What if: a de Havilland single seat, single piston engine fighter for World War II

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BarnOwlLover

Staff Sergeant
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Nov 3, 2022
Mansfield, Ohio, USA
I'll open this up initially for the forum to chime in with what their ideas on what this could've been like, though I do have to provide my broad idea for it. I do imagine at the basic, fundamental level, it's probably be like half a Hornet (half the size, half the power), and powered by at least a Merlin 60 series engine with room to go up to the Merlin 100 series. I'm also sort of inspired by the original Hornet design brief of two Merlin 60 series engines, and a weight of 15,000 lbs clean combat.

Outside of that, it'll be up to you to give feedback on what you might expect to see.
 
If DH Pfaff about trying to invent a single seat, single engined piston power fighter, they don't invent the Vampire, a single seat, single engined jet powered fighter
 
They had spare R&D and production capacity in early 1942, even when working on the Mosquito and Vampire, which is where the idea for the Hornet emerged. So, one, this is a speculative thread, asking what a single seat, single engine piston fighter would've been like if DH decided to design one. Two, if such a thing did exist, it likely would've killed the Hornet if anything. And three, DH also owned Airspeed, who could've built it (they were a major Mosquito contractor), and DH helped English Electric get into building aircraft by licensing them to become a major Vampire contractor (though that was post-war). Airspeed also designed single seat, single engine fighters. However, they didn't enter production, and they were primarily powered by the Napier Sabre, not the R-R Merlin, which defeats the "half a Hornet" premise.
 
I don't see DH having spare production capacity in 1942.

Hatfield was being turned over wholly to Mossie production with Tiger Moth production going to Morris Motors in 1941 and Rapide/Dominie production to Brush Coachworks in early 1943 as Mossie demand built up. Such was the demand for the Mossie a second production line was opened at Leavesden, with the first aircraft rolling off the production line in May. DH was also involved in repairing Hurricanes.

As for Airspeed, you are forgetting it's production of the Oxford trainer and the Horsa glider (the first 695 Horsas were built at the Airspeed Christchurch factory from early 1942). Design of the latter was undertaken by an Airspeed team located at the DH design facility at Salisbury Hall during 1941, with further work needed to to design the Mk.II for others to build.

Detailed design of the Vampire didn't begin until 1942. Mossie design work was ongoing as new requirements arose (FB.VI with its reinforced wing and high altitude Mk.XV immediately come to mind, although the latter may have been from mid-1942).
 
Here's some of the fighters that Airspeed worked on during World War II



Not sure how much any of this could've been used on a DH single seater, especially if the Merlin was the preferred power unit. I'd suspect possibly a Vampire-type wing (as far as plan form, but with a Hornet type structure), and a fuselage/engine installation that was themed along Mosquito and Hornet lines, aiming for similar/Vampire type cleanliness of line.

Now, would it be mostly wood, like the Mosquito, wood and metal like a Hornet, or mostly metal with wooden components like the Vampire?
 
I'll open this up initially for the forum to chime in with what their ideas on what this could've been like, though I do have to provide my broad idea for it. I do imagine at the basic, fundamental level, it's probably be like half a Hornet (half the size, half the power), and powered by at least a Merlin 60 series engine with room to go up to the Merlin 100 series. I'm also sort of inspired by the original Hornet design brief of two Merlin 60 series engines, and a weight of 15,000 lbs clean combat.

Best-case scenario is that the design results with a British P-51D, abilities-wise? About 30 mph faster than Spitfire on same power, 70-100% more of internal fuel, although with 4 cannons instead of 6 HMGs as on the P-51D.
Possible ways to achieve this include a much better radiator design than the Spitfire IX, modern airfoil, fully covered U/C when retracted, shallower/circular windscreen, application of production techniques from Mosquito.

Probably looking like a baby Fury/Tempest ;)
 
Now, would it be mostly wood, like the Mosquito, wood and metal like a Hornet, or mostly metal with wooden components like the Vampire?
Probably the 2nd or 3rd.
Somethings do not scale well.
as a very simplistic example a 2 x 12 on end is well over double the strength of a 2 x 6 on end.

