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Hawker Nimrod

Naval Biplane Fighter

The Hawker Nimrod was born in the latter half of the 1920s and managed a career leading up to World War 2 in the late 1930s.
Authored By: Staff Writer | Edited: 6/26/2016
National Flag Graphic


Year: 1933
Manufacturer(s): Hawker Aircraft - UK
Production: 92
Capabilities: Fighter; Navy/Maritime;
Crew: 1
Length: 26.54 ft (8.09 m)
Width: 33.56 ft (10.23 m)
Height: 9.84 ft (3 m)
Weight (Empty): 3,120 lb (1,415 kg)
Weight (MTOW): 4,057 lb (1,840 kg)
Power: 1 x Rolls-Royce Kestrel V engine developing 608 horsepower.
Speed: 193 mph (310 kph; 167 kts)
Ceiling: 28,002 feet (8,535 m; 5.3 miles)
Range: 304 miles (490 km; 265 nm)
Operators: Denmark; Imperial Japan (evaluation); Portugal (evaluation); United Kingdom
The 1920s ushered in an all-new era of flight as the industry saw a boom from the post-World War 1 years. However, before the all-metal planes of the 1930s took their place in aviation history, there stood a period of "mixed-construction" biplane aircraft which saw a combining of metal structures and fabric skinning. For the Hawker concern, a slew of such biplanes emerged in the decades leading up to World War 2 (1939-1945) with one of these becoming the Hawker "Hoopoe" of 1928.

The Hoopoe marked Hawker's first foray into the realm of a single-seat, single-engine navy fighter when it was realized as a private venture. However, the design was lacking in power and further work to increase output came too late as attention had moved on the Hawker "Nimrod" - whose design was credited to Sydney Camm - for possible sale to the Fleet Air Arm (FAA).

While in appearance the Nimrod followed the design lines of the classic Hawker Fury, it was more closely associated to the aforementioned Hoopoe. As expected, metal construction was meshed with fabric skinning to complete her and a single-bay biplane wing arrangement of unequal span was used. The pilot sat in an open-air cockpit which was set just under and aft of the upper wing element. The undercarriage sported a pair of wheels under the center mass of the aircraft and the frame was supported at the rear by way of a tail skid. The engine was mounted in the nose as usual and drove a two-bladed propeller. The empennage was made up of a traditional arrangement featuring a sole vertical fin and a pair of horizontal planes.

The Nimrod would be armed through 2 x 0.303 Vickers machine guns in fixed, forward-firing positions over the nose (just ahead of the pilot's position). The guns were designed to fire through the spinning propeller blades by way of interrupter gear. Beyond its fixed armament, the airframe was also cleared to carry up to 4 x 20lb conventional drop bombs.

Specification 16/30 covered the new Nimrod fighter and a first flight was had in 1930 with power stemming from a Rolls-Royce "Kestrel II MS" engine of 477 horsepower. A production-quality version was then officially flown on October 14th, 1931 for the first time to which an FAA order for 35 of the type followed. Because of the flexibility built into the Nimrod design, the land-based airplane could be relatively easily converted to floatplane form. This was proven through the second completed production-quality form which was fitted with a floatplane undercarriage (twin float arrangement).

Initial production models were designated "Nimrod I" and numbered 57 in all. Then came 28 "Nimrod II" models which moved on to the Rolls-Royce "Kestrel V" series engine of 608 horsepower to help increase performance. The wings were also swept-back some for better aerodynamic efficiency.

The Nimrod series went on to have a healthy service life with the FAA. Introduced in 1933, it forged a career that spanned until May of 1939 before being retired from Royal Navy service as newer and better fighter designs emerged. The design was evaluated in both Japan (as the "AXH") and Portugal while Denmark adopted a pair and produced another ten units locally. Danish operation of the Nimrod was given up for good in August of 1943.

For the FAA, the Nimrod went on to stock eleven total squadrons.


2 x .303 Vickers machine guns in fixed, forward firing positions synchronized to fire through the spinning propeller blades.

4 x 20 lb conventional drop bombs carried underwing.

Graphical image of an aircraft medium machine gun
Graphical image of an aircraft conventional drop bomb munition

Variants / Models

• Nimrod - Base series name
• Nimrod Mk I - Initial production model; Rolls-Royce Kestrel IIMS engine of 477 horsepower; 57 examples built.
• Nimrod Mk II - Modified Mk I with swept wings; fitted with Kestrel IIS or VFP engines of up to 608 horsepower; 30 examples built.
• Nimrod (Danish) - Danish export model with Rolls-Royce Kestrel IIIS engine; 2 examples.
• Nimrodderne - Royal Danish Navy variant; 10 examples
• AXH1 - One-off evaluation model for Imperial Japan
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