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Warbird Picture - Official photograph: Bristol Brigand B 1, 5 February 1948, IWM ATP 16512B

Bristol Brigand Aircraft Information

Bristol Brigand

Type 164 Brigand

Warbird Picture - Official photograph: Bristol Brigand B 1, 5 February 1948, IWM ATP 16512B

Picture - Official photograph: Bristol Brigand B 1, 5 February 1948, IWM ATP 16512B

Role: anti-shipping torpedo bomber, ground attack/dive bomber
Manufacturer: Bristol Aeroplane Company
First flight: 4 December 1944
Introduced: June 1946
Retired: 1958
Primary user: Royal Air Force
Number built: 147
Developed from: Bristol Buckingham

Bristol Aeroplane Company's Brigand was a British anti-shipping/ground attack/dive bomber attack aircraft developed as a replacement for the Beaufighter. A total of 147 were built, and they served with the Royal Air Force in Malaya during the Malayan Emergency and Kenya until replaced by the de Havilland Hornet in Malaya and the English Electric Canberra jet bomber elsewhere.

Design and development

The Bristol Type 164 was the outcome of the 1942 Air Ministry specification H.7/42 calling for a faster edition of the Beaufighter for long-range torpedo work and anti-shipping strikes.

Bristol design team under Leslie J. Frise used the wings, tail and undercarriage of the Buckingham with a new fuselage of oval cross-section. The three crew - pilot, navigator/bomb aimer and radio-operator/gunner were grouped together in the forward cockpit. In spite of the official change in its role to a bomber, the first 11 Brigands off the production line were completed as torpedo bombers. These initial aircraft served with the RAF Coastal Command from 1946-1947 before being converted to bombers.

Operational history

The first unit to convert from Beaufighters to the Brigand was 45 Squadron, then based at RAF Station Tengah on the Island of Singapore and flying operations in support of British forces against the Communist Guerrillas then engaged in an insurgency in Malaya. The first Brigand was flown to Tengah from RAF St Athan in November 1949, a 16-day trip. After test flights, the first combat operation was conducted by this single Brigand, piloted by Flight Lieutenant Dalton Golding and crewed by radio/radar operator Peter Weston, together with four Beaufighters of No. 45 Squadron against CT targets in jungle west of Kluang, Malaya on 19 December 1949. On this flight, the Brigand carried three rockets, one 500 lb (230 kg) and two 1,000 lb (450 kg) bombs. The operation was successful, and No. 45 Squadron soon completed its transition to the Brigand as more aircraft arrived.

Thereafter, Brigands of 45 Squadron and, soon thereafter, 84 Squadron were routinely engaged in strikes against Communist Insurgent targets throughout Malaya, both direct and in close support of ground forces, as well as providing air cover as needed to convoys on the ground against possible ambushes.

Problems with the Brigand became apparent during its operations in Malaya. The first problem to arise were undercarriages failing to lower. This was traced to rubber seals in the hydraulic jacks gradually breaking up because of the hot, humid climatic conditions, for which they weren't suitable. Just as this problem was being resolved another problem arose, more serious because it led to fatalities; a propensity for aircraft damage and loss during strafing runs employing the four 20 mm cannon. It was ascertained that a build up of gases in the long cannon blast tubes, which ran under the cockpit, were igniting through use of high-explosive shells. This in turn severed hydraulic lines, which would burn. In effect, the Brigands were shooting themselves down. This was cured by drastically reducing the ammunition loads and using only ball rounds. The Brigand also had a propensity to shed one propeller blade leading to complete propeller failure, which in turn would lead to the engine being wrenched off the wing, and an inevitable crash. This was found to be caused by corrosion in the propeller locking rings. More frequent maintenance helped alleviate this problem. When everything was working properly the Brigand was considered to be a good aircraft to fly by its pilots:

"The Brigand was pleasant to fly, having nicely balanced flying controls and a wide range of power in the two Bristol Centaurus engines. These features made the aircraft splendid for formation flying, which was important to our method of operation. The aircraft also had sufficient range to reach targets all over Malaya from the Squadron's new base at Tengah, on Singapore Island."

