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Potez Po-633B2
Heinkel He-111
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Junkers Ju-87D
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Savoia-Marchetti SM 79B ( JRS-79B )
Bristol Blenheim I

The Bristol Blenheim I bomber / long-range reconnaissance aircraft

 

Like many aircraft in service at the beginning if WW2, the Bristol Blenheim originated from a civilian project : an airliner. In the early 1930's, when Lord Rothermere asked the British aeronautical industry to build the fastest passenger aircraft in the world, the Bristol company was amongst those who responded to the challenge.
Bristol's response came in the shape of the Type 142 plane, which met all demands. It flew for the first time in 1934, under the name of Britain first. The aircraft was a modern, low wing, all-metal monoplane, with retractable undercarriage. It could carry up to eight passengers, had good flying characteristics and could achieve a top speed of 490 km/h at 4800 meters. When the British Air Ministry realized the Type 142 was faster than anything they had in service, they issued the B.28/35 specification, asking for a bomber version with the same qualities to be built. Such was the confidence in the Bristol company that an order was placed by the Air Ministry even before one single aircraft was built. The first production model, designated as the Bolingbroke served as the first and only prototype, since it wasn't very different from the Type 142 : the wings were repositioned to mid fuselage, the Mercury 6.S.2 640hp radial engines were replaced by superior 840hp Mercury 8s and an internal bomb bay was added under the spar.
In 1937, the aircraft had received the final name of Bristol Blenheim, and the first version ( Bristol Blenheim I ) entered production. Some changes had been made to the original design : both wings had to be mounted higher on the fuselage, in order to leave room under the spar for an internal bomb bay, and defensive armament was added as well.

 

 

Pilots and maintenance crews in front of one of ARR's Bristol Blenheim I

The aircraft proved to be so successful that several countries decided to buy it ( namely Romania, Greece and Turkey) whilst others ( Finland and Yugoslavia ) built it under license. Later, during WW2, Canada built the Bristol Blenheim Mark IV version, employed mainly as patrol bomber or trainer ( the Mark IVT ).The ARR ordered 40 Blenheim I's in 1939, but received only 37 because three were destroyed on transit. By this stage, the Blenheim had a single major quality : range. They could go deep into enemy territory, but were quite vulnerable to enemy fighters, because of their low speed, even though they carried just 500 kg of bombs. Four long-range reconnaissance squadrons ( the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th ) were equipped with the Blenheims and performed a lot of missions along the borders of hostile neighbors ( Hungary, USSR and Bulgaria ). When war broke out for Romania in June 1941, three squadrons ( the 1st, 3rd and 4th ) were operational, but they took serious losses during the Bassarabian campaign.

Only squadron ( the 1st ) also took part in the Stalingrad campaign, but it lost three planes and had a lot of maintenance problems, so it returned home in December 1942. Afterwards, the Blenheims still capable of flying were used for coastal patrols over the Black Sea, and eventually were relegated for transport duties.

A couple of ARR's Bristol Blenheim I's photographed at an air show. Spring 1943

Technical data of the Bristol Blenheim I

Wingspan
17.18 meters
Length
12.18 meters
Height
3 meters
Weight (empty)
4000 kg
Weight (loaded)
5334 kg
Maximum speed at 4000 meters
447 km/h
Maximum operational ceiling
7500 meters
Range
1690 km
Engine
Two Bristol Mercury VIII rated at 840HP
Armament
Two Vickers 7.7 machine guns
Payload
Up to 500 kg
Crew
4
Numbers received
37
Serial numbers
1-37

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