Tuesday, October 24, 2017
Seaview, a fictional privately owned nuclear submarine, was the setting for the 1961 motion picture Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, starring Walter Pidgeon,and later for the 1964–1968 ABC television series of the same title.
The accomplishments of America's nuclear-powered submarines were major news items in the years before the film Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea was released. Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea was the third American science fiction film to feature such ships. The first two were It Came from Beneath the Sea (1955) and The Atomic Submarine (1960).
The submarine USS Nautilus, commissioned in 1954, was the first nuclear-powered ship of any kind. In August 1958, she steamed under the Arctic ice cap to make the first crossing from the Pacific to the Atlantic via the North Pole. On 3 August 1958 she became the first ship to reach the North Pole.
On 17 March 1959, the nuclear submarine USS Skate became the first submarine to surface at the North Pole. While at the Pole, her crew scattered the ashes of Arctic explorer Sir Hubert Wilkins.
The film Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea begins with Seaview in the Arctic on the final phase of her sea trials, which include a dive under the Arctic ice cap.
USS George Washington was commissioned on 20 December 1959 as America's first nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine (SSBN). On 20 June 1960, she made the first two submerged launches of the Polaris missile. She got underway on the first deterrent patrol on 15 November 1960.[
In the film, Seaview fires a ballistic missile with a nuclear warhead to extinguish the "skyfire."
Two milestones in underwater exploration were achieved in 1960, the year before the film Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea was released.
From February 16, 1960 to May 10, 1960, the submarine USS Triton made the first submerged circumnavigation of the world. Triton observed and photographed Guam extensively through her periscope during this mission, without being detected by the U.S. Navy on Guam.
In the film, Seaview's voyage to the firing point follows much of the same track that Triton took on her circumnavigation: south through the Atlantic Ocean, around Cape Horn, and then northwest across the Pacific Ocean to the firing point near Guam. Seaview's bow and stern are radically different from Triton's, but Seaview's long, slim hull resembles the hull of Triton.
On January 23, 1960, Jacques Piccard and Lieutenant Don Walsh (USN), in the bathyscaphe Trieste, made the first descent to the bottom of the Challenger Deep. The Challenger Deep is the deepest surveyed spot in the world's oceans, and is located in the Mariana Trench, southwest of Guam.
In the film, Seaview is attacked by another submarine as she approaches the firing point. Admiral Nelson advises Captain Crane to dive into the Mariana Trench to escape, claiming Seaview is the only submarine that can survive the pressure of the trench. The attacking sub is crushed by the pressure when it follows Seaview into the trench.
For the motion picture version, scientist Admiral Harriman Nelson (USN-Ret) (Walter Pidgeon) was the designer/builder of the Seaview, operated under the auspices of the Bureau of Marine Exploration, United States Dept. of Science (per art director Herman Blumenthal).
In the context of the television series, the Seaview was one of several experimental submarines designed by Admiral Nelson (Richard Basehart), Director of the Nelson Institute of Marine Research, a top-secret government complex located in Santa Barbara, California, in the then-future years between 1973 and 1983. Seaview had two sister ships depicted in the television series, the Neptune (a variant of the same class as the Seaview destroyed late in the first season), and the virtually identical Angler (featured in the episode The Enemies). The Polidor, which was a prototype attack sub, was destroyed in the third episode of the series.
Seaview was prefixed "USOS" only in the 1961 film. The prefix "USOS" is spoken in a news report about the ship during the first minutes of the film, and when the ship's radio operator tries calling Washington, D.C. In Theodore Sturgeon's novelization of the film, "USOS" stood for United States Oceanographic Survey.
In the television series, the name Seaview was usually prefixed "S.S.R.N." (see below). Later writings explained that "SSRN" stood for Nuclear Submarine (SSN), Research (R) or SSRN, and was referred to by Admiral Nelson in at least one episode as "S.S.N.R. Seaview." However, in the pilot episode, "Eleven Days to Zero" (see below), Seaview's new commanding officer opens sealed orders addressed to "Commander Lee B. Crane, U.S.S. Seaview".
In the United States Navy, the hull classification symbol "SSRN" (without periods) would indicate a nuclear-powered radar picket submarine. Seaview was nuclear-powered, but no indication was ever given that she was equipped for radar picket missions. The hull classification symbol of a U.S. Navy ship is never written with periods after the letters. For example, the hull number of USS Triton (the only nuclear-powered radar picket submarine ever built for the United States Navy) is always written "SSRN-586", never "S.S.R.N.-586."
