Bristol Bulldog

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Bristol Bulldog
Missing image

First flight
Entered service
Length ft in m
Wingspan ft in m
Height ft in m
Wing area ft²
Empty lb kg
Loaded lb kg
Maximum takeoff lb kg
Power hp kW
Maximum speed mph km/h
Combat range miles km
Ferry range miles km
Service ceiling ft m
Rate of climb ft/min m/min
GunsTwo 0.303 in (7.7 mm) Vickers machine guns
BombsFour 20 lb (9 kg) bombs

General history

The Bristol Bulldog was a Royal Air Force (RAF) single-seat biplane fighter designed during the 1920s by the Bristol Aeroplane Company, with over three hundred Bulldogs produced, that arguably became the most famous aircraft during the RAF's inter-war period.

In September 1926, the Air Ministry stated a need for a single-seat fighter capable of operating in day and night-time conditions; to be armed with two 0.303 in (7.7 mm) Vickers machine guns and to be powered by a radial air-cooled engine. The prototype, the Bulldog I, was designed by Frank Barnwell, the Chief Designer of the Bristol company, who had served as a Captain in the British Army during the First World War; the Bulldog Mk. I took to the skies in May 1927.

The full-production Bulldog came in the form of the Mk.II, which had a modified structure but in every other respects was identical to the original Bulldog; having two 0.303 in (7.7 mm) Vickers machine guns; a capacity for four 20 lb (9 kg) bombs; a 450 hp (336 kW) Bristol Jupiter radial engine; giving the Bulldog a speed of just under 300 mph (480 km/h) and a range of 300 miles (480 km). The aircraft then entered production in 1928, entering service the following year, and becoming, during the early 1930s, the most widely used aircraft in the RAF. It was cheap to maintain and thus, at a time of defence budget constraints, was the more preferable option to any other competitors. The Mk. IIA was again virtually similar to its predecessor, though had a new Jupiter engine and a strengthened structure.

The Bulldog proved to be quite a successful export to foreign air forces, seeing service with Australia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Japan, Latvia, Siam and Sweden. The Bulldog was withdrawn from RAF service in 1937, being replaced by the Hawker Hurricane and Supermarine Spitfire, both of which would become legends of the RAF for their contribution during the Second World War. The Bristol Bulldog's career was not over though, for the type continued to serve with other air forces.

The Bulldog never saw combat service with the RAF, though during the Abyssinian Crisis of 1935-36, Bristol Bulldogs were sent to the Sudan to reinforce Middle East Command. Douglas Bader, better known for his Second World War actions, lost both of his legs when his Bristol Bulldog crashed while he was performing unauthorised flying acrobatics. A number of Bulldogs, ex-Latvian aircraft, saw service during the Spanish Civil War, as part of the forces fighting the Nationalists. The Bulldogs also saw combat as part of the Finnish Air Force during the Winter War against the Soviet Union, which began in 1939. The Bulldogs fought well against their Soviet opponent, gaining a number of kills, the types being the Polikarpov I-16 and Tupolev SB-2, both of which were quite superior in terms of technology compared to the Bulldog. The Bulldog continued in service during the subsequent Continuation War, again, against the Soviet Union.

Squadrons that operated the Bulldog


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