Britten-Norman Defender

The Britten-Norman Defender is a multi-role utility transport aircraft, manufactured by Britten-Norman of the United Kingdom. It is the military version of the Britten-Norman Islander, developed for roles such as utility transport, casualty evacuation, counter-insurgency and light attack, forward air control, patrol and reconnaissance. The term 'Britten-Norman Defender' relates to all militarised variants of the BN-2 product line including the BN-2 Piston Defender, BN-2T Turbine Defender (sometimes known as the Defender 2000), the BN-2T-4R Defender (also known as AEW Defender and highlighted by its large bulbous nose) and the stretched variant BN-2T-4S, designated Defender 4000 (sometimes known as D4K).[1]

Britten-Norman Defender AL2 of the British Army Air Corps
Role Transport, patrol, reconnaissance
National origin United Kingdom
Manufacturer Britten-Norman
First flight May 1970
Developed from Britten-Norman Islander

Development edit

First flown in May 1970, the Defender was based on the civilian Islander, and has a larger airframe with four underwing hardpoints for pylons to attach 2,500 pounds (1,100 kg) of fuel tanks, bombs, missiles, 7.62-mm (0.3-inch) machine-gun pods, rocket pods, flares, sensors and other stores.

The BN-2B (piston version) and BN-2T (turbine version) are used in military, coastguard, and police operations in several countries.

Defender 4000 edit

BN-2T-4S Defender 4000 of 5 Regiment Army Air Corps in 2013
BN-2T-4S Defender 4000 of the Greater Manchester Police

The BN-2T-4S Defender 4000 is an enhanced version of the BN-2T Defender intended for the aerial surveillance role. Compared to earlier Defenders, it has a stretched fuselage, the enlarged wing from the Trislander, a new nose structure capable of accommodating an EO/IR sensor and radar, and an increased payload.[2] The prototype Defender 4000 first flew in 1995 and entered production from 1997.[3]

Operational history edit

Law enforcement use edit

The FBI deployed one Defender for electronic aerial surveillance on the Branch Davidians' compound during the siege of Waco in 1993.[4]

In August 2017, in an attempt to calm a gang war in Copenhagen, the Danish police force used at least one of the Danish National Guard's two Defenders to fly reconnaissance missions over the city.[5]

Military use edit

The Mauritanian Air Force employed six BN-2A-21 Defenders in the Western Sahara War against POLISARIO forces in 1976, losing two of them in action.[6]

A Rhodesian Air Force Alouette III, configured as a gunship or 'K-Car' (20mm cannon), shot down a Botswana Defence Force Air Wing Islander on 9 August 1979.[7]

In 1996, the Royal Cambodian Air Force deployed its three BN-2 Defenders in support of the dry season offensive against Khmer Rouge insurgents. The Defenders were armed with machine guns and rockets, and even dropped mortar rounds. One Defender was lost during the operation.[8]

In 2014 the Philippine Navy sent one of its Defenders to assist a multinational search and rescue party led by the government of Malaysia in search of the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.[9]

United Kingdom edit

In January 2004, the British Army placed an urgent order for four BN-2T-4S Defender 4000 aircraft designated the AL Mk 1 for ISTAR missions in Iraq.[10] The Defender was to be configured similar to the Army Islander AL Mk 1 and Defenders in use with Hampshire Constabulary and Greater Manchester Police.[10] In October 2004, the first aircraft was delivered to No. 1 Flight AAC and deployed to Iraq that month.[10] The final Mk 1 was delivered in September 2006 to No. 651 Squadron AAC which had been reformed to operate the Defender.[10] The Mk 1 was fitted with a Wescam MX-15 Electro-Optical Infrared (EO/IR) turret under the nose, cabin-mounted cameras, COMINT and C2 equipment.[11][12][10] During the fleet's bi-annual return to the UK for in-depth servicing new ISTAR equipment was fitted.[10]

A second order was placed for four fully re-designed aircraft designated the Mk 2 and a trainer.[10] In September 2008, the first Mk 2 aircraft and also one Mk 1 upgraded to Mk 2 standard were delivered.[10] The Mk 2 was fitted with TCAS, EGPWS, improved DAS, improved avionics suite and had ISTAR equipment enhancements.[10] The Mk 2 had a longer endurance to the Mk 1 being able to carry more fuel and was also able to operate at a lower height.[10] The training variant was also delivered in September 2008 designated the T Mk 3.[10] The final Mk 2 aircraft was to be delivered by 2012 together with the three Mk 1s upgraded to Mk 2 standard.[10]

