The Bristol Type 156 Beaufighter is a British multi-role aircraft developed during the Second World War by the Bristol Aeroplane Company. The prototype flew on 17 July 1939 and the first production Beaufighters were delivered to RAF Fighter Command squadrons in the April 1940.
It was originally conceived as a heavy fighter variant of the Bristol Beaufort torpedo bomber. The Beaufighter proved to be an effective night fighter, which came into service with the Royal Air Force during the Battle of Britain, its large size allowing it to carry heavy armament and early airborne interception radar without major performance penalties.
The Beaufighter strike fighter, with its formidable fire power, operated with distinction in North West Europe before gaining a considerable reputation in the Mediterranean and Far East. Operated by both the British and Australian air forces in the Far East it quickly became known to the Japanese as the ‘Whispering Death’.
Later the Beaufighter was introduced into Coastal Command as a strike fighter. Its original formidable gun armament was retained but rockets and torpedoes were added giving it even greater firepower.
A total of 5562 Beaufighters were produced and the last one was delivered in September 1945. Fifty-two operational Royal Air Force squadrons had been equipped with the type.
After its withdrawal from front-line service many Beaufighters were converted to target tug duties and in fact the last flight of the type in Royal Air Force service was made by a TT10 on 17 May 1960.