Aircraft of the Month
DE HAVILLAND VAMPIRE
The de Havilland Vampire was a British single jet-engine fighter developed during the Second World War and emanated from an Air Ministry invitation to design an airframe for the new H1 jet engine (later known as the Goblin). A twin boom arrangement kept the jet pipe short and thus avoided the power loss associated with the long pipe necessary in a conventional fuselage. A first all-metal design was modified to a mixed wood and metal construction exploiting the company’s experience in Mosquito production and was designated the DH 100 “Spider Crab” in November 1941. Work began on two prototypes in mid-1942 and the first of these took to the air on 20th September 1943 with Geoffrey de Havilland, the company’s chief test pilot at the controls.
The aircraft was still being developed 18 months later and consequently did not see combat in the Second World War; indeed the first production machine did not fly until April 1945. Now re-named the Vampire, it entered service with the RAF in early 1946 as a ground-attack fighter-bomber.
The Vampire set a number of records during the immediate post-war years. It was the first RAF fighter with a top speed exceeding 500 mph, the first jet aircraft to take off from and land on an aircraft carrier, it set a new world altitude record of 59,446 ft and, on 14th July 1948, became the first jet aircraft to fly across the Atlantic.
Improved variants were developed with the Vampire Mk 1 and Mk 3 being superseded by the definitive RAF front line machine, the Fighter-Bomber Mk5 (FB5). Powered by the Goblin III, this aircraft could carry an external fuel tank or 500 lb bomb under each wing together with 8 x 3in rocket projectiles on attachments inboard of the booms. At its peak, the FB5 equipped 19 RAF squadrons. In the Far East theatre it undertook attack missions during the Malayan campaigns of the late 1940s/early1950s.
Whilst the RAF withdrew the Vampire from the front line in the mid-1950s, the two seat T11, of which some 730 were built, continued to serve as the primary advanced jet trainer until eventually replaced by the Folland Gnat in 1963, and in a variety of other training roles until 1966. A total of 3,268 aircraft of different variants were built and it served in no fewer than 31 air forces. Several examples remain airworthy today and many others are on static display in museums worldwide.
Vampire T11 XH313 is owned by the Museum.