In June 2009, the Defender's deployment to Iraq ended with 651 Squadron serving continuously since October 2004 in which time it had provided over 8,000 hours in support of UK Forces.[10] In January to February 2010, the Defender was trialled in the Middle East with a Counter-IED capability for potential use in Afghanistan.[10] Defenders deployed to Afghanistan from November 2010 through to 2012.[10][13] In 2012, Defenders flew daily missions prior to and during the London 2012 Summer Olympics.[13]

In April 2019, the Defender was transferred from the Army to the Royal Air Force with No. 1 Group.[14][15] The aircraft was re-designated from AL2 (prefix AL for Army liaison) to R2 (prefix R for Reconnaissance).[16][17][18]

In July 2021, it was reported that the Defender was retired from service on 30 June 2021 and that Britten-Norman had acquired the fleet and working with the Defence Equipment Sales Authority will convert the aircraft for civilian sale.[19][20][21]

Variants edit

AEW Defender in flight
Multi-role utility transport aircraft.
Maritime Defender
Armed maritime patrol and reconnaissance aircraft.
Defender 4000
Enhanced Defender for the urban surveillance, counter-terrorism and maritime surveillance roles.
AEW Defender
Airborne Early Warning aircraft

Operators edit

Air Force Home Guard - 2 x BN-2A-26[22]
Maltese Air Force Defender
Royal Moroccan Gendarmerie 13 x BN-2T[25]
Defender AL2 of 651 Squadron of the Army Air Corps
  United Kingdom

Former Operators edit

  United Kingdom

Specifications (Defender 4000) edit

Data from Jane's All The World's Aircraft 2003–2004,[30] Britten-Norman[1]

General characteristics

  • Crew: 2 (flight crew)
  • Capacity: Up to 16 troops in transport role
  • Length: 12.20 m (40 ft 0 in)
  • Wingspan: 16.15 m (53 ft 0 in)
  • Height: 4.4 m (14 ft 5 in)
  • Wing area: 16.2 m2 (174 sq ft)
  • Aspect ratio: 8.0:1
  • Airfoil: NACA 23012
  • Empty weight: 2,223 kg (4,900 lb) (empty equipped)
  • Max takeoff weight: 3,856 kg (8,500 lb)
  • Fuel capacity: 1,131 L (299 US gal; 249 imp gal)
  • Powerplant: 2 × Rolls-Royce 250 B17F turboprops, 300 kW (400 shp) each


  • Maximum speed: 326 km/h (203 mph, 176 kn) (Max cruise, at 3050 m (10000 ft))
  • Cruise speed: 280 km/h (170 mph, 150 kn) (72% power, at 1525 m (5000 ft))
  • Stall speed: 87 km/h (54 mph, 47 kn) (flaps down)
  • Range: 1,863 km (1,158 mi, 1,006 nmi) (VFR reserves)
  • Endurance: 8 hr 30 minutes
  • Service ceiling: 7,600 m (25,000 ft) (absolute ceiling)
  • Rate of climb: 6.4 m/s (1,250 ft/min)
  • Take-off run to 15 m (50 ft): 565 m (1,854 ft)
  • Landing run from 15 m (50 ft): 589 m (1,932 ft)

