Miles M.20 Low-Cost Monoplane Fighter Prototype
The Miles M.20 lightweight fighter was intended to be mass-produced as an emergency measure - only two prototypes were completed before the end.
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Victory for Britain in the early stages of World War 2 (1939-1945) was not assured and this led the nation to invest in many programs to meet emerging wartime requirements. One issue at hand was the shortage of capable frontline fighters of modern design, the current stable made up of prewar Hawker Hurricanes and Supermarine Spitfires which were capable aircraft but there was no guarantee of their availability if war material or production was disrupted by German bombers.
Back in 1938, Frederick George Miles, technical lead at Phillips & Powis Aircraft Ltd (to become Miles Aircraft in 1943), penciled out a low-cost, wooden single-seat, single-engine monoplane fighter on his Miles "Master" - a low-wing monoplane trainer of which some 3,250 were ultimately built for the Royal Air Force and foreign customers. The gull-wing planform was retained in the new design and power would be served from a Rolls-Royce "Peregrine I" series inline engine fitted at front. Work continued on the design, which now carried the company model designation of "M.20" and a mockup was constructed in an effort to sell the type to the British government who gearing up for war. The aircraft was looked over during late June of 1939, prior to Britain's entry into World War 2, but interest was low and the design ultimately passed on.
Everything changed in September when Germany crossed into Poland and forced Britain and France into a new World War in Europe. When France fell to the German onslaught, all of the pressure fell, in turn, to Britain which ultimately led to the "Battle of Britain" - the grand air war which saved the Empire and sent German warplanners an uncharacteristic defeat.
The Miles company had continued work on the M.20 and, in June of 1940, delivered its revised M.20/2. Air Ministry interest was now piqued and this led to an important meeting in July to forward the M.20 project some. A window of three months was assigned to the design team and a contract was given for a single flyable prototype to be completed. There were also restrictions to further challenge the group and this included use of an existing engine (the Rolls-Royce Merlin XX became the front-runner) and other fighter aircraft related components. The aircraft would have to feature a fixed wheeled undercarriage to simplify operation, rely heavily on wood in its construction (metal was a fast becoming a rare available material), and there would have to be a complete lack of complex hydraulics to simplify construction.
Beyond all this, the Air Ministry also was looking for an aircraft with very modern fighter-like performance. Required speeds were in the 350 mile-per-hour-range and a service ceiling of 32,000 feet was envisioned. For armament, it was requested that the fighter carry four 0.303 machine guns in each wing for a total of eight guns.
The specification written to cover the new design became F.19/40.
Miles engineers returned with an admirable design considering the restrictions heaped upon the project and the limited timeline. A well-streamlined wooden fuselage was developed with the engine fitted to the front using the original Bristol Beaufighter engine mounting. A useful bubble-style canopy covered the single-seat cockpit which sat near midships and offered excellent vision save for over the nose. The wing mainplanes were slightly ahead of midships and given elegant lines that included curved tips. The tail unit was conventional overall and sat a single vertical fin between two low-mounted tailplane units. The fixed undercarriage was spatted at the two main legs for aerodynamic efficiency and a tail wheel supported the rear section of the aircraft when on the ground. A large spinner was fitted at the nose as part of the three-bladed propeller with an air scoop showcased under the nose.