|Manufacturer||Short Brothers plc|
|Primary Role||Heavy Bomber|
|Maiden Flight||14 May 1939|
Contributor: C. Peter Chen
ww2dbaseThe Stirling heavy bombers were the result of the 1936 British Air Ministry Specification B.12/36. Shorts, the manufacturer, submitted the winning design that was actually modified from an existing four-engine design; the appeal for the Air Ministry was that, by basing the new bomber design on an existing one, production would be able to start quickly. After a first test prototype code named S.31 which first flew on 19 Sep 1938, the design was tweaked, and a new prototype code named S.29 took flight on 14 May 1939; this second design was to become the first of the Stirling bombers. On the maiden flight on 14 May 1939, the prototype's brakes failed, causing the aircraft to go off the runway during landing, collapsing the landing gear. The problem was corrected by adding much stronger and heavier struts. By the time the design entered production in 1939, it was clear that the Stirling bombers were powerful aircraft with excellent payload-range ratio.
ww2dbaseAlthough production began in 1939, Stirling bombers were not operational until Jan 1941. The first mission they embarked on was with No. 7 Squadron Royal Air Force on 10 Feb 1941, where three aircraft flew a bombing mission over fuel storage tanks in Rotterdam in the Netherlands. Beginning in spring 1942, they began to be used in greater numbers, and by May 1943, air raids over Germany involving over 100 Stirling bombers at once were being conducted. Stirling crews were reporting that, with the strong wing structure, they were able to out-turn German Ju 88 and Me 110 night fighters, something that other heavy bombers like the Lancaster and Halifax models could not do. Pilot Murray Peden of No. 214 RAF Squadron flatly described the Stirling as "one of the finest aircraft ever built", as noted in David Bashow's book No Prouder Place. However, the design was not without weaknesses, one of which was the low service ceiling, which exposed Stirling bombers to more anti-aircraft fire from the ground.
ww2dbaseAlthough Stirling bombers were designed to carry a heavy bomb load, two structural dividers running down the middle of the bomb bay limited the size of the bombs that could be loaded internally. As a result, as the RAF began using bombers larger than 907kg, Stirling bombers slowly lost their usefulness and were withdrawn from front line duties beginning in 1943. Their new duties include laying mines outside German ports, delivering special operations agents or paratroopers behind enemy lines, and towing gliders.
ww2dbaseIn service with RAF's Bomber Command between 1941 and 1945, Stirling bombers flew 14,500 operations and dropped 27,000 tons of bombs. 582 were lost in action and 119 were lost through other means out of a total of 2,383 built.
Last Major Revision: Jul 2007
|10 Feb 1941||The Stirling aircraft made its operational debut as bombers of No. 7 Squadron RAF bombed oil storage facilities at Rotterdam, the Netherlands.|
|8 Sep 1944||RAF Bomber Command's last operation with the Short Stirling bomber was made by No. 148 Squadron against Le Havre, France. The Stirling bombers would then be relegated to troop-transport and glider tug missions only.|
|Machinery||Four Bristol Hercules II radial engines rated at 1,375hp each|
|Armament||2x7.7mm nose Browning machine guns, 4x7.7mm tail Browning machine guns, 2x7.7mm dorsal Browning machine guns, 8,164kg of bombs internally|
|Wing Area||135.60 m²|
|Weight, Empty||19,950 kg|
|Weight, Loaded||26,940 kg|
|Weight, Maximum||31,750 kg|
|Speed, Maximum||410 km/h|
|Rate of Climb||4.00 m/s|
|Service Ceiling||5,030 m|
|Range, Normal||3,750 km|
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James Forrestal, Secretary of the Navy, 23 Feb 1945