Category Archives: Royal Air Force

Großbritannien / Great Britain

Bristol “Buckingham” B 1 (Valom)

TYPE: Medium bomber

ACCOMMODATION: Crew of two

POWER PLANT: Two Bristol “Centaurus” IX radial engines, rated at 2,520 hp each

PERFORMANCE: 336 mph at 12,000 ft

COMMENT : In early 1939 Bristol suggested a bomber variant of the “Beaufighter” with their Bristol “Hercules” engines. British policy at the time was an expectation for medium bombers to be provided from the US allowing British industry to concentrate on heavy bomber designs but a design was requested preferably based on an existing design which meant working with the Bristol “Beaufort” or “Beaufighter”.
Air Ministry specification B.7/40 called for a medium bomber to replace the Bristol “Blenheim”. The specification stipulated a speed of at least 300 mph at 5,000 ft, a normal load of 500 kg of bombs and a center turret armed with at least two 12.7 mm machine guns. Only Armstrong Whitworth Company tendered a full design but it did not meet with approval. So when Bristol brought their Type 162 (tentatively named “Beaumont”), which was fortunately well matched to B.7/40 specification, to the Air Staff, this led to a request to complete a mockup in 1940 and then a confirmed contract for three prototypes in February 1941. The “Beaumont” was based on the rear fuselage and tail of a “Beaufighter”, with a new center and front fuselage. The armament was a mid-upper turret with four machine guns, four more machine guns firing forward and two firing to the rear.
Construction began in late 1940, with a new Air Ministry Specification B.2/41 to be written around it. Changes in the requirements, removing dive bombing and ground attack support which incoming US bombers were expected to be capable of and increasing the performance to allow for the future, meant the “Beaumont” would no longer suffice. The changes in performance, requiring a bomb load of 4,000 lb, a speed of 360 mph and a range of 1,600 miles meant a redesign by Bristol to use the Bristol “Centaurus” engine.
The Bristol redesign with a larger wing and the more powerful engines was the Bristol ”Buckingham”. It had gun installations in the nose, dorsal and ventral turrets. Generally conventional in appearance, one unusual feature was that the bomb-aimer/navigator was housed in a mid-fuselage ventral gondola, resembling those on the earlier German Heinkel He 111H and American Boeing B-17C and -D in appearance. This was part of an attempt to give all the crew positions unobstructed views and access to each other’s positions. The bomb bay could hold up to 2,000 kg bombs. The rear of the gondola had a hydraulically powered turret with two Browning machine guns. The Bristol-designed dorsal turret carried four Brownings. A further four fixed, forward-firing Brownings were controlled by the pilot. Following more changes, specification B.2/41 was replaced by B.P/41. An order for 400, at an initial rate of 25 per month, was made with deliveries expected in March 1943. The first flight took place on 4 February 1943. During testing, the “Buckingham” exhibited poor stability which led to the enlargement of the twin fins, along with other modifications. The Bristol “Buckingham B1” was first flown 12 February 1944 with “Centarus” VI or XI engines, 400 ordered but reduced first to 300 then to 119, with only 54 built as bombers. Overtaken by events, it was mainly used primarily for transport and liaison duties (Ref.: 24).

de Havilland “Mosquito” F.B. XVIII, 248 SQN (Airfix)

TYPE: Fighter bomber

ACCOMMODATION: Crew of two

POWER PLANT: Two Rolls-Royce “Merlin” 21/22 or 23/24 (left/right) liquid-cooled engine, rated at 1,480 hp each

PERFORMANCE: 399 mph at 21,400 ft

COMMENT: The de Havilland DH.98 “Mosquito” was a British twin-engine shoulder-winged multi-role combat aircraft during WW II. It was one of few operational front-line aircraft of the era whose frame was constructed almost entirely of wood and was nicknamed “The Wooden Wonder”. The “Mosquito” was also known affectionately as the “Mossie” to its crews. Originally conceived as an unarmed fast bomber, the “Mosquito” was adapted to roles including low to medium-altitude daytime tactical bomber, high-altitude night bomber, pathfinder day or night fighter, fighter bomber, intruder, maritime strike aircraft, and fast phot-reconnaissance aircraft.
One fighter-bomber variant was the “Mosquito F.B. Mk XVIII” (sometimes known as the “Tse-tse”) of which one was converted from a F.B. Mk VI to serve as prototype and 17 were purpose-built. The F.B. Mk XVIII was armed with a Molins “6-pounder Class M” cannon: this was a modified QF 6-pounderanti-tank gun fitted with an auto-lader to allow both semi- or fully automatic fire. 25 rounds were carried, with the entire installation weighing 720 kg.  In addition, 410 kg of armour was added within the engine cowlings, around the nose and under the cockpit floor to protect the engines and crew from heavily armed U-boats, the intended primary target of the Mk XVIII. Two or four 7.7 mm Browning machine guns were retained in the nose and were used to “sight” the main weapon onto the target.
The Air Ministry initially suspected that this variant would not work, but tests proved otherwise. Although the gun provided the “Mosquito” with yet more anti-shipping firepower for use against U-boats, it required a steady approach run to aim and fire the gun, making its wooden construction an even greater liability, in the face of intense anti-aircraft fire. The gun was sensitive to sideward movement; an attack required a dive from 5,000 ft at a 30° angle with the turn and bank indicator on center. A move during the dive could jam the gun. The prototype was first flown on 8 June 1943.
Although only twenty-seven “Mosquito F.B. XVIII” were produced, they proved particularly efficacious against shipping, submarines and shore installations (Ref.: 24).

