A brief Whirlwind History

Discussion in 'Aviation' started by trackend, Sep 18, 2008.

  1. trackend

    trackend Active Member

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    In 1936 OR (operational requirement) 31 from the MOD requested a day/night fighter with up to eight machine guns the tender from Westlands with the P9 armed with 4 20mm Hispano cannons and explosive rounds impressed the air staff although the use of a twin engine layout had many critics. The competition came from Boulton Paul P88, Bristol 153A, Hawker F37/35 and Supermarine's 312 and 313.
    The 313 from Mitchells design group was favoured but eventually because of the advanced nature of Teddy Petters design the P9 won also the Spitfire took up much of Supermarines production facilities.
    Initially the Whirlwind was designed with twin fins and powered by RR Kestral (later to become Peregrine) engines these were also to be handed engines to reduce torque (although dropped later). After wind tunnel testing the single tail fin was adopted and alterered more that once until a high lift tail proved to be the most effective.
    Also the Idea of using exhaust ducts near the cockpit for heating then passing them through the fuel tanks to reduce drag was not favoured by many of the design team and even less so by the test pilots.
    The first maiden flight was october 1938 and after several near disasters including the exhaust burning through an aileron control rod, a redesign was carried out placing the exhaust more conventionally to the relief of the flyers.
    The bubble canopy was very popular amoungst the pilots giving excellent vision compared to its comtemporaries at the time.

    The success of the Spitfire was to be the undoing of the Whirlwind.
    Various gun configurations were trialed including a 37mm (to become 40mm) tank buster and twelve nose mounted browning 303 machine guns in three banks of four. At low level performing better than its rivals the Whirlwind was let down by production problems.
    200 units were order but in the end only 114 saw completion the Peregrine engines were not as reliable as the Merlin and Rolls Royce production concentrated mainly on these so delivery times fell behind. It was proposed that Merlins be fitted into the Whirlwind but the airframe alterations need were prohibitive. Abandoning work on the Peregrine Rolls Royce doomed the Whirlwind to a small production run.
    In 1938 it could out dive the Spitfire accelerating to its limited speed of 420mph far quicker.
    Below 10,000ft it could out perform both the Spitfire 1 and the Hurricane and above were their equals.
    The last mission flown was in 1943 but as remarked by Tony Battle in Flypast "what might a dozen combat ready Whirlwind Squadrons have achieved during the massive air battles in summer 1940?"
    The Whirlwind had the making of a great fighter, indeed it was a great fighter but never saw it in numbers large enough to prove it.

    Sources: Fighters by William Green Gordon Swanborough Reap the Whirlwind by Tony Buttler
     

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  2. Gnomey

    Gnomey World Travelling Doctor
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    Thanks for that Lee. It's really is a shame that the Whirlwind never saw service in large numbers and with Merlin's she would really have been a excellent fighter.
     
  3. Airframes

    Airframes Benevolens Magister

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    Thanks Lee, interesting, and I agree with Gnomey. Coincidentally, I was recently discussing the Whirlwind with a neighbour, and a vague reference to there being a 'secret' squadron, or probably a flight of these aircraft being 'trialled' during the Battle of Britain, the focus being more on the aircraft itself being secret. Although I haven't really pursued this thread, what I have searched so far hasn't revealed any references to such use, apart from one German combat report of September 1940 mentioning a "twin engined" fighter. This was presumed by the author of the article concerned to have been a Blenheim.
    Do you, or does anyone else, know anything of this?
     
  4. Matt308

    Matt308 Glock Perfection
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    Britains F7F. Just 5 years sooner.
     
  5. trackend

    trackend Active Member

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    The only info I have is that the first information and photos were only released to the public in october 1941 three years after its first flight so I suspect it was this that led to the the secret squadron idea.
    The Whirlwind was also used as a fighter bomber carrying 2 500lb bombs having been released the pylons had virtuly no effect on the planes fighter perfomance.
     
  6. Marshall_Stack

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    I'm surprised that the Whirlwind is made out to be a great fighter. I don't know much about this plane except from the bashing of Warren Brodie (who I am sure is biased because he would have preferred that the RAF purchase Lightnings for this role). According to Brodie, he said that the RR engines were the product of detuning another engine (the Merlin?) because the structure of the plane couldn't handle the horsepower of the current engine. He goes on to say that RR's heart was not into that project and invested little time in correcting the "problems".

