Fairey Gannet

Spill can have his F-14. Growing up in an A-6 family, I learned early on to love ugly airplanes. And let’s face it, our British cousins managed to come up with quite a few very effective, but ugly, airplanes. One, the first turboprop designed to operate from carriers, was the Fairey Gannet anti-submarine aircraft.

First flown in 1949, the Gannet entered fleet service in 1954, and would soldier on in various roles including Airborne Early Warning, Electronic Countermeasures, and Carrier Onboard Delivery until Great Britain retired their carriers in 1978.

348 Gannets were built, with small numbers exported to Australia, Germany and Indonesia.


One very unusual aspect of the Gannet is that, despite it’s appearance, it is a twin engine airplane. The powerplant was the Armstrong Siddley Double Mamba. Basically, two of the earlier developed Mamba gas turbines were built side by side, and ran a common gearbox. Each turbine powered one of the two contra rotating props.


In flight, for economy, one engine could be shut down. Its associated propeller would be feathered to reduce drag.

The Gannet AEW.3 used the APS-20 radars taken from Fleet Air Arm early warning Skyraiders and mounted them on a heavily modified Gannet fuselage.


When the Royal Navy decommissioned the last of its fleet carriers, those same APS-20s would go on to serve in RAF Shackeltons.



[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xfz_4D7gLsQ]

Incidentally, the French, with a similar need for a carrier based ASW aircraft, came up with the generally similar in configuration Breguet Alize, though it used a single Rolls Royce Dart turboprop for its power.

The US Navy, after having used the large single engine AF Guardian, instead went with the rather conventional S2F Tracker for its sea based ASW platform.

5 thoughts on “Fairey Gannet”

  1. Fairey also developed a less-successful aircraft that some might consider “ugly,” but I think is sharp-lookin’. It was the Fairey Rotodyne. I probably have an “attachment” to it as I built the Revell kit when I was young. Slick video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y9633v6U0wo&NR
    Regarding the twin gas turbine arrangement of the Double Mamba, at least it was much more successful than our Allison T40 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Allison_T40), which was a miserable failure on the R3Y Tradewind.

    cheers chuck

  2. Even the best-looking British aircraft are, at best, mildly attractive, with the obvious exception of the Spitfire. Seems like they have to go in on joint ventures like the Jaguar, or buy American to get anything decent looking. Most of their airplanes make the Buccaneer or Vulcan look awesome by comparison. Yes, yes, I know that I have not listed all of the decent looking stuff, but that is truly a short list.

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