Did We Really Think It Was A Good Idea?

Discussion in 'Aviation' started by Waynos, Mar 8, 2009.

  1. Waynos

    Waynos Active Member

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    We all love aeroplanes and maybe we tend to think of aircraft designers as superior beings, genii that we are blessed to have on the earth. This idea, you might think, might be justified in the case of people like R J Mitchell, Sidney Camm, Kelly Johnson etc, but, even though they created some of the greatest machines ever seen, even they had clunkers too.

    Here then is something I hope will grow into a thread detailing, in a light hearted way, some of the biggest blunders ever to see the light of day. There are thousands of unmade projects, for most of which someone in authority had an epiphany and the utter stupidity of what was being proposed became blindingly apparent and the designer was told to bugger off. More rarely, perfectly good aircraft were discarded for mundane reasons like there was no money left or whatever, but rarer still, some real turkeys actually made it into the air! Apparently, like the ‘Emperors New Clothes’ nobody dare to speak out and mention the silliness of what they were doing in case the silliest person of all turned out to be them.

    This thread then is dedicated to those aircraft that truly deserved to be strangled at birth, but weren’t. I don’t mean personal grudges people may bear towards certain planes, like whether the RAF should have bought the F-22 instead of the Typhoon etc But genuine cast iron 100% Turkeys (no offence to anyone from that country) :D

    In fact, this sort of thing;

    Boulton Paul Defiant.

    a Defiant crew consider a safer career in bomb disposal
    [​IMG]

    Here's a good idea, somebody once thought; lets make a fighter plane in the same class as the Hurricane and Spitfire, we’ll even use the terrific Rolls Royce Merlin engine in it. Then we’ll fit it with a big, heavy and draggy mid upper turret from a bomber and then to finish it off (literally) DON'T give the pilot any forward firing guns to use! That was a pearler, don't you think?

    The concept dated from WW1 when the Bristol F.2B was highly successful in the same role and in the early thirties the Hawker Demon carried on in the same tradition, crucially however, BOTH these aircraft did have fixed forward firing guns but did not have a huge metal and glass motorised dustbin on their back. The Defiant was intended to bring the whole idea up to date with the whizzy new cantilevered monoplanes that were taking over the whole of aviation, incorporating all the latest technology like retractable landing gear and stuff. (just think, if WW2 had never happened we’d have made a Jet version by 1950 as well!!)

    It is astonishing now to read the publications that date from 1939 and early 1940 and to see how incredibly smug we were that we had created this brilliant new weapon that nobody else had thought of.

    Even more astonishingly, at first the Defiant was highly successful! This was entirely due to the Germans (a) mistaking them for Hurricanes and (b) thinking nobody could be stupid enough to build a fighter plane like that and the Defiants gunners easily took out Bf.109's as they swooped down on them from above and behind. The Germans soon learned that we WERE in fact that stupid and the Defiants career as a defender of the realm was over before the Battle of Britain had finished, most of the huge numbers lost going down without managing to even fire their guns. It was more successful, because it was at less risk, as a nightfighter until the Beaufighter replaced it but that doesn’t disguise the fact that it should never have been built in the first place.

    So, over to you guys.
     
  2. Njaco

    Njaco The Pop-Tart Whisperer
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    I'll have to think on this - the Christmas "Bullet" comes quickly to mind - but for a start, the Defiant is good for all the reasons you posted.
     
  3. TheMustangRider

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    One fighter that I can think of is the XP-75 Eagle, the USAAF first fighter intended for long range missions in Europe which by its own test pilot was unable to defend itself; fortunetly the Mustang came along on time for the ride.
     
  4. HoHun

    HoHun Active Member

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    Hi Waynos,

    >Even more astonishingly, at first the Defiant was highly successful!

    When I read about this in "The Turret Fighters", I noticed that the claims of Me 109 and Ju 87 kills on that first highly successful mission did not mention the German units supposedly involved, while for the next mission where the Defiants didn't fare nearly as well the German opponents were listed in Detail.

