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Into the Archives – Blackburn Skua

9th June 2015

Another delve in to the archives has uncovered the story of the Skua aircraft. The Blackburn B-24 Skua was a carrier-based low-wing, two-seater, single-radial engine aircraft operated by the British Fleet Air Arm which combined the functions of a dive bomber and fighter. It was designed in the mid-1930s and saw service in the early part of the Second World War, taking its name from the seabird.

Two prototypes were ordered from Blackburn in 1935 and the first serial number& K5178 first flew on 9 February 1937. Both prototypes were powered by the Bristol Mercury XII radial engine but following trials when a production order for 190 aircraft was placed, they were to have Bristol Perseus XII engines.

Built to Air Ministry specification O.27/34, it was a low-wing monoplane of all-metal (duralumin) construction, with a retractable undercarriage and enclosed cockpit. It was the Fleet Air Arm first service monoplane and was a radical departure for a force that was primarily equipped with open-cockpit biplanes such as the Fairey Swordfish.

The 800 Naval Air Squadron were the first military function to take delivery of the first Skua in late 1938 at Worth Down. By November 800 squadron had been transferred to HMS& Ark Royal.

With the start of the World War II, Skuas were soon in action.

Military archives report that on 14 September three Skuas were took off from HMS Ark Royal, to go to the aid of the SS Fanad Head which had been attacked by a U-boat. When they arrived, the Fanad Head was being shelled by U-30 and all three dived to attack the submarine, which quickly dived to safety. Two of the Skuas were damaged by the blasts and had to ditch. U-30 returned to Germany with the crews of the two ditched Skuas, who became the first naval airmen to be prisoners of war in the conflict.

The archives also tell of Skuas that were credited with the first confirmed kill; by British aircraft during the World War II. A Dornier Do 18 flying boat was shot down over the North Sea on 26 September 1939, by three Skuas of 803 Naval Air Squadron, flying from the aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal. An earlier victory by a Fairey Battle on 20 September 1939 over Aachen, was later confirmed by French sources.

Posted By HEP Communications | 09 June 2015

Photo credits: BAE System (Operations) Ltd.