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De Havilland Vampire

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A  deHavilland Vampire
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A Royal Canadian Air Force deHavilland Vampire

The de Havilland Vampire, or DH.100, was the second jet engined aircraft commissioned by the Royal Air Force during WW II, although it never saw combat. After the war, it served with the front-line RAF until 1955. It also served with foreign air forces, including those of Australia, Canada, Finland, France, India, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Rhodesia and Switzerland. Almost 4,400 Vampires were built, a quarter of them under licence.

The Vampire began as an experimental aircraft, unlike the Gloster Meteor which was always specified as an interceptor. Given the specification E.6/41, design work on the DH-100 began at the de Havilland works at Hatfield in mid-1942, two years after the Meteor.

Originally named the Spidercrab, the aircraft was entirely a de Havilland project, and it utilised the company's extensive experience with using moulded plywood for aircraft construction (see Mosquito). It was the last time composite wood/metal construction was used in high performance military aircraft. It had conventional straight mid-wings and a single jet engine, placed in an egg-shaped, aluminium-surfaced fuselage, and exhausting in a straight line. To reduce the losses caused by a long jetpipe the designers used a distinctive tail with twin booms, similar to that of the Lockheed P-38.

Geoffrey de Havilland Jnr piloted the first test flight of prototype LZ548/G on September 30, 1943 from Hatfield, only six months behind the Meteor, the first flight having been delayed due to the need to send the sole remaining flight engine to Lockheed to replace one destroyed in ground engine runs in the prototype XP-80. The production Mark I did not fly until April 1945 and most were built by English Electric Aircraft due to the pressures on de Havilland's production facilities, busy with other types. Although eagerly taken into service by the RAF, it was still being developed as a fighter when the war ended, the reason it never saw WWII combat.

The Vampire was an exceptionally versatile aircraft, and it set many aviation firsts and records, being the first RAF fighter with a top speed of over 500mph. It was the first jet to take off from and land on an aircraft carrier, and in 1948 John Cunningham set a new world altitude record of 59,446 ft (18,119 m). On July 14 1948, Vampire F3s of RAF No 54 Squadron became the first jet aircraft to fly across the Atlantic Ocean. They went via Stornoway, Iceland and Labrador to Montreal on the first leg of a goodwill tour of Canada and the US where they gave several formation aerobatic displays.

The first engine was a Halford H1 producing 2,100 lbf (9.3 kN) of thrust, designed by Frank B Halford and built by de Havilland and later renamed the Goblin. The engine was a centrifugal-flow type, a design soon superseded post-war by the slimmer axial-flow units, and initially gave the aircraft a disappointingly limited range, a common problem with all the early jets. Later marks were distinguished by greatly increased fuel capacities. As designs improved the engine was often upgraded. Later Mk.Is used the Goblin II, the Mk.3 onwards used the Goblin III and the final models used the Goblin III. Certain marks were test-beds for the Rolls-Royce Nene but did not enter production.

The Mk.5 was navalised as the Sea Vampire, the first Royal Navy jet aircraft. The navy had been very impressed with the aircraft since December 3, 1945, when a Vampire carried out the flying trials on the carrier HMS Ocean. The RAF Mk.5 was altered to extend the aircraft's role from a fighter to a ground attack aircraft, the wings being clipped, strengthened and fitted with hard-points for bombs or rockets. The fighter-bomber Mk.5 (FB.5) became the most numerous combat variant with 473 aircraft produced.

The final Vampire was the Mk.11, a trainer. First flown in 1950, over 600 were produced in both air force and naval models. The trainer remained in service with the RAF until 1966.

Specifications (Vampire FB 5)

General characteristics

  • Wingspan : 11.58 m
  • Length : 9.37 m
  • Height : 1.88 m
  • Weight : 3,297 kg (empty) 5,618 kg (maximum)
  • Engine : de Havilland Goblin 2, 1,420 lbf (6.3 kN) thrust

Performance

  • Maximum speed : 825 km/h at 7,500 m
  • Ceiling : 12,200 m
  • Range : 1,755 km
  • Crew : 1

Armament

  • 4 x 20 mm Hispano cannon; Two 455 kg bombs or 8 x 3in (76 mm) rockets

Variants

De Havilland DH112 Venom,

Similar in appearance to the Vampire but with subtle structural difference.

See also

List of World War II jet aircraft


Lists of Aircraft | Aircraft manufacturers | Aircraft engines | Aircraft engine manufacturers

Airports | Airlines | Air forces | Aircraft weapons | Missiles | Timeline of aviation

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