Supermarine “Walrus” Mk.II (Airfix)

TYPE: Amphibious biplane reconnaissance and air-sea rescue aircraft

ACCOMMODATION: Crew of three to four

POWER PLANT: One Bristol “Pegasus VI” radial engine, rated at 680 hp

PERFORMANCE: 135 mph at 4,750 ft

COMMENT: The Supermarine “Walrus” (originally known as the Supermarine “Seagull V”) was a British single-engine amphibious biplane reconnaissance aircraft first flown in 1933. It was operated by the Fleet Air Arm (FAA) and also served with the Royal Air Force (RAF). It was the first British squadron-service aircraft to incorporate in one airframe a fully retractable main undercarriage, completely enclosed crew accommodation and all-metal fuselage.
Designed for use as a fleet spotter to be catapult launched from cruisers or battleships, the “Walrus” was later employed in a variety of other roles, most notably as a rescue aircraft for downed aircrew. It continued in service throughout WW II.
The single-step hull was constructed from aluminium alloy, with stainless-steel forgings for the catapult spools and mountings. Metal construction was used because experience had shown that wooden structures deteriorated rapidly under tropical conditions. The wings, which were slightly swept back, had stainless–steel spars and wooden ribs and were covered in fabric. The lower wings were set in the shoulder position with a stabilising float mounted under each one. The horizontal tail surfaces were positioned high on the tail fin and braced on either side by N struts. The wings could be folded on ship for stowage. The single “Pegasus” radial engine was housed at the rear of a nacelle mounted on four struts above the lower wing and braced by four shorter struts to the centre-section of the upper wing. This powered a four-bladed wooden pusher propeller. The pusher configuration had the advantages of keeping the engine and propeller further out of the way of spray when operating on water and reducing the noise level inside the aircraft. Also, the moving propeller was safely away from any crew standing on the front deck, which would be done when picking up a mooring line.
Although the aircraft typically flew with one pilot, there were positions for two. The left-hand position was the main one, with the instrument panel and a fixed seat, while the right-hand seat could be folded away to allow access to the nose gun-position via a crawl-way. Behind the cockpit, there was a small cabin with work stations for the navigator and radio operator.
A total of 740 Walruses were built in three major variants: the “Seagull V”, “Walrus I”, and the “Walrus II”. The Mark IIs were all constructed by Saunders-Roe and the prototype first flew in May 1940. This aircraft had a wooden hull, which was heavier but had the advantage of using less of the precious wartime stockpiles of light metal alloys. Saunders-Roe would go on to build under license 270 metal Mark Is and 191 wooden-hulled Mark IIs.
The successor to the “Walrus” was the Supermarine “Sea Otter” – a similar but more powerful design. “Sea Otters” never completely replaced the “Walruses”, and served alongside them in the air-sea rescue role during the latter part of the war.
The “Walrus” was known as the “Shagbat” or sometimes “Steam-pigeon”; the latter name coming from the steam produced by water striking the hot “Pegasus” engine.
The main task of ship-based aircraft was patrolling for Axis submarines and surface-raiders, and by March 1941, “Walruses” were being deployed with Air to Surface Vessel (ASV) radars to assist in this.
By 1943, catapult-launched aircraft on cruisers and battleships were being phased out; their role at sea was taken over by much-improved radar. Also, a hangar and catapult occupied a considerable amount of valuable space on a warship. However, “Walruses” continued to fly from Royal Navy carriers for air-sea rescue and general communications tasks. Their low landing speed meant they could make a carrier landing despite having no flaps or tailhook (Ref.: 24).

