Fairey Gannet AS_Mk 1 & Mk 4 and trainer versions
Scale Aircraft Modelling|October 2021
World War 2 had proven to Great Britain the importance of keeping her sea lanes safe and open.
Jan Polc

This was vital for foodstuffs and fuel,to build up Allied forces to retake Europe, and to project power globally by supporting Allied and Commonwealth nations in the war against Japan. German U-boots had been very dangerous to the British war effort and the Battle of the Atlantic, while ultimately successful, was one of the most bitter campaigns of the war. Bombers, converted into antisubmarine aircraft, were efficient weapons and when coupled with the appearance of ASV (Air to Surface Vessel) radar helped secure Allied victory. The war’s end brought widespread reductions of specialist aircraft including anti-submarine types though, and the onset of the Cold War demonstrated that the Fleet Air Arm now lacked ASW or AS (AntiSubmarine Warfare, or Anti-Submarine in the British nomenclature of the time) aircraft in sufficient quantity.

Fairey Aviation had some thirty years experience in the design and construction of sea-going aircraft for the Royal Navy dating back to the Hamble Baby and the Campania, through the long-serving Fairey IIIF and the Flycatcher, to the famous Swordfish. Its Fulmar was the highest-scoring Fleet Air Arm fighter of the war, while the Firefly went on to do great work in the Far-East and Korea. The Seafox was a reliable ship-borne reconnaissance biplane, and the Barracuda eventually became a potent strike aircraft. The Gannet was to be the final card in Fairey´s naval aircraft pack.

With turbine engine technology rapidly improving, and threatening to replace piston-engine fighter and attack aircraft, the Admiralty started to look for a heavier aircraft capable of carrying an effective payload, with radar and modern avionics, and good endurance to replace the wartime vintage Grumman Avengers that would soon start to become outdated. Fairey had predicted this somewhat and started to develop an AS aircraft as a private venture towards the end of 1945. This was to prove a most astute decision as the Royal Navy soon issued technical specification GR 17/45 calling for a new GR/AS (General Reconnaissance/ Anti-Submarine) aircraft and asked Shorts, Blackburn and Fairey, to submit designs.

Shorts proposed two aircraft, the lighter Seamew AS.1 with a crew of two, and the twin-engined SB.3 - a turboprop development of the Sturgeon attack aircraft. The slow Seamew, ‘a camel amongst racehorses’ barely entered service in small numbers before being scrapped while the Sturgeon was too unstable for long patrols. The other competitor, the Blackburn YB.1 used a Napier Coupled Naiad turboprop, development of which was cancelled, and thus it lost out to the more advanced Gannet. It was also, perhaps, one of the most ugly aircraft ever built.

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