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Aircraft of the Month

DOUGLAS HAVOC

The Havoc was the designation assigned to the Douglas Boston by the US Army Air Corps and to night intruder and fighter variants of the Boston by the RAF. The aircraft evolved during the period 1937-39 as a light bomber; it did not initially impress the Americans but France placed an order for 100 production aircraft, increasing to 270 on war breaking out in September 1939. When Germany attacked France and the Low Countries in 1940, the 64 Bostons available at the time saw service against the advancing enemy before being evacuated to North Africa to prevent capture. The RAF agreed to take up the balance of the French order but, finding its range too limited for raids on Germany, converted some 180 aircraft for night intruder and fighter versions. These were collectively known as the Havoc Mk1.

Various marks of the Havoc were operated by the USAAC from the spring of 1941, by which time its attributes had been recognised. It was much appreciated for its excellent performance and lack of adverse handling characteristics; it was easy to fly and possessed very good manoeuvrability. The aircraft came with a variety of armament options including 4 x 20mm cannon, .303 in Browning or .50 in Colt-Browning machine guns in the nose, 2 x .303 in Browning machine guns mounted dorsally and one x .303 Vickers machine gun mounted ventrally. It could also carry a bomb load of up to 4000 lb. In all, eleven countries operated the aircraft.

RAF Tangmere’s association with the aircraft began in 1941 when Havoc 1s of No 1445 Flight equipped with AI radar were fitted with a searchlight in the nose to illuminate airborne targets for attack by accompanying Hurricane fighters. This operational concept, know as Turbinlite, was not altogether successful in that airborne collisions were many and, with its searchlight switched on, the Havoc made a wonderfully bright target for German gunners. It was nevertheless employed through until mid-summer 1942 when the Mosquito entered service as a night fighter.

A total of 7098 Havocs were produced by Douglas with a further 380 built under licence by Boeing. There are 18 survivors either stored, under restoration or on display at museums around the world with a single machine currently in airworthy condition.

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