Boulton-Paul Defiant TT.I & TT.III

Jagan Pillarisetti


An Artist's impression of a Defiant TT Mk1 in SEAC Colors. This particular aircraft AA591 served with No.22 Anti Aircraft Co-Operation Unit, possibly with one of the flights near Tezgaon. Typical of the aircraft in the SEAC, the aircraft is clearly distinguished from its European counterparts by the large chin mounted Air Filter .  This drawing is taken from the excellent monograph on the aircraft from the Warpaint Series .  Drawing Courtesy : Richard J Caruana / www.warpaint-books.com

Aircraft Name: Defiant
Manufacturer Name: Boulton & Paul Aircraft Co.
Versions: TT.I & TT.III (Target Tug)
Inducted: 1944  Phased out: 1945/47
Units Served With: No.1 AGS (I), No.22 AACU

Specifications (TT.I):
Wingspan :
39ft 4in Length : 35ft 8in   Fuel : 159 Imp Gallons
Engine: Merlin XX (1,260hp)  Max Weight : 8,250 lb  Top Speed : 250mph

The Aircraft

The Boulton-Paul Defiant was the outcome of the Turret-Fighter concept put forward by the RAF in the 30s. Based on the success of performance of the Hurricane and Spitfire monoplane fighters, the Air Ministry called for a fighter of clean design to be equipped with a power operated turret in the rear, where all the armament would be concentrated in. Despite the weight limitations of the turret, the fighter will have comparable performance characteristics of the latest monoplane fighters.

The accepted fighter in this specification was the Boulton-Paul Defiant. The Boulton and Paul Aircraft Company designed and flew the first prototype K8310  on 11th Aug 1937. The first production Aircraft, the Mk1 powered by the 1,030hp Rolls Royce Merlin III engine,  entered RAF AEE trials in 1939.

Squadron induction followed and the type saw action during the Dunkirk evacuation and the Battle of Britain. It was not a successful day fighter and its role was soon relegated to that of a Night fighter in the latter days of 1940. In this role it carried the Airborne Interception radar AI Mk IV, which had a maximum detection range of four miles. The Defiant Mk.II followed after installation of a new 1,260hp Merlin XX engine, which gave it more power and better top speed performance.

After Beaufighters took over the role of Airborne Interception, the Defiant II got a new lease of life as a High Speed Gunnery Trainer.  The Turret was removed and the rear fuselage modified with a  Target stowage box fitted underneath and the fixing of the target towing equipment. A wind driven winch was placed on the starboard side, and a simple canopy now covered the winch operator, who sat in the place of the earlier air gunner.

This Mk.II based aircraft was re-designated the TT.Mk I (TT.1), and about a 140 of these were built. A number of the older Merlin III powered Mk1s were converted to Target Tug configuration and were redesignated as TT. Mk III aircraft. The last of the TT.Is were delivered in March 43.

Boulton-Paul Defiant TT.1 DR967 is typical of the 'tropicalised' Target Tugs operated in India. Though this particular aircraft probably never got further than the middle east. Photo Courtesy : RAF Museum -
- Another view of Boulton-Paul Defiant TT.1 DR967.  Photo Courtesy : RAF Museum

The Indian Air Force Connection

Many sources mention that the Defiant flew with the Indian Air Force during the Second World War, primarily with some of the Anti Aircraft Training Units.  Pushpindar Singh's "Aircraft of the Indian Air Force 1933-1973" mentions that the Anti-Aircraft units at Karachi received a small number of the Target Tug Defiants in 1944.   Surprisingly , there are no photographs that have appeared till date in any of the Indian Air Force publications. Nor are there any details on Indian pilots who flew them, or have any experiences of such pilots been recorded.

Out of this paucity of information, a common myth that has been developed over the years is that the IAF operated the turret equipped Defiant. Not helped by a painting made on the Golden Jubilee Anniversary of a Defiant in the IAF, sporting the post 1947 roundels, and with the serial number K8310 (which belonged to the prototype!). And ofcourse, the Defiant pictured in the painting is the fighter version Mk.1, with a rear airgunners turret in place.