There is a reason a lot of monoplanes used 16-18% wing thicknesses.

Also remember that the Mosquito was rated at about 8 Gs ultimate and about 5.5 Gs if I remember right. It was not intended to perform fighter like maneuvers. Fighter like to me means speed and change of direction at the same time, doing a loop of the same size but 20% slower is a much lower stress factor as an example.

If you want to go play with the single seat fighters you need to be built like a single seat fighter.
And if you need thin wings for performance it starts to limit your options, thicker spars front to back (cordwise) because you can't go up/down or stronger material (metal). Using wood spares and the cordwise spar thickness takes away from volume to put the fuel and or guns/ammo.
Russian mostly wood fighters kept the guns/ammo in the fuselage. Still had problems with fuel storage. Granted they used small wings.
You also need space (volume ) to run your controls (aileron cables/push tubes, etc) without to much change in directions. Again volume in the wing is going to be higher percentage wise than in the Mosquito/Hornet.
It can probably be done but it may not be easy or any better than an all metal aircraft.
 
And IMO wing thickness is why I don't think, even with the Merlin's reduced cooling requirements compared to things like the Griffon or Sabre, that the wing leading edge radiators like on the Mosquito or Hornet would work well. The wings on the Hornet or Mosquito were a bit thicker than a normal single seater's wings, and packaging made the wing roots between the fuselage and engine nacelles an ideal place to put them.

I think that a Merlin powered DH single engine single seater would run a Mustang-like ventral radiator. By 1942 the Meredith effect was fairly well known, though execution was a bit hit and miss, though knowing about the Mustang and the Mosquito's own radiator design would be a big help there. And for a good Meredith radiator--as well as simple packaging--the fuselage would probably be favored.
 
And IMO wing thickness is why I don't think, even with the Merlin's reduced cooling requirements compared to things like the Griffon or Sabre, that the wing leading edge radiators like on the Mosquito or Hornet would work well. The wings on the Hornet or Mosquito were a bit thicker than a normal single seater's wings, and packaging made the wing roots between the fuselage and engine nacelles an ideal place to put them.

I think that a Merlin powered DH single engine single seater would run a Mustang-like ventral radiator. By 1942 the Meredith effect was fairly well known, though execution was a bit hit and miss, though knowing about the Mustang and the Mosquito's own radiator design would be a big help there. And for a good Meredith radiator--as well as simple packaging--the fuselage would probably be favored.
For a British airplane you pretty much have got to use a least two 20mm guns plus assorted machine guns. Or plop the standard four 20mm guns and ammo (120rpg?) inside the wings.

Photo of a model
31_img_0470.jpg

Typhoon wing, fuel tank on the left edge of phot, landing gear leg will be forward.
20mm Hispanos need a lot of room, Typhoon held 12 .303s so they was some extra space ;)
You do need some bracing to keep the guns and ammo from sliding around under Hi G maneuvers.
If you want a thin wing you can cut ammo capacity or extend the ammo boxes sideways. Or flip the inner gun over so that it feeds from the left.
Control runs and gun heating duct run behind the spar and are not present. The 20mm guns require a forward mounting point. You also need to route the electrics and possible pneumatics or hydraulics to actuate the guns. Yes you can stuff in some rather wide wooden bits to replace the forward spar. Piece just in front of the ammo boxes in not the true spar, it ends just outboard of the gun bay.

Think about what has to go where (this is not the only way)
 
And IMO wing thickness is why I don't think, even with the Merlin's reduced cooling requirements compared to things like the Griffon or Sabre, that the wing leading edge radiators like on the Mosquito or Hornet would work well. The wings on the Hornet or Mosquito were a bit thicker than a normal single seater's wings, and packaging made the wing roots between the fuselage and engine nacelles an ideal place to put them.
Radiator system on Hornet was catering for 3 things: coolant, oil, and intercooler, one per side. On a 1-engined A/C, the radiators can be distributed on both wings' leading edges, thus fit nicely for the '1/2 Hornet'.
The LE radiators worked just fine on the Tempest I and the Fury, despite the thin wings on these aircraft.
 