In the motion picture, Lee Crane (portrayed by Robert Sterling; originally the role was intended for David Hedison, who turned it down yet later accepted the same role for the television series) was the only Captain of the Seaview from its launch as "Nelson's Folly", as Congressman Llewellyn Parker (Howard McNear) described it. In the series, the first Captain of the Seaview was Commander John Phillips (portrayed by William Hudson). He was killed in "Eleven Days To Zero", which was the pilot episode of the series. Commander Lee Crane (David Hedison), on loan from the United States Navy, was picked to replace him. (Crane's rank was Commander, but he was usually addressed as "Captain" because he was the Commanding Officer of the ship.) Other crew included Executive Officer Lieutenant Commander Chip Morton (Robert Dowdell), Chief "Curley" Jones (Henry Kulky) (first season) and Chief Sharkey (Terry Becker) (Season 2, 3 and 4). Crewman Kowalkski was played by Del Monroe, who played a similar character, "Kowski" in the feature film.
Seaview’s hull was designed to withstand a depth of 3600 feet (1 km), and in one episode survived a depth excursion approaching 5000 feet (1.5 km). The transparent-hull "window-section" bow of Seaview was not rounded like a traditional submarine but was faired into a pair of manta winglike, stationary bow planes (in addition to her more conventional sail planes). This was added after the original B 29 -like front with twelve pairs of windows on two levels was modified for "Freudian anatomically analogous issues." In exterior shots, Seaview's bow had eight windows in the film and the first season of the television series, and four windows in seasons two through four of the series. The interior shots always showed only four windows although it did indeed imply two levels in the feature's scene with the giant octopus attack. Also in seasons two through four of the TV version, a pair of sliding metal "crash doors" shut across the face of the bow's observation deck to protect the four-window transparent surface in emergencies. In Theodore Sturgeon's novelization of the film, the windows are described as "... oversized hull plates which happen to be transparent." "They are incredibly strong because they are made of "X-tempered herculite", a top secret process developed by Nelson. To avoid a claustrophobic feeling during viewing of the 1961 feature film, Seaview’s interior was considerably more spacious and comfortable than any real military submarine. This was further enlarged when the Flying Sub was added to the miniatures with an even more open set for the control room interior.
The stern had unconventional, lengthy, V-shape planes above the twin engine area. On the original Seaview design, a single, central skeg rudder was specified, as well as two trailing edge control surfaces similar to an aircraft V-tail; a combination elevator-rudder or "ruddervator" fitted to the Beechcraft Bonanza and other aircraft. But on the filmed miniatures, the 8 1/2 foot (103") miniature had three rudders: one behind each nacelle and on the rear most portion of the skeg (see "The Ghost of Moby Dick"). This functional skeg rudder was only fitted to the 103" miniature and non-operationally inferred on the 51 1/2" miniature and not at all on the 206" version which had a fixed skeg.
In both the film and the series, Seaview was armed with torpedoes and ballistic missiles. The series added anti-aircraft missiles to Seaview's armory. They were called "interceptor missiles" in the pilot episode, and "sea to air missiles" in the episode "Terror" (season 4, episode 10).
In seasons two through four of the series, the forward search light also housed a laser beam that could be used against hostile sea life or enemy vessels.
Seaview was also capable of electrifying the outer hull, to repel attacking sea life that were trying to destroy the ship. In the episode "Mutiny" (season 1, episode 18), Crane ordered the "Attack Generators" made ready to use this capability on a giant jellyfish.
Lastly, Seaview was outfitted with an "ultrasonic" weapon capable of causing another submarine to implode, though special authorization was normally required to utilize it. ("The Death Ship", Season 2, Ep 22)
The Seaview's hull was partially protected by an "electronic defense field". ("Rescue", Season 2, Ep 9)
Although never stated, it was implied that Seaview used some kind of aquatic jet engine, which might possibly explain her speed (very fast for a submarine) and her penchant for dramatic emergency surfacing. The episode "A Time to Die" (season 4, episode 11) begins with Seaview being struck by a vibration from an unknown source. Nelson says, "I'd say it was a drive shaft bearing, if we used propellers." However, this contradicts an earlier episode: in "The Creature" (season 1, episode 28) the engine room reports that "drive shafts to the propellers are jammed." In the episode "Hail to the Chief" (season 1, episode 16), Seaview runs submerged at 40 knots from Norfolk, Virginia to the Virgin Islands.
