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Airspeed AS.39 Fleet Shadower



In 1937 the British Admiralty envisaged a need for an aircraft that could shadow enemy fleets at night and drafted Specification S.23/37 calling for a slow-flying silent aircraft with a long range, capable of operating from an aircraft carrier flight deck. The specified performance was to be a speed of 40 knots / 70kph at 500m for not less than 11 hours with accommodation for a pilot, observer and radio operator. Five companies showed interest - Percival, Short Brothers, Fairey Aviation, General Aircraft Ltd and Airspeed.

Two prototypes were built, the Airspeed A.S.39 (serial N1323) and the General Aircraft G.A.L.38 (P1758).

The A.S.39 design was a high-wing aircraft with four 130-hp Pobjoy Niagara V engines with fixed-pitch propellers, extensive slats, flaps and drooping ailerons, fixed landing gear and an observer's position in the nose. As for other aircraft carrier planes, the wings folded for storage. The Airspeed Fleet Shadower had a metal fuselage and three small fins.

The two prototypes flew after the outbreak of the Second World War, the AS.39 flying on 17 October 1940. The aircraft met the requirement but the Admiralty changed their minds about the desirability of such an aircraft and scrapped this programme in 1940 due to the introduction of radar.

Engines: 4 x 130hp Pobjoy Niagara V
Max take-off weight: 3147 kg / 6938 lb
Empty weight: 2083 kg / 4592 lb
Wingspan: 16.25 m / 53 ft 4 in
Length: 12.2 m / 40 ft 0 in
Height: 3.17 m / 10 ft 5 in
Wing area: 43.85 sq.m / 472.0 sq ft
Max. speed: 201 km/h / 125 mph
Ceiling: 1830 m / 6000 ft
Crew: 3



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