The Bristol Brigand, initially designated the Bristol 164, was developed from the Buckingham by designer Leslie Frise as a replacement for the Beaufighter in the anti-shipping role. It first flew on 4th December 1944 and 11 production aircraft entered service with Coastal Command in June 1946. The aircraft’s role was subsequently changed to that of ground attack, however, and in late 1949 it began re-equipping No 45 Squadron at RAF Tengah, Singapore.
The Brigand was powered by two Bristol Centaurus engines of 2,470hp, and carried a crew of three – pilot, navigator/bomb-aimer and radio operator/gunner. Its armament comprised 4 x 20mm Hispano V cannon, up to 16 x 3in R/P and a bomb load of 2,000lb. The aircraft was deemed as pleasant to fly by its pilots with nicely balanced controls and ample power.
Very shortly after its arrival in Singapore, the Brigand was engaged in counter-terrorist operations against the communist insurgency then under way in Malaya – initially with No 45 Squadron and later No 84 Squadron. It was not long before a series of design faults became apparent. Of particular concern was ignition of gases in the cannon blast tubes through the use of high-explosive shells which, in turn, led to fuselage fires. Whilst this was resolved by a reduction of ammunition loads and the use of ball rounds, the tendency to shed propeller blades could be addressed only by more frequent maintenance. There were also instances of airbrakes refusing to extend leading to structural failure – cured only by wiring the airbrakes permanently closed. If these difficulties were not enough, in 1952 the main spars of aircraft operated by a third unit, No 8 Squadron in Aden, were found to be suspect. It therefore came as no surprise when the Brigand was grounded and withdrawn from service later that year.
A total of 147 Brigands were built. The aircraft equipped three RAF squadrons and also saw service with the Royal Pakistan Air Force. There are no known survivors.