    I am in no way bashing the plane, I am just reiterating what I have heard about the plane (from one man). I have to say, it sure isn't as sexy as a Spitfire!
     
  7. HoHun

    HoHun Active Member

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    Hi Stack,

    >I'm surprised that the Whirlwind is made out to be a great fighter. I don't know much about this plane except from the bashing of Warren Brodie (who I am sure is biased because he would have preferred that the RAF purchase Lightnings for this role). According to Brodie, he said that the RR engines were the product of detuning another engine (the Merlin?) because the structure of the plane couldn't handle the horsepower of the current engine.

    Hm, the way I heard the story was that the Whirlwind was a failure because the Peregrine never became sufficiently reliable due to Rolls-Royce concentrating their limited development manpower on the more powerful Merlin (and probably rightly so). The Peregrine was a Kestrel with elements that also were used on the Merlin, but could be considered an improved Kestrel (whose dimensions it shared) rather than a detuned Merlin.

    The airframe of the Whirlwind was too small for the larger Merlin, with a redesign to employ the Merlin actually having been considered but rejected as it would have resulted in a completely new aircraft. Considering that the Whirlwind had engines of an older generation than the Spitfire, Hurricane or Messerschmitt, it developed an astonishing performance.

    Layout-wise, its closest German contemporary was the Focke-Wulf Fw 187, but the Fw 187 was really developed for latest-generation engine and only wound up with old Jumo 210 engines initially due to not being accepted by the Luftwaffe. With these engines, it did not match the Whirlwind's performance, but with the engines it was designed for it would probably have surpassed the Whirlwind's (and the Me 109's) performance. Focke-Wulf indeed suggested a twin-DB605-powered Fw 187 variant as a competition to its Fw 190-based high-altitude fighter at one point.

    I think both of these fighters would have made quite an impact on the outcome of the Battle of Britain had they be introduced by their respective nation, and if they had actually met in combat over England, it would have been hard to predict the outcome! The Whirlwind really had the bomber-killing firepower the MG-armed Spitfires and Hurricanes lacked, and the Fw 187 would have combined long range with high performance, which was just was the combination the Luftwaffe lacked during the Battle of Britain.

    Regards,
    Henning (HoHun)
     
  8. magnu

    magnu Member

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    The first public mention of the whirlwind was in a German magazine in 1939
    A real shame this excellent aircraft never got the chance it deserved but still managed to give a good account of itself in the ground attack/ dive bomber role. They even escorted RAF bombers on a daylight raid to Cologne in 41
     
  9. mhuxt

    mhuxt Active Member

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    There's a feature on the Whirly in this month's Flypast Magazine. (Either that or Aeroplane...) Not sure the article contributes much to existing knowledge, but there's some pretty pics.

    As Ho-Hun's pointed out, a Whirly with Merlins, well, wouldn't have been a Whirly. Note also it suffered from inability to cross-feed fuel. If one engine went out, hey presto, you're flying a single-engine fighter, with tankage for same.

    I also think a Mosquito-style radiator setup would have provided a lot more space for tankage.

    The Whirlies escorting the Cologne day raid reached the limit of their range 10 miles NW of Antwerp, IIRC. Didn't reach Reich territory.
     
  10. pbfoot

    pbfoot Active Member

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    those big 10ft props would not feather also, i'll try to scan a small article I have called "flying the Whirlwind" by a guy who flew 33 different ones on ops
     
  11. Airframes

    Airframes Benevolens Magister

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    Now that sounds interesting PB. I look forward to reading it.
     
  12. kool kitty89

    kool kitty89 Well-Known Member

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    What game is that 3D model from?
     
  13. GrauGeist

    GrauGeist Well-Known Member

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    kool kitty, that looks like the Whirlwind of FS2004
     
  14. HoHun

    HoHun Active Member

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    Hi Mhuxt,

    >The Whirlies escorting the Cologne day raid reached the limit of their range 10 miles NW of Antwerp, IIRC. Didn't reach Reich territory.

    Ah, that's interesting - I had read about this mission, but I hadn't been able to figure out how far the Whirlwinds actually accompanied the bombers. I figured that the range might just be enough to reach Cologne from Manston (assuming a top-up stop there), but that even this probably would leave no operational reserve or allowance for combat.

    Do you have any details on this mission? That would be highly fascinating! :)

    (Whirlwinds - or rather Whirlibombers - were also used against the German battleship breakthrough "Donnerkeil/Zerberus", by the way.)

