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Squirt—the world’s first jet powered flying boat fighter

5 June 2018


Saunders-Roe SR.A/1 at the Solent Sky Museum (the underwing pods extend downward to become floats during waterborne operations)—Joseph May/Travel for Aircraft

The “other” jet power waterborne fighter—the Saunders-Roe SR.A/1—as the Convair F2Y Sea Dart is usually recognized as the archetypical waterborne fighter. Yes, the SR.A/1 predated the Sea Dart by six years, flying just after the end of World War II in 1947. Fate has pigeon-holed it as a post World War II design while the Sea Dart occupied a niche in the Cold War Era. Saunders-Roe engineers seized on a turbojet engine as the aircraft’s power source to eliminate the use of a propeller and substantial parasitic drag of a float, or floats. The potential to base an attack aircraft (2 x 1000 pound bombs could be loaded) or fighter at any of the innumerable lagoons as well as river mouths in the world was enticing back in the day.

The SR.A/1 is the first UK aircraft to use ejection seats, was formidably armed with 4 x 20mm auto cannon and was quite aerobatic. The Metroploitan-Vickers Beryl turbojet produced 3850 pounds of thrust (which was positioned below and just aft of the pilot), driving the SR.A/1 to a maximum speed of 512 mph while a cruise speed allowed for just under two hours of flight time. Promising performance from a trend setting prototype, indeed.

The rare Saunders-Roe SR.A/1 “Squirt” flying boat jet fighter (note the cannon ports on the nose as well as the beaching gear)—Joseph May/Travel for Aircraft

World War II produced two paradigms which slated this exciting Saunders-Roe design to history’s what-could-have-been category—the aircraft carrier and numerous airfields, both of which negated the Squirt’s (as the aircraft was informally known) advantage of being water based. Three were built and one remains where it is housed in the lovely Solent Sky Museum which is not far from its brooding ground of the Isle of Wight.

Saunders-Roe SR.A/1—Joseph May/Travel for Aircraft

The pilot’s view outside the cockpit was less than desirable for a fighter, but this was a prototype and could have been readily rectified as required.

Saunders-Roe SR.A/1 sitting proudly in the Solent Sky Museum—Joseph May/Travel for Aircraft

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Nick Veronico permalink
    5 June 2018 01:22

    Can you say, “Big and Ugly?” An airplane has to look good in order to perform. That is not one!

    • travelforaircraft permalink
      5 June 2018 10:02

      It’s the hull isn’t it? I’ve always figured you as a wing man 😉 Seriously…this is when it’d be fantastic to talk to the design team. Why a wide hull? To negate wing floats? The engine was an axial flow type, not centrifugal, so width wasn’t a prime motive in that way. Perhaps the aircraft was influenced by the hull shapes of the Saro Princess at the time? Dunno 😦

  2. shortfinals permalink
    4 July 2018 21:59

    I think that this is one of my favourite aircraft in the delightful Solent Sky Museum. I am so glad that you went there, Joe !

    • Joe May permalink
      4 July 2018 22:07

      I’m glad I finally saw it 🙂 What a great day and I had a lovely conversation with Leslie Dawson in the cockpit of the Sandringham as well 🙂

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