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de Havilland DH.103 Hornet / Sea Hornet Twin-Engine Long Range Fighter (1946)

Authored By Staff Writer | Last Updated: 1/17/2013

The de Havilland D.H.103 Hornet series was an exceptional aircraft, arriving just too late to see any worthy action in World War 2.

From the outset, the de Havilland D.H.103 Hornet" was designed to a British requirement of a twin-engine, long-range fighter-bomber capable of operations in the Far East. With the specification having been drawn up by 1943, it was decided upon using the stellar design of the de Havilland D.H.98 Mosquitos as the basis for the Hornet. The Mosquito had already proven itself for years since the Battle of Britain and the Hornet was to utilize the same strengths of that airframe and then some, becoming the fastest twin piston-engine fighter-bomber class aircraft of World War 2.

Sharing some visual similarities to the Mosquito design, the Hornet featurd some internal differences. Chief among them was the deletion of the second pilot, leaving this new twin-engine design under the sole control of just one personnel. Power was to be brought about by two Rolls-Royce Merlin engines delivering a whopping 2,000 horsepower each and propelling the Hornet to speeds in excess of 466 miles per hour. Armament was a battery of 4 x Hispano 20mm cannon with the second production models adding the element of additional underwing hardpoints for drop tanks, rockets and up to 2,000lbs of bombs.

The initial Hornet prototype took flight in 1944 to high acclaim, particularly in the areas of handling. Performance from the Merlin engines was found to be outstanding as well, leading up to first deliveries of the Hornet in 1945. Though appearing in production form by war's end, the system arrived too late and in too few numbers in that effort to be used at all and instead saw itself fielded in quantity a full year later.

The definitive land-based Hornet turned out to be the F.Mk 3 (or F.3) model, this one featuring the aforementioned underwing stores. Additional models built upon the aircraft would include a reconnaissance model. A spin-off "navalized" variant developed for the British Fleet Air Arm would comprise the designation of "Sea Hornet", leading to the model in basic fighter-bomber, nightfighter (twin seat derivative) and photographic reconnaissance forms.

Despite missing combat action in the Second World War, the D.H.103 design was a success, fulfilling important needs in a post-war Britain nonetheless. The system did go on to excel in ground attack sorties in Malaya and would see operational service up until 1955, where the last Hornet was deactivated.

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Specifications for the
de Havilland DH.103 Hornet / Sea Hornet
Twin-Engine Long Range Fighter

Focus Model: de Havilland DH.103 Hornet F.3
Country of Origin: United Kingdom
Manufacturer: de Havilland - UK
Initial Year of Service: 1946
Production: 458

Crew: 1

Length: 36.65 ft (11.17 m)
Width: 44.98 ft (13.71 m)
Height: 14.17ft (4.32 m)
Weight (Empty): 12,502 lb (5,671 kg)
Weight (MTOW): 16,100 lb (7,303 kg)

Powerplant: 2 x Rolls-Royce Merlin 130/131 liquid-cooled V-12 piston engines generating 2,030hp each.

Maximum Speed: 466 mph (750 kmh; 405 kts)
Maximum Range: 2,499 miles (4,022 km)
Service Ceiling: 37,500 ft (11,430 m; 7.1 miles)
Rate-of-Climb: 0 feet-per-minute (0 m/min)

Hardpoints: 4
Armament Suite:
4 x 20mm Hispano cannons
8 x RP (60lbs ea)

Up to 2,000lbs of externally-carried bombs.

D.H.98 "Mosquito" - Base Twin-Engine Model on which the D.H.103 series was based on.

F.Mk 1 (F.1) "Hornet" - Initial Production Model Series Designation; 60 examples produced.

F.Mk 3 (F.3) - Fitted with dorsal "fillet"; increased fuel capacity; external hardpoints for fuel drop tanks or bombs.

FR.Mk 4 (F.4) - Base Reconnaissance Model Variant; decreased fuel capacity for camera equipment storage in rear of fuselage.

F.Mk 20 "Sea Hornet" - Navalized Variant for service with the Fleet Air Arm (FAA); 78 examples produced based on the F.Mk 3 land version.

NF.Mk 21 - Twin-Seat Nightfighter Variant; based on the F.Mk 20; fitted with radar system in a revised nose assembly.

PR.Mk 22 - Photographic Reconnaissance Model; armament removed in favor of camera equipment.

PR.Mk 23 - Photographic Reconnaissance Model Variant based on the F.Mk 20 series; fitted with either twin night cameras or a single daytime camera.

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