Then I have two questions: Would a wing with the profile/thickness of the Vampire or Hornet be applicable to a single seat, single engine fighter powered by a piston engine (Merlin in this case), and could it house not just the radiators, but landing gear (inward retracting and wide track) and 4x20mm cannons (two in each wing) with say 150-200 rpg?

And where would you store the fuel (at least ideally), especially since I'm also looking for this to be a (relatively) long range aircraft (again, the half a Hornet deal, so it can be used as an escort fighter and long range pursuit interceptor).
 
Then I have two questions: Would a wing with the profile/thickness of the Vampire or Hornet be applicable to a single seat, single engine fighter powered by a piston engine (Merlin in this case), and could it house not just the radiators, but landing gear (inward retracting and wide track) and 4x20mm cannons (two in each wing) with say 150-200 rpg?

This is the main shortcoming of the LE radiators on a 1-engined fighter: taking up the CoG-neutral volume.
Relative wing thickness of the Tempest I/Fury was smaller than that of the Hornet, so IMO it should work. Still it was able to hold the stuff you've listed.

And where would you store the fuel (at least ideally), especially since I'm also looking for this to be a (relatively) long range aircraft (again, the half a Hornet deal, so it can be used as an escort fighter and long range pursuit interceptor).

Most in front of the pilot (95-100 imp gals, if we go by what Spitfire held), some in the fuel tank as it was teh case with Bf-109 but probably not the whole 88 imp gal size (less CoG-problematic than the rear fuselage tanks on the Spitfire), with some wing fuel tankage as possibility. Two drop tanks.
Sea Fury cutaway, FWIW; note the oil radiator and wing fuel cells: link
 
Of all the British manufacturers, would Vickers have been the best able to take on a new fighter project mid war?
Vickers was pretty busy early to mid war. Ignoring Supermarine and the Spitfire development and start of Seagull design there were of the top of my head:

Wellington in a variety of versions
Warwick with its engine woes from Vulture/Sabre to P&W Double Wasp to Centaurus
Windsor heavy bomber project from 1941
Type 432 high altitude heavy fighter which first flew in Dec 1942 and cancelled mid 1943 (Welkin competitor)

1944 work began on the Viking airliner.

And of course one of their main designers, Barnes Wallis, had a diversion into bombs for most of the time from 1942.

And a point worth remembering is that the Brabazon Committee to consider future civil types was set up in 1942, and quickly produced an interim report in Feb 1943 and its work continued through until 1945. Industry was closely involved. Design work on various types began in 1944 including the Vickers Viking, DH Dove and from 1943 Geoffrey De Havilland was pushing the Comet type to the Brabazon Committee. So from mid-war thoughts were very definitely turning to the postwar civil market.
 
Obviously I'm sort of partial to the Vampire's wing, given the Vampire's maneuverability (though the Vampire is a good bit heavier than what I'm looking at for a Merlin-powered single seater with one engine). But is it thick enough to house leading edge radiators (not counting the Goblin's engine intakes), and house the fuel and cannon armament, and inward retracting landing gear units (wheels may be fully or partially housed in the fuselage)?
 
Obviously I'm sort of partial to the Vampire's wing, given the Vampire's maneuverability (though the Vampire is a good bit heavier than what I'm looking at for a Merlin-powered single seater with one engine). But is it thick enough to house leading edge radiators (not counting the Goblin's engine intakes), and house the fuel and cannon armament, and inward retracting landing gear units (wheels may be fully or partially housed in the fuselage)?

I'd say yes, on all accounts.
 
Best-case scenario is that the design results with a British P-51D, abilities-wise? About 30 mph faster than Spitfire on same power, 70-100% more of internal fuel, although with 4 cannons instead of 6 HMGs as on the P-51D.
Possible ways to achieve this include a much better radiator design than the Spitfire IX, modern airfoil, fully covered U/C when retracted, shallower/circular windscreen, application of production techniques from Mosquito.

Probably looking like a baby Fury/Tempest ;)


We already had that, in spades, but never ordered it

Martin-Baker_M.B.5_prototype.jpg
 

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