Bristol “Beaufort” Mk.II (Special Hobby Models)

TYPE: Torpedo bomber, bomber, trainer

ACCOMMODATION: Crew of four

POWER PLANT: Two Prat & Whitney R1839 “Twin Wasp” radial engines, rated at 1,130 hp each

PERFORMANCE: 272 mph at 6,500 ft

COMMENT: The Bristol “Beaufort” was a British twin-engined torpedo bomber designed by the Bristol Aeroplane Company, and developed from experience gained designing and building the earlier Bristol “Blenheim” light bomber.“ Beauforts” first saw service with Royal Air Force Coastal Command and then the Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm from 1940. They were used as torpedo bombers, conventional bombers and mine-layers until 1942, when they were removed from active service and were then used as trainer aircraft until being declared obsolete in 1945. “Beauforts” also saw considerable action in the Mediterranean. Squadrons based in Egypt and on Malta helped interdict Axis shipping supplying Rommel’s “Deutsches Afrikakorps” in North Africa. Some were fitted with ASV radar aerial arrays under both wings and forward fuselage. Although it was designed as a torpedo-bomber, the “Beaufort” was more often used as a medium day bomber. The “Beaufort” also flew more hours in training than on operational missions and more were lost through accidents and mechanical failures than were lost to enemy fire. The “Beaufort” was adapted as a long-range heavy fighter variant called the Bristol “Beaufighter”, which proved to be very successful and many “Beaufort” units eventually converted to the “Beaufighter”. At least 1,180 “Beauforts” were built by Bristol and other British manufacturers.
The Australian government’s Department of Aircraft Production (DAP) also manufactured variants of the “Beaufort”. These are often known collectively as the DAP “Beaufort”. More than 700 Australian-built “Beauforts” saw service with the Royal Australian Air Force in the South West Pacific theatre where they were used until the end of the war (Ref.: 24).

Hawker “Typhoon” Mk. IB, 143th SQN (Airfix)

TYPE: Interceptor, fighter bomber

ACCOMMODATION: Pilot only

POWER PLANT: One Napier “Sabre” IIC liquid-cooled engine, rated at 2,180 hp

PERFORMANCE: 412 mph at 19,000 ft

COMMENT: The Hawker “Typhoon” (“Tiffy” in RAF slang), was a British single-seat fighter bomber, produced by Hawker Aircraft. It was intended to be a medium–high altitude interceptor, as a replacement for the Hawker “Hurricane” but several design problems were encountered and it never completely satisfied this requirement.
The “Typhoon” was originally designed to mount twelve Browning Machine guns and be powered by the latest 2000 hp engines. Its service introduction in mid-1941 was plagued with problems and for several months the aircraft faced a doubtful future. When the Luftwaffe brought the formidable Focke-Wulf Fw 190 into service in 1941, the “Typhoon” was the only RAF fighter capable of catching it at low altitudes; as a result it secured a new role as a low-altitude interceptor.
By contemporary standards, the new design’s wing was very “thick”, similar to the “Hurricane” before it. Although the “Typhoon” was expected to achieve over 400 mph in level flight at 20,000 ft, the thick wings created a large drag rise and prevented higher speeds than the 410 mph at 20,000 feet achieved in tests. The climb rate and performance above that level was also considered disappointing. When the “Typhoon” was dived at speeds of over 500 mph, the drag rise caused buffeting and trim changes. These compressibility problems led to Hawker designing the “Typhoon II”, later known as the “Tempest”, which used much thinner wings with a laminar flow airfoil.
By 1943, the RAF needed a ground-attack fighter more than a “pure” fighter and the “Typhoon” was suited to the role and less-suited to the pure fighter role than competing aircraft such as the Supermarine “Spitfire” Mk IX. The powerful engine allowed the aircraft to carry a load of up to two 454 kg bombs, equal to the light bombers of only a few years earlier. The bomb-equipped aircraft were nicknamed “Bombphoons” and entered service with No. 181 Squadron, formed in September 1942
Starting in January 1943, a “Typhoon” was used to test a new, clear, one piece sliding “bubble” canopy and its associated new windscreen structure which had slimmer frames which, together with the “cut-down” rear dorsal fairing, provided a far superior all-around field of view to the car-door type. From November 1943 all production aircraft were to be so fitted. However, the complex modifications required to the fuselage and a long lead time for new components to reach the production line meant that it took some time before the new canopy became standard. Production of the “Typhoon”, which was entirely the responsibility of Gloster Aircraft, totaled 3,330 machines (Ref.: 24)

De Havilland DH.100 ‚Vampire‘ Mk.I (Heller)

