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Swordfish conundrum


lyttelton76
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Calling all Swordfish experts! I am building the Tamiya Swordfish floatplane and I was happily going to depict it carrying the torpedo as shown on the boxart and on various drawings in my references and on the net. By coincidence I was doing some reading on the Warspite at Narvik which is one of my next projects - the book I was perusing was "Warspite" by Ian Ballantyne. I was reading the account of the exploits of the Swordfish floatplane that Warspite had at the time, and I was surprised at the following statement by the pilot P.O.Fred Rice who had just spotted a U boat { U64} and I quote " With floats on a Swordfish you couldn't carry a torpedo. What we carried was 250lbs armour piercing bombs " { page 98}. Surely the pilot should know - are all the drawings etc. wrong?

I have quite a lot of reference on the Swordfish, so I went through looking for photographs of floatplanes carrying torpedoes and could only find three, all of K5662, the first Swordfish on floats - two in the "in action" title and one in an Air enthusiast mag.Can anyone shed any light on this? Thanks in advance,

Malcolm

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Hi Malcolm

I do not pretend to be a Swordfish expert. My speculation is that in the case of Warspite's Swordfish during Norway campaign it was the question of mission priorities. Swordfishes with floats certainly could carry torpedoes, however P.O. Rice's primary tasks during the Second battle of Narvik were spotting for Warspite and visual reconnaissance for incoming strike of Swordfishes from Furious. You probably noted that on 13th April 1940 P.O. Rice and his crew had been airborne for more than four hours. In order not to exceed maximum take-off weight with 1610 lb. torpedo some fuel would probably have to be left behind and that would shorten Swordfish's loiter time. So with his remark P.O. Rice probably referred to a type of a mission, not to a float version of Swordfish in general. Just my thoughts. Cheers

Jure

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Hi Malcolm,

 

not an expert, just my thoughts. I suppose floats added a good deal of drag to the Swordfish, but this probably wouldn't prevent it from flying with a torpedo slung underneath. What I find harder to figure out is, what kind of mission would that be.

 

I believe Swordfish floatplanes on battleships were primarily for reconnaissance and spotting. Also, an aerial torpedo is different from a ship launched torpedo, it would possibly have different requirements in terms of storage and maintenance. I suspect that, even assuming there was a will to use the embarked floatplane as a torpedo-bomber, the logistics of it would have been perhaps a bit too complex. Given the conditions, 250 lb. bombs are probably more manageable. Operationally, one torpedo bomber squadron versus a battleship is probably fair game, a single aircraft versus one battleship sounds more suicidal. 

 

This leaves us with the possibility of a squadron of torpedo-bomber floatplanes launching "from" a carrier. Think of a Swordfish squadron sent to a remote Pacific island, sheltering there until the carrier could withdraw, then launching a surprise attack on the Japanese Combined Fleets and there you have it, no more Midway! Given the opportunity, it might perhaps have happened, but it doesn't seem it did. Nice setting for a what-if, though.

 

Cheers

 

Claudio

 

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Malcolm if you want the definitive answer email the Yeovilton Fleet Air Arm Museum curator.

 

When I was building my Swordfish they gave me details on the rigging plus a lot of photos and other info.

They are brilliant people. They even went down on the floor of the museum and measured the rigging supports

(large chunks of metal) plus sketched a detail of them, as they are elliptical, that was sent on to me.

 

Also gave me colours of the craft I was building.

 

A Lynx Royal Navy landed on the gardens next to our flats a couple of years ago. Mentioned to the engineer

I was building a Swordfish. I could not stop him giving me info.

 

Laurie

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I am sure Jure has it right. Just because a pilot says he couldn't carry a torpedo under a floatplane Swordfish in the context of talking about a particular situation shouldn't be taken as his declaration that the same applied to all situations.  It needs to be taken in the context of the required mission, of the deployment, and quite possibly of specific policy somewhere his chain of command. It needn't have been an airframe manufacturer's restriction. 

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OK Malcolm, back in.

 

The Crowood book page 41 has a reproduction of Faireys GA drawings and the fuselage is shown with torpedo underslung.

 

Page 52 has a photo ( attributes. H. Little) of Swordfish floatplane K8390 "946" of 824 San abroad Eagle in pre war colours.  No torpedo in the picture but you can see a torpedo crutch clearly under the fuselage.

 

If you don't have the book I would be happy to scan and send for your personal research.

 

There might be more.  Can keep looking if you want.

 

Hope this helps

 

John

 

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Some more further to my earlier post

Plane Essentials publication has a photo of K5662 head on and the torpedo is fitted

 

Swordfish Special has 3 photos of her on trials at Felixstowe taking off with torpedo.

 

I'd say that's pretty conclusive evidence taken all together that the floatplane could mount a torpedo.  The struts for the floats are arranged so the torp can drop away.  Whether they used it operationally is another matter.

