Martin-Baker MB.3 Fighter Prototype
The Martin-Baker MB.3 was a further evolution of the MB.2 incorporating all of the lessons learned from the earlier design.
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The original Martin-Baker MB.1 civilian-minded lightweight aircraft was lost in a fire that claimed the prototype. MB.2 was developed to an Air Ministry requirement as a fighter and continued the weight-savings construction process employed in the MB.1 but this design offered no new advancements over the existing stable of Royal Air Force (RAF) and Royal Navy (RN) fighters so this offering gradually fell to aviation history. Martin-Baker continued evolving its aircraft line which ultimately included the more practical MB.3, a fighter developed to Air Ministry Specification F.18/39 of May 1939 and three such aircraft were ordered for construction.
The new requirement called for a higher performance aircraft than previously attempted by Martin-Baker. The minimum top speed was 400 miles per hour and the engine of choice was to become the Rolls-Royce "Griffon" inline which was still in development (resulting in the Rolls-Royce "Merlin" to be fitted for the interim). The aircraft would carry the key qualities established in the MB.1 and MB.2 - namely its lightweight and simplified construction process which eased maintenance, repair and general operation of the aircraft.
Martin-Baker engineers went to work on the new aircraft, MB.3, in 1938 to fulfill the three-strong aircraft order. When Britain entered into World War (1939-1945) with Germany in September of 1939, the project was delayed as Martin-Baker was forced to fulfill other more pertinent RAF production requests, manufacturing various aircraft components to serve the war effort. Despite the availability of the three requested Rolls-Royce Merlin engines, the first prototype was completed with the Napier "Sabre II" 24-cylinder H-type liquid-cooled inline engine of 2,020 horsepower.
The resulting design surely proved the most modern Martin-Baker aircraft in appearance to date. The frame was well-streamlined and housed the inline engine at the nose with the cockpit set over midships with generally decent views of the action ahead. The long nose and large-area mainplanes defeated some vision out-of-the-cockpit but its configuration was conventional for the period. A raised fuselage spine offered greater internal space but, again, retarded views to the critical rear quarters of the aircraft. The tail unit was capped by a single vertical fin and mid-mounted horizontal planes. The undercarriage, fixed and faired over in the MB.2, was now of a more modern appearance and wholly retractable (including the tailwheel). The Napier engine drove a three-bladed propeller unit as opposed to the MB.2's two-bladed form. The cockpit canopy and entry/exit into the aircraft was reminiscent of the classic Supermarine Spitfire.