The Fairey Fulmar was a single-engine two-seat fighter built for the Royal Navy in the early part of World War 2. Based on the unsuccessful Fairey Battle light bomber, the Fulmar got its rather ungainly design from a naval requirement for a second crew member because it was believed that a single pilot could not handle the complexities of navigation and radio operation over water. Designed for fleet defence, it was never intended for it to take on land-based high performance fighters.
The Fulmar was significantly heavier than contemporary single-seat fighters of its time, and this affected its combat performance. Nonetheless, it was the best Fleet Air Arm fighter in the early part of World War 2. It had a powerful engine and a good range and a formidable armament of eight machine guns. It carried armour and had self-sealing tanks and was well-liked by its pilots. In the words of Capt. Eric Brown, the Fleet Air Arm ace, "it looked right, it felt right when one sat in the cockpit and it was certainly easy to fly." The Fulmar performed credibly in the Mediterranean where it was successful against Italian bombers threatening British fleets at sea. Even against single-seat fighters, the Fulmar reportedly achieved a decent 5:3 kill ratio. Fulmars brought down 112 enemy aircraft during the war, making it the top scoring Fleet Air Arm fighter.
The Fulmar and BigglesEdit
The Fairey Fulmar plays a major part towards the end of Biggles in Borneo. Ginger, who had earlier landed on the H.M.A.S. Adelaide, a (fictional) Australian aircraft carrier, was able to persuade the captain to lend him a squadron of Fulmars which he led to Lucky Strike, arriving just in time to intercept and totally destroy a Japanese bomber raid which threatened to eliminate Biggles' secret base.
The bomber raid was unescorted--the Japanese planners probably thought (correctly) that they had destroyed all the aircraft at the base in their previous raids. Hence Ginger's Fulmars enjoyed a field day. What would have happened had the Fulmars encountered fighter opposition is a matter of conjecture. As noted above, the Fulmar was heavier and not as agile as the Japanese fighters, but it had more powerful engines, armour and powerful armament. The Japanese fighters of that era, the Mitsubishi A5M Claude and the Nakajima Ki-27 Nate, by contrast, were lightly armed and had hardly any armour protection.
- Crew: Two
- Length: 40 ft 2 in (12.25 m)
- Wingspan: 46 ft 4¼ in (14.13 m)
- Max. takeoff weight: 10,200 lb (4,627 kg)
- Engine: 1 × Rolls-Royce Merlin 30, 1,300 hp
- Maximum speed: 272 mph at 7,250 ft (438 km/h at 2,200 m)
- Range: 780 mi (1,255 km)
- Service ceiling: 27,200 ft (8,300 m)
- 8 × 0.303 in (7.7 mm) or 4 × 0.50 in (12.7 mm) Browning machine guns wing-mounted, and occasionally 1 × .303 in (7.7 mm) Vickers K machine gun in rear cabin
- 2 × 100 lb (45 kg) or 250 lb (110 kg) bombs