- This artist's impression of an Indian Air Force Defiant was done on the Diamond Jubilee celebrations of the IAF. The painting erroneously shows a F Mk.1 variant, in Post-47 roundels, and sporting the serial of the prototype Defiant. This is on display in the Indian Air Force Museum. Photo Courtesy : Peter Arnold

The actual truth is that certain pilots of the Indian Air Force probably flew the Defiant Target Tug Mk.I or the Mk.III.  Two of the units that operated the aircraft in India were No.1 Air Gunners School (India) (AGS) in Bhopal and No. 22 Anti-Aircraft Co-operation Unit (AACU) which had one flight in Karachi, both part of the Indian Air Force. No.22 AACU was was formed on 3 Dec 42 by merging 1, 2 and 3 AACUs that belonged to the IAF. Till its disbandment on 1 April 47, it was the largest unit in the IAF.

It can be said with certainty that these two units are the only known units to have operated the Boulton Paul Defiant in the Indian Subcontinent.     

No.1 Air Gunners School, Bairagarh.

The No.1 Air Gunners School at Bairagarh, Bhopal undertook training for Wireless Operator / Air Gunners of the IAF. The WOp/AGs were required to equip the Vultee Vengeance Units being operated by the IAF at that time.  According to Air Britain's The Defiant File, No.1 AGS received ten Defiant TT.Is . All, but two of them did not survive beyond November 44. Two of the aircraft appeared to be struck off charge on 1 January 1947, indicating that they were still being used in 1946. The Defiants that served with No.1 AGS are :

No 1 Air Gunnery School (India)
AA371 SOC 1-1-47?
AA401 SOC 30-11-44
AA470 SOC 1-1-47?
AA499 SOC 30-11-44
AA511 SOC 30-11-44
AA531 SOC 30-11-44
AA575 SOC 30-11-44
AA587 SOC 30-6-44
AA614 SOC 4-12-44
AA618 SOC 30-11-44.

No.22 Anti-Aircraft Cooperation Unit, Drigh Road, Karachi.

The second unit to fly the Defiant Target Tugs was No.22 AACU with one flight in Karachi. It was involved in training the various Anti-Aircraft Batteries around the subcontinent.  No.22 AACU  had operated Lysanders and Wapitis in its earlier days, and also had Hurricanes and Vultee Vengeances at one point of time. It was a very large unit and consisted of many flights that were spread out around the Indian Sub-Continent. No.22 AACU was actually part of the Indian Air Force right from the time of its raising in 1942. Till about late 1943, the bulk of the pilots with the unit were Indian Air Force Pilots. Starting 1944, most of the pilots were seconded from the RAF, But almost all of the ground crew and winch operators were airmen from the Indian Air Force. Even then the unit always had a few IAF pilots on its strength, and the technical officers were also from the IAF.

No.22 AACU had received as many as 55 Defiant TT.1s in 1943/44.  Once again, about four or five of the Defiants seem to have a struck-off date of January 1947. A few Indian pilots were posted to No.22 AACU during the war, and some of them did fly the aircraft. Fg Offr R S Shipurkar being one of them.

The serial numbers of the aircraft and the dates they were struck off are given below.