In the episode "The Ghost of Moby Dick," Dr. Walter Bryce (Edward Binns) says, "I thought these nuclear submarines made better speed underwater," and Nelson agrees with him. In the episode "The Return of the Phantom," Lieutenant Commander Morton states that, "Every man who's ever served aboard a nuclear sub knows they make better time when they're submerged."
Whether a submarine is faster submerged or on the surface depends on her hull design, not her power plant. America's early nuclear submarines were slightly faster submerged than on the surface because their hulls were streamlined in accordance with the Greater Underwater Propulsion Power Program (GUPPY). An "Albacore hull", which Seaview did not have, is necessary for submerged speed to be significantly higher than surface speed. USS Triton, the real-life submarine whose hull Seaview most nearly resembles, was slower when submerged than on the surface.
In Theodore Sturgeon's novelization of the film Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Seaview is faster on the surface than underwater: "...the Captain ...proceeded on the surface, where it was possible to squeeze another fifteen knots out of the big submarine."
In the series, there are many shots of Seaview running on the surface with the bow higher than the stern, and water splashing at the bottom of the bow. But there are also shots of her running on the surface and properly trimmed fore and aft - that is, the bow and stern are level. In these shots, the water flows up and over the bow, similar to a submarine with an Albacore hull (for an example, see the photo in the article USS Skipjack (SSN-585)). Therefore, it is possible that Seaview was faster submerged than on the surface. Such shots can be seen in the opening titles of the first season, and in the episodes "The Ghost of Moby Dick" and "Long Live the King" (season one episode 15). The episode "Hail to the Chief" (season one episode 16) has a shot of Seaview properly trimmed fore and aft, followed immediately by a shot of her with the bow higher than the stern.Between the TV version's first and second seasons, the Seaview miniatures were extensively revised. Dated May 1965 the drawings penned by William Creber (who also designed the Flying Sub itself) stated "modifications to be applied to all miniatures." The number of bow windows was reduced from eight on two levels of four each to a single row of four (actually two with a dividing girder.) This then matched the interior set with the exterior miniatures but with the added detrimental effects of a more bulbous frontal appearance and a reduction in apparent overall size of the vessel. The Control Room, previously located on an upper level, was moved forward on a lower level ahead of the conning tower, to connect directly with the Observation Room, and a large hangar bay was added to the bow, beneath the Observation Room/Control Room combination. This hangar held the 36 foot wide and long, flying submersible, aptly called the "Flying Sub" or "FS-1", implying that there were several more back at the base, which would have to be the case since several Flying Subs were lost to mishaps or combat during the run of the show. Promotional materials published between the first and second seasons referred to it as the Flying Fish, but the name was evidently dropped prior to the start of filming and was never used in the show. It was deployed through bomb-bay like doors. As it broke the surface, its engines could generate enough thrust for the vehicle to take off and fly at supersonic speeds. The Flying Sub was also nuclear powered.
Three models of Seaview — a 1/8" to the foot 4 (51½"), a 1/4" to the foot 8.5 (103"), and a 1/2" to the foot 17 feet (206") (1.2, 2.4 and 5.5 m) long — version were built (eight-window nose in the motion picture and first television season, four-window version thereafter). The four-foot wood and steel tube approval/pattern model was extensively seen in the feature and on the TV series used as set decoration on a shelf in the observation nose, and behind Nelson's desk in his cabin. The eight-foot model had external doors for a not fitted nine-inch Flying Sub, while a more detailed 18-inch Flying Sub was held within the larger Seaview. For close-ups, a three-foot Flying Sub was produced, which was also used in the aerial sequences. All three Seaview models were built for a total 1961 price of $200,000 by Herb Cheeks' model shop at Fox, and were filmed by L. B. Abbott who won two Emmy Awards for special effects in the series. For the television series a rather poorly rendered two-foot model was built.
