Fairey Gannet

The Fairey Gannet was a British carrier-borne aircraft of the post-Second World War era developed for the Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm (FAA) by the Fairey Aviation Company. It was a mid-wing monoplane with a tricycle undercarriage and a crew of three, and a double turboprop engine driving two contra-rotating propellers.

Originally developed to meet the FAA's anti-submarine warfare requirement, the Gannet was later adapted for operations as an electronic countermeasures and carrier onboard delivery aircraft. The Gannet AEW was a variant of the aircraft developed as a carrier-based airborne early warning platform.

Fairey Gannet
Class Aircraft
Type Bomber
Manufacturer Fairey Aviation Company
Production Period 1953 - 1959
Origin United Kingdom - UK (Great Britain)
Country Name Origin Year
United Kingdom - UK (Great Britain) 1949
Country Name Operational Year Retirement Year
Australia View
Germany View
Indonesia View
United Kingdom - UK (Great Britain) 1953 1978 View
ManufacturerName Production From Production To Quantity
Fairey Aviation Company 1953 1959 303 View

The pilot was seated well forward, conferring a good view over the nose for carrier operations, and sat over the Double Mamba engine, directly behind the gearbox and propellers. The second crew member, an aerial observer, was seated under a separate canopy directly behind the pilot. After the prototype, a second observer was included, in his own cockpit over the wing trailing edge. This addition disturbed the airflow over the horizontal stabiliser, requiring small finlets on either side. The Gannet had a large internal weapons bay in the fuselage and a retractable radome under the rear fuselage.

The Gannet's wing folded in two places to form a distinctive Z-shape on each side. The first fold was at about a third of the wing length where the inboard anhedral (down-sweep) changed to the outboard dihedral (up-sweep) of the wing (described as a gull wing). The second wing fold was at about two-thirds of the wing length. The length of the nosewheel shock absorber caused the Gannet to have a distinctive nose-high attitude, a common characteristic of carrier aircraft.

In FAA service, the Gannet generally wore the standard camouflage scheme of a Sky (duck-egg blue) underside and fuselage sides, with Extra Dark Sea Grey upper surfaces, the fuselage demarcation line running from the nose behind the propeller spinner in a straight line to then curve and join the line of the fin. Code numbers were typically painted on the side of the fuselage ahead of the wing; roundel and serial markings were behind the wing. The T.2 and T.5 trainers were finished in silver overall, with a yellow "Trainer band" on rear fuselage and wings.

The prototype first flew on 19 September 1949 and made the first deck landing by a turboprop aircraft, on HMS Illustrious on 19 June 1950, by pilot Lieutenant Commander G. Callingham. After a further change in operational requirements, with the addition of a radar and extra crew member, the type entered production in 1953 and initial deliveries were made of the variant designated AS.1 at RNAS Ford in April 1954. A trainer variant (T.2) WN365 first flew in August 1954. The RN's first operational Gannet squadron (826 NAS) was embarked on HMS Eagle. The initial order was for 100 AS.1 aircraft. A total of 348 Gannets were built, of which 44 were the heavily modified AEW.3. Production was shared between Fairey's factories at Hayes, Middlesex and Heaton Chapel, Stockport / Manchester (Ringway) Airport.

By the mid-1960s, the AS.1s and AS.4s had been replaced by the Westland Whirlwind HAS.7 helicopters. Gannets continued as Electronic countermeasures aircraft: the ECM.6. Some AS.4s were converted to COD.4s for Carrier onboard delivery—the aerial supply of mail and light cargo to the fleet.

The Royal Australian Navy purchased the Gannet AS.1 (36 aircraft). It operated from the aircraft carrier HMAS Melbourne and the shore base HMAS Albatross near Nowra, New South Wales.

Indonesia bought a number of AS.4 and T.5s (re-modelled from RN AS.1s and T.2s) in 1959. Some Gannets were later acquired by various other countries.

West Germany bought 15 Gannet AS.4s and one T.5 in 1958. They operated as the anti-submarine squadron of Marinefliegergeschwader 2 (2nd Naval Fighter Wing) from Jagel and Sylt. In 1963 the squadron was reassigned to MFG 3 at Nordholz Naval Airbase until the Gannets were replaced by the Breguet Br.1150 Atlantic in 1966. During its operations the German Navy lost one AS.4, on 12 May 1966, when a Gannet crashed shortly after takeoff from Kaufbeuren, killing all three crew members.

Role Anti-submarine warfare aircraft
National origin United Kingdom
Manufacturer Fairey Aviation Company
Designer H. E. Chaplin
First flight 19 September 1949
Introduction 1953
Retired 15 December 1978
Primary users Royal Navy
Royal Australian Navy
German Navy
Indonesian Navy
Produced 1953–1959
Number built 303 (Anti-submarine)
45 (Airborne early warning)
Variants Fairey Gannet AEW.3

General characteristics

  • Crew: 3
  • Length: 43ft (13m)
  • Wingspan: 54ft 4in (16.56m)
  • Height: 13ft 9in (4.19m)
  • Wing area: 483 ft² (45 m²)
  • Empty weight: 15,069 lb (6,835kg)
  • Powerplant: 1 × Armstrong Siddeley Double Mamba ASMD 1 turboprop, 2,950 hp (2,200kW)
  • Propellers: 2 contra-rotating 4-bladed


  • Maximum speed: 310 mph (500 km/h)
  • Service ceiling: 25,000 ft (7,600 m)
  • Endurance: 5-6 hours


  • Up to 2,000lb of bombs, torpedoes, depth charges and rockets


  • Ekco ASV Mk. 19 radar

End notes