    Regards,

    Henning (HoHun)
     
  15. comiso90

    comiso90 Active Member

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    Fantastic aircraft but two engine fighters always had a hill to climb.. more expensive..double maintainance.. increased cost.. more fuel.. increased pilot training. TOUGH SELL.

    Difficult scenario to deploy when you have limited resources and you're striving to "Get there firstest with the mostest."

    It is simplistic to compare one Spit vs. one Whirlwind.

    Given unlimited resources, the Whirlwind is an obvious choice for production but for a nation under seige, reinforce success!.. Buy more spits...

    .
     
  16. runningdog

    runningdog Member

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    It is Flypast, and I agree, I don't think I learned much new from it. But I think it gives a reasonably balanced view of the plane and it's all in one place, in an easily digested form.
    I don't know whether you can refer to an engineering project as lucky, or unlucky, but certainly Westland never seed to get an even break. From the start the odds seemed stacked against them, a bit like Martin-Baker.
    I admit to being a bit biased about the Whirlwind, probably because I saw one, somewhere over the Leigh Valley, Essex. About six at the time I was mightily impressed. Not least because I didn't know what it was. Even at that that age I, like most of my mates, could recognise every plane we saw. We didn't always know what they were, but we knew them, knew each new Mark or mod. The mysterious Whirlwind became known as 'Wellser's Twin.
     
  17. mhuxt

    mhuxt Active Member

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    Hi HoHun

    There's actually a painting of the Whirlies attacking Scharnhorst in the Flypast mag I referred to. Good Lord - the ultimate in "Don't do that! It's dangerous!"

    I've an account of the raid by a 139 Squadrom Blenheim pilot, but more to the point the day's events are very extensively covered in Chaz Bowyer's 2 Group book, including from the point of view of the fighters (more action on the way out than on the way in). He's got a very extensive map, list of all aircraft which sortied on the day, several pages of narrative, etc.

    Will scan / photograph if you like, might take some time though as I need to "manage" my wife. Cave dominae (sp?), so to speak.

    Will try to post the scans here, though with the number of pages involved I may bump up against bandwidth issues - might have to do it by PM, in which case I'll build an email list with you any other interested parties on it.

    Cheers,

    Mark
     
  18. Waynos

    Waynos Active Member

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    "Given unlimited resources, the Whirlwind is an obvious choice for production but for a nation under seige, reinforce success!.. Buy more spits...

    "

    Examination of govt papers from the time are very revealing. The air ministry was deperate to axe Spitfire production altogether and get Supermarines building either Whirlwinds or Beaufighters because "we see little value in pursuing further production of obsolescent types when aircraft like the Westland fighter are ready and waiting for production".

    This seems a bizarre verdict knowing what we now know aboput the Spit, and was also premature as the Whirlwind was far from ready, but if the Whirlwind itself hadn't encountered development issues the Spitfire would have been axed in 1940. Supermarine only received a further order for the Spit to keep them busy because of delays to the Whirlwind, then of course everything changed.
     
  19. Flyboy2

    Flyboy2 Member

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    Well then it is quite fortunate that the Whirlwind didn't work out
     
  20. kool kitty89

    kool kitty89 Well-Known Member

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    I the Gloster G.39 (F.9/37) twin-engine fighter had more potential anyway. The Whirlwind was just too small and was a fairly "tight' design which was dificult to develop further without significant modification. It probably could have taken a couple early model Merlins (through the Mk. 45) withough too much trouble. There were succesful additions to the armament as well, but due to the small wing area it would soon reach the practical weight limit.

    The G.39 was more a compromise between the Beaufighter and the Whirlwind in terms of side, and weighed about the same as the Whirlwind. With Bristol Taurus engines it was as fast as th Whirlwind and could be modified to accept a range of engines. Wing are was fairly large (but much less than the Mossie or Beaufighter) and there was plenty of space for armament and fuel. The cockpit placement could be improved, but that shouldn't be so extensive either. (move it back slightly and cut down the rear fusalage -where the upper cannons were to be mounted- and utilize a wide-view canpy)

    It also should have had sufficient space to be modified as a nightfighter as well. So it could have replaced the Whirlwind and Beaufighter entirely, with much better dogfighting capability and performance than the Beaufighter. (or Mossie for that matter, and should be better than the Whirlwind as well, at least in turning)
     
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