This is the Hawker P.1127 VSTOL Experimental Aircraft, serial number XP831 (the first prototype), by Hawker Siddeley Aircraft Company Limited, British, 1960, on display at the Science Museum.
The Hawker P.1127 and the Hawker Siddeley Kestrel FGA.1 are the British experimental and development aircraft that led to the Hawker Siddeley Harrier, the first vertical and/or short take-off and landing (V/STOL) jet fighter-bomber.
Development began in 1957, taking advantage of the Bristol Engine Company’s choice to invest in the creation of the Pegasus vectored-thrust engine. Testing began in July 1960 and by the end of the year the aircraft had achieved both vertical take-off and horizontal flight. The test program also explored the possibility of use upon aircraft carriers, landing on HMS Ark Royal in 1963. The first three aircraft crashed during testing, one at the 1963 Paris Air Show.
Improvements to future development aircraft, such as swept wings and more powerful Pegasus engines, led to the development of the Kestrel. The Kestrel was evaluated by the Tri-partite Evaluation Squadron, made up of military pilots from the United Kingdom, the United States, and West Germany. Later flights were conducted by the U.S. military and NASA.
Related work on a supersonic aircraft, the Hawker Siddeley P.1154, was cancelled in 1965. As a result, the P.1127 (RAF), a variant more closely based on the Kestrel, was ordered into production that year, and named Harrier – the name originally intended for the P.1154 – in 1967. The Harrier served with the UK and several nations, often as a carrier-based aircraft.
P.1127 XP831 is on display at The Science Museum in London.
The Spitfire is the most famous British fighter aircraft in history. It won immortal fame during the summer months of 1940 by helping to defeat the German air attacks during the Battle of Britain.
1566 Spitfire Is were built and the oldest surviving example is at RAF Cosford. The prototype made its first flight four years earlier as Britain’s industry geared up to re-arm against the threat from Nazi Germany. From the beginning pilots recognised it as a thoroughbred combining a perfection of design with superb handling characteristics.
Perhaps the greatest compliment paid to this aircraft was made at the height of the Battle of Britain by a German ace, who in a moment of anger and frustration, turned to his Commander in Chief and demanded a squadron of Spitfires!
Supermarine Spitfire Mk I at RAF London
There is also a Spitfire Mk 1 at RAF Cosford.
The Gloster E.28/39, (also referred to as the Gloster Whittle, Gloster Pioneer, or Gloster G.40) was the first British jet-engined aircraft and first flew in 1941. It was the fourth jet to fly, after two German and one Italian jet aircraft.
The prototype continued test flying until 1944, after which it was withdrawn from service; in 1946, it was transferred to the Science Museum in London, where it has been on static display ever since.
The V-1 was the first of the so-called “Vengeance weapons” series deployed for the terror bombing of London. It was developed at Peenemünde Army Research Center in 1939 by the Luftwaffe. Because of its limited range, the thousands of V-1 missiles launched into England were fired from launch facilities along the French (Pas-de-Calais) and Dutch coasts. The Wehrmacht first launched the V-1s against London on 13 June 1944, one week after (and prompted by) the successful Allied landings in France.
I’ve always thought that either a Dutch or French Resistance or UK Commando raid on a V1 base to stop them launching would make for an interesting game. Why send in ground troops when a bombing raid would work just as well? Then I was thinking about adding in the complication of a chemical or biological armed V1 that would need to be taken care of on the ground. There were some real raids on V1 bases as part of Operation Crossbow, which was the code name in World War II for Anglo-American operations against the German long range reprisal weapons (V-weapons) programme. In 1965 a film Operation Crossbow, based on these raids, was released.
V1 and Launcher Ramp at IWM Duxford.
V-1 flying bomb at IWM London.
The Hurricane will always be remembered for the vital role it played, with its partner the Spitfire, in hectic battles during the summer of 1940. Hurricanes destroyed more enemy aircraft during the Battle of Britain than did all the other air and ground defences combined.
Designed by the Hawker Aircraft Company in 1934 it first entered service in 1937. It provided the RAF with a fighter 160kph (100mph) faster than aircraft then in service; with an increased fire power of eight machine guns.
When war was declared, on the 3 September 1939, about five-hundred Hurricanes were in service and several squadrons were sent to France. During the 1940 German Blitzkrieg through the Low Countries and France they fought a punishing rearguard action in which over 25% of all Fighter Command’s aircraft were destroyed.
As the Battle of Britain raged in the skies overhead aircraft production increased so that by September 1940 the number of Hurricane squadrons had risen from eighteen, a year earlier, to thirty-two.
Later in the War Hurricanes made a significant contribution to the defence of Malta, the desert war in North Africa and war against the Japanese in the Far East.
This Mark 1 Hurricane on display at the Science Museum was built in 1938. Served with the RAF, but was shot down on 18th August 1940 crash landing at Croydon.
Hawker Hurricane Mk I at RAF London.
Hawker Hurricane Mk IIb at the Imperial War Museum Duxford.
Hawker Hurricane Mk IIc at RAF Cosford.
The Messerschmitt Me 163 Komet was a German rocket-powered interceptor aircraft.
This one was on display at the Science Museum.
It is the only rocket-powered fighter aircraft ever to have been operational and the first piloted aircraft of any type to exceed 621 mph in level flight.
Over 300 Komets were built, but the aircraft proved lacklustre in its dedicated role as an interceptor and destroyed between 9 and 18 Allied aircraft against 10 losses.
There is a Messerschmitt Me 163 Komet at RAF Cosford.
The Vickers Vimy was a British heavy bomber aircraft developed and manufactured by Vickers Limited. Developed during the latter stages of the First World War to equip the Royal Flying Corps.
Only a handful of Vickers Vimy aircraft had entered service by the time the Armistice of 11 November 1918 came into effect, so the type did not serve in active combat operations during the war, but the Vimy became the core of the Royal Air Force’s heavy bomber force throughout the 1920s.
During the interwar period the Vimy set several records for long-distance flights, the most celebrated and significant of these being the first non-stop crossing of the Atlantic Ocean, performed by John Alcock and Arthur Brown in June 1919. It is this Vickers Vimy which is on display at the Science Museum. It was specially constructed for the attempt, with additional fuel tanks to extend its range and a revised undercarriage.
The Vickers Vimy was in frontline service until 1929 and then continued in secondary roles until 1938.
You could imagine in a 1930s A Very British Civil War, the Vickers Vimy being used by different forces as bombers, despite their age and vulnerability.