Bristol Bulldog

The Bristol Bulldog was a British Royal Air Force single-seat biplane fighter designed during the 1920s by the Bristol Aeroplane Company. Over 400 Bulldogs were produced for the RAF and overseas customers, and it was one of the most famous aircraft used by the RAF during the inter-war period.

Bristol Bulldog
Class Aircraft
Type Fighter
Manufacturer Bristol Aeroplane Company
Origin United Kingdom - UK (Great Britain)
Country Name Origin Year
United Kingdom - UK (Great Britain) 1927
Country Name Operational Year Retirement Year
Australia View
Denmark View
Estonia View
Finland View
Japan View
Latvia View
Spain View
Sweden View
Thailand (Siam) View
United Kingdom - UK (Great Britain) 1929 1937 View
United States of America View
ManufacturerName Production From Production To Quantity
Bristol Aeroplane Company 443 View

The design of the Bulldog was the outcome of a series of design studies for fighter undertaken by Frank Barnwell during the 1920s. In 1924 Barnwell had started work on a fighter powered by the Rolls-Royce Falcon to meet the requirements of specification F.17/24. The project was shelved since Bristol preferred to use their own engine designs, but was revived in 1926 when Barnwell started work on a design, designated the Bristol 102, to meet either F.9/26 for a day and night fighter or N.21/26 for a shipborne fighter. The Type 105 designation was first applied to a subsequent proposal for another aircraft to meet F.9/26 powered by the Mercury engine then under development at Bristol. These proposals looked promising enough for a pair of mock-ups to be constructed for inspection by the Air Ministry in February 1927. The two aircraft were similar in design, the interceptor to specification F.17/24 design being slightly smaller and lighter and not equipped with radio. As a result Bristol were asked to revise the design so that it met a later interceptor specification, F.20/27. Subsequently, a prototype aircraft, now designated the Type 107 Bullpup was ordered for evaluation, but the other design did not gain official backing. Nevertheless Bristol considered it promising enough to build a prototype to be entered for the F.9/26 trials as a private venture, powered by a Bristol Jupiter because the supply of Mercurys was expected to be limited.


  • Bulldog Mk. I : Single-seat day and night fighter prototype; two built.
  • High-altitude Bulldog : Modification of first prototype with enlarged wings intended for an attempt on the world altitude record.
  • Bulldog Mk. II : Second prototype and initial production version. Powered by a 440 hp (330 kW) Bristol Jupiter VII radial piston engine; 92 built by Bristol.
  • Bulldog Mk. IIA : Powered by a 490 hp (370 kW) Bristol Jupiter VIIF radial piston engine and revised detail design; 268 built by Bristol.
  • Bulldog Mk. IIIA : Development powered by a Bristol Mercury IV enclosed within a Townend ring with a revised wings and stronger fuselage. Only two built, one of which was converted to become the prototype Mk. IV.
  • Bulldog Mk. IVA : Development of the Mk.III to meet specification F.7/30 for a four-gun day and night fighter. Not ordered by the RAF but 17 sold to Finland, armed with two 7.7 mm Vickers guns; 18 built by Bristol.
  • Bulldog TM (Type 124) : Two-seat training version; 59 built.
  • "J.S.S.F." (Japanese Single-Seat Fighter) : Two aircraft license-built by Nakajima Aircraft Works, Japan.

The Bulldog never saw combat with the RAF, although during the Abyssinia 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 aerobatics at Woodley airfield near Reading.

The Bulldog was withdrawn from RAF Fighter Command in July 1937, being primarily replaced by the Gloster Gauntlet. The Bulldog's RAF career was not over though, for the type continued to serve for a few years with Service Flying Training Schools.

The Bulldog was exported to foreign air forces, seeing service with Australia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Japan, Latvia, Siam and Sweden.

In 1936, Latvia, intent on replacing its Bulldogs with more modern aircraft, sold 11 Bulldogs to Basque nationalist forces. These became part of the Spanish Republican Air Force in the Spanish Civil War; remaining in use until the Battle of Santander. Ten 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 six kills by five pilots for the loss of one of their own, the types shot down being two Polikarpov I-16s and four Tupolev SBs, both of which were superior in terms of technology compared to the Bulldog. The first aerial victory of the Finnish Air Force was achieved by a Bulldog piloted by SSgt Toivo Uuttu on 1 December 1939, over an I-16. The Bulldogs were used in advanced training during the subsequent Continuation War against the Soviet Union.

Role Fighter
Manufacturer Bristol Aeroplane Company
Designer Frank Barnwell
First flight 17 May 1927
Introduction 1929
Retired 1937
Primary users Royal Air Force
Latvian Air Force
Finnish Air Force
Royal Australian Air Force
Number built 443 (including prototypes and licence built)

General characteristics

  • Crew: 1
  • Length: 25 ft 2 in (7.67 m)
  • Wingspan: 33 ft 10 in (10.3 m)
  • Height: 8 ft 9 in (2.67 m)
  • Wing area: 307 ft² (28.5 m²)
  • Airfoil: Upper wing Bristol 1A: lower wing Clark YH
  • Empty weight: 2,205 lb (1,000 kg)
  • Max. takeoff weight: 3,490 lb (1,586 kg)
  • Powerplant: 1 × Bristol Jupiter VII radial piston engine, 440 hp (328 kW)


  • Maximum speed: 155 kn (178 mph, 287 km/h)
  • Service ceiling: 29,300 ft (8,930 m)


  • Guns: 2 × 0.303 in (7.7 mm) Vickers machine guns
  • Bombs: 4 × 20 lb (9 kg) bombs

End notes