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Bristol Bulldog llB - Irish Army Air Corps, 1934

 

Becoming Ireland's first independent air force the National Army Air Service was established in July 1922 and was initially equipped with various obsolete aircraft types acquired from the RAF including six Bristol F2B fighters and four Martinsyde F4 Fighters. Following the reorganisation of the National Army at the end of the Irish Civil War the Irish Army Air Corps was established in 1924 as part of Defence Forces. 

 

During the late 1920's the Irish Air Corps began a modest re-equipment programme with the Vickers Vespa entering service in the army co-operation role but a modern interceptor fighter was required and Irish Army Air Corps officials cast envious eyes on the Bristol Bulldog after the prototype's first flight in May 1927 and the subsequent successful initial flight testing which demonstrated the type's superb strength and manoeuvrability. By early 1928 Bristol had progressed onto the production standard Bulldog llA but were poorly rewarded by the RAF by an initial production order for just 25 aircraft although this would eventually rise to 360 aircraft. This pitiful initial production order forced Bristol to urgently seek export orders and by April 1928 Irish Army Air Corps officials were approached by Bristol and offered a Bulldog variant powered by the same 490 hp Armstrong Siddeley Jaguar VIC radial engine that powered their Vickers Vespa aircraft. With immediate interest an enthusiastic Bristol set about creating a prototype using their company demonstrator mated to the Jaguar VlC engine and with design and installation largely completed by the Autumn of 1928 the prototype Bulldog MkllB was first flown by Cyril Uwins on Ocober 29th 1928 and, in following month, Ireland ordered eight Bulldog llB's for delivery before the end of 1929.

 

Entering service in 1930 the Bulldog served the Irish Army Air Corps well and enjoyed a long service life with seven aircraft still in service in 1937 when the Gloster Gladiator biplane fighter was ordered as a replacement. After the first four Gladiators was delivered in 1938 the Bulldogs began to be phased out of service but this decision had to be reversed when the remaining Gladiators were embargoed by the outbreak of the Second World War and at least four Irish Bulldog's were still in service during 1940. 

 

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