The Firefly was designed by Fairey Aviation’s H E Chaplin to meet Specification N5/40 calling for a 2-seat naval attack fighter. In June 1940, the Admiralty ordered 200 aircraft whilst still at the design stage and the prototype first flew on 22nd December 1941. Although the Firefly Mk1 was delivered to the Royal Navy as early as March 1943, the type did not enter operational service until July 1944 when No 1770 Naval Air Squadron embarked on HMS Indefatigable. Powered by a Rolls Royce Griffon IIB V12 engine of 1,735 hp, the 2-seat Firefly was armed with 4 x 20 mm Hispano-Suiza HS404 cannons and could carry a weapons load of 8 x 3in (60 lb) R/P or 2 x 1,000 bombs. Several versions of the aircraft were developed during its lifetime.
Initial operations during the Second World War were confined to armed reconnaissance and anti-shipping strikes but other roles were soon tasked including, in the Far East, anti-submarine patrols and ground attack. Fireflies also took part in the Korean War conducting anti-shipping patrols and ground strikes from various carriers and thereafter in the ground attack role during the Malayan Emergency. Later variants continued to be operated in the anti-submarine role until replaced by the Gannet in 1956, whereupon the Firefly was retired from front line service with the Fleet Air Arm.
Fireflies equipped 14 Naval/Naval Volunteer Reserve squadrons and were operated by the armed forces of 8 other countries. A batch purchased by The Netherlands saw operational service against Indonesian forces threatening Dutch New Guinea in as late as 1962. A total of 1,702 aircraft were built with some 20 survivors now on display in museums worldwide. An additional 3 machines remain airworthy – one in each of Australia, Canada and the USA.