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De Havilland Vampire

20 Nov 2018

 

The de Havilland Vampire is a British jet fighter developed and manufactured by the de Havilland Aircraft Company. It had the distinction of being the second jet fighter to be operated by the RAF, after the Gloster Meteor, and the first to be powered by a single jet engine.

Gloster Meteor

Work on the Vampire commenced during 1941 in the midst of the Second World War; it was initially intended as an experimental aircraft, albeit one that was suitable for combat, that harnessed the ground break innovation of jet propulsion. Out of the company’s design studies, it was quickly decided to settle on a single-engine, twin-boom aircraft, powered by the Halford H.1 turbojet engine (later produced as the “Goblin”) Aside from its propulsion system and twin-boom configuration, it was a relatively conventional aircraft. Despite being originally ordered as an experimental aircraft only, during May 1944, it was decided to mass produce the aircraft as an interceptor for the Royal Air Force (RAF). In 1946 the first production Vampire entered operational service with the RAF, only months after the conflict had come to an end.

 de Havilland Goblin 

The Vampire quickly proved to be effective aircraft and was adopted as a replacement for many piston engine fighter aircraft. During its early service, it was recognised for accomplishing several aviation firsts and various records, such as being the first jet aircraft to transverse the Atlantic Ocean.

The Vampire remained in the front line service  with the RAF up until 1953; after this date, it was progressively reassigned to various secondly roles, such as ground attack  missions and pilot training operations, for which specialist variants of the type were produced. During 1966 the Vampire was officially retired by the RAF, having been withdrawn from its final role as an advanced trainer after been replaced by the Folland Gnat.

Folland Gnat

The Royal Navy had also adopted the type as the Sea Vampire, a navalised variant suitable for operations from its aircraft carriers. It was the Royal Navy’s first jet fighter.

The Vampire had been exported to a wide variety of nations and was operated a plethora of theatres and climates across the world Several countries deployed the type in combat during several conflicts, including  the Suez Crisis, the Malayan Emergency, and the Rhodesian Bush War.

Max Speed-548mph

Range :1200 miles

Service Ceiing -42800ft

Rate of climb-4,880ft/min

Armament- four Hispano 20mm guns four 60 lb rockets or one 500 lb  bomb under each wing

Max take-off weight -12390LB

By the end of production, a total of 3268 Vampires had been manufactured in 15 versions, a quarter of these having been manufactured under licence in several other countries.

In addition de Havilland pursued the further development of the type; major derivatives produced include DH.115, a dedicated dual-seat trainer, and the more advanced DH.112 Venom, a refined variant furnished with a swept wing (instead of the straight wing of the Vampire) and orientated towards conducting ground attack and night fighter operations.

DH.112 Venom

The Vampire was used by 31 air forces. Germany, the Netherlands, Spain and the US were the only major Western powers not to use the aircraft.

On June 1946, the Vampire was introduced to the British public when Fighter Command’s 247 Squadron was given the honour of leading the flypast over London at the Victory Day Celebrations. The Vampire was a versatile aircraft, setting many aviation firsts and records, being the first RAF fighter with a top speed in excess of 500 mph. Vampires and Sea Vampires were used in Trials from 1947 to 1955 to develop recovery and deck –handling procedures and equipment.

On 23 March 1948, John Cunningham flying a modified Vampire Mk 1, which had been furnished with extended wing tips, powered by a Ghost engine, achieved a new altitude record , having attained a maximum altitude of 59,446 ft. On 14 July 1948 6 Vampires F.3s of No 54 Squadron became the first jet aircraft to fly across the Atlantic.

Aviation author Francis K Mason referred  to it as being “ the last unsophisticated single-engine front line  aircraft to serve with Britain’s Fighter Command”; THE Vampire was a relatively straightforward aircraft , employing only manually operated flight controls, no radar, a simple air-frame , and, aside from the propulsion system, made use of many conventional practices and technologies. The distinctive twin-boom tail configuration of the Vampire was one of the only non-traditional air-frame features when compared to its contemporaries.   

South Africa has an estimated 12 Vampires in various stages of rebuilding. With three being stored at the Swartkops Air Base Museum, and occasionally flown on the First Saturday of the month. One other Vampire is on display at the War Museum which is situated near the Johannesburg Zoo.

 

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