The Blackburn Ripon was the second in a series of Blackburn biplane torpedo bombers that equipped the Fleet Air Arm in the interwar years. It was designed in response to Air Ministry Specification 21/23, which called for a combined torpedo bomber and reconnaissance aircraft. Blackburn responded with an aircraft that was a development of their earlier Dart and Velos torpedo bombers. The Ripon was closer to the Velos, a two-seat floatplane designed for Greece, than to the Dart, which was a single-seat carrier-borne short range torpedo bomber. Specification 21/23 called for an aircraft that could easy change from a float plane to a land plane, and with a crew of two.
The T.5 Ripon had a slightly shorter wingspan but longer fuselage than the Dart. Like the Velos it was armed with a single Lewis gun mounted in the rear cockpit. It could carry either six 230lb bombs, three 520lb bombs or a single 18in torpedo. Like the Dart and the Velos the Ripon was powered by a Napier Lion water cooled engine. Originally the prototype had the same kink in the line of the fuselage between the cockpit and the engine, but this was smoothed out during the testing process. At the same time the wings were swept back further, accounting for the shorter wingspan.
Two prototypes were built – N203 (landplane) and N204 (floatplane) – and the first of these made its maiden flight on 17 April 1926. The N204 made its first flight on 12 August 1926, taking off from the Humber River close to Blackburn’s factory at Brough. After competitive tests against the Avro 571 Buffalo and Handley Page H.P.31 Harrow, Blackburn were given a contract for an improved T.5A Ripon II.
The Ripon II saw a major change in the engine housing of the aircraft. On the Ripon I the three cylinder blocks of the Lion engine were exposed in the slipstream to aid cooling, and the radiator was placed on the nose. On the Ripon II the radiator was moved from the nose, and the engine was placed within a well streamlined cowling. One Ripon II was ordered in November 1927, seven more in May 1928 and the last thirteen in January 1929, for a total of 21 aircraft.
Forty Ripon IIAs were ordered in 1930 (nine in January and thirty one in May). The IIA had shorter wings with duralumin wing ribs, and had a bomb aiming window in the floor.
The second production version of Ripon was the Mk IIC, which was ordered in two batches – 27 in 1931 and 4 in 1932. The main change made on the IIC was the introduction of a new all-metal wing with steel spars and duralumin ribs. The IIB designation was not used (perhaps having been reserved for overseas orders that never appeared). The surviving IIs and IIAs were also given the new wings, bringing them up to IIC standards.
The Ripon IIF was a single aircraft produced for Finland in August 1928. It was powered by a Bristol Jupiter VIII air-cooled radial engine, and had interchangeable wheel and float undercarriages. The Finns also purchased a license to produce the Ripon, eventually building twenty five aircraft between 1931 and 1934.
A single Ripon III, with a greatly modified fuselage, was ordered in May 1928. It was of all-metal construction, with rectangular wing tips and rudder. It was tested at Martlesham Heath in January 1930, where it was discovered that the new configuration reducing visibility both during dive attacks and when dropping torpedoes. Modifications were made which improved the visibility, but reduced performance and no more Ripon IIIs were produced.
The Ripon IV was a 1932 design for a standard bomber version of the Ripon, to be powered by a radial air cooled engine. None were produced.
The Ripon V was developed at the same time as the Ripon IV. It was a design for a torpedo bomber powered by either the Armstrong Siddeley Tiger I or Bristol Pegasus air cooled radial engine. It entered produced as the Blackburn Baffin. Many existing Ripons were converted to the Baffin standard.
The Ripon was used to equip HMS Glorious in the Mediterranean Fleet from August 1929, HMS Furious from the same month and HMS Courageous from 1933, both in the Home Fleet.
From January 1934 the Ripon began to be replaced on the aircraft carriers by the newer Blackburn Baffin, powered by the Bristol Pegasus air-cooled radial engine. The majority of surviving Ripons were later given the Pegasus engine and redesignated as Baffins.
Ripon IIA Statistics
Engine: Napier Lion X, XI or XIA
Wing span: 45ft 6.5in (lower)
Length (landplane): 36ft 9in
Length (seaplane): 39ft 4in
Height (landplane): 12ft 10in
Height (seaplane): 15ft 0in
Max speed: 132mph at sea level
Service ceiling: 13,000ft
Endurance: 4 hours
Armament: One forward firing 0.303in Vickers gun in the nose and one Lewis gun in the rear cockpit
Bomb load: One Mk VIII or Mk X torpedo or 1,653 of bombs