Fairey Gannet


Gannet AS.4 NAN9-79.jpg
A Royal Navy Fairey Gannet AS.4
Role Anti-submarine warfare aircraft
National origin United Kingdom
Manufacturer Fairey Aviation Company
First flight 19 September 1949
Introduction 1953
Retired 15 December 1978[1]
Primary users Royal Navy
Royal Australian Navy
German Navy
Indonesian Navy
Produced 1953–1959
Number built 303 (Anti-submarine)
45 (Airborne early warning)
Variants Fairey Gannet AEW.3

The Fairey Gannet is a British carrier-borne aircraft of the post-Second World War era. It was developed for the Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm (FAA) by the Fairey Aviation Company. It was a mid-wing monoplane with a tricycle undercarriage and a crew of three, with a double turboprop engine driving two contra-rotating propellers.

The Gannet was originally developed to meet the FAA's dual-role anti-submarine warfare and strike requirement.[2] It was later adapted for operations as an electronic countermeasures and carrier onboard delivery aircraft. The Gannet AEW.3 was a variant of the aircraft developed as a carrier-based airborne early warning platform.


The Gannet was built in response to the 1945 Admiralty requirement GR.17/45, for which prototypes by Fairey (Type Q or Fairey 17, after the requirement) and Blackburn Aircraft (the Blackburn B-54 / B-88) were built.

After considering and discounting the Rolls-Royce Tweed[3] turboprop, Fairey selected an engine based on the Armstrong Siddeley Mamba turboprop: the Double Mamba[4] (or "Twin Mamba"), two Mambas mounted side-by-side and coupled through a common gearbox to coaxial contra-rotating propellers. Each engine drove its own propeller, and power was transmitted by a torsion shaft which was engaged through a series of sun, planet, epicyclic and spur gears to give a suitable reduction ratio and correct propeller-shaft rotation.[5]

The ASMD.1 engine (2,950 hp/2,200 kW) was used in the Gannet AS.1; ASMD.3 (3,145 hp/2,345 kW) in the AS.4; and ASMD.4 (3,875 hp/2,889 kW) in the AEW.3 variant. The Double Mamba engine could be run with one Mamba stopped and its propeller feathered, to conserve fuel and extend endurance when cruising. Stopping one engine on a conventional twin-engined plane would normally create thrust asymmetry, whereas the centerline-mounted propeller arrangement avoided this.[6] The Mamba exhausts were situated on each side of the fuselage, at the root of the wing trailing edge. The gas-turbine engine could run on kerosene, "wide-cut" turbine fuel or diesel fuel, allowing the Admiralty to eliminate the dangerous high-octane petroleum spirit required to operate piston-engined aircraft from carriers.[6]

In 1958 the Gannet was selected to replace the Douglas Skyraider in the AEW role. In order to accommodate the systems required, the Gannet underwent a significant redesign that saw a new version of the Double Mamba installed, new radome mounted under the aircraft, the tailfin increased in area, the undercarriage lengthened and the weapons bay removed. A total of 44 aircraft (plus a single prototype) of the AEW.3 version were produced.[citation needed]


The Gannet's distinctive double folding wing.

The pilot was seated well forward, conferring a good view over the nose for carrier operations,[3] and sat over the Double Mamba engine, directly behind the gearbox and propellers. The second crew member, an aerial observer, was seated under a separate canopy directly behind the pilot. After the prototype, a second observer was included, in his own cockpit over the wing trailing edge. This addition disturbed the airflow over the horizontal stabiliser, requiring small finlets on either side.[7] The Gannet had a large internal weapons bay in the fuselage and a retractable radome under the rear fuselage.

The Gannet's wing folded in two places to form a distinctive Z-shape on each side. The first fold was upward, at about a third of the wing span where the inboard anhedral (down-sweep) changed to the outboard dihedral (up-sweep) of the wing (described as an inverted gull wing). The second wing fold was downward, at about two-thirds of the wing span.[8] The length of the nosewheel shock absorber caused the Gannet to have a distinctive nose-high attitude, a common characteristic of carrier aircraft.

