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

Authored By Staff Writer | Last Updated: 10/26/2015

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

The de Havilland DH.98 "Mosquito" achieved a tremendous level of success for its part in World War 2 (1939-1945) and managed a useful existence even into the post-war period. Nearly 8,000 of its kind were produced from the period spanning 1940 until 1950 and the series proved one of the more versatile in the whole of the war. Over-battlefield roles ranged from light bombing and interdiction to night-fighter and reconnaissance. The "Wooden Wonder" - nicknamed so because of its heavy reliance on wood in the base construction scheme employed - made itself a legend in the conflict and went on to stock the inventories of several of the major wartime participants, additionally serving with foreign powers into the Cold War (1947-1991) period.

This pedigree and wartime experience served de Havilland engineers well when a new twin-engined heavy fighter design was sought. As a private venture offering, the new aircraft was intended for sale to the British military for its expected extended participation in World War 2 to come after the fall of Germany - attention would naturally b paid to the destruction of Japan in the Pacific. Unlike the DH.98, the new model would be developed for both land- and carrier-based operations which called for a design with excellent handling at low and high speeds as well as good situational awareness from-the-cockpit for the single operating pilot (the DH.98 used two crew). Additionally, storage space would have to be taken into account for service aboard British carriers requiring an aircraft with folding wing structures.

The Air Ministry Specification F.12/43 was the formal requirement calling for a long-range fighter platform to serve in Far East actions and this ultimately became the DH.103 "Hornet" / "Sea Hornet" line.

While similar in appearance to the Mosquito aircraft, the Hornet brought along advances in technology and qualities influenced by the design process of the DH.98 and its subsequent manufacture and operational experience. The wings were of an all-new approach and made thinner with new skinning added atop the mixed-wood construction. Additionally they contained a hinged function which allowed them to be folded for carrier stowage while sporting "clipped" tips unlike the rounded ones as seen in the Mosquito. Rolls-Royce "Merlin" series engines were selected to power the design and a slimmer profile nacelle was used to house them. The wing mainplanes were fitted ahead of midships, as was the cockpit, and the nacelles (mounted under the wings) ran ahead of the wing leading edges and extended to the trailing edges. A large, unobstructed canopy shell covered the cockpit which promoted the required excellent vision for the pilot. Cockpit armoring was standard for improved survivability of the pilot and his machine.

The tail unit saw the streamlined fuselage taper elegantly to the rear to which a sole vertical fin was added. Horizontal planes were installed along the tail stem just under the fin. The undercarriage remained a "tail dragger" arrangement but sufficiently reinforced for carrier deck service and of a lower height for improved ground running on a carrier deck. Unlike previous British twin-engine designs, the DH.103's propeller units rotated in opposite directions and this proved useful in cancelling out the naturally occurring torque effect of a single spinning propeller - making for a more stable aircraft in flight.

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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.Mk 1
Country of Origin: United Kingdom
Manufacturer: de Havilland - UK
Initial Year of Service: 1946
Production Total: 383

Crew: 1

Length: 35.50 ft (10.82 m)
Width: 45.01 ft (13.72 m)
Height: 14.17ft (4.32 m)
Weight (Empty): 11,299 lb (5,125 kg)
Weight (MTOW): 18,254 lb (8,280 kg)

Powerplant: 2 x Rolls-Royce Merlin 130/131 liquid-cooled V-12 inline piston engines developing 2,070 horsepower each and driving four-bladed propellers.

Maximum Speed: 475 mph (765 kmh; 413 kts)
Maximum Range: 1,482 miles (2,385 km)
Service Ceiling: 41,503 ft (12,650 m; 7.9 miles)
Rate-of-Climb: 5,000 feet-per-minute (1,524 m/min)

Hardpoints: 2
Armament Suite:
4 x 20mm Hispano V cannons under the fuselage

8 x RP-3 60lb unguided rockets; 2 x 1,000 lb conventional drop bombs OR 2 x Fuel drop tanks.

DH.103 "Hornet" - Base Series Designation for land-based RAF versions.

F.Mk 1 (F.1) - 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; decreased fuel capacity for camera equipment storage in rear of fuselage.

DH.103 "Sea Hornet" - Base Series Designation for Royal Navy variants.

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.

United Kingdom