The Blackburn Skua was designed by G E Petty to meet Specification O.27/34 which called for a two seat naval fighter. Two prototypes were ordered in 1935, the first of which flew on 7th February 1937 and a production order for 190 aircraft was placed following trials. Entering service with No 800 Naval Air Squadron in late 1938, the Skua was soon found to be too heavy and under-powered for use as a dedicated fighter and thus took on an additional dive bombing role.
Powered by a Bristol Perseus XII radial engine of 890 hp, the Skua was armed with 4 x .303 in forward firing Browning machine guns and a single flexibly mounted .303 in Lewis or Vickers K machine gun in the rear cockpit. It also had the capacity to carry a 500 lb bomb mounted under the fuselage and up to 4 x 40 lb or 8 x 20 lb bombs in racks under each wing.
Skuas were soon in action following the outbreak of the Second World War. Two particularly memorable moments were on 26th September when three aircraft launched from HMS Ark Royal shot down a Dornier DO18 flying boat over the North Sea, and in April of the following year when 16 Skuas flying from the Orkney Islands sank the German cruiser Konigsberg in Bergen harbour – the first major warship sunk by air attack in war. The Skua performed reasonably well in air combat against enemy bombers in Norway and the Mediterranean but suffered heavy losses against fighters and was withdrawn from the front line in 1941. Thereafter, it was used as a target tug and navy trainer until March 1945 when the last aircraft was withdrawn from Service.
The Skua was operated by no fewer that 25 naval air squadrons at one time or another. Of the 192 aircraft built, there are but two partial survivors. One is being recovered to static display standard at Norway’s air museum in Bodo and restoration of the cockpit section of another is under way at the Fleet Air Arm Museum, Yeovilton.