In FAA service, the Gannet generally wore the standard camouflage scheme of a Sky (duck-egg blue) underside and fuselage sides, with Extra Dark Sea Grey upper surfaces, the fuselage demarcation line running from the nose behind the propeller spinner in a straight line to then curve and join the line of the fin. Code numbers were typically painted on the side of the fuselage ahead of the wing; roundel and serial markings were behind the wing. The T.2 and T.5 trainers were finished in silver overall, with a yellow "Trainer band" on rear fuselage and wings.[citation needed]

Operational history

The prototype first flew on 19 September 1949 and made the first deck landing by a turboprop aircraft, on HMS Illustrious on 19 June 1950, by pilot Lieutenant Commander G. Callingham. After a further change in operational requirements, with the addition of a radar and extra crew member, the type entered production in 1953 and initial deliveries were made of the variant designated AS.1 at RNAS Ford in April 1954. A trainer variant (T.2) WN365 first flew in August 1954. The RN's first operational Gannet squadron (826 NAS) was embarked on HMS Eagle. The initial order was for 100 AS.1 aircraft. A total of 348 Gannets were built, of which 44 were the redesigned AEW.3. (It was originally intended to be the same basic configuration with the guppy radome replacing the bomb bay and retractable radome. The specification was changed, moving the crewmen's positions to be like those in the Skyraider which necessitated a complete redesign of the fuselage and wing centre section.) Production was shared between Fairey's factories at Hayes, Middlesex and Heaton Chapel, Stockport / Manchester (Ringway) Airport.

Newly assembled Gannet AS.4 at Manchester Airport, June 1956

By the mid-1960s, the AS.1s and AS.4s had been replaced by the Westland Whirlwind HAS.7 helicopters. Gannets continued as Electronic countermeasures aircraft: the ECM.6. Some AS.4s were converted to COD.4s for Carrier onboard delivery—the aerial supply of mail and light cargo to the fleet.

The Royal Australian Navy purchased the Gannet AS.1 (36 aircraft). It operated from the aircraft carrier HMAS Melbourne and the shore base HMAS Albatross near Nowra, New South Wales.

Indonesia bought a number of AS.4 and T.5s (re-modelled from RN AS.1s and T.2s) in 1959. Some Gannets were later acquired by various other countries.

West Germany bought 15 Gannet AS.4s and one T.5 in 1958. They operated as the anti-submarine squadron of Marinefliegergeschwader 2 (2nd Naval Aviation Wing) from Jagel and Sylt. In 1963 the squadron was reassigned to MFG 3 at Nordholz Naval Airbase until the Gannets were replaced by the Breguet Br.1150 Atlantic in 1966.

Accidents and mishaps

  • 21 November 1958 – Fairey Gannet AS.1, WN345, suffered a belly landing during a test programme, caused by a partially retracted nosewheel. The pilot tried unsuccessfully to get the gear to deploy. He landed gear-up on a foam-covered runway at RAF Bitteswell, suffering minimal damage. After repair, the Gannet was back in the air within weeks.[9]
  • 30 January 1959 - A Royal Australian Navy Gannet on a trip from Bankstown to Nowra broke up in mid-flight over the Sydney suburb of Sylvania, killing pilot Lieutenant PJ Arnold.[10][11]
  • 29 July 1959 – Royal Navy Fairey Gannet AS.4, XA465, could not lower the undercarriage, made a power-on deck belly landing into the crash barrier on HMS Centaur. The crew was uninjured but the airframe was written off,[12] salvaged in Singapore, but ending up at the fire dump of Singapore Naval Base.[13]
  • 9 April 1962 - Two Fairey Gannet AEW.3s of 849 Sqn FAA RN (XL499 "426" and XP197 "414") collided at night and crashed into the English Channel 15 miles off The Lizard, Cornwall. All six crew were killed:[14]
  • 23 January 1964 – Royal Navy Fairey Gannet ECM.6 XG832 suffered double engine failure caused by a phosphor bronze bushing on the idler gear of the port engine's primary accessory drive failing. Fine metal particles from the gear were carried away by the shared oil system of the two engines, causing both to be destroyed. All three crew bailed out near St Austell and survived.[5]
  • 12 May 1966 – German Navy AS.4 UA-115 crashed shortly after takeoff from Kaufbeuren, killing all three crew members. The crash was deemed the result of pilot error.[15]

Harness restraint issues

Tests on the harness restraint system in the Gannet were carried out after a midflight failure due to the release cables binding. The accident was the result of an unrelated engine failure, but the primary issue was the failure of the harness quick-release mechanism.