The fates of the three original models vary; the original eight-window wood and steel four-foot display model was damaged in an altercation between writer Harlan Ellison and ABC Television executive Adrian Samish and after a full restoration resides in a private collection. There were at least two fiberglass cast "wet models" in this size all of which are now in private hands. One of the two eight-foot model was extensively modified; (bow cut off) for use in the short-lived 1978 series The Return of Captain Nemo and aside from the nose section, is believed to have been destroyed. The single 17-foot model sat in the Virginia Beach garage of model maker Dave Merriman (who built several of the miniatures for The Hunt for Red October movie) during most of the 1980s where it was modified from its original appearance. It then was displayed above the bar at the (now-defunct) Beverly Hills Planet Hollywood restaurant from 1993-2002 and after a partial restoration, is on display at the Museum Of Science Fiction located in Seattle, Washington. There were several miniatures of the Flying Sub and the mini-sub, and after a props and memorabilia auction in the late 1970s at 20th Century Fox most have found their way into private collections.
Friday, October 20, 2017
I've always wanted to build one of these. So I took as much brass and cogs as I could find (plus a heater coil from a hair dryer) and decided to have a go.
I think it has a Wild Wild West feel to it.
Steampunk is a subgenre of science fiction or science fantasy that incorporates technology and aesthetic designs inspired by 19th-century industrial steam-powered machinery. Although its literary origins are sometimes associated with the cyberpunk genre, steampunk works are often set in an alternative history of the 19th century's British Victorian era or American "Wild West", in a future during which steam power has maintained mainstream usage, or in a fantasy world that similarly employs steam power. However, steampunk and Neo-Victorian are different in that the Neo-Victorian movement does not extrapolate on technology and embraces the positive aspects of the Victorian era's culture and philosophy.
Steampunk most recognizably features anachronistic technologies or retro-futuristic inventions as people in the 19th century might have envisioned them, and is likewise rooted in the era's perspective on fashion, culture, architectural style, and art. Such technology may include fictional machines like those found in the works of H. G. Wells and Jules Verne, or of the modern authors Philip Pullman, Scott Westerfeld, Stephen Hunt, and China Miéville.[original research?] Other examples of steampunk contain alternative-history-style presentations of such technology as steam cannons, lighter-than-air airships, analogue computers, or such digital mechanical computers as Charles Babbage's Analytical Engine.
Steampunk may also incorporate additional elements from the genres of fantasy, horror, historical fiction, alternate history, or other branches of speculative fiction, making it often a hybrid genre. The first known appearance of the term steampunk was in 1987, though it now retroactively refers to many works of fiction created as far back as the 1950s or 1960s.
Steampunk also refers to any of the artistic styles, clothing fashions, or subcultures that have developed from the aesthetics of steampunk fiction, Victorian-era fiction, art nouveau design, and films from the mid-20th century. Various modern utilitarian objects have been modded by individual artisans into a pseudo-Victorian mechanical "steampunk" style, and a number of visual and musical artists have been described as steampunk.
Many of the visualisations of steampunk have their origins with, among others, Walt Disney's film 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954), including the design of the story's submarine the Nautilus, its interiors, and the crew's underwater gear; and George Pal's film The Time Machine (1960), especially the design of the time machine itself. This theme is also carried over to Disney's theme parks, in the designs of The Mysterious Island section of Tokyo DisneySea theme park and Disneyland Paris' Discoveryland area.
Aspects of steampunk design emphasise a balance between form and function. In this it is like the Arts and Crafts Movement. But John Ruskin, William Morris, and the other reformers in the late nineteenth century rejected machines and industrial production. On the other hand, steampunk enthusiasts present a "non-luddite critique of technology".
Various modern utilitarian objects have been modified by enthusiasts into a pseudo-Victorian mechanical "steampunk" style. Examples include computer keyboards and electric guitars. The goal of such redesigns is to employ appropriate materials (such as polished brass, iron, wood, and leather) with design elements and craftsmanship consistent with the Victorian era, rejecting the aesthetic of industrial design.
In 1994, the Paris Metro station at Arts et Métiers was redesigned by Belgian artist Francois Schuiten in steampunk style, to honor the works of Jules Verne. The station is reminiscent of a submarine, sheathed in brass with giant cogs in the ceiling and portholes that look out onto fanciful scenes.
The artist group Kinetic Steam Works brought a working steam engine to the Burning Man festival in 2006 and 2007. The group's founding member, Sean Orlando, created a Steampunk Tree House (in association with a group of people who would later form the Five Ton Crane Arts Group) that has been displayed at a number of festivals. The Steampunk Tree House is now permanently installed at the Dogfish Head Brewery in Milton, Delaware.
