The Ostrich was an Australian designed derivative of the Bristol Beaufighter with American R-2800 engines rated at 2,525 hp replacing its 1,635 hp Hercules radials. The Beaufighters were sent to Russia where they were used for gound support, the Russians calling them the "Australian Sturmovik". This became the Oz-Sturmovik then Oztovik and finally Ostrich. While the Beaufighter was an effective aircraft, it had many faults that needed addessing. These included a lack of directional stability and some viciously bad flying characteristics. DAP set about to correct these and, in the process, make full use of the extra engine power available.
When the improved version was built, the name Ostrich was formally adopted. In addition to its new engines, the Ostrich had a revised fuselage that featured two crew members,a pilot and a gunner-observer seated under a common canopy. There was provision for a third crew member but this was rarely used. The fuselage was lengthened aft and cut down. Armament consisted of four Russian 23mm V-Za cannon. Early versions carried eight .303 machine guns in the wings but these were replaced by six .50 Brownings in later versions. There were two hardpoints under the fuselage, each rated at 2,000 pounds and four more under the inner wings, the inner pair rated at 1,000 pounds, the outer at 500 pounds. However, total bombload was restricted to a total of 4,000 pounds. There were eight rocket launching rails under the outer wings, intended to carry RS-132 rockets.
The Ostrich featured a heavily-armored belly with a double layer of protection that proved capable of defeating rifle-caliber machine guns and small cannon anti-aircraft fire. This armor extended over the belly, protecting the two crewmembers who sat in an armored "bathtub". Other sections of armor protected the underside of the engine nacelles and an apron extended up from the nose to the cockpit. The pilot was protected by an armored screen that was (in theory) capable of defeating a 13.2 mm machine gun bullet. The Ostrich had a maximum speed of 355 mph with a maximum range of 1,280 miles and a service ceiling of 28,500 feet. The only major fault with the Ostrich was that it was nose-heavy, a feature that gave pilots problems in pulling out of high-speed dives and resulted in numerous nosing-over accidents. The aircraft entered service in 1944 and remained in production until 1955.
In addition to serving with the Australian Air Force, it was widely exported, examples being sold to Canada, India, Thailand, South Africa, Argentina, Chile, Brazil, Ecuador, Venezuela, Turkey and Italy. Significant numbers were also supplied to Russia. It was widely valued for its reliability and its legendary ability to resist battle damage. Although numerous efforts to develop a more effective ligt bomber/close support aircraft were made (most notoriously, the Mosquito in India), these never showed any real increase over the all-round virtues of the Ostrich. The last service examples (in Ecuador) were withdrawn from use in the mid-1990s.
The first production version of the Ostrich, being delivered to RAAF squadrons in Russia from January 1944 onwards. This version can be distinguised by its original Beaufighter tail without the long fillet that distinguised later versions. It was armed with 4 23mm V-YA cannon in the nose and 8 .303 Vickers Mk.6 machine guns, four in each wing. A ninth .303 was on a pintle mount firing out of the rear cabin.
A variant of the Ostrich intended for RAAF Coastal Command. This was equipped to carry a torpedo under its belly as well as its battery of cannon, machine guns and wing rockets. The length of the torpedo and its weight distribution made the aircraft directionally unstable, the matter being addressed by the addition of a long fin fillet. This became standard on all future Ostrichs.
An improved version of the FGA.1 with the extended fin of the Ostrich CC.2 but the wing guns replaced by six 0.5 inch Browning M2s. The rear defense gun was also replaced by a 0.5 inch M2.
The definitive production version of the Ostrich. Early versions had proved extremely vulnerable to attacks from above and behind. In this situation, the heavy belly armor of the Ostrich was actually counterproductive in that bullets entering the crew's armored bathtub would bouce around inside, greatly increasing their lethality. The same applied to bullets hitting the engine nacelles that were only armored on their lower portions. Obviously armoring the whole aircraft was an imposisbility, the best that could be done was to improve the rearward defenses of the aircraft. This was done by increasing the caliber of the rear defense gun to 20mm (the weapon first being a Russian Shvak, later a B-20). The mounting itself was changed from a simple pintle to what was essentially a power-operated turret faired in with the crew station. This was a useful measure but the Ostriches vulnerability to attacks from above and behind remained a serious concern.
Virtually identical to the FGA.4, the Ostrich FGA.5 had wing-mounted Browning 0.5 inch M3 machine guns in place of the M2s.