Designed as a replacement for the downright antique-looking Fairey Swordfish and Fairey Albacore biplane torpedo bombers of the Royal Navy’s Fleet Air Arm, the Fairey Barracuda monoplane was on the drawing board before WWII but didn’t make it into production until 1943, which left the “Flying Stringbag” (Swordfish) the task of crippling the mighty SMS Bismarck and knocking three Italian battleships and a heavy cruiser out of action at Taranto, the latter accomplished by just 21 aircraft more than a year before Pearl Harbor stunned the world.
Powered by a huge Rolls-Royce Merlin, the Barracuda could tote a 1,620-pound aerial torpedo or an equivalent bomb loadout to 600 miles and something like 2,600 of the aircraft were produced, in the end, flying with not only the Brits but several Allies.
Barracuda raids tied up Bismarck’s sister, Tirpitz, and had some success in ASW before a stint in taking the war to the Japanese in 1944.
An unloved bird, the Barracuda was soon phased out in favor of the Grumman TBM Avenger, which had better performance, especially in hot, tropical weather (see= Pacific) and none were retained for posterity in museums.
Which makes the recent discovery of a Barracuda by workers laying a new power cable across the English Channel exciting. Lost on a training flight in September 1943, the ‘Cuda is relatively complete and crews are now carefully recovering the rare aircraft in sections.
The plan is that the plane could help the Fleet Air Museum craft a Barracuda from parts. Don’t laugh, there is a P-39 Aircobra in Moscow that was recently made from 19 different airframes recovered from Eastern Front battlefields.
“This is an incredible find and a wonderful piece of British history. There are very few blueprints of the Barracuda plane design available so this wreckage will be studied to enable us to see how the plane segments fitted together and how we can use some of the parts we currently have,” said museum curator David Morris, who’s been working on the project for several years and visited four other crash sites to retrieve parts.
Also, if you came this far, you knew this was happening.