Ikarus Blenheim B-4 in Finland
By the end of ’30 Yugoslav Kingdom had received for it’s service British twin engine bomber Bristol Blenheim and very soon had obtained license for production. Supply of material was very difficult due to the situation in Europe and in this reasons was made various engine test. Among them was tested with Gnome Rhone 14K engine and there was an idea to use this powerplant for the planed future production while Do17 should had inline engines respectively. One of the most important innovation was introducing of long nose version of Blenheim in service. Prototype had maiden flight in the summer 1940. This first sample was actually converted series version of Ikarus Blenheim Mk. I for whom was made front nose by the standard documentation for the Blenheim Mk. IV of British manufacture. New cockpit was made with the financiers of the National Defense V.K. Br. 1228 from 30. July 1940. This sole sample served within 11. recce group. Contract was made, Pov. V. Nab. Br. 33, with aviation staff and signed on 25. March 1941 for manufacturing of 20 airplanes Ikarus B-4 [ Mk. IV designation in Yugoslavia] and total sum for this was 89. 322. 410, 00 dinar. But no sample from this series were ever delivered to Yugoslavia, this series was captured by German and they offer it for sale to their allyes.
Engineer of Finish Air Force major Vuolasvirta had sent telegram at 10 October 1941 from Berlin with the report of the parts for Blenheim Mk. IV in Belgrade as well of the series of 24 non finished Hurricanes. Assemblies for Mk. IV was of Ikarus manufacture but there was some of British material such as Mercury VIII engines. Contract for sale was made between Finland and Wiener Neustadter Flugzeugwerke who was appointed by RLM as a supervisor over the Ikarus.
Date of sale of Ikarus Blenheim was 15 October 1941, when the Finish military attaché in Berlin give an order for trade. There is partial translation of the report of major Vuolasvirta dated at 10th October 1941:
“Reports about the parts for Blenheim and Hurricanes in Belgrade:
most of the parts for Mk. I and Mk. IV was made in Ikarus by the Bristol licensee. Some equipment was imported from Britain: landing gear and Mercury VIII engines. In Ikarus factory was three complete Blenheim which was sold to Romania. Also, Croatia will receive some of material.
Ikarus factory was under government of Wiener Neustadter and manufacture assemblies for the W-N factory for final assembly in Austria [unknown types].
Blenheim assemblies was stored in one assembly hangar including of one crated Mercury VIII. I have checked quality of the works and state that they are excellent done. All riveting was regular and welding of the steel parts good. Machined parts are in good condition and good made. Germans state that employers are skillful and material good. Some of the employers was trained in Bristol in England.
W-N did not officially approved from RLM to sale, except for Croatia and Romania. However, Mr. Frohman note that there should not be problem and the improvement will arrive in few day’s. All assemblies is reserved for Finland.
I have complained about the prices as well W-N used the interest of Croatia and Romania to raise the pressure. I have note that we buy what we need and that the additional parts could be subject of sale only in complete. Anyway, contract will be correct and sale would be via clearing account [1 RM= 20 dinara]. Transport will be done by railway.”
However, transport present a problem as well German military transport had a primate and it was hard to get approval from the German Railroad. Finding of the wood and mans craft for crating was also difficult to found.
Assemblies for 15 planes was transported to the Baltic harbor, probably Scetscin and then by ship transported to the Finland. State Aircraft factory in Tampere were made a series of ten planes from this parts. First Blenheim Mk. IV from Ikarus parts [BL-196] had a maiden flight at 15th May 1944. Rest five Mk. IV was keep for parts.
Blenheim number BL- 196 up to BL- 200 served in PleLv 42 and BL- 201 up to BL- 205 in PleLv 48. During the war service two of them was whitened off, BL- 198 and BL-202. Blenheim was used with great success against the Soviet troops. By the end of 1944 they were used in “Lapland war” during retreating of German troops from Finland. In this time was disbanded PleLv 48 and airplanes was assigned to the PleLv 42 which became PleLv 41 and operated 15 Blenheim at kemi airfield. Last action of Finland’s Blenheim released on 2 January 1945, strafe of the German garrison on the Kilpisjarvi road.
Last flight of Finland’s Ikarus Blenheim was made at 16 March 1959 and that was made by BL-199. It had total endurance of 707 hours and 5 minutes. Top endurance had BL-197 with total of 1137 hours and 10 minutes and last flight it had on 6 October 1958. One Blenheim from Ikarus parts is still preserved in Finland. That was BL- 200 and also there was preserved excellent technical documentation as well drawings with Ikarus seal. By the Finland’s statement Yugoslav built Blenheim did not have any difference in compare with original UK built.
Photos- Srecko Bradic, Pentti Manninen, Illmavoimat Color profiles- Srecko Bradic