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  • Martin-Baker MB.5 Fighter Prototype

    The Martin-Baker MB.5 design was the best to come from the company during World War 2 - though only a single prototype was ever realized.

     Updated: 10/26/2015; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ¬©www.MilitaryFactory.com

    Martin-Baker, who would go one to become a well-known aircraft ejection seat-maker, originally was in the business of aircraft-making, establishing operations in 1929 and becoming the "Martin-Baker" brand in 1934. Its first foray into aircraft design became the civilian market MB.1 which incorporated weigh-savings construction and low-maintenance/operational requirements to produce a lighter, cheaper-to-produce airframe for serial manufacture. The sole prototype was lost to a fire but paved the way for a series of military fighter-minded machines to come.

    The MB.2 continued the construction techniques employed in the MB.1 and was evolved along the lines of a possible fighter for service in the Royal Air Force (RAF). The design was not adopted after it showed little improvement over competing types already in service which led to the MB.3, the most modern offering to date for Martin-Baker and, again, developed to a standing Air Ministry fighter requirement. However, just one of the three ordered MB.3 series aircraft flew and this sole example crashed during a test flight - taking the life of company co-founder Valentine Baker with it. From there, the MB.4 was briefly entertained on paper as a Rolls-Royce Griffon-powered fighter retaining many of the physical features of the earlier MB.3. However, this fighter only appeared in drawings and was never seriously furthered.

    The culmination of the MB line arrived with the MB.5 - the definitive model in the Martin-Baker wartime family of fighter prototypes - and continued the evolution of the aircraft that began with the MB.1 some time earlier. Its sole prototype actually emerged from the MB.3's development for it was formed from the second - incomplete - prototype that was revised to a newer standard and finished as the impressive MB.5. The aircraft was constructed during early 1944 with the prospect that this product could still fulfill a fighter requirement for the Air Ministry - even though several major participants, namely the Supermarine Spitfire, were holding their own in the advancing war.

    The key shift in the MB.5's design approach was the installation of the Rolls-Royce Griffon 83 series liquid-cooled engine of 2,340 horsepower - the most powerful to be fitted to any Martin-Baker aircraft up to this point. Indeed, the Griffon was originally intended for the MB.3 but the powerplant remained in-development and the Merlin was substituted instead (even then, the finalized MB.3 ultimately carried a Napier-branded engine). First flight of the MB.5 prototype was finally had on May 23rd, 1944.

    The resulting design was sleeker and more modern in appearance than even the MB.3 before it. The fuselage was well-streamlined from "spinner to tail". The engine, mounted ahead of the single-seat cockpit, drove a pair of three-bladed propeller units in contra-rotating fashion. Up to this point, Martin-Baker fighters employed either two- or three-bladed propeller units in conventional arrangements. The cockpit itself was fitted slightly ahead of midships and utilized a largely unobstructed canopy which provided excellent vision for the pilot. An air scoop was featured under the belly (ala the North American P-51 "Mustang" fighter) and the tail unit incorporated a single vertical tail fin and mid-mounted horizontal planes as seen in previous Martin-Baker aircraft. The undercarriage was wholly retractable as it was in the MB.3, their design somewhat reminiscent of the Supermarine Spitfire (though with a noticeably wider track).

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    Martin-Baker MB.5 Technical Specifications

    Service Year: 1944
    Type: Fighter Prototype
    National Origin: United Kingdom
    Manufacturer(s): Martin-Baker - UK
    Production Total: 1

    Structural (Crew Space, Dimensions and Weights)

    Operating Crew: 1
    Length: 37.73 feet (11.5 meters)
    Width: 35.10 feet (10.70 meters)
    Height: 14.76 feet (4.50 meters)

    Weight (Empty): 9,237 lb (4,190 kg)
    Weight (MTOW): 12,092 lb (5,485 kg)

    Installed Power and Standard Day Performance

    Engine(s): 1 x Rolls-Royce Griffin 83 V-12 liquid-cooled inline piston engine developing 2,340 horsepower driving 2 x three-bladed propeller units in contra-rotating fashion.

    Maximum Speed: 460 mph (740 kph; 400 knots)
    Maximum Range: 1,100 miles (1,770 km)
    Service Ceiling: 39,993 feet (12,190 meters; 7.57 miles)
    Rate-of-Climb: 3,800 feet-per-minute (1,158 m/min)

    Armament / Mission Payload

    PROPOSED (never fitted):
    4 x 20mm Hispano Mk II cannons in wings.

    Global Operators / Customers

    United Kingdom (cancelled)

    Model Variants (Including Prototypes)

    MB.5 - Base Series Designation; sole prototype completed and ultimately scrapped.