A brief report in Cockpit, Q4 1973, concerning the accident:

"A Gannet was launched at night from Ark Royal and climbed to 4,000 ft. Shortly afterwards the starboard engine ran down to 60%. Attempts to feather and brake the engine, and a subsequent re-light were unsuccessful and the aircraft was unable to maintain height. (It is considered that the most likely cause of the accident was disconnection of the HP cock linkage). Both observers bailed out at 1,800 ft, but when the pilot, Lieutenant Keith Jones, tried to bail out he could not free himself from the 'Negative g' strap. However, the rest of the harness had fallen clear and so the pilot was committed to a ditching without any restraint from shoulder or lap straps. This was successfully accomplished and the aircrew were all recovered safely and uninjured ... Although the ditching was successful, the most disturbing factor of the accident was the inability of the pilot to release himself from 'Negative g' strap..."[16]


Gannet T.2 advanced trainer demonstrating in 1955 with one-half of the Double Mamba shut down and weapons bay open
A Gannet COD.4 from HMS Victorious (R38), in 1965.
Type Role Number Built Notes
Type Q Anti-Submarine Warfare 3 Three prototypes were ordered, two in August 1946 and one with a rear cockpit mockup was ordered in July 1949. The first VR546 first flew on 19 September 1949 followed by the second VR577 on 6 July 1950. The third WE488 first flew in May 1951 and all three were powered by the Double Mamba ASMD.1.
AS.1 Anti-Submarine Warfare 183
T.2 Dual Control Trainer version of AS.1 38 1 converted from AS.1
AEW.3 Airborne Early Warning 44 Separate build
AS.4 Anti-Submarine Warfare 75 1 converted from AS.1
COD.4 Carrier Onboard Delivery 6 Converted from AS.4
T.5 Dual Control Trainer version of AS.4 11 3 converted from T.2
ECM.6 Electronic Countermeasures 9 Converted from AS.4
Initially classed as AS.6
AEW.7 Airborne Early Warning 0 Proposal for radical upgrade of AEW.3[17]


An Australian Gannet AS.1 on the USS Philippine Sea in 1958.
German Gannets in flight, in 1960.
 West Germany
  • Marineflieger
    • Marinefliegergeschwader 2 (1958–63)
    • Marinefliegergeschwader 3 (1963–66)
Indonesian Gannets in formation over an Imam Bondjol-class destroyer escort in 1960.
 United Kingdom

Surviving aircraft

The Australian Fleet Air Arm Museum's Gannet on display in 2015
Fairey Gannet at Gatow
Fairey Gannet XT752/772-LM has been restored to flying condition


On display


On display


On display

United Kingdom

On display
Under restoration or stored
  • Gannet AS.4 XA460 currently under restoration at Aeroventure, Doncaster
  • Gannet T.5 XG882 is on the former RAF Errol, between Dundee and Perth, Scotland; however, the aircraft is unprotected and is derelict[26]
  • Gannet AEW.3 G-KAEW (XL500) undergoing a full restoration to airworthiness at South Wales Aviation Museum (SWAM), former RAF St Athan site at Picketston, near Cardiff[20]

United States

On Display

Specifications (Gannet AS.1)

Side view comparison of Fairey Gannet ASW and AEW versions

Data from British Naval Aircraft since 1912[30]

General characteristics

  • Crew: 3
  • Length: 43 ft 0 in (13.11 m)
  • Wingspan: 54 ft 4 in (16.56 m)
  • Height: 13 ft 9 in (4.19 m)
  • Wing area: 483 sq ft (44.9 m2)
  • Airfoil: root: NACA 23018; tip: NACA 23010[31]
  • Empty weight: 15,069 lb (6,835 kg)
  • Max takeoff weight: 19,600 lb (8,890 kg)
  • Powerplant: 1 × Armstrong Siddeley ASMD.1 Double Mamba coupled turboprop engine, 2,950 shp (2,200 kW) equivalent
  • Propellers: 8-bladed Rotol contra-rotating propeller


  • Maximum speed: 310 mph (500 km/h, 270 kn)
  • Endurance: 5–6 hours
  • Service ceiling: 25,000 ft (7,600 m)


