Boulton-Paul Defiant TT.I & TT.III


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, being allocated to 'B' Flight at Alipore in May 1944. It served for just over an year, flying in the east, including a temporary detachment at Tezgaon. The aircraft was finally struck off charge on 12th June 1945, due to unsatisfactory serviceability caused by lack of spares and usage.

Typical of the aircraft in the SEAC, the aircraft is clearly distinguished from its European counterparts by the large chin mounted Volkes Air Filter .  This drawing is taken from the excellent monograph on the aircraft from the Warpaint Series. The original source of the drawing was a photograph showing the aircraft at Tezgaon.  Drawing Courtesy : Richard J Caruana /

Aircraft Name: Defiant
Manufacturer Name: Boulton & Paul Aircraft Co.
Versions: TT.I & TT.III (Target Tug)
Inducted: 1943  Phased out: 1946
Units Served With: No.1 AGS (I), No.22 Anti-Aircraft Co-operation Unit

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 pilots of the Indian Air Force flew the Defiant Target Tug Mk.I or the Mk.III during their service with the No.22 Anti-Aircraft Co-Operation Unit (No.22 AACU). The type also equipped No.1 Air Gunnery School (India) (AGS) in Bhopal.   No.22 AACU was a unit of the Indian Air Force.  No.22 AACU, IAF  was formed at Drigh Road on 3 Dec 42 by merging 1 AACU, 2 AACF and 3 AACFs  that belonged to the IAF.   No.1 AGS was a unit of the RAF created to help provide gunnery training to freshly trained Indian Air Force pilots and gunners.


No.22 Anti-Aircraft Cooperation Unit.


Defiant AA591 in SEAC color scheme - The subject of the colour profile above. This photo was taken at Tezgaon in 1944.  This aircraft joined  No.22 AACU in June 44 and served for about an year with  'B' Flight based in Digri. Photo Courtesy: Aeroplane Monthly Magazine


The second unit to fly the Defiant Target Tugs was No.22 AACU located at Drigh Road, and later at Ambala. 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.  Throughout 1942 and most part of 1943, the majority of the pilots with No.22 AACU were Indian. Posted in fresh from the SFTS or from the OTU, the pilots gained valuable experience flying a myraid of types. Starting with Wapities, they moved onto advanced aircraft including the Fairey Battle and the Brewster Buffalo.

Towards the end of 1943, with many IAF Squadrons becoming operational and heading for the Burma front, No.22 AACU started posting out its Indian pilots out, replacing them with RAF aircrew - including many Seargent Pilots.  While the Unit still had a few Indian pilots on strength, the buik of the pilots were now British. The ground crew and the  winch operators, however were predominently Indian. 

No.22 AACU had received as many as 55 Defiant TT.1s in late 1943.   A few Indian pilots on strength of No.22 AACU flew the Defiant during this time. The Unit was commanded by Wg Cdr H J Fish RAF at that time. 

1943 HJFish

A target tug Defiant (Identity unknown) - with the CO of No.22 AACU, Wg Cdr H J Fish (right).  The backstory of the "Audrey"label is unknown.  But the photograph was taken at Kharagpur. Lt Col Pritchard of the Army is on the left.  Photo Courtesy : Clive Fish.

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 were several accidents involving the aircraft.  One of the last of these occurred on 30th June 45, when Defiant  AA398 was wrecked at Ambala during a take off accident. The last ever recorded Defiant accident in history - happened on 30th November 1945 at Visakahapatnam - when Defiant AA408 had to be belly landed due to hydraulic failure that prevented the undercarriage from being lowered. 

The last Defant was struck off charge sometime towards the end of January 1946, bringing to an end its career in both the IAF as well as the RAF.

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 can also be seen here.


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.  The aircraft  sports unusually larger roundels. These may have been modified from an earlier non-SEAC scheme.  Photo Courtesy : Andrew Thomas, UK


Pilot Roster - Indian Pilots recorded as flying the Defiant 

M KHYBER KHAN - Later AVM in PAF, d:2007
J R S DANTRA - killed in Ground Accident 1949
M M CHANDE  - Unknown
R S SHIPURKAR - Later Gp Capt
A C JOSEPH - killed in Vengeance Accident 1944
B R RAO - killed in Hurricane Loss 1945

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. The unit was formed on 13th May 1943, out of the holdings of the previous unit No.1 Armament Training Unit (Which was in turn raised at Peshawar on 18 February 1942 and moved to Bairagarh in June 1942). The AGS at the time of its raising had Audaxes for towing targets. Most units that came for gunnery training bought in their own aircraft. The unit was mainly staffed by RAF Officers and airmen, with the odd sprinkling of IAF officers doing administrative duties.  

No.1 AGS was sanctioned the following aircraft on its establishment at the time of its raising:

Type Nos
Blenheim 9
Vengeance 9
Defiant 8
Harvard 2
Hurricane 4

 In practice however, the AGS had Harts, Lysanders and a few Vengeances. The first Defiant did not arrive until February 1944 when Defiant AA371 was delivered to the School from No.320 MU in Karachi. Over the subsequent months, the AGS received as many as 11 Defiants, including attrition replacements. One aircraft, AA470 was written off in a crash landing at Bairagarh on 1 May 1944.

The Defiant served for about ten months before they were replaced by Hurricanes, Vengeances and Harvards. Six of them were dispatched to 18 Care and Maintenance Unit on 11 October 1944 for scrapping. Another one followed in November. By December all Defiants with the AGS have been retired.

S.No Taken on Charge Struck off Charge
AA371 1944-02-16  
AA401   11-10-1944
AA470   Crashed 1-5-1944
AA474   1-11-1944
AA499 1944-02-21 11-10-1944
AA511   11-10-1944
AA531 1944-02-21 11-10-1944
AA575 1944-07-19 11-10-1944
AA587 1944-02-16  
AA614 1944-05-21  



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,
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
RIAF Journal
Aeroplane Monthly, October 2008 issue - Boulton Paul Defiant - Database
Operational Record Book - No.22 Anti-Aircraft Co-Operation Unit, National Archives, Kew, UK.
Operational Record Book - No.1 Air Gunnery School, Bairgarh, National Archives, Kew, UK.


Acknowledgements:  This article was prompted by the discussion thread - "Boulton Paul Defiant - Indian Air Force" on the KeyPublishing Flypast Forum  at  Peter Arnold and Geoff "Von Perthes" contributions kickstarted the discussion. Thanks to Herkiran Toor for his help in tracing photographs. Special Thanks to Historian Andrew Thomas for information on No.22 AACU and the Photograph of the Defiant DS155.
Warpaint Books for the profile of the Defiant in SEAC Colors. Chris Fish for the Photo of Wg Cdr H J Fish.