The Neverwas Haul is a three-story, self-propelled mobile art vehicle built to resemble a Victorian house on wheels. Designed by Shannon O’Hare, it was built by volunteers in 2006 and presented at the Burning Man festival from 2006 through 2015. When fully built, the Haul propelled itself at a top speed of 5 miles per hour and required a crew of ten people to operate safely. Currently, the Neverwas Haul makes her home at Obtainium Works, an "art car factory" in Vallejo, CA, owned by O’Hare and home to several other self-styled "contraptionists".
In May–June 2008, multimedia artist and sculptor Paul St George exhibited outdoor interactive video installations linking London and Brooklyn, New York, in a Victorian era-styled telectroscope. Utilizing this device, New York promoter Evelyn Kriete organised a transatlantic wave between steampunk enthusiasts from both cities, prior to White Mischief's Around the World in 80 Days steampunk-themed event.
From October 2009 through February 2010, the Museum of the History of Science, Oxford, hosted the first major exhibition of steampunk art objects, curated and developed by New York artist and designer Art Donovan, who also exhibited his own "electro-futuristic" lighting sculptures, and presented by Dr. Jim Bennett, museum director. From redesigned practical items to fantastical contraptions, this exhibition showcased the work of eighteen steampunk artists from across the globe. The exhibition proved to be the most successful and highly attended in the museum's history and attracted more than eighty thousand visitors. The event was detailed in the official artist's journal The Art of Steampunk, by curator Donovan.
In November 2010, The Libratory Steampunk Art Gallery was opened by Damien McNamara in Oamaru, New Zealand. Created from papier-mâché to resemble a large subterranean cave and filled with industrial equipment from yesteryear, rayguns, and general steampunk quirks, its purpose is to provide a place for steampunkers in the region to display artwork for sale all year long. A year later, a more permanent gallery, Steampunk HQ, was opened in the former Meeks Grain Elevator Building across the road from The Woolstore, and has since become a notable tourist attraction for Oamaru.
In 2012, the Mobilis in Mobili: An Exhibition of Steampunk Art and Appliance made its debut. Originally located at New York City's Wooster Street Social Club (itself the subject of the television series NY Ink), the exhibit featured working steampunk tattoo systems designed by Bruce Rosenbaum, of ModVic and owner of the Steampunk House, Joey "Dr. Grymm" Marsocci, and Christopher Conte. with different approaches. "[B]icycles, cell phones, guitars, timepieces and entertainment systems" rounded out the display. The opening night exhibition featured a live performance by steampunk band Frenchy and the Punk.
Monday, October 9, 2017
The Hornet was designed with the possibility of naval service on carriers firmly in mind. To this end good low-speed handling was required, along with good all-round visibility for the pilot. The basic Hornet design excelled at meeting these requirements. Shortly after the first Hornet prototype flew, Specification N.5/44 was issued to de Havilland, covering the modification of the Hornet for naval service. The Heston Aircraft Company was contracted to carry out the conversion work on three early production F.1s. The work entailed altering the wings to incorporate folding mechanisms so that each outer wing panel, from the aileron/flap line outboard could be folded upwards and inwards at an angle. The hinges were part of the upper wing skin structure while the lower wing skins incorporated securing latches, and Lockheed hydraulic jacks were used to move the wing panels. Slotted flaps were introduced to improve low speed "flaps down" control.
Merlin 133/134s (derated from 2,070 hp/1,543 kW to 2,030 hp/1,535 kW) were fitted to all Sea Hornets. Other specialised naval equipment (mainly different radio gear) was fitted and provision was made for three camera ports, one on each side of the rear fuselage and one pointing down. Sea Hornet F.20s also incorporated the modifications of the Hornet F.3, although the internal fuel capacity was 347 Imp gal (1,557 l), slightly reduced from that of the F.1. The modifications added some 550 lb (249 kg) to the weight of the aircraft. Maximum speed was decreased by 11 mph (18 km/h).
The Hornet NF.21 was designed to fill a need for a naval night fighter. Special flame-dampening exhausts were installed, and a second basic cockpit was added to the rear fuselage, just above the wing trailing edges. ASH radar equipment was placed in the rear of this cockpit, with the radar operator/navigator seated facing aft. To gain access, a small trapdoor was provided in the lower fuselage; a fixed, teardrop-shaped bubble canopy, which could be jettisoned in an emergency, provided a good field of view. At the front of the aircraft, the nose underwent a transformation with the small rotating ASH radar dish being housed under an elongated "thimble" radome. The horizontal tail units were increased in span. The effect of these modifications on performance was minimal; about 4 mph (6 km/h).