No 22 Anti-Aircraft Co-operation Unit
AA368 SOC 1-1-47? AA567 SOC 31-5-45
AA370 SOC 30-11-44 AA573 SOC 2-8-45
AA372 SOC 30-11-44 AA589 SOC 27-12-45
AA382 SOC 30-11-44 AA591 SOC 21-6-45
AA398 SOC 12-7-45 AA593 SOC 30-11-44
AA399 SOC 30-11-44 AA594 SOC 1-1-47?
AA404 SOC 27-12-45 AA616 SOC 26-4-45
AA406 SOC 30-11-44 AA617 SOC 26-7-45
AA409 SOC 26-7-45 AA622 SOC 21-11-45
AA412 SOC 30-11-44 AA623 SOC 1-1-47?
AA421 SOC 5-1-45 AA624 SOC 9-8-45
AA444 SOC 26-7-45 AA625 SOC 26-7-45
AA447 SOC 12-12-44 AA626 SOC 29-3-45
AA472 SOC 27-12-45 AA656 SOC 30-11-44
AA473 SOC 26-7-45 DR947 SOC 24-6-44
AA474 SOC 30-11-44 DR983 SOC 6-7-44
AA476 SOC 28-2-46 DR988 SOC 1-1-47?
AA482 SOC 29-4-44 DR991 SOC 29-6-45
AA483 SOC 26-7-45 DS123 SOC 28-12-44
AA484 SOC 10-1-46 DS130 SOC 31-5-45
AA490 SOC 1-1-47? DS135 SOC 28-12-45
AA493 SOC 30-11-44 DS142 SOC 27-2-45
AA502 SOC 28-12-44 DS143 SOC 1-1-47
AA503 SOC 15-4-45 DS146 SOC 21-6-45
AA505 SOC 30-11-44 DS148 SOC ??
AA510 SOC 2-8-45 DS155 SOC 1-1-47?
AA538 SOC 15-4-45 DS158 SOC 31-5-45.
AA550 SOC 30-11-44    

There is quite a bit of  information on No.22 AACU's operation of the Defiant that needs to be collated.   It is known that the unit lost atleast two Defiants in accidents in 1945. The first one on 30th June, when Defiant  AA398 was wrecked at Ambala during a take off accident. The second accident, is the last ever recorded Defiant accident in history - happened on 30th November at Visakahapatnam - when Defiant AA408 had to be belly landed due to hydraulic failure that prevented the undercarriage from being lowered. No 22 AACU disbanded on the 1 April 47, though its Operations Record Book goes on until 20 June 1947.

Another issue of note is that there are hardly any photographic records of Defiants in the far east. One photo is from the collection of Mr. Andrew Thomas which is reproduced here, showing DS155 of No.22 AACU in Karachi, that shows the CO Sqn Ldr Young flying an example. Another photograph of Defiant AA591 based at Tezgaon also exists and was published in Aeroplane Monthly - October 2008 issue.

- Boulton-Paul Defiant TT.1 DS155 started its career in India with No.22 AACU in Karachi. Seen here being flown by Sqn Ldr W Young, RAF, this aircraft was finally struck off charge on 1st, Jan 1947.   Photo Courtesy : Andrew Thomas, UK

From the Indian Point of View, there are no first person accounts of Indian Pilots flying this aircraft. Nor any photographs. Perhaps some day photos of these aircraft will come to light chronicling its service with the IAF.

Thanks goes out to Peter Arnold, Geoff "Von Perthes", and Key Magazines "Flypast Forum"
Special Thanks to Andrew Thomas for information on No.22 AACU and the Photograph of the Defiant.
Warpaint Books for the profile of the Defiant in SEAC Colors

The Defiant File
- Alex Brew , Air-Britain Historians, London, 1996.
Profile Publications No.117 Boulton-Paul Defiant
- Michael JF Bowyer, Profile Publications Ltd, London, 1966.
Warpaint #42 Boulton-Paul Defiant - Alan W Hall, http://www.warpaint-books.com/
Boulton Paul Defiant - Mushroom Model Publications Yellow Series - 6117 - Mark Ansell, Artur Juszczak. MMP2006.
History of the Indian Air Force 1933-1945 - Ed by SC Gupta, Combined Historical Section, India and Pakistan
The Eagle Strikes - Royal Indian Air Force 1933-1950 - Sqn Ldr R T S Chhina, Center for Armed Forces History, USI
Operational Record Book - No.22 Anti Aircraft Cooperation Unit, Indian Air Force

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