In 1937, the Admiralty identified the requirement for a Torpedo-Bomber- Reconnaissance monoplane. The full specification, S24/37, was issued in January of the following year and shortly thereafter six aircraft companies were invited to submit designs for what was to be primarily a carrier-borne aircraft. By September 1938, it was decided for a variety of reasons that Fairey should remain the sole contender for the contract. The ensuing Fairey Type 100, designed by Marcel Lobelle, was considered to have such excellent potential that an order for 250 machines was made “off the drawing board” in August 1939 – at which time the name Barracuda was adopted. Prototype production slowed as a result of greater priorities elsewhere, however, with the first aircraft not taking to the air until 7th December 1940.
The Barracuda’s crew of three were positioned in tandem beneath a single long canopy with the observer aft of the pilot and a radio operator/air gunner to the rear. Fitted with the Rolls Royce Merlin 30 engine, the Mk1 version was found to be underpowered and thus the Merlin 32, generating an extra 400 hp, was selected for the Mk2, the main production machine. Although the 18-in torpedo was intended to be the Barracuda’s primary weapon, only 16 missions carried such weaponry. Bombs were the favoured ordnance with the aircraft having a payload of up to 1,500 lb. The air gunner was armed with a .303in Vickers machine gun.
The Barracuda entered service in January 1943 with No 827 Fleet Air Arm and first saw action with No 810 Squadron during the Salerno landings. Service in the Pacific Theatre followed in 1944. Notably, the aircraft played a major part in the attack on the Tirpitz on 3rd April 1944 when a total of 44 from HMS Victorious and HMS Furious scored 14 direct hits on the enemy battleship for the loss of three machines. The RAF also operated the Barracuda for a short time with four squadrons so equipped in 1944, and the Royal Canadian Navy took delivery of 12 aircraft in 1946. The Barracuda continued to serve with the FAA until the mid-1950s.
A total of no fewer than 2,607 Barracudas were built. None remain today but the FAA Museum has a considerable amount of wreckage from which in due course it is hoped to resurrect a machine for static display.
The Barracuda served at RAF Tangmere during 1945 with the Central Fighter Establishment, which had absorbed the FAA’s Naval Air Fighting Development Unit in January of that year.