The Sea Hornet PR.22 was a dedicated photo reconnaissance aircraft version of the F.20. The cannon were removed and the apertures faired over. Three cameras were installed in the rear fuselage: two F.52s for night use and one K.19B for day. A total of 23 PR.22s were built, interspersed with F.20s being built at Hatfield.
Captain Eric "Winkle" Brown, former fighter pilot and officer of the Fleet Air Arm, was one of the world's most accomplished test pilots and he still holds the record for flying the greatest number of aircraft types.
Just after VE Day the first semi-naval Sea Hornet PX 212 arrived at the RAE, Farnborough. Eric Brown initiated "work-up to deck-landing" trials. 37 years later, he was still impressed:
- "...the next two months of handling and deck landing assessment trials were to be an absolute joy; from the outset the Sea Hornet was a winner!"
- "The view from the cockpit, positioned right forward in the nose beneath a one-piece aft-sliding canopy was truly magnificent. The Sea Hornet was easy to taxi, with powerful brakes... the takeoff using 25 lb (2,053 mm Hg, 51" Hg) boost and flaps at one-third extension was remarkable! The 2,070 hp (1,540 kW) Merlin 130/131 engines fitted to the prototypes were to be derated to 18 lb (1,691 Hg, 37" Hg) boost and 2,030 hp (1,510 kW) as Merlin 133/134s in production Sea Hornets, but takeoff performance was to remain fantastic. Climb with 18 lb boost exceeded 4,000 ft/min (1,200 m/min)"...
- "In level flight the Sea Hornet's stability about all axes was just satisfactory, characteristic, of course, of a good day interceptor fighter. Its stalling characteristics were innocuous, with a fair amount of elevator buffeting and aileron twitching preceding the actual stall"...
- "For aerobatics the Sea Hornet was absolute bliss. The excess of power was such that manoeuvres in the vertical plane can only be described as rocket-like. Even with one propeller feathered the Hornet could loop with the best single-engine fighter, and its aerodynamic cleanliness was such that I delighted in its demonstration by diving with both engines at full bore and feathering both propellers before pulling up into a loop!"
- "Landings aboard Ocean had been made without any crash barrier... Yet, in the case of the Sea Hornet, I had felt such absolute confidence that I was mentally relaxed... Indeed, there was something about the Sea Hornet that made me feel that I had total mastery of it; I revelled in its sleek form and the immense surge of power always to hand..."
- "Circumstances had conspired against the Sea Hornet in obtaining the recognition that it justly deserved as a truly outstanding warplane...in my book the Sea Hornet ranks second to none for harmony of control, performance characteristics and, perhaps most important, in inspiring confidence in its pilot. For sheer exhilarating flying enjoyment, no aircraft has ever made a deeper impression on me than did this outstanding filly from the de Havilland stable."
Tuesday, October 3, 2017
I believe only one example of this car was made. Unfortunately it was destroyed in a museum fire in Italy.
The car itself was a multi coloured vehicle being mostly yellow, green and black in colour. Of course that not being my style decided to go with an all black look featuring an "Abominable Dr. Phibes" (Vincent Price) motif. I know it's not the same car as used in the movie, but I felt the look went well together with the creepy window shades.
Sunday, October 1, 2017
Quite honestly I'm amazed how well it photographed.
The Bristol Bulldog was a British Royal Air Force single-seat biplane fighter designed during the 1920s by the Bristol Aeroplane Company. More than 400 Bulldogs were produced for the RAF and overseas customers, and it was one of the most famous aircraft used by the RAF during the inter-war period.
