Fairey Firefly NF.I

The Fairey Firefly NF.I was the second attempt to develop a night-fighter version of the Firefly, and took advantage of the availability of American radar to improve on the earlier NF.II.

The NF.II had been designed around the bulky AI Mk X radar set, which required a heavy generator and two radomes to work. The extra weight badly affected the aircraft's handling, and the radar installation was never satisfactory.  By mid-1944 the American AN/APS-4 radar set was available in limited numbers. This was a lighter and more compact piece of equipment, and was small enough to be carried in a single pod that was mounted on a boom under the engine cowling. The NF.I was also given anti-glare shrouded exhausts, lights on the deck hooks, and a second radar indicator in the pilot's cockpit.

The first NF.Is went to No.746 Squadron, the Naval Night Fighter Interception Unit, where they were used to develop night fighter tactics. This squadron also saw the only comber service of the NF.I, when a small number of aircraft moved to RAF Coltishall in an attempt to intercept Heinkel He 111H-22s that were being used to launch V-1 flying bombs. This was not a great success, with only a limited number of attempted interceptions and on the one occasion when a Firefly opened fire its crew were aiming blind at a radar contact hidden in clouds.

The NF.I served with Nos.1790, 1791 and 1792 Squadrons, but none of these units reached the front line before the end of the war. Complete night fighter squadrons were then replaced with four-strong 'Black Flights', which saw a contingent of night fighters attached to each carrier-borne Firefly squadron.

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (31 January 2010), Fairey Firefly NF.I , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_fairey_firefly_NFI.html

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