 

Amusingly one floatplane pilot is reported as saying that interestingly take off speed, cruise, stall and landing speed were all the same. A line perhaps but makes a point all the same.

 

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Thanks to everyone who has replied on this topic.

23 hours ago, JohnT said:

Some more further to my earlier post

Plane Essentials publication has a photo of K5662 head on and the torpedo is fitted

 

Swordfish Special has 3 photos of her on trials at Felixstowe taking off with torpedo.

 

I'd say that's pretty conclusive evidence taken all together that the floatplane could mount a torpedo.  The struts for the floats are arranged so the torp can drop away.  Whether they used it operationally is another matter.

 

Amusingly one floatplane pilot is reported as saying that interestingly take off speed, cruise, stall and landing speed were all the same. A line perhaps but makes a point all the same.

 

Thanks John , I should have phrased the question a little better and asked if anyone had any evidence that they were used operationally. As I'm sure you know K5662 was a trials aircraft and all the photos around  of Swordfish with torpedoes are of this aircraft. Though your photo on the Eagle is a clincher, and I think I will do mine in pre-war colours anyway. In the "in action" title it clearly states that the floatplane could carry all the same ordnance that the wheeled version could. My thoughts now are that pre war they were used in training exercises, but when it became a "shooting" war for some reason they were deemed impractical.As Claudio and Jure point out it may have been possible ,but not practical in operational circumstances.Anyway, thanks again for taking the time to look.

Kind regards,

Malcolm

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5 minutes ago, iang said:

Malcolm, have a look at the photo of a Swordfish floatplane loaded with a torpedo, that I posted  in my build thread

 

IG

 

 

Hi Ig Wow - thanks for that,great photo and great model ! I also have the 1/32 one as well You've done a brilliant job on that 1

Regards,

Malcolm

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On 11/13/2016 at 10:07 AM, Gomtuu said:

Not seen my own references yet but if the Swordfish was catapult launched would the "cat gear" interfere with a torpedo?

 

Good thought - you're probably right. I have seen artwork of the Swordfish from HMS Malaya depicted with a torpedo but have also seen a photo of the same aircraft and it has no crutch underneath1

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On 11/12/2016 at 10:59 PM, Jure Miljevic said:

Hi Malcolm

I do not pretend to be a Swordfish expert. My speculation is that in the case of Warspite's Swordfish during Norway campaign it was the question of mission priorities. Swordfishes with floats certainly could carry torpedoes, however P.O. Rice's primary tasks during the Second battle of Narvik were spotting for Warspite and visual reconnaissance for incoming strike of Swordfishes from Furious. You probably noted that on 13th April 1940 P.O. Rice and his crew had been airborne for more than four hours. In order not to exceed maximum take-off weight with 1610 lb. torpedo some fuel would probably have to be left behind and that would shorten Swordfish's loiter time. So with his remark P.O. Rice probably referred to a type of a mission, not to a float version of Swordfish in general. Just my thoughts. Cheers

Jure

Thanks for your thoughts Jure. Maybe Gomtuu is right, the catapult gear might interfere with it ?

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It could be that the limitation was a maximum weight issue for Warspite's catapult. Also handling torpedo to get it to the aircraft on a battleship might be 'challenging'.

As Jure says, on a battleship the main task of the aircraft was as a spotter, so possibly no torpedoes were carried aboard; housing them safely could also be tricky!

 

I have a photograph scan of a Swordfish floatplane with torpedo on take -off. A heck of  a lot of water being thrown about; that must have been close to the maximum weight even a Swordfish could haul off the water !

 

John B

Edited by John B (Sc)
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My thoughts are very similar to Johns above. Also when you think on it a single aircraft attacking with one torpedo?  Not sure it makes a lot of sense. The ship under attack would have to be asleep or unlucky to get a hit.  I understand that torpedo attacks are mostly only effective if several aircraft are attacking at around the same time limiting options for defensive evasion manoeuvres.

 

Spotting fall of shot is the most likely intended use as well as recon work.

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I don't know exactly where the accelerator pick-up points are on a Swordfish, but on other aircraft (eg Sea Hurricane) there are four, one on each side of the fuselage behind the wing and one on the underside of the wing not far from the fuselage.  The four points would be in the same position on a Swordfish as on the other types as they have to meet the same attachments on the accelerator.  So there should be no interference with a centrally-carried torpedo - as indeed is shown with the photo from Felixstowe.

 

The thought of an entire squadron of Swordfish (and their precious aircrew!) sitting around on a Pacific island on the off-chance of a Japanese fleet passing by is operationally unreal.  How are they going to get there?  How are they going to be supplied and how are they going to know should a Japanese fleet steam into range?  More significantly, perhaps, the Japanese fleet, pre-Midway, did steam into strike range of two British carriers full of Albacores, including a unit specifically trained in night attack.  They still got to Midway.

