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Short Sunderland 

  • Role: Long-range reconnaissance and anti-submarine flying-boat
  • Maximum Speed: 341 kmh (211 mph)
  • Maximum Range: 4828 km (2,993 miles)
  • Ceiling: 5,300 meters (17,930 feet)
  • Weight emty: 15,663 kg (34,459 Ibs)
  • Weight Maximum Takeoff: 26,308 kg (57,878 lbs)
  • Wingspan: 34.38 meters (113 ft)
  • Length: 26.01 meters (85 ft)
  • Height: 9.79 meters (32 ft)
  • Wing Area: 138.14 square meters (1,486 sq ft)
  • Engines: Four Bristol Pengasus XVIII nine-cylinder radial piston engines each providing 794-kW (1,064-hp)
  • Armament: Eight 7.7 mm (0.303 cal) Browning machine-guns in nose, dorsal and quad tail turrets
    Some fitted with four fixed forward-firing 7.7 mm and twin 12.7 mm (0.50 cal) Brownings in waist
    2250 kg (4,950 lbs) of bombs, depth charges, mines or pyrotechnics

The Sunderland was a military flying boat, designed in parallel to the civilian Empire Flying Boats that pioneered long distance travel to India and South Africa – linking Britain to its Empire.

The  design also formed the basis of a whole family of large flying boats.

The primary function of the aircraft was maritime reconnaisance, which included their use as an anti-submarine weapon with Coastal Command. They were also used as transport aircraft and even served during the Berlin Airlift.

The first Sunderlands were built at the Seaplane Works in Rochester but expansion of production included disperal to other locations with new lines at Belfast and Windermere as well at Blackburn aircraft’s works at Dumbarton on the Clyde.

During the war the  main role was convoy protection during the Battle of the Atlantic and also off West Africa and over the Indian Ocean. Postwar they continued in use with the RAF at home and overseas, particularly in the Far East. They also saw service in the air forces of France, Norway, South Africa, Australia and the Royal New Zealand Air Force which ordered a fleet of 16 as late as 1952 – they were all refurbished from former RAF aircraft.

Belying its somewhat unwieldy appearance, the Sunderland was heavily armed and able to give good account of itself when attacked, which led to German aircrew nicknaming it “the flying porcupine”. Many improvements were made  during its career, including the fitting of air-to-surface radar, increased armament, and more powerful engines. Several of these modifications resulted from trials carried out by the RAAF Sunderland squadrons.

In all, 749 Sunderlands were manufactured up until production ended in 1946. The last  was retired from Australian service in 1947 although the type continued serving with the RAF until 1959.