The development of the Firefly started in the period 1939 - 1940 to meet the specifications for a naval Fighter to replace the Gloster Sea Gladiator. The prototype, Z1826 made its maiden flight on December 22, 1941.
After several test and modifications the first production aircraft were delivered in 1943. No. 1770 squadron, based at RNAS Yeovilton was the first squadron to be operational with the new Firefly.
In order to fulfil the need for a night fighter March 1943 was started with the development of the NF.II , based upon the F.I. The NF.II was equipped with an AI (Airborne Interception) Mk.X radar. Because of the extra weight added, the centre of gravity changed and the fuselage had to be be enlarged with 18 inch, just after the fire wall behind the engine.
37 examples of this type were built, but due to the difficult to solve problems with the radar and the manageability of the aircraft, they were soon modified to standard F.I This decision might have been influenced by the fact that Fairey received permission to use the US ASH radar.
The ASH radar was added to a pod, under the fuselage, this version was designated NF.I. Externally the NF.I resembled the FR.I, the fighter reconnaissance version of the F.I. This version was also equipped with radar, the AN/APS-4, also carried in a pod under the fuselage.
The front of the pod was made of fibre glass. The pod it self was slightly over pressurized to prevent the front to indent. Differences between the NF.I and the FR.I were the flame dampers, the lights of the deck hooks and the ASH indicator for the pilot. Several standard F.Is were modified to FR.I, but were designated as F.IA.
A new development of the engines led to the Mk. III, which was equipped with the Griffon Mk. 62 rated 1900 hp. The fuselage of the Mk I was used. problems with stabilizing the new aircraft could not be solved, so just one prototype was built.
Spring 1944 four Mk.I airframes were modified to Mk.IV, equipped with Griffon Mk.72. The radiator intake was replaced with more aerodynamic radiator intakes in the front of each of the wings The rounded wingtips were removed and a four blade propeller was used. These modifications showed a much better performance.
The second prototype was equipped with two wing-mounted pods, starboard pod contained the ASH-radar and the other contained a fuel tank of 55 gallons. This version was designated FR.4 May 25, 1946, the first production FR.4 made it first flight. The production version was equipped with the Griffon Mk.74.
The Mk.5 was virtually equal to the FR.4 and made its first flight on December 12, 1947. Three versions were produced, to know the NF.5 nightfighter, the FR.5 and the AS.5 the anti submarine version. The NF.5 was equipped with night-fighter equipment, such as flame dampers; the AS.5 was equipped with special equipment for sub hunting.
The Mk.6 was built in one version, AS.6 anti submarine version. Armament was deleted, and provision for depth charges and son buoys were added. Also the landing gear was enlarged.
At the end of the forties the seventh and last version of the Firefly, the Mk.7 was developed. Initially intended as an interim aircraft to be used before the Fairey Gannet entered service. The AS.7 differed very much from the AS.6
The large canopy for the radar operators and the revised tail was obvious. The engine was a Griffon Mk.59 rated 2455 hp, with made a change of the nose section necessary. The nose resembled very much the nose of the Fairey Barracuda. Because of the poor flying capabilities, poor view ahead and the delivery of TBM-3E/W Avengers, the order was cancelled, so very few AS.7s were built. The remaining airframes were modified to T.7-trainers, used for training of observers and radar operators.
In July 1946 the trainer prototype made is first flight. It was a converted FR.1 with a cockpit added, which replaced the observers cockpit. The first production unarmed aircraft, Firefly T.1 made its maiden flight September 1946.
In 1949 the T.2 was developed as a weapon trainer and made its first flight on August 12, 1949. Few changing compared with the earlier T.1 were two wing mounted guns en provision to carry an external weapon load, such as mines, depth charges and flares.
Later a small number T.3s was built, which were all converted FR.1s. The T.3 was a trainer for anti submarine ware. All armament was removed.
After the war the was a need for target towing aircraft, Sweden had converted several old Mk.Is to TT.1 (TT = Target Tug).
Fairey delivered later modification sets to convert Mk.4 and Mk.5 aircraft to TT.4 and TT.5 respectively. This set contained a air-screw driven ML Type G winch in a pod, to be carried under the fuselage. The guns were removed and a control mechanism was added to the cockpit.
In the fifties there was a need for target planes so several withdrawn Fireflies were modified to U-marks (U=Unmanned), a remote controlled, unmanned aircraft. Several Mk.7s were converted to U.8 and several Mk.5s to U.9. The armament was removed and equipment for remote control was added.
|Length:||11,25 m||Wingspan:||13,56 m|
|Height:||4,47 m||Wing area:||30,5 m2|
|Empty Weight:||4048 kg||Max. start weight:||6025 kg|
|Max. speed:||513 km/hr||Climbing speed:||- m/min|
|Cruising speed:||320 km/hr|
|Range:||1750 km||Service ceiling:||- m|
|Engine type:||One Rolls Royce Griffon 74 rated 2250 hp|
|Armament:||Four 20 mm Hispano-Suiza HS 404 wing mounted guns|
|Length:||11,54 m||Wingspan:||12,54 m|
|Height:||4,36 m||Wing area:||30,25 m2|
|Empty Weight:||4388 kg||Max. start weight:||7301 kg|
|Max. speed:||621 km/hr||Climbing speed:||- m/min|
|Cruising speed:||354 km/hr|
|Range:||2090 km||Service ceiling:||- m|
|Engine type:||One Rolls Royce Griffon 74 rated 2250 hp|
|Armament:||Four 20 mm Hispano-Suiza HS 404 wing mounted guns, Two 450 kg bomb; 8 pair rockets.|