Improved AW Whitley

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Jun 5, 2011
Hobart Tasmania
Inspired by SR6's thread about 1938, could Armstrong Whitworth have designed an improved Whitley for deployment 1940/41/42?

A few years after the initial design it must have become clear that there were issues with the aircraft, considering it did not have flaps and its performance was compromised as a result.

The Improved Whitley could have had a new wing with flaps, which would have eliminated the need for the nose down attitude and possibly allowed for a smaller wing area.

The maximum bomb load for the Whitley was 7,000lb with the Merlin X engine. A more normal load of 4,000lb (4 x 1,000lb) could have been used, eliminating the wing bomb cells, which would allow for more fuel.

It may still have not been that useful as a bomber, but a tidied up Whitley would surely allow for longer range and therefore be much more useful for Coastal Command in the ASW role?

According to Wiki the Whitley had a top speed of 230mph and a range of 1,650 miles.

Could the suggested changes get the top speed up to 280-300mph and a range of over 2,000 miles?


1st Sergeant
May 28, 2009
From Wikipedia so the usual warnings apply

Lloyd was unfamiliar with the use of flaps on a large heavy monoplane, they were initially omitted from the design. To compensate, the mid-set wings were set at a high angle of incidence (8.5°) to confer good take-off and landing performance.[4] Although flaps were included late in the design stage, the wing remained unaltered; as a result, the Whitley flew with a pronounced nose-down attitude when at cruising speed, resulting in considerable drag.[4][5]


Senior Airman
Nov 20, 2019
Ah OK.

Still, they could fix the wing incidence!
The Whitley from the prototype onwards always had flaps, (split trailing edge extending from the ailerons to fuselage, take-off position either 15 or 20 degrees and landing 60 degrees). The flaps plus wing incidence gave the aircraft good handling for landing and take-off but lost about 6 mph in top speed.
Image of prototype with flaps down below:


tomo pauk

Creator of Interesting Threads
Apr 3, 2008
As noted above, wing need to be reverted to very small incidence.
Next - modify the wing to carry four 1-row radials, start with Pegasus, later switch to R-1820s once available via LL.


Jun 5, 2011
Hobart Tasmania
Wouldn't just upgrading the Tigers to Merlins be better, as per actual timeline.

Maybe even have a few with Merlin XXs instead of the Merlin X actually used.


Major General
Jun 29, 2009
Central Florida Highlands
If the goal is to use Wright engines save time and money by purchasing R-2600 engines and constant speed props. Huge increase in power over the Tigers. Very little redesign needed compared to four engine version.
2/3 power of four R1820s.


Oct 12, 2011
So, improving the Whitley could be done, but John Lloyd has to be outed as the designer. The Whitley was based on the AW.23 bomber transport, which the former looked like a mini-me version of the latter and although the Whitley had an entirely new fuselage of different construction, the basics of the wing remained the same. The Whitley's wing was thick because its predecessor's was too and it was a characteristic of the family, the Ensign and Atalanta shared a similar profile. The wings had a box spar of corrugated panels with ali formers forward of the box section covered with sheet ali and to the rear of the box section covered in fabric. Its thickness benefitted the Whitley for two reasons, the fuel tanks were in the leading edges and between the nacelles and the fuselage it had wing bomb cells. The design was rigid and very strong.

AW.23 model. Only one of the type was built.

MAM 17

That can easily be changed. A thinner wing with fuel cells within the box spar design, and make the whole thing stressed skin, like the fuselage; no fabric trailing edge. The fuselage should be redesigned with the wing set higher to enlarge the bomb bay below it, the Whitley's bomb bay was interrupted by the main spar, which meant there was little flexibility in the size of bombs it could carry - it was most definitely a product of pre-war thinking with no room for growth, so give it a big unobstructed bay like that on the Manchester. To keep the fuselage cross-section down, don't incorporate a transport requirement into its design. It wasn't very big inside the Whitley's fuselage, but there was the capacity to carry troops, which it did on Special Operations. The problem is, most bombers of the pre-war era, including the Stirling to B.12/36 and the Manchester and HP.56 to P.13/36 had a troop-carrying role. Get rid of it!

That big 33-foot long bomb bay in the Manchester was unique, no other bomber had such a big unobstructed space - it was carried through unaltered in size into the Lancaster.

Lancaster bomb bay

Engines as per your suggestions regarding the types of Merlin. The one good thing the Tiger engined Whitley introduced was a de Havilland two-position variable pitch prop, so keep that.

Defensive armament, the Whitley was always intended on having turrets and its first were the Armstrong Whitworth manually operated turrets, as when the Whitley first flew in 1936, Nash & Thompson had not built a useable fully enclosed power turret. Frazer Nash had developed hydraulic operating gear for the Handley Page Harrow's defensive guns, but they were not in a self-contained turret, the Whitley had to wait until the Nash & Thompson four-gun FN.4A rear turret in the Whitley IV and that didn't appear until 1938, but it still had an AW nose turret. The Whitley V was similarly armed but had a rear fuselage extension, which enabled a wider arc of fire for the rear turret and the unpowered turret in the nose was eventually swapped with an FN.16 nose turret, so powered turret armament in our 'new' Whitley, too.

Armstrong Whitworth unpowered turret with its single Vickers machine gun. The early marks of Whitley originally had two of these as their sole armament, but the Mk.III also had a ventral gun position with two machine guns.

YAM 59

Whitley rear fuselage section with Nash & Thompson FN.4A rear turret. With the introduction of the Mk.IV, the Whitley had a rear gun armament with firepower greater than any other bomber gun installation in the world. No other bomber built anywhere else could match four machine guns in a power turret.

Royal Museum 26


Airman 1st Class
Jul 26, 2011
-Not an improvement, I think, but a change. In 1942 the US faced an onslaught of U-boats and had very little with which to face them. That the convoy system and USN anti-sub patrols took some time to get organized has been well documented and heatedly discussed.
-The USAAF had little to add to the fight but there are interesting photos of such oddities as the O-47 and even the Civil Air Patrol engaged in anti-sub ops.
-What if the UK had offered some (50?) Whitleys under an odd Lend-Lease program after stripping them of their armament and fairing over the resulting openings. The US would or could either refurbish and return the Merlin engines, thereby getting accustomed to them, or ship them off to factories like Lockheed and North American to play around with.
-The engines would be replaced by Allison V-1710s or some radial engine. I don't know when Martin, GE and the others were up to speed manufacturing turrets but even plexiglass fairings would serve as observer stations since the bombardier would be the main player in dropping depth charges.
-Imagine a Whitley in US livery...


Jul 18, 2021
Going right back to the original question...surely the answer is why try and improve this mediocre aircraft when new four engine machines with far greater performance are scheduled to appear.

I exclude the Manchester of course.


Honourably banned
Mar 26, 2007
Going right back to the original question...surely the answer is why try and improve this mediocre aircraft when new four engine machines with far greater performance are scheduled to appear.

I exclude the Manchester of course.
Because they f up.. there was nothing that could deliver doctrine. Command was not stupid but slow. I think one must take in that in a war, stuff will speed up. Fast. No bars hold . So now it is to survive untill that day comes. Hali , sterling, lanc.
So any craft that takes you through that gap will do (and did, much losses)
I think it was far more common sence to improve last gen aircraft until the new ones were there, and that is what they did. Terrible losses included.

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