  • Up to 2,000 lb of bombs, torpedoes, depth charges and rockets


See also

Aircraft of comparable role, configuration, and era

Related lists


  1. ^ 849 Naval Air Squadron flying Gannet COD.4 aircraft from Ark Royal and RAF Lossiemouth
  2. ^ Taylor 1974, pp. 356–357.
  3. ^ a b Williams 1989, p. 94.
  4. ^ "British Fighter Aircraft" in Chambers's Encyclopædia. London: George Newnes, 1961, Vol. 1, Plate III.
  5. ^ a b Gardner, Bob. "Gannet Down! Five Terrifying Minutes." Aeroplane via aeroclocks.com, October 2007. Retrieved: 23 December 2009.
  6. ^ a b Taylor 1969, p. 361.
  7. ^ Williams 1989, p. 95.
  8. ^ Hearst Magazines (February 1955). "Two Novel Warplanes Produced in Britain". Popular Mechanics. Hearst Magazines. p. 109.
  9. ^ Willis 2006, pp. 43–44.
  10. ^ "Investigation To Follow Navy Gannet Break-up". The Canberra Times. Vol. 33, no. 9, 703. Australian Capital Territory, Australia. 31 January 1959. p. 1. Retrieved 13 October 2020 – via National Library of Australia.
  11. ^ "Minister Says Gannet Crash "Inexplicable"". The Canberra Times. Vol. 33, no. 9, 705. Australian Capital Territory, Australia. 4 February 1959. p. 1. Retrieved 13 October 2020 – via National Library of Australia.
  12. ^ Smith 2008, p. 42.
  13. ^ a b c d e "UK Military Aircraft Serial Allocations: XA". UK Serials Resource Centre. Retrieved 1 April 2011.
  14. ^ "Accident Fairey Gannet AEW.3 XL499, 09 Apr 1962".
  15. ^ " Marineflieger-geschwader 3." fly-navy.de. Retrieved: 23 December 2009.
  16. ^ "Accident Briefs reports". Cockpit, Issue 65, Fourth Quarter 1973.
  17. ^ Gibson, Chris. The Admiralty and AEW. Project Tech Profiles, 2011, ISBN 0-9561951-2-1. p. 22.
  18. ^ "Gannet A.S. Mk 1 XA334." Archived 15 October 2009 at the Wayback Machine camdenmuseumofaviation.com.au. Retrieved: 23 December 2009.
  19. ^ Australian National Aviation Museum – Fairey Gannet A.S.4 – XG789 Retrieved 10 September 2016
  20. ^ a b c "UK Military Aircraft Serial Allocations: XL". UK Serials Resource Centre. Retrieved 4 April 2011.
  21. ^ a b "Fairey Gannet." airliners.net. Retrieved: 23 December 2009.
  22. ^ "Fairey Gannet COD4 (XA466)". Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm Museum. Retrieved 28 September 2020.
  23. ^ a b c "UK Military Aircraft Serial Allocations: XG". UK Serials Resource Centre. Retrieved 4 April 2011.
  24. ^ "Home". Cornwall at War Museum. Retrieved 17 April 2018.
  25. ^ "Newark Air Museum Aircraft List". Newark Air Museum. Archived from the original on 28 December 2013. Retrieved 6 October 2014.
  26. ^ "Gannet XG882." Thunder & Lightnings, Retrieved: 20 March 2017.
  27. ^ "XT752 Fairey Gannet engine start". YouTube. 27 June 2015. Retrieved 17 February 2021.
  28. ^ www.jbsystemsllc.com, JB Systems LLC Eau Claire Website Design. "Menomonie Airfest >> Performers". menomonieairfest.com. Retrieved 17 April 2018.
  29. ^ Fairey Gannet
  30. ^ Thetford 1978, p. 190.
  31. ^ Lednicer, David. "The Incomplete Guide to Airfoil Usage". m-selig.ae.illinois.edu. Retrieved 16 April 2019.


  • "Pentagon Over the Islands: The Thirty-Year History of Indonesian Military Aviation". Air Enthusiast Quarterly (2): 154–162. n.d. ISSN 0143-5450.
  • Smith, Dave. "Hit The Deck." Flypast, No. 328, November 2008.
  • Sturtivant, Ray and Theo Ballance. The Squadrons of the Fleet Air Arm. London: Air-Britain, 1994. ISBN 0-85130-223-8.
  • Taylor, H.A. Fairey Aircraft Since 1915. London: Putnam, 1974. ISBN 0-370-00065-X.
  • Taylor, John W.R. "Fairey Gannet". Combat Aircraft of the World from 1909 to the Present. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1969 (reprinted 1977). ISBN 0-425-03633-2, ISBN 978-0-425-03633-4.
  • Thetford, Owen. British Naval Aircraft Since 1912. London: Putnam, 1978. ISBN 0-370-30021-1.
  • Velek, Martin, Michal Ovčáčík and Karel Susa. Fairey Gannet Anti-submarine and Strike Variants, AS Mk.1 & AS Mk.4 . Prague, Czech Republic: 4+ Publications, 2007. ISBN 978-80-86637-04-4.
  • Williams, Ray. Fly Navy: Aircraft of the Fleet Air Arm Since 1945. London: Airlife Publishing, 1989. ISBN 1-85310-057-9.
  • Willis, David. "Fairey's Versatile Gannet – Part Two", Air Enthusiast, Number 124, July–August 2006.

External links

  • List of surviving Gannets
  • "XT752: The world's last flying Fairey Gannet T5"