See also edit

Related development

References edit

  1. ^ a b "Defender : More Than Meets The Eye" (PDF). Britten-Norman. 2005. Archived from the original (PDF) on 7 August 2011.
  2. ^ "BN2T-4S – Defender 4000 Surveillance Aircraft". B-N Group Limited. Retrieved 6 February 2014.
  3. ^ "Britten-Norman Milestones". B-N Group Limited. Archived from the original on 14 April 2012. Retrieved 16 August 2010.
  4. ^ FBI brings out secret electronics weapons as Waco siege drags on, by James Adams. The Sunday Times, p. 23, 21 March 1993
  5. ^ "Politiken, Danish newspaper". Retrieved 11 August 2017.
  6. ^ Cooper, Tom. "Morocco, Mauritania & West Sahara since 1972". Archived from the original on 4 March 2016.
  7. ^ Safarik, Jan J. "RHODESIA Post World War II Conflicts". Retrieved 13 October 2016.
  8. ^ Grandolini, Albert. "Cambodia, 1954–1999; Part 3". Archived from the original on 5 August 2014. Retrieved 6 February 2013.
  9. ^ "PH planes ships still have no sighting of missing malaysian jet". Philippine Daily Inquirer. 9 March 2014. Retrieved 9 March 2014.
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o Warner, Guy (2011). First in the Field : The Story of 651, the Army Air Corps' Premier Squadron. Barnsley: Pen & Sword Aviation. ISBN 9781848842632.
  11. ^ Ripley, Tim (14 September 2016). "UK MoD looks to transfer Army Defender and Islander aircraft to RAF". Jane's Defence Weekly. Archived from the original on 13 August 2017.
  12. ^ Lake, Jon (November 2006). "Recce Terriers". AirForces monthly - Officially The World's Number One Military Aviation Magazine. No. 224. Stamford: Key Publishing Ltd. ISSN 0955-7091.
  13. ^ a b Roberts, CAPT Charlie (2014). "Army Air Corps (AAC) Fixed Wing (FW) Manned Airborne Surveillance (MAS)" (PDF). LZDZ : Journal of the Joint Helicopter Command. No. 1. Kettering: Lance Publishing. OCLC 921510604. Retrieved 8 March 2020.
  14. ^ Air Vice Marshal Harvey Smyth Air Officer Commanding No. 1 Group [@@HarvSmyth] (2 April 2019). "Handover of Fixed Wing Manned Aerial Surveillance from Army to RAF" (Tweet) – via Twitter.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  15. ^ Jennings, Gareth (2 April 2019). "UK transfers Defender and Islander special mission aircraft from AAC to RAF". Jane's Defence Weekly. Retrieved 23 February 2020.
  16. ^ "Avionic Upgrades for the RAF's Britten-Norman Islanders". Britten-Norman (Press release). 23 July 2019. Retrieved 22 February 2020.
  17. ^ Taylor, Steven (January 2020). "Operation Helvetic air support". AirForces monthly - Officially The World's Number One Military Aviation Magazine. No. 382. Stamford: Key Publishing Ltd. pp. 46–49. ISSN 0955-7091.
  18. ^ "RAF Islander Avionics Upgrade Contract". Warnesy's World. 18 August 2019. Archived from the original on 22 February 2020. Retrieved 10 September 2019.
  19. ^ "Farewell Islander/Defender". Scramble. Dutch Aviation Society. 11 July 2021. Retrieved 13 August 2021.
  20. ^ "Britten-Norman Eyes New Export Opportunities". Britten Norman (Press release). 28 July 2021. Retrieved 11 January 2022.
  21. ^ "British Army Retires Final Defender, Islander Aircraft". Key.Aero. Key Publishing. 12 July 2021. Retrieved 13 August 2021.
  22. ^ "Flyverhjemmeværnet kan arbejde fra luften" [The Air Force can work from the air]. Defence Command Denmark (Press release) (in Danish). 8 June 2015. Archived from the original on 5 March 2016.
  23. ^ Warner, Guy (October 2015). "Policing Ireland". Air International. Vol. 89, no. 4. pp. 110–115. ISSN 0306-5634.
  24. ^ "National Coast Guard". Mauritius Police Force. Retrieved 8 March 2020.
  25. ^ "Aviation Fanatic". Unknown. 2019. Retrieved 12 October 2019.
  26. ^ "World Air Forces 2014" (PDF). Flightglobal Insight. 2014. p. 23. Retrieved 1 January 2014.
  27. ^ "G-INFO G-CGTC". Civil Aviation Authority. Retrieved 14 March 2020.
  28. ^ "First Lee-built B-N aircraft flies". Lee Flying Association. Retrieved 13 March 2020.
  29. ^ Ministry of Defence (1 April 2019). "Aircraft: Fixed-wing platforms of the UK Armed Forces". UK Armed Forces Equipment and Formations 2019. Table 7. Retrieved 24 February 2020.
  30. ^ Jackson 2003, pp. 484–486

Bibliography edit

  • Jackson, Mark, ed. (2003). Jane's All the World's Aircraft 2003–2004. Coulsdon, UK: Jane's Information Group. ISBN 978-0-7106-2537-3.

External links edit