Nazi Nemesis

Britain's deadly night interceptor. the Bristol Beaufighter

Formidably armed with four cannon and six machine guns, the most powerful armament of any fighting plane in the world, the Bristol Beaufighter literally blows to pieces Nazi raiders over England.

A large, two-place, twin-engined plane, weighing 21,000 lb loaded, the Beaufighter has a range of 1500 miles and a top speed of 330 mph at 14,000 ft. Despite its size and weight, it is said to be capable of a short takeoff, fast climb and exceptional maneuverability. Power is supplied by two Bristol Hercules III engines.

The four 20-mm Hispano-Suiza shell guns are concentrated in the fuselage, while the six Brownings are installed in the wings. Designed primarily for service in the night fighter squadrons of the RAF, its terrific fire power makes the most of the fleeting glimpses of enemy aircraft afforded in the dark, and it is officially reported that German warplanes have been blown to bits in midair after a couple of bursts from the Beaufighter's armament.

Developed from the Beaufort bomber, which has been making successful torpedo attacks on Axis shipping, the Beaufighter is an all-metal, mid-wing monoplane with accommodation for pilot and observer. Owing to the different function which the Beaufighter has to perform, the nose is shorter than the Beaufort's and, instead of the "raised deck" of the torpedo bomber, terminating in a gun turret facing aft, the Beaufighter has a projecting turret facing round the compass. Wing span is nearly 58' and overall length a little more than 41'. A trap door in the underside of the fuselage is so designed that when it opens a "dead air" region is created, thereby enabling the crew to bail out no matter what speed the plane is doing at the time.

Equipment is said to be unusually complete, including navigation, identification and formation-flying lights, landing flares, oxygen apparatus, motion picture camera mounting, first aid outfits, and even an axe. The Lorenz beam approach equipment, used for night landing without the aid of flood-lighting on the field, is reported by one authority in this country to have resulted in more casualties in crack-ups than in combat. However, as it remains a part of the Beaufighter's equipment, it may be assumed the British are not merely being prodigal with their pilots and planes.

The 14-cylinder, two-row, Bristol Hercu1es III engines are equipped with two-speed superchargers and develop 1400 hp each at takeoff. An air-cooled radial engine, it weighs 1,680 lb and has an overall diameter of approximately 52". The two-throw, three-piece, counterbalanced crankcase of the Hercules is machined from aluminum alloy forgings having their joint faces on the cylinder center lines. The three pieces are held together by two sets of through bolts, the rear set extending back for the attachment of the supercharger. Cylinders have steel barrels and aluminum alloy heads, with one reciprocating and oscillating single-sleeve valve per cylinder. Inlet and exhaust ports are provided around the mid-section of the cylinders. Supercharger is of the gear-driven, centrifugal type. Fully automatic, the downdraft carburetor is mounted on the top face of the volute casing and fitted with a one-piece intake having two scoops. One of these protrudes above the cowl line for cold air intake, and the other faces the rear upper cylinder to collect warm air, the supply of which is regulated by a spring loaded shutter under the pilot's control. Engines are mounted by means of the seven rearward-extended crankcase bolts, to which either rigid- or flexible-type mounting brackets may be attached, and housed in close-fitting cowls of low drag.

Performance and specification data which have been released on the Bristol Beaufighter, powered by two Bristol Hercules III engines, are as follow:

Span……57' 10"
Length……41' 4"
Gross weight
(without armament)
……21,000 lb
Weight empty……13,800 lb
Maximum speed
at 14,000 ft
……330 mph
Range……1,500 miles

This article was originally published in the September, 1941, issue of Aviation magazine, vol 40, no 9, pp 93, 172.
The original article includes 2 photos of the plane and a three-view line drawing.
Photos credited to British Combine.