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Plane of the Week Special Edition: The Sunderland

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  • HENG@'s Avatar
    37,244 posts since Jul '03
    • Anyone's heard of this plane b4? Built by a British company called Shorts, this plane was probably one of the 1st (almost)dedicated ASW planes. Shorts was commissioned by the British military to build a flying boat, and they came up with the Sunderland. Now the Sunderland wasn't a flying plane. A flying plane was a plane with pontoons instead of wheels. No, the Sunderland was a proper flying boat. A huge boat with wings.


      By the time WW2 had broken out, GB had 40 of these planes. They were armed with 3 7.7mm guns, one in the front turret and 2 in the rear. They could also carry 2000 lbs of bombs, mines or depth charges. German U-Boat crews learnt quickly to fear it, and aptly nick-named it the "Flyinf Porcupin" because it bristled with death.

      Of course, the plane wasn't exactly a flawless design. In the early days, bombs dropped from a low altitude would sometimes bounce off the water surface and hit the plane that dropped them. Also, because this plane landed on water, the pilot had to change from being a master of the skies to being a salty sea dog able to read currents, in the blink of an eye.

      As the war went on, the Sunderland gained more and more powerful engines. It also gained radar that got more and more sophiscated. This, combined with their ability to remain airborne for long periods of time, made them almost perfect as ASW planes in an age when ASW was still in its infancy. In 5 years of hostilities with the Nazis, it sunk 28 U-Boats and notched another 7 assists. U-Boats designs were modified to include AA guns specifically to counter the the Sunderland threat. It didn't do them much good though. On one occasion, the crew of a Sunderland riddled so comprehensively by a german U-Boat, knew they were finished. So they aimed the nose of their Sunderland at the U-Boat and crashed right into it.

      Most surprisingly though, was how good a plane the Sunderland was, when considered as a plane outright. 2 June 1943. A lone Sunderland on patrol ran right into a flight of EIGHT Ju-88 long range fighers. I quote from Jeremy Clarkson's book "I Know You've Got Soul" his description of the encounter:

      "Now even if the German pilots were blind and mad, a ratio of 8:1 should have assured them of victory. I mean, apart from anything else, they were in fighters and they were up against a converted post-office van"

      On the Ju-88s' 1st pass, the Sunderland was raked with fire and the foward MG was put out of action. On the 2nd, the radio was destroyed and with each subsequent attack, more damage was done. The crew of the Sunderland suffered one KIA and the rest got injuries of varying severity.


      On each pass the Germans were taking damage too, until only TWO of the original eight were left. The 2 surviving planes decided that messing with the Sunderland was one of the worst mistakes of their lives and decided to leg it, leaving the wounded Sunderland to limp home to Cornwall, where it landed safely. Once again, to quote Jeremy Clarkson:

      "Eight to one. Not even a spitfire could have managed that"

      The Sunderland, was truely a magnificent plane, and all dedicated ASW planes of today can probably trace their lineage back to the Sunderland. To conclude, it has written a remarkable new chapter in modern warfare.

  • baer's Avatar
    326 posts since Jul '04
    • Talk about SUF, well not so short (pun intended)

      There's even a Short Singapore (earlier virant of the flying pontoon featured).

      Short S.5, S.12 and S.19 Singapore
      Twin-engined biplane flying boat. The Singapore III was the first all-metal flying boat of the RAF. It was powered by four engines in two tandem pairs between the wings. The Singapore I and II had been unsuccessful prototypes. A few were still in service at the outbreak of WWII. About 40 built.
      Type: Singapore Mk.III
      Function: reconaissance
      Year: 1935 Crew: 6 Engines: 4 * 560hp R.R. Kestrel VIII
      Wing Span: 27.43m Length: 23.16m Height: 7.19m
      Wing Area: 170.38m2
      Empty Weight: 8355kg Max.Weight: 12475kg
      Speed: 233km/h Ceiling: 4570m Range: 1610km
      Armament: 2*mg7.7mm

      URL http://www.csd.uwo.ca/~pettypi/elevon/gustin_military/db/br/SINGAPOR.html

      Four-engined, biplane, general reconnaissance flying boat with a crew of 6.
      One of the mainstays of the RAF flying-boat squadrons at home and overseas in the years just before the war, the Singapore III was the last of a long series of Short biplane flying boats and the immediate predecessor of the Sunderland. The Singapore III was the final service version of a design which originated with the Singapore I (N 179) of 1926. The Singapore I was powered by twin 800-hp Rolls-Royce H 10 engines driving tractor airscrews, and differed also in having a single fin and rudder and a pronounced overhang on the top wing. A Singapore I was loaned by the Air Ministry to Sir Alan Cobham for his memorable 23,000 mile flight round Africa in 1927-28. In 1930 the Singapore II (N 246) appeared, this being the first version to mount the twin tandem engine lay-out so characteristic of the Mk. III.

      The Singapore I did not go into production, but in August 1933 the Air Ministry ordered four development aircraft from Shorts to Spec. R 3/33 for trials at the Marine Aircraft Experimental Establishment and with squadrons, these being the first Mk. IIIs. The first Mk. III (K 3592) flew on 15 June 1934. Production terminated with K 8859 in June 1937 after 37 had been built for the RAF. The five production batches were K 3592-3595, K 4577-4585, K 6907 - 6922, K 8565-8568 and K 8856-8859.

      Singapores first entered service with No. 210 Squadron at Pembroke Dock in January 1935. First Singapores sent overseas were No. 230 Squadron's, to Alexandria in October 1935 and in Singapore from January 1937. In September 1937 Singapores on Nos. 209 and 210 Squadrons were sent to Malta to institute the special anti-piracy patrols as a protection for British shipping during the Spanish Civil War. Temporarily based in Algeria, they returned to England again in December 1937. Nineteen Singapore IIIs, by then in full camouflage war-paint, remained in service at the outbreak of war in 1939. No. 205 Squadron, based at Singapore, retained four Singapores on its strength until as late as October 1941 when it handed then over to the RNZAF.

      Technical Data:

      General reconnaissance flying boat with a crew of 6. All-metal structure, metal hull and fabric-covered wings. Maker's designation, Short S. 19.

      Manufacturers: Short Bros. (Rochester and Bedford) Ltd, Rochester, Kent.

      Power Plant: Twin 675-h.p. Rolls-Royce Kestrel IX (DR) tractor and twin 675 h.p. Kestrel IX (DR) pusher.

      Dimensions: Span 90 ft. Length, 64 ft. 2 in. Height, 23 ft. 7 in. Wing area, 1,834 sq. ft.

      Weights: Empty, 20364 lb. Loaded, 32390 lb.

      Performance: Maximum speed, 136 m.p.h. at 5,000 ft. Initial climb, 700 ft./min. Range 1,000 miles at 105 m.p.h. Endurance 6¼ hrs. Service ceiling, 15,000 ft.

      Armament: Three Lewis guns in bows, amidships and tail positions. Bomb-load, 2,000 lb.

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