The Fairey Albacore was a British single-engine carrier-borne biplane torpedo bomber built by Fairey Aviation between 1939 and 1943 for the Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm and used during the Second World War. It had a three-man crew and was designed for spotting and reconnaissance as well as level bombing, dive bombing and as a torpedo bomber.
Length: 12.14 m
Wingspan: 15.24 m
Height: 4.62 m
Wing area: 57.9 m²
Empty weight: 3,295 kg
Loaded weight: 4,755 kg
Max. takeoff weight: 5,727 kg
Powerplant: 1 × Bristol Taurus II 14-cylinder radial engine, 1,065 hp 1,130 hp
(794 kW / 840 kw)
Maximum speed: 259 km/h
Cruise speed: 225 km/h maximum cruise
Stall speed: 87 km/h flaps down
Range: 1,497 km with torpedo
Service ceiling: 6,310 m
Climb to 6000 ft 8 min
Armament: 1 × fixed, forward-firing 7.7 mm machine gun in starboard wing
1 or 2 × 7.7 mm Vickers K machine guns in rear cockpit.
Bombs: 1 × 760 kg torpedo or 900 kg bombs
The Albacore, popularly known as the "Applecore", was conceived as a replacement for the ageing Fairey Swordfish, which had entered service in 1936. The Albacore served with the Swordfish and was retired before it, being replaced by the Fairey Barracuda and Grumman Avenger monoplane torpedo bombers.
No. 826 Naval Air Squadron was specially formed to operate the first Albacores in March 1940, being used for attacks against harbours and shipping in the English Channel, operating from shore bases and for convoy escort for the rest of 1940.
HMS Formidable's 826 and 829 Squadrons were the first to operate the Albacore from a carrier, with operations starting in November 1940. Initially, the Albacore suffered from reliability problems with the Taurus engine, although these were later solved, so that the failure rate was no worse than the Pegasus equipped Swordfish. The Albacore remained less popular than the Swordfish, as it was less manoeuvrable, with the controls being too heavy for a pilot to take much evasive action after dropping a torpedo.
Eventually, there were 15 first-line FAA squadrons equipped with the Albacore which operated widely in the Mediterranean. Albacores played a prominent role in the ill-fated raid on Kirkenes and Petsamo in July 1941. Albacores participated with more success in the Battle of Cape Matapan and the fighting at El Alamein as well as supporting the landings at Sicily and Salerno. During the period September 1941 to end of June 1943, No. 828 Squadron, based at RAF Hal Far, Malta, operated a squadron of Albacores under severe blitz conditions during the siege of Malta, mainly against Italian shipping and shore targets in Sicily.
On 9 March 1942, 12 Albacores from HMS Victorious were launched to attack the German Bismarck-class battleship Tirpitz at sea near Narvik. Based on information from one of six radar equipped aircraft already airborne, Albacores from 817 and 832 Squadrons launched torpedoes and some also attacked with their machine guns. One attack came within 30 feet (9.1 m) of success at the bow but the FAA's only torpedo attack on Tirpitz at sea failed, with the loss of two aircraft and damage to many others.
In 1943, the Albacore was progressively replaced in Fleet Air Arm service by the Barracuda. The last FAA Albacore squadron, No. 841 Squadron, which had been used for shore based attacks against shipping in the Channel for the whole of its career with the Albacore, disbanded in late 1943.
The Royal Air Force deployed some Albacores; No. 36 Squadron based at Singapore acquired five to supplement its Vickers Vildebeests at RAF Seletar in December 1941. The remnants of the squadron was captured by the Japanese in March 1942. In 1943, No. 415 Squadron RCAF was equipped with Albacores (presumably ex-FAA) before the Flight operating them was transferred and reformed as 119 Squadron at RAF Manston in July 1944.
The squadron deployed later to Belgium. Their Albacores were disposed of in early 1945 in favour of ASV-radar equipped Swordfish Mk.IIIs that the squadron kept until the end of the war in May. The Aden Communication Flight used 17 Albacores between the middle of 1944 and August 1946. Some of these were delivered by sea on the SS Empire Arun in December 1945 (all from Royal Navy stock).
The Royal Canadian Air Force took over the Albacores and used them during the Normandy invasion, for a similar role until July 1944. The Albacore was the last biplane to be used in combat by the RCAF.