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During the mid 1930's when it was becoming apparent that war with Germany was inevitable, the Bristol Aeroplane Company realised that there was a pressing need for a heavy hitting machine, to be used primarily as a night fighter. Time was short so Leslie Frise the chief designer at Bristol's took the Bristol Beaufort torpedo bomber as the starting point for the new fighter which utilised the wings, tail, rear fuselage and fin of the Beaufort with a new forward fuselage and more powerful Bristol Hercules sleeve valve radial engines. When the prototype Beaufighter made it's first flight on 17th july 1939 it was the most heavilly armed fighter in the world, with four 20mm cannon mounted in the forward fuselage and six 0.303' machine guns mounted in the outer wings. It was also the first fighter in the world, designed from the outset to carry airborne interception radar. The first production Beaufighters entered squadron service in September 1940 and the first Beaufighter radar 'kill' at night was a Ju88 which was claimed on the night of 19th November 1940. Such was the Beaufighters impact, that by 1941 the Luftwaffe was finding it prohibitive to attack Britain at night using their standard bomber force and had to resort to hit and run raids using Me109's and FW190's.
The real forte of the Beaufighter however, turned out to be as a hard hitting strike fighter able to carry rocket projectiles and torpedo's in addition to it's gun armament and the Beaufighter served in all theatres of war throughout WW2. Beaufighters were also built in Australia, and used by the RAAF against the Japanese who respected the Beaufighter enough to give it the nickname 'whispering death' on account of the quietness of the Bristol Hercules engines.