    This looks a bit as if the author has been unable to find evidence of the supposedly desastrous defeat suffered by the Luftwaffe to that first Defiant mission in German documents ... accordingly, and with the 10:1 overclaiming by USAAF bomber gunners in mind, I'm a bit sceptical if the Defiant even had as much as "five minutes of glory".

    Regards,

    Henning (HoHun)

    PS: Perhaps it would be possible for a moderator to add a "Defiant" to the thread title for easy navigation?
     
  5. Graeme

    Graeme Well-Known Member

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    G'day HoHun, I don't think Wayne intended it to be just concerning the Defiant.

    G'day Wayne, I'd have to toss the Bristol Brabazon at you. :) (Unless you only want WW2 military designs).

    Bristol wanted it to carry 150 passengers but BOAC are on record as saying this was too many, twenty five would be enough!
    12.5 million pounds of taxpayers money (five bob for every British man, women and child) eventually sold to the scrap merchant for 10,000 pounds.
     
  6. Graeme

    Graeme Well-Known Member

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    "I am not at all enthusiastic about the proposal and am quite sure that this is not a project which any of our technical staff should be engaged. There is no doubt that if we could find room in the machine for petrol for 2000 miles, we could take off without the slip wing" (Sydney Camm)

    "In the end, the project had wasted a lot of time and yielded no useful results. The comparative tests had barely been begun, and the slipping of the wing in flight - the most interesting aspect - had not even been attempted...as Sydney Camm pointed out, a 2000 mile flight would have necessitated the pilot spending about 10 hours in the aircraft. Camm's initial lack of enthusiasm was properly justified".
    (Phillip Jarrett)


    [​IMG]
     
  7. Snautzer

    Snautzer Member

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    How about a Ju52 fighter?
     

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  8. Snautzer

    Snautzer Member

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    Fancy a ride?
     

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  9. michaelmaltby

    michaelmaltby Well-Known Member

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    I never understood the Westland Whirlwind.


    MM
     
  10. Marcel

    Marcel Well-Known Member

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    On may 10th 1940 (long before the BoB), a squadron of Defiants flew over Dutch territory. They were devastated by Bf109's.
     
  11. Graeme

    Graeme Well-Known Member

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    How so Michael?
     
  12. Negative Creep

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    The theory behind the Defiant was fairly sound though, and I can see why someone did think it was a good idea. As you've mentioned, it was successful in WW1 and the plan was that it would be facing unescorted bombers. It was thought 4 .303s would be more than enough to shoot an enemy plane down and the lack of front guns would be irrelevant as they could attack from underneath. Of course theory soon proved them wrong, but war is rarely what you think it will be!
     
  13. michaelmaltby

    michaelmaltby Well-Known Member

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    Always had the sense that the Whirlwind was a neither fish nor fowl, lacking the performance to be a effective interceptor while using more resources to manufacture than a single engine fighter. In the low level attack aircraft role there was no room on the bench with the Beaufighter then the Mosquito being solid platforms. I appreciate that the idea was to relieve pressure on the demand for Merlin's but that didn't work particularily well, did it?

    I look forward to being enlightened, Graeme.

    Cheers,

    Michael
     
  14. freebird

    freebird Active Member

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    Oh in fact the Whirlwind was a fantastic aircraft, and was much faster than the Beaufighter, and developed much earlier than the Mossie models that you mention.

    IIRC

    The Mossie was not introduced until Sept 1941, with a top speed of 380mph
    The Beaufighter 1F was introduced Sept 1940, with a top speed of 320 mph.
    The Whirlwind entered service June 1940, with a top speed of 360mph

    The Whirlwind was more manouverable than the Beau, with 4 x 20mm cannon, and was faster than the Me109E at the time, and much faster than the Hurricane

    In fact the only reason that the production ended on the Whirlwind was that Rolls-Royce stopped production of the Peregrine engine, and by 1941 resources Merllins were both in short supply, so it was decided to concentrate production on the Beau which used the Bristol Hercules.