The design of the Bulldog was the outcome of a series of design studies for fighters undertaken by Frank Barnwell during the 1920s. In 1924 Barnwell had started work on a fighter powered by the Rolls-Royce Falcon to meet the requirements of specification F.17/24. The project was shelved since Bristol preferred to use its own engine designs, but was revived in 1926 when Barnwell started work on a design, designated the Bristol 102, to meet either F.9/26 for a day-and-night fighter or N.21/26 for a shipborne fighter. The Type 105 designation was first applied to a subsequent proposal for another aircraft to meet F.9/26 powered by the Mercury engine then under development at Bristol. These proposals looked promising enough for a pair of mockups to be constructed for inspection by the Air Ministry in February 1927. The two aircraft were similar in design, the interceptor to specification F.17/24 design being slightly smaller and lighter and not equipped with radio. As a result, Bristol was asked to revise the design so that it met a later interceptor specification, F.20/27. Subsequently, a prototype aircraft, now designated the Type 107 Bullpup was ordered for evaluation, but the other design did not gain official backing. Nevertheless, Bristol considered it promising enough to build a prototype to be entered for the F.9/26 trials as a private venture, powered by a Bristol Jupiter because the supply of Mercurys was expected to be limited.
The Type 105 was an unequal span single bay biplane powered by a supercharged Bristol Jupiter VII air-cooled radial engine driving a two-bladed propeller. The structure was all-metal with a fabric covering, using members built up from rolled high-tensile steel strips riveted together. In order to ensure the maximum field of view there was a large semi-circular cutout in the trailing edge of the upper wing and the inboard section of the lower was of reduced chord. Frise ailerons were fitted to the top wing only. It was armed with a pair of 0.303 in (7.7 mm) Vickers machine guns mounted one either side of the cockpit.
The prototype Bulldog first flew on 17 May 1927. Initial testing was entirely satisfactory and it was delivered to RAF Martlesham Heath in June. After initial consideration of all the types entered to meet the specification, the Bulldog and the Hawker Hawfinch were selected for more detailed evaluation. While the Bulldog's manoeuvrability and strength were praised by the RAF, it had poor spin recovery properties. This was solved by fitting an enlarged fin and rudder, but this modification led to difficulties in taxying in a crosswind.
Accordingly, a second prototype with a lengthened rear fuselage was ordered for further evaluation in comparison with the Hawfinch. In this form, designated the Type 105A or Bulldog Mk. II, it was first flown by Cyril Uwins on 21 January 1928 and shortly afterwards delivered to Martlesham Heath. Performance was so close to that of the Hawfinch that a decision was deferred until the aircraft had been evaluated by service pilots; the eventual choice of the Bulldog was made largely because it was easier to maintain. An initial contract for 25 aircraft was placed: Bristol accordingly laid down 26 airframes, the additional example being intended as a company demonstration aircraft. The first of these were delivered on 8 May 1929 and deliveries were complete by 10 October.
Later production aircraft were of a refined version designated the Mk. IIA. This had revised wing spars and a stronger fuselage and was powered by the uprated Jupiter VII F. One production aircraft was modified for use as an advanced trainer: after evaluation by the Central Flying School at Upavon this was ordered by the RAF, the production aircraft differing from the prototype in having slightly swept wings and an enlarged fin to improve spin recovery characteristics.
The Bulldog never saw combat with the RAF, although during the Abyssinia Crisis of 1935–36, Bristol Bulldogs were sent to the Sudan to reinforce Middle East Command.
Douglas Bader, better known for his Second World War actions, lost both of his legs when his Bristol Bulldog crashed while he was performing unauthorised aerobatics at Woodley airfield near Reading.
The Bulldog was withdrawn from RAF Fighter Command in July 1937, being primarily replaced by the Gloster Gauntlet. The Bulldog's RAF career was not over though, for the type continued to serve for a few years with Service Flying Training Schools.
The Bulldog was exported to foreign air forces, seeing service with Australia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Japan, Latvia, Siam and Sweden.
In 1936, Latvia, intent on replacing its Bulldogs with more modern aircraft, sold 11 Bulldogs to Basque nationalist forces. These became part of the Spanish Republican Air Force in the Spanish Civil War; remaining in use until the Battle of Santander. Ten Bulldogs also saw combat as part of the Finnish Air Force during the Winter War against the Soviet Union, which began in 1939. The Bulldogs fought well against their Soviet opponent, gaining six kills by five pilots for the loss of one of their own, the types shot down being two Polikarpov I-16s and four Tupolev SBs, both of which were superior in terms of technology compared to the Bulldog. The first aerial victory of the Finnish Air Force was achieved by a Bulldog piloted by SSgt Toivo Uuttu on 1 December 1939, over an I-16. The Bulldogs were used in advanced training during the subsequent Continuation War against the Soviet Union.