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  • Westland Whirlwind Heavy Fighter / Fighter-Bomber

    Impressive when it appeared in the late 1930s, the Westland Whirlwind was all but outmoded by 1943 and primarily doomed by its choice of engine.

     Updated: 8/15/2015; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ¬©www.MilitaryFactory.com

    The Westland Whirlwind became a capable twin-engined, heavy fighter design that might have seen even better service numbers were it not for its selection of Rolls-Royce Peregrine engines. Originally slated to utilize the Rolls-Royce Merlin, the Whirlwind platform was instead relegated to using the underpowered Peregrine for nearly all Merlin stocks were directed to Supermarine Spitfire and Hawker Hurricane fighter production. As a result, the Whirlwind would break into military aviation with much promise but become an obsolete design as soon as June 1944 - replaced by the more capable Hawker Typhoon types in service. Total production of Whirlwinds netted just 116 units.

    The Whirlwind was given an identifiable design with two underslung engine nacelles mounted under low-wing monoplane assemblies. While this elevated cockpit viewing for improved situational awareness, the pilot's vision was still obstructed by the wings and engine housings while also seated aft of a long nose assembly. The fuselage was tubular in its general shape with the tail unit of a T-style arrangement fitting a pair of horizontal planes to either side of a single rudder. Space in the nose section was reserved for a battery of 4 x 20mm cannons. The undercarriage continued the accepted "tail-dragger" three-point form featuring two main landing gear legs and a tail wheel. All were retractable into the airframe.

    Tested as early as 1938 through the P.9 prototype (two completed), the Whirlwind did not see frontline service until 1940 to which it entered the war with some revolutionary design features. Chief among these became use of a "bubble" canopy which promised excellent all-around visibility for the pilot and became a fixture by war's end on several other fighter designs. Leading edge-mounted wing radiators were instituted as well.

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    Westland Whirlwind Mk I Technical Specifications

    Service Year: 1940
    Type: Heavy Fighter / Fighter-Bomber
    National Origin: United Kingdom
    Manufacturer(s): Westland Aircraft Limited - UK
    Production Total: 116

    Structural (Crew Space, Dimensions and Weights)

    Operating Crew: 1
    Length: 32.74 feet (9.98 meters)
    Width: 45.01 feet (13.72 meters)
    Height: 11.55 feet (3.52 meters)

    Weight (Empty): 7,840 lb (3,556 kg)
    Weight (MTOW): 10,269 lb (4,658 kg)

    Installed Power and Standard Day Performance

    Engine(s): 2 x Rolls-Royce Peregrine liquid-cooled piston engines developing 885 horsepower each.

    Maximum Speed: 360 mph (580 kph; 313 knots)
    Maximum Range: 802 miles (1,290 km)
    Service Ceiling: 30,000 feet (9,144 meters; 5.68 miles)
    Rate-of-Climb: 3,000 feet-per-minute (914 m/min)

    Armament / Mission Payload

    STANDARD (Mk I):
    4 x 20mm Hispano cannons in nose

    4 x 20mm Hispano cannons in nose
    2 x 250lb or 500lb conventional drop bombs under the wings.

    Global Operators / Customers

    United Kingdom

    Model Variants (Including Prototypes)

    Mk I - Base Fighter Designation; fitted with 2 x Rolls-Royce Peregrine liquid-cooled piston engines delivering 885hp each.

    Mk II - Fighter-Bomber Variant; fitted with 2 x Rolls-Royce Peregrine 12-cylinder V-type engines delivering 765hp each; up to 1,000lbs of bombs.