    The design of the Whirlwind was centered on the Peregrine, so would require substantial areodynamic re-design to use the Merlin instead
     
  15. tomo pauk

    tomo pauk Creator of Interesting Threads

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    ...just should've mount the Tauruses. With some 300 hp extra power aboard it would do 600 km/h, and would be trouble free (engine-wise).
     
  16. Colin1

    Colin1 Active Member

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    The Whirlwind's demise was a little more complex than that, though the engine manufacturers could be held to book to some extent, it is fair to say that Westland had to shoulder most of the blame
     
  17. Waynos

    Waynos Active Member

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    Marcel Hun, yes, even though I added it to the thread* I do believe that the Defiants 'early success' is more 'urban legend' than historical fact.

    *"never let the truth get in the way of a good story" :)

    Negative Creep, as I mentioned, even the WW1 equivalents allowed the pilot the luxury of a fixed forward firing gun. I disagree that it was a sound idea in principle, the weight of the turret crippled the performance, I agree however that it *looked* like a good idea in the days when fighting area attacks were also thought to be a good idea.

    Michael Maltby; the idea behind the Whirlwind was not to relieve the pressure on Merlin supply. At the time of its creation there was no pressure. The idea behind it was simply a fast cannon armed bomber interceptor to slot into Dowdings complex and advanced home defence plan which the Spit and Hurricane were not designed for. The original idea was that in a Battle of Britain type scenario fast Whirlwinds with their heavy concentrated firepower would destroy any large bomber formation after being vectored to them by the radar stations. It was a fabulous idea but the plane was let down by its engines and so the Spit and Hurri basically stood in for it during the actual battle.
     
  18. michaelmaltby

    michaelmaltby Well-Known Member

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    OK - the Whirlwind was a fantastic gun platform - great bomber interceptor that was unfulfilled because of the engine manufactuer, RR. Is this born out with any effectiveness during the BofB. How many Whirlwinds were deployed and how effective were they? Any Whirlwind aces ..?

    Just asking ... politely.

    M
     
  19. Waynos

    Waynos Active Member

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    No, none at all Michael. The Whirlwind was never deployed in its intended role because of the Peregrines teething troubles. They were not serious but RR were too busy with other things and it was easier to drop the Peregrine as the Whirlwind was its only platform.

    One thing which might serve to bear out the concept though is the number of LW bombers that returned to base full of .303's. With explosive 20mm rounds things could have looked very different.

    When it was found that Whirlwind outperformed everything else available low down it was used as a ground attack aircraft and was quite successful as far as it went, however with no more engines being produced it was only ever a temporary move, less than 200 whirlwinds ended up being built.

    Colin, in what way would you say Westland were to blame?
     
  20. Colin1

    Colin1 Active Member

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    Hi Wayne
    There was more to point the finger at than the cessation of RR Peregrine production

    On Westland's part, they
    failed to produce on time
    failed to accept the need for improvements and quickly

    On the Customer's part, they
    failed to issue control requirements
    failed to give an early production order
    failed to ensure mass production of the aircraft

    On Rolls-Royce's part, they
    failed to have a developed engine

    On the RAF's part, they
    failed to foresee the possibility of the design in the first place
    failed to see the potential of the design, mainly due to 'single-engined fighter complex'


    Extract:
    The Whirlwind's advanced design was also the creator of any failures that it suffered, yet it had twin-engined safety, a greater range than either the standard Hurricane or Spitfire, it did not suffer from the structural failure rate of the Typhoon or Mosquito and was nicer and lighter on the controls than practically all fighter aircraft of that period.
    Yet a mixture of wrong decisions and vacillation on the part of Service chiefs, plus the failure of Westland to quickly produce the aircraft and implement improvements, resulted in a delayed entry into RAF service.
    For the RAF the Whirlwind was its first cannon-armed fighter and the aircraft suffered birth pangs because the Air Staff kept changing requirements, because of a Rolls-Royce engine that was incapable of the performance or development required and finally because of a late entry into service.


    Sources
    WHIRLWIND The Westland Whirlwind Fighter
    Victor Bingham
    Airlife Publishing Ltd
    ISBN: 1 85310 004 8
     
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