Handley Page Hampden Medium Bomber / Night Bomber / Maritime Patrol Aircraft
On the whole, the Handley Page Hampden offered limited value to the Allies during the early going of World War 2.
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In 1932, the British Air Ministry sent out Specification B.9/32 calling for a high performance, twin-engine, medium-class bomber. This led to three primary submissions being reviewed - the Bristol Type 131, the Vickers Crecy (to become the Vickers Wellington), and the Handley Page HP.52 (Hampden). The Handley Page design was ordered in prototype form and, when completed, recorded a first flight on June 21st, 1935. The design was thought well enough of that a production contract followed for Hampden Mk. I models and development eventually led to trials occurring in 1938. Production spanned from 1936 to 1941 with a total of 1,430 being built (some sources read 1,532).
The finalized Hampden product featured a slim, though deep, fuselage with stepped single-seat cockpit and heavily glazed nose section. The total crew complement numbered four and included the pilot, navigator/bombardier, and dedicated gunners (one of whom doubled as the radioman). The cockpit held a greenhouse-style canopy while additional glazed positions were found at the dorsal and ventral sections of the rear fuselage for the defensive machine gun emplacements. The Hampden was given a rather unique shape as interwar bombers go, featuring a thin tail unit extending aft to which was seated a twin vertical tail assembly at the extreme rear of the design. This stem allowed for both a dorsal and ventral gun position to be featured along the aft section of the fuselage - providing good views for the guns. The wing mainplanes were mid-mounted with each housing a radial piston engine along the leading edge while driving three-bladed propellers. The undercarriage was wheeled and wholly retractable while arranged in a tail-dragger configuration (giving the aircraft a pronounced "nose-up" attitude when on the ground).
Performance came from 2 x Bristol Pegasus XVIII 9-cylinder radial piston engines of 1,000 horsepower each. This supplied the airframe with a maximum speed of 250 miles per hour, a cruising speed of around 200 miles per hour, a range out to 1,720 miles, and a service ceiling of up to 19,000 feet. At one point, the original B.9/32 specification was revised to include use of the Rolls-Royce "Goshawk" V12 engine but this requirement was later dropped and just twenty of the engines were produced in all.
Defensive armament was entirely machine gun-based: 1 x 7.7mm Browning M1919 machine gun was set in a fixed, forward-firing position over the nose while another 7.7mm machine gun was set on a trainable mounting looking down from the lower nose windscreen. The dorsal and ventral aft positions each managed a single 7.7mm Vickers K machine gun - also on trainable mounts. All told, this was intended to provide maximum coverage against intercepting enemy fighters though wartime experience would show that the aircraft was truly under-gunned for daylight work. Also its machine guns were directed by hand and not power-assisted in any way.