National Museum of the USAF   Right Corner Banner
Join the Air Force

Home > Fact Sheets > Bristol Beaufighter


Posted 2/18/2015 Printable Fact Sheet
Previous ImageNext Image
Bristol Beaufighter
DAYTON, Ohio -- Bristol Beaufighter in the World War II Gallery at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. (U.S. Air Force Photo)
Download HiRes

The British Bristol Beaufighter filled the need for an effective night fighter in the U.S. Army Air Forces until an American aircraft could be produced. The Beaufighter had first entered operational service with the Royal Air Force in July 1940 as a day fighter. Equipped with a very early Mk IV airborne intercept radar, the powerful and heavily armed night fighter version entered service just as the Luftwaffe (German air force) began its "Blitz" night attacks against London in September 1940. Beaufighter crews accounted for over half of the Luftwaffe bombers shot down during the Blitz.

When the USAAF formed its first radar-equipped night fighter squadron in January 1943, the only American night fighter available was the makeshift Douglas P-70, a modified A-20 bomber using the U.S. version of the Mk IV radar. After initial training in the P-70, the first USAAF night fighter squadrons went to war in the more capable British Beaufighter.

The 414th, 415th, 416th and 417th Night Fighter Squadrons received more than 100 "reverse Lend-Lease" Beaufighters. They arrived in the Mediterranean during the summer of 1943, achieving the first victory on July 24. Through the summer, they conducted daytime convoy escort and strike missions, but thereafter flew primarily at night. Although purpose-built American P-61 Black Widow night fighters began to replace them in December 1944, USAAF Beaufighters continued to fly night cover for Allied forces in Italy and France until the closing days of the war.

The museum's aircraft was built under license by the Fairey Aviation Co. in Stockport, England, and delivered to the Royal Australian Air Force in 1942. It is marked as the USAAF Beaufighter flown by Capt. Harold Augspurger, commander of the 415th Night Fighter Squadron, who shot down an He 111 carrying German staff officers in September 1944.

TECHNICAL NOTES (Data for Beaufighter Mk.VIf):
Crew: Two (pilot and radar operator)
Armament: Four 20mm Hispano cannon in the fuselage and six .303-cal Browning machine guns in the wings
Engines: Two 1,670-hp Bristol Hercules
Maximum speed: 337 mph
Ceiling: 26,500 ft.

Click here to return to the World War II Gallery.

Find Out More
Blue line
Related Fact Sheets
Transcript of a Beaufighter Combat Mission
Northrop P-61C Black Widow
Blue line
Other Resources
Conquering the Night: Army Air Forces Night Fighters at War (Provided by AFHSO)
Blue line
Note: The appearance of hyperlinks does not constitute endorsement by the National Museum of the USAF, the U.S. Air Force, or the Department of Defense, of the external website, or the information, products or services contained therein.

 Inside the Museum

ima cornerSearch

ima cornerAircraft


tabRelated Links

Museum Virtual TourMuseum Facebook PageMuseum Twitter PageMuseum Instagram
Museum Google Plus PageMuseum Pinterest PageMuseum YouTube ChannelMuseum Flickr Page
Museum PodcastsMuseum E-newsletter Sign-upMuseum RSS Feeds

Site Map      Contact Us     Questions     Security and Privacy notice     E-publishing  
Suicide Prevention    SAPR   IG   EEO   Accessibility/Section 508   No FEAR Act