TYPE: Interceptor fighter, fighter bomber

ACCOMMODATION: Pilot only

POWER PLANT: One de Havilland ‘Goblin’ 3 centrifugal turbojet engine, rated at 1,500 kp

PERFORMANCE: 548 mph

COMMENT: The de Havilland ‘Vampire’ was a British turbojet fighter developed and manufactured during the WW II to harness the newly developed turbojet engine. The ‘Vampire’ entered service with the RAF in 1945 and was the second jet fighter, after the Gloster ‘Meteor’, operated by the RAF, and its first to be powered by a single jet engine. After Air Ministry specification E.6/41 was raised to provide official support for two prototypes of the jet fighter, design work on the DH.100 began at the de Havilland works in mid-1942, two years after the ‘Meteor’. Originally named the ‘Spider Crab’, the aircraft was entirely a de Havilland project, exploiting the company’s extensive experience in building with moulded plywood for aircraft construction. Many of the basic design features were first used in their famous ‘Mosquito’ fast bomber. It had conventional straight mid-wings and a single jet engine placed in an egg-shaped, aluminum-skinned fuselage, exhausting in a straight line. Armament was four 20mm Hispano Mk V cannon under the nose, with air brakes in the wings to slow the aircraft so as to be able to get into a firing position behind slower aircraft – a feature also incorporated in the ‘Meteor`. The Vampire was considered to be a largely experimental design due to its unorthodox arrangement and the use of a single engine, unlike the Gloster ‘Meteor’ which was already specified for production. The low power output of early jet engines meant that only twin-engine aircraft designs were considered practical; but as more powerful engines were developed, particularly Halford’s H.1 (later known as the ‘Goblin’), a single-engined jet fighter became possible. De Havilland were approached to produce an airframe for the H.1, and their first design, the DH.99, was an all-metal, twin-boom, tricycle undercarriage aircraft armed with four cannon. The use of a twin boom kept the jet pipe short, avoiding the power loss of a long pipe that would have been needed in a conventional fuselage. The DH.99 was modified to a mixed wood-and-metal construction in light of Ministry of Aircraft Production recommendations, and the design was renumbered to DH.100 by November 1941. The first prototype made its maiden flight on September 1943, only six months after the ‘Meteor’s’ maiden flight. The first Vampire flight had been delayed due to the need to send the only available engine fit for flight to America to replace one destroyed in ground engine runs in Lockheed’s prototype XP-80. The production Vampire Mk I did not fly until April 1945, with most being built by English Electric Aircraft factories due to the pressures on de Havilland’s production facilities, which were busy with other types. Although eagerly taken into service by the RAF, it was still being developed at war’s end, and never saw combat in the Second World War.

Noteworthy is the fact that the de Havilland DH 100 “Vampire” had great similarity with the contemporary German Focke-Wulf Projekt VII “Flitzer” (“Streaker” or “Dasher”) (Ref.: 24).

De Havilland D.H.103 ‘Hornet’ F.1 (Frog)

TYPE: Long-range fighter and fighter-bomber

ACCOMMODATION: Pilot only

POWER PLANT: Two Rolls-Royce ‘Merlin’ 130/131 liquid-cooled engines, rated at 2,030 hp each

PERFORMANCE: 472 mph at 22,000 ft

COMMENT: The de Havilland D.H.103 ‘Hornet’ was perhaps the most graceful twin-engined monoplane to be produced by any combatants during WW II. The experience gained by the company with the de Havilland ‘Mosquito’, coupled with a need for a long-range, single-seat fighter for the use in what appeared likely to be a prolonged island-hopping in the South Pacific against the Japanese, led to the design of an unusual clean ’Merlin’-powered aircraft. The first prototype D.H.103, officially to be named ‘Hornet’, was flown on July 1944. Production of sixty ‘Hornet’ F.1s was commenced late in 1944, and the first aircraft off the line flew on February 1945. The prototypes of the ‘Hornet’ had achieved the phenomenal speed of 485 mph and with full operational equipment the production ‘Hornet’ F.1 was only a shade slower at 472 mph. The ‘Hornet’ was too late to see operational service during WW II, however, the first squadron, No 64, re-equipped early in 1946. A conversion of the ‘Hornet’ F.1 initiated before the end of war was the navalisation of two machines for use on carriers. Equipped with folding wings, these aircraft were named ‘Sea Hornet’ (Ref.: 12)

Supermarine ‘Spitfire’ F Mk. XIV, 610 SQN (Fujimi)

TYPE: Interceptor fighter, fighter bomber

ACCOMMODATION: Pilot only

POWER PLANT: One Rolls-Royce ‘Griffon III’ liquid-cooled engine, rated at 1,735 hp

