The Blackburn Roc was the Royal Navy’s equivalent to the Boulton Paul Defiant, and was a turret armed fighter aircraft developed just before the Second World War, and which proved to be ineffective in combat.
The Roc was developed for a different purpose to the Defiant. The Boulton Paul aircraft had been built because some experts believed that modern fighter aircraft were too fast for the pilot to be able to both fly the aircraft and make accurate attacks on equally fast moving enemy aircraft. The powered turret would allow a second crewman to concentrate on gunnery.
In contrast the Roc was designed to attack enemy bombers. It was to fly alongside the incoming attacker, which would have to be flying straight and level to make an accurate attack on the Navy’s warships, and fire broadsides from the four-gun turret.
The Roc was developed in response to Air Ministry specification O.30/35, which called for single engined two-man fighter aircraft, armed with four 0.303in Browning guns mounted in a power operated turret. Blackburn responded to this specification with a modified version of the Skua dive bomber. Blackburn were given a contract for 136 Rocs on 28 April 1937, but they were busy producing the Skua and preparing to produce the unsuccessful Botha, and so production was sub-contracted to Boulton Paul.
The basic problem with the Roc was that the extra weight of the turret reduced the moderate performance of the Skua to a point where it could not have caught up with any modern German bomber. The Skua itself would have a longer career as a naval fighter. Fortunately for the Roc crews, this was realised before the aircraft had been sent into to combat, and so they did not suffer the same fate as the Defiant crews in 1940.
The first aircraft made its maiden flight on 23 December 1938. Despite efforts to improve its performance the Roc’s front-line service career only lasted a few months. Nos.801 and 806 Squadrons both received the type during 1940, operating them alongside their Skuas. Both squadrons were land-based, and the Roc was never used from an aircraft carrier. Most were used by second-line units, where some survived intil 1943.
The Roc was also produced as a floatplane, to specification 26/36, but this version was no more successful than the fighter. The floats made the aircraft directionally unstable, and the first floatplane crashed during testing. Only two more were produced.
Engine: Bristol Perseus XII
Wing span: 46ft 0in
Length: 35ft 7in
Height: 12ft 1in
All-up weight: 7,950lb (landplane)
Maximum speed: 223mph (landplane), 193mph (seaplane)
Armament: Four 0.303in machine guns in Boulton Paul turret