Bristol Blenheim

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The Bristol Blenheim was a British light bomber aircraft designed and built by the Bristol Aeroplane Company that was used extensively in the early days of the Second World War. It was adapted as an interim long-range and night fighter, pending the availability of the Beaufighter. It was one of the first British aircraft to have all-metal stressed-skin construction, to utilise retractable landing gear, flaps, powered gun turret and variable pitch propellers. A Canadian-built variant named the Bolingbroke was used as an anti-submarine and training aircraft.

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Design and development

In 1934, Lord Rothermere, owner of the Daily Mail newspaper, issued a challenge to the British aviation industry to build a high-speed aircraft capable of carrying six passengers and two crew members. At the time, German firms were producing a variety of high-speed designs that were breaking records, and Rothermere wanted to recapture the title of fastest civilian aircraft in Europe. Bristol had been working on a suitable design as the Type 135 since July 1933, and further adapted it to produce the Type 142 to meet Rothermere's requirements.

When it first flew as Britain First at Filton on 12 April 1935,[1] it proved to be faster than any fighter in service with the Royal Air Force at the time.[2] The Air Ministry was obviously interested in such an aircraft and quickly sent out Specification B.28/35 for prototypes of a bomber version; the Type 142M (M for military). The main changes were to move the wing from a low-wing to a mid-wing position, allowing room under the main spar for a bomb bay. The aircraft was all-metal with two Bristol Mercury VIII air-cooled radial engines, each of 860 hp (640 kW). It carried a crew of three - pilot, navigator/bombardier and telegraphist/air gunner.[3] Armament comprised a single forward-firing .303 in (7.7 mm) Browning machine gun outboard of the port engine and a .303 in (7.7 mm) Lewis Gun in a semi-retracting Bristol Type B Mk I dorsal turret firing to the rear. From 1939 onwards, the Lewis gun was replaced by the more modern .303 in (7.7 mm) Vickers VGO machine gun of the same calibre. A 1,000 lb (450 kg) bomb load could be carried in the internal bay.

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