As the Brigand became hedged in with more restrictions both unit commanders had serious doubts about continued use of the aircraft. It was decided to keep on operating them - as long as thorough maintenance was carried out it was felt that nothing else could go wrong.

Unfortunately, another design flaw did arise in the leather bellows used to deploy air brake during dives. In the tropical climate in which the Brigand found itself in Malaya, the leather would rot away, causing the brakes to fail. This led to Brigands losing wings in dives due to excessive airspeed or rotation as only one brake deployed. When this problem was discovered, the air brakes of all Brigands were wired shut, decreasing the aircraft's dive bombing capabilities. No. 45 Squadron converted to de Havilland Hornets in January 1952 while 84 Squadron was disbanded in February 1953. Soon after this, the Brigands were grounded and withdrawn from service.

Brigands were also used operationally over Aden by 8 Squadron from 1950 through to 1952. In 1952, after it was found that the Brigand's mainspars were suspect the Brigands were replaced by de Havilland Vampires.


The first to be built was the Brigand I or Brigand TF 1 and these entered service with RAF Coastal Command No. 36 Squadron and No. 42 Squadron). They were subsequently rebuilt to become the Brigand B 1, notable as both the first purpose-built multi-role strike aircraft built for the RAF, and its last piston-engined bomber. It could carry either a 22 in (560 mm) torpedo under the fuselage with two 500 lb (230 kg) bombs beneath the wings, one 2,000 lb (910 kg) or two 1,000 lb (450 kg) bombs beneath the fuselage and had under-wing racks for 16 RP-3 60 lb (30 kg) rocket projectiles.

Brigand Met 3 was a meteorological reconnaissance aircraft of which 16 aircraft were built.
Brigand T 4 trainer version, which was used to train airborne interception (AI) radar operators. Nine were built
Brigand T 5 was an improved training version, which like the T 4 before it, was used to train airborne interception (AI) radar operators.



Royal Pakistan Air Force

United Kingdom

Royal Air Force
No. 8 Squadron RAF
No. 45 Squadron RAF
No. 84 Squadron RAF
No. 1301 (Met) Flight
No. 228 Operational Conversion Unit
No. 238 Operational Conversion Unit

Specifications (Brigand)

Data from

General characteristics

Crew: 3
Length: 46 ft 5 in (14.2 m)
Wingspan: 72 ft 4 in (22.1 m)
Height: 16 ft 4 in (5 m)
Wing area: 718 ft (66.7 m)
Empty weight: 27,500 lb (12,470 kg)
Loaded weight: 38,200 lb (17,320 kg)
Powerplant: 2x Bristol Centaurus 57 radial piston engine, 2,165 hp (1,620 kW) each


Maximum speed: 358 mph (576 km/h) at 13,700 ft (4,180 m)
Range: 2,100 mi (3,380 km)
Service ceiling: 26,000 ft (7,920 m)
Rate of climb: 1,500 ft/min (460 m/min)


Guns: 4 20 mm Hispano Mk V cannon
Rockets: up to 16 RP-3 60 lb (27 kg) rockets
Bombs: 1 22 in (559 mm) torpedo or 2,000 lb (907 kg) of bombs


Blyth, A.C. (Group Captain). "Brigands over Malaya". Aeroplane Monthly Volume 5, Number 5, May 1977.
Crouchman, Alan F. Last of the 'Colonial Policemen'? Bristol's Occasionally Self-Destructive Brigand Air Enthusiast # 83 September/October 1999 pp. 22-9
Mulvagh, Brendon. "Brigands over Aden". Aeroplane Monthly Volume 23, Number 9, September 1995.
Taylor, John W.R. "Bristol Brigand." Combat Aircraft of the World from 1909 to the present. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1969. ISBN 0-425-03633-2.
Trimble, Robert L. "Bristol's Multi-mission Bomber." Air Classics, Vol. 18, no. 8, August 1982.

Bristol Brigand Pictures

Living Warbirds: The best warbirds DVD series.

Source: WikiPedia

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