Blackburn Shark

The Blackburn Shark was the last in a series of Blackburn produced biplane torpedo bombers that equipped the Fleet Air Arm in the interwar years. It marked a clear break from the earlier line of Blackburn torpedo bombers – the Dart, Ripon and Baffin – all of which had evolved from the Blackburn Swift of 1919. Instead the Shark was based on the Blackburn B-3, designed to Air Ministry specification M.1/30A in 1931.

Blackburn Shark I from the left
Blackburn Shark I from the left

The Shark had an all-metal framework with a fabric covering coated in Alclad. It had wings of unequal span – the lower wings were 10 feet shorter than the upper wings. The streamlined bracing wires used on the earlier torpedo bombers were replaced by a stronger system of slanting struts. This made the wing heavier, forcing Blackburn to install a hydraulically operated folding mechanism, but it did mean that the wings were strong enough to carry a full bomb load even when folded. The Shark could use either the Armstrong Siddeley Tiger or Bristol Pegasus radial engines. The Shark I and II had open cockpits for the pilot, observer/ wireless operator and gunners, with the bomb aiming position located below the pilot’s position.

The Shark could also be used as a float plane, performing well on rough water, and as a catapult launched aircraft operating from capital ships. A total of 238 Sharks were built between 1935 and 1937 in Britain, while the last aircraft were produced under licence by Boeing of Canada in 1940. Despite this the Shark had been replaced in the Fleet Air Arm by the outbreak of the Second World War

T.9 Shark I

The first sixteen production aircraft were completed as the Shark I, powered by the 700hp Armstrong Siddeley Tiger IV engine. The Shark I entered service in May 1935, but was quickly replaced on the production lines by the more powerful Shark II.

T.9A Shark II

Blackburn Shark II from the left
Blackburn Shark II from the left

The T.9A Shark II was powered by either the 760hp Armstrong Siddeley Tiger VI or 840hp Bristol Pegasus IX, and had a slightly modified airframe, but was otherwise very similar to the Shark I. It entered service early in 1936.

T.9A Shark IIA

Six Shark IIAs were built during 1935-36 for the Portuguese government. They differed from the Shark II by using a version of the Tiger VI engine modified to run of 77 octane fuel in place of the 87 octane fuel used by the Fleet Air Arm. Three of the six were equipped to drop torpedoes and three to carry extra fuel tanks under the fuselage. The six Shark IIAs were used for coastal defence

T.9B Shark III

The Shark III differed from the earlier aircraft in having a glazed sliding canopy over the cockpit, and a three-bladed Rotol propeller. 95 Shark IIIs were produced for the Fleet Air Air, 2 for the RCAF and 17 under licence by Boeing Aircraft of Canada. The Shark III was ordered in January 1937, and the first aircraft were delivered only three months later, on 8 April 1937. The Shark III had a very short front line career, being replaced in 1938 by the Fairey Swordfish.

British Service

Like many of the Blackburn torpedo bombers, the Shark had a short first line service career. The Shark I entered service with No.820 Squadron on HMS Courageous in May 1935, replacing the Fairey Seal. The Shark II followed early in 1936, equipping No.11 (Fighter) Group at Gosport and No.821 Squadron, also on the Courageous. Other Sharks operated as catapult aircraft on the battlecruiser Repulse and the battleship Warspite. No.822 Squadron received the Shark in 1936, and No.810 in 1937.

In the following year the Shark was phased out of service in favour of the Fairey Swordfish. A number of the surviving aircraft were then converted into target tugs while others were used as training aircraft, remaining in use in this role into 1942.

Canadian Service

Blackburn Shark II passing HMS Courageous
Blackburn Shark II passing HMS Courageous

The first Canadian Shark IIs were delivered late in 1936, and formed the equipment of No.6 (T.B.) Squadron, based at Trenton, Ontario. They were joined in the spring of 1939 by the two Blackburn produced Shark IIIs, and from August 1939-March 1940 by the Boeing Aircraft of Canada produced Shark IIIs. From 1939 to 1944 these aircraft were used by No.6 (B.R.) Squadron at Vancouver and by No.4 (B.R.) Squadron, to fly reconnaissance patrols off the west coast of Canada. They continued to perform this role until August 1944, when all but five of the surviving aircraft were struck off. The remaining five aircraft were transferred to the Royal Navy, where they were used for deck and lift drills on escort carriers.


Shark II

Shark III


Bristol Pegasus III

Bristol Pegasus III or IX
Armstrong Siddeley Tiger VI



800hp, 840hp or 760hp

Wing span (upper)

46ft 0in

Wing span (lower)

36ft 0in

Length (landplane)

35ft 3in

Height (landplane)

12ft 1in

Tare weight (landplane)



All-up weight (landplane)




140mph at sea level

162mph at 5,500ft

Service ceiling




One forward firing 0.303in Vickers gun, one Lewis gun in rear cockpit

Bomb load

One Mk VIII or Mk X torpedo or 1,576lb of bomb load

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (2 November 2008), Blackburn Shark ,

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