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  • Miles M.39B (Libellula) Experimental Bomber Prototype

    One of the more interesting aircraft arrangements to be considered by the British during World War 2 - the Miles Libellula.

     Updated: 8/6/2015; Authored By Captain Jack; Content ¬©www.MilitaryFactory.com

    The M.39 "Libellula" was conceived of by the Miles Aircraft concern during the early 1940s as World War 2 (1939-1945) raged on. The initial concept was to reduce the complexity of landing aircraft on carrier decks where vision was largely obscured by the forward-mounted engine and large wing mainplanes. A new approach was undertaken which intended to reduce the risks involved and this became a "tandem-wing" arrangement that ultimately covered a series of concepts for Miles during the war. However, none of the concepts were realized through serial production contracts though M.39B was built and flown as a prototype.

    Collectively, the designs making up this Miles endeavor were named "Libellula", the taxonomic family name of the dragonfly (no doubt in reference to the Miles' aircraft use of twin wing mainplanes).

    The original work on the subject was through the M.35 offering which was more or less a technology demonstrator for a single-seat naval fighter. It was developed along the lines of a private venture by Miles and its tandem-wing arrangement was used to reassess the Center of Gravity (CoG) seen in traditionally-arranged military aircraft (mainplane at front with tailplanes at rear). The tandem-wing approach allowed for a greater CoG range between the two wing mainplanes in play and could, theoretically, produce some inherent benefits - a shortened fuselage and more contained wingspan for onboard carrier storage (as well as reduced weight), less complex wings as wing-folding mechanisms would not have to be used, and improved control from the "doubling up" of control surfaces along the wing pairing.

    Covering the short span of six weeks, Miles engineers returned with the M.35. This aircraft was powered by a single de Havilland Gipsy Major air-cooled inline engine of 130 horsepower and featured a wingspan of 20 feet at the frontal mainplane and 20.5 feet at the rear mainplane. Overall length was 20.3 feet and maximum weight reached 2,000 pounds. The cockpit was held at the extreme forward of the fuselage and offered excellent vision. The frontal wing mainplane was shoulder-mounted and of a straight design whilst the rear mainplane was low-mounted and featured sweepback. Vertical fins were affixed to the rear mainplane's tips. The engine was buried in the rear portion of the fuselage and arranged in a "pusher" configuration. A pseudo-tricycle undercarriage was fitted though a forth leg was situated at the extreme rear to protect the aft sections of the aircraft. In testing the engine proved temperamental and longitudinal control was off. Despite this, the design proved to shed some light on the unorthodox arrangement which would help with future work in the field.

    The work was furthered into a new design which was of 5/8th scale and designated as M.39B. The aircraft would serve as a single-seat demonstrator and be powered by a pair of de Havilland Gipsy Major IC air-cooled inline engines of 130 horsepower each - these showcased as outboard nacelles hung under each rear wing mainplane. The frontal mainplane was now fitted low against the sides of the cockpit. The fuselage was given a finely contoured shape from nose to tail. A tricycle undercarriage - now in the traditional sense -was fitted.

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    Miles M.39B Technical Specifications

    Service Year: 1943
    Type: Experimental Bomber Prototype
    National Origin: United Kingdom
    Manufacturer(s): Miles Aircraft - UK
    Production Total: 1

    Structural (Crew Space, Dimensions and Weights)

    Operating Crew: 1
    Length: 22.15 feet (6.75 meters)
    Width: 37.57 feet (11.45 meters)
    Height: 9.25 feet (2.82 meters)

    Weight (Empty): 2,403 lb (1,090 kg)
    Weight (MTOW): 2,800 lb (1,270 kg)

    Installed Power and Standard Day Performance

    Engine(s): 2 x de Havilland Gipsy Major IC inline piston engines developing 130 horsepower each.

    Maximum Speed: 166 mph (267 kph; 144 knots)
    Rate-of-Climb: 1,100 feet-per-minute (335 m/min)

    Armament / Mission Payload

    PROPOSED (M.39 Bomber Project):
    2 x 20mm cannons in wings (one to a wing)

    OPTIONAL (M.39 Bomber Project):
    Conventional drop bombs up to 6,000 pounds in an internal bomb bay.

    Global Operators / Customers

    United Kingdom (cancelled)

    Model Variants (Including Prototypes)

    M.35 - Initial single-seat carrier fighter demonstrator; one example completed; fitted with 1 x de Havilland Gipsy Major engine of 130 horsepower in pusher configuration.

    M.39B - Technology Demonstrator; one example completed; fitted with 2 x de Havilland Gipsy Major IC engines of 130 horsepower each; central dorsal vertical tail fin.

    M.39 Project - Three-seat, high-speed bomber proposal; fitted with either 2 x Rolls-Royce 61 engines or 3 x Power Jets W.2/500 gas turbine engines; increased dimensions and performance; armament of 2 x 20mm cannons and 6,000lb bomb load (internal).

    M.63 - Proposed high-speed mailplane; 3 x jet engines in rear fuselage; not built.