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13 hours ago, John B (Sc) said:

I have a photograph scan of a Swordfish floatplane with torpedo on take -off. A heck of  a lot of water being thrown about; that must have been close to the maximum weight even a Swordfish could haul off the water !

 

The caption on the photo I have says 'dummy torpedo'

 

I have another photo of pilots training catapult launches at Gosport and like Graham says the accelerator points don't look like they will interfere with a torpedo. Maybe there were other operational influences including the all up weight versus safe catapult loading.

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2 hours ago, Graham Boak said:

More significantly, perhaps, the Japanese fleet, pre-Midway, did steam into strike range of two British carriers full of Albacores, including a unit specifically trained in night attack.  They still got to Midway.

I wasn't aware of this!  Can you expand on it a bit?

 

 

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Somerville's Eastern Fleet was within range of Nagumo during the Ceylon operation, and knew the Japanese position whilst remaining unsuspected (or at least unknown - it seems safe to suggest that aomeone on the Japanese side would have wondered...).  Indomitable crews were ready to make a night strike but Somerville was unsure that he could pull out of reach of a following Japanese reply and thought it better to remain as a "fleet in being".  It could have been the Albacore's greatest night, or it could have been a disaster.

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2 hours ago, Graham Boak said:

Somerville's Eastern Fleet was within range of Nagumo during the Ceylon operation, and knew the Japanese position whilst remaining unsuspected (or at least unknown - it seems safe to suggest that aomeone on the Japanese side would have wondered...).  Indomitable crews were ready to make a night strike but Somerville was unsure that he could pull out of reach of a following Japanese reply and thought it better to remain as a "fleet in being".  It could have been the Albacore's greatest night, or it could have been a disaster.

Thanks for that. If he'd engaged, history would be quite different with either outcome. Likely affect on Midway alone would have been significant. 

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7 hours ago, Gomtuu said:

 

The caption on the photo I have says 'dummy torpedo'

 

I have another photo of pilots training catapult launches at Gosport and like Graham says the accelerator points don't look like they will interfere with a torpedo. Maybe there were other operational influences including the all up weight versus safe catapult loading.

 

I think the weight of a dummy torpedo was similar to that of an operational one, since the purpose was (and is, with dummies) to acclimatise crews to the feel of the aircraft in that configuration.

Thanks for the catapult pick up points thoughts, Graham and Gomtuu.

 

One of these days I must get my Swordfish torpedo kit out of the stash - hadn't thought of putting a torpedo on.  I also have a 7foot span Swordfish kit for a radio model. Now that I'd like to make as a floatplane !

 

 

Graham - your comment about Admiral Somerville and the attempt to carry out a night attack, I thought he was unable to locate them - two aircraft of his force got shot down while trying to locate them? I didn't realise he had deliberately pulled out of an attack. Interesting.

 

John B

Edited by John B (Sc)
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I think that you should read appropriate works rather than rely entirely just on what I've written, and I'm sure the options have been minutely dissected.  However, if nothing else, each aircraft had a specific search area so that would give him a pretty good idea where to look.  ASV was fitted to several of the Albacores.  I have certainly read comments (Hugh Popham's Sea Flight?)  about disappointment among the Albacore crews because they were not allowed to launch that night.  I suspect somewhat mixed feelings, to be honest, but it was just what they'd been training for.

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Now here is a lovely little thing from the past.

 

Interesting that although a cigarette card it does have a lot of detail.

 

Laurie

 

http://www.ebay.fr/itm/SEAPLANE-HYDRAVION-FAIREY-SWORDFISH-TORPEDO-SPORTER-BRISTOL-ENGLAND-IMAGE-CHROMO-/162139051022?hash=item25c03d940e:g:My8AAOxyHIlTXq8j

Edited by LaurieS
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Thanks Graham, quite agree that reading suitable references is important.  Intrigued by your first comment I hauled out my old copy of Captain Roskill's 'The Navy at War' and re-read his narrative on that episode. It seems that both sides spent sometime searching for one another without success, but after reconnaissance aircraft failed to find Nagumo, Somerville elected to withdraw NW to cover his (Addu Atoll) base and his slow squadron of old battleships, while Nagumo remained searching SE of Ceylon. 

 

Roskill's view is that it is lucky they did not meet, given the IJN's superiority in numbers. A successful night attack might have been an effective  disruptor - though that is not mentioned by Roskill.  I haven't come across that book by Hugh Popham - though that name rings a bell - shall have a hunt for it.  Mixed feelings - I bet !   Maybe history's view of the Albacore might have been changed. 

All this has now got me re-reading more about the early naval air battles of the second war and reminded me again just how important Midway was: I must check on how American Intelligence got wind of that.

 

(This is what makes this forum and this hobby, so interesting)

 

John B

Edited by John B (Sc)
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