PERFORMANCE: 448 mph at 18,000 ft

COMMENT: In order to boost the performance of the Spitfire Mk. IV it was intended to replace the Rolls-Royce Merlin engine by a single stage Rolls-Royce Griffon IIb liquid-cooled engine, driving a four-blade airscrew. In order to avoid confusion the Griffon engine prototype was redesigned as Spitfire Mk. XX. So in consequence all Griffon-powered Spitfires would be designated in the Mk. XX series, but this plan was not adhered to when the interim Griffon-powered Mk. XII, XIV, XVII and XIX were produced. The Spitfire Mk. IV alias Mk. XX was made the subject of production contracts during the period that the prototype was under development, and 750 were ordered in autumn 1941. But in fact, none was produced in this form. In spring 1942 the need arose suddenly for a high-performance low-altitude fighter to combat the low-flying Focke-Wulf Fw 190. The availability of the improved version of the two-stage Griffon engine led to an interim variant of the Spitfire, designated Mk. XIV. As initially produced, this aircraft had what was, apart from some strengthening of the fuselage, a standard Mk. VIII airframe married to a Griffon 65 engine which drove a five-blade Rotol airscrew. The vertical surfaces were enlarged and the “C” wing was used. In total 975 Spitfire Mk. XIV were produced, 527 fighter and 430 fighter-reconnaissance aircraft. The Spitfire Mk. XIV gained the distinction of destroying the first Messerschmitt Me 262 in fighter-versus-fighter combat, this event taking place on October 5, 1944 (Ref.: 12).

Gloster ‘Meteor’ Mk. I (MPM)

TYPE: Interceptor fighter

ACCOMMODATION: Pilot only

POWER PLANT: Two Rolls Royce ‘Wellent’ 1 turbojet engines, rated at 771 kp each

PERFORMANCE: 410 mph at 30,000 ft

COMMENT: Early in 1940, Gloster Aircraft’s design team was entrusted with the design of a single-seat interceptor fighter to specification F9/40, the first specification ever prepared in Britain for an operational turbojet aircraft. Gloster had some experience in handling the turbojet engine as a new power unit for aircraft: The Gloster E.28/39 ‘Pioneer’ was the first jet-powered aircraft to fly in Britain.  Now, the result of the new design, the ‘Meteor’, was the first jet aircraft to enter squadron service with the RAF, and the only Allied jet aircraft to see operational service during World War II. A conventional twin-engine layout was adopted for the new fighter and on February 1941, and the Ministry of Aircraft production placed an order for twelve prototypes. In the event, only eight of the prototypes were completed, the first of these commencing taxiing trials on July 1942, powered by low thrust delivering non-flying Rover W.2B turbojets. Difficulties with the more powerful Power Jets W.2/500 resulted in the installation of RoverB.23 engines and the first flight of the ‘Meteor’ was made on July, 1943. A variety of other engines were tested in the prototypes until the first twenty ‘Meteor I’ were delivered to the RAF and on August 1944 one of these scored the first confirmed victory by a British jet fighter when a V-1 missile was destroyed by tipping it over with its wing and thus causing it to crash. And although in service at the ending stage of WW II the Gloster ‘Meteor” was never encountered in the air with the German Messerschmitt Me 262 ‘Schwalbe’ (Ref.: 12).

Vickers 432 (Kora Models)

TYPE: High altitude interceptor fighter

ACCOMMODATION: Pilot only

POWER PLANT: Two Rolls-Royce Merlin 61 liquid-cooled engines, rated at 1,520 hp each

PERFORMANCE: 440 mph at 28,000 ft

COMMENT: The possibility of Luftwaffe aircraft operating over the United Kingdom at altitudes beyond the capabilities of existing RAF fighters led the Air Ministry to the decision to call for a specialized high altitude interceptor according to specification F.16/40. Vickers tendered the Type 432, which at one time dubbed unofficially the “Mayfly” that flew for the first time in December 1942 some seven weeks after the competitive Westland P.14 “Welkin”. Embodying a pressurization system similar to that for the Wellington V and VI bombers, the Type 432 prototype had a relatively small, self-contained pressure cabin for the pilot whose head projected through a small, double-glazed dome or bubble which hinged to one side for better entrance and exit. Initial trials proved the Type 432 to be difficult to handle on the ground, although it processed an excellent performance once in the air, with a substantially higher maximum speed than that of the “Welkin”. Nevertheless, the Westland fighter was selected for production and flight trials with the sole Type 432 prototype continued until December 1944 when the machine was finally scrapped (Ref.:  12).