-kg rockets
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