In 1934, the British Air Ministry released a requirement for a new "Army Co-Operation / Liaison Aircraft" (Specification A.39/34). The role called for a platform capable of rough-field / short-field operation, long loitering times and excellent vision out-of-the-aircraft. The result of the new initiative became the high-winged, two-seat (tandem) Westland "Lysander" of which 1,786 examples were produced. Service introduction came in June of 1938 following a first-flight recorded two years earlier on June 15th (1936).
The series went on to see operational service during all of World War 2 (1939-1945) and was ultimately taken on by the forces of Australia, British India, Canada, Egypt, Finland, France (Free France), Ireland, Poland, Portugal, South Africa, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States.
The aircraft was given a high-mounted monoplane wing arrangement sitting the wings well-forward of midships. The high wing mounting allowed for excellent lift properties needed for Short-Take-Off and Landing (STOL) operation. V-shaped struts secured the underside of the wing (at about the midway point) and reached down to the fixed undercarriage fairings. The main leg wheels were spatted to preserve aerodynamic efficiency while the tailwheel was fixed during flight. The crew cabin was extensively glazed for the vision out-of-the-aircraft needed. The engine was fitted to a compartment at the nose in the usual way (driving a three-bladed propeller unit) and the tail consisted of a single vertical fin with low-set horizontal planes.
Two prototypes were used to prove the design sound - the first flying with a Bristol Mercury XII radial engine of 890 horsepower. It proved successful and this led to adoption of the aircraft as the Lysander Mk.I of which 169 of the type followed into service.
There were ten notable variants of the Lysander line: Lysander Mk.I was armed with 2 x .303 Browning machine guns in fixed, forward-firing mounts at the wheel fairings and a trainable Lewis or Vickers machine gun for the rear observer / gunner. Additionally, this mark could carry a modest bombload totaling nearly 600lb of conventional drop ordnance. Lysander TT Mk.I marked target tug aircraft converted from retiring Mk.I airframes.
The Lysander Mk.II was powered by the Bristol Perseus XII radial piston engine (sleeve valve) of 905 horsepower. Its target tug forms were known as Lysander TT Mk.II. 517 were built to the Lysander Mk.II standard.
The Lysander Mk.III (also 517 examples built) was fitted with the Bristol Mercury XX or Mercury 30 (347 aircraft) series radial engines of 870 horsepower. These carried a twin .303 machine gun installation for the rear gunner. The Mk.IIIA was based on the Mk.I model but carried the Bristol Mercury 20 series engine. It also showcased a dual-machine gun arrangement for the rear gunner. A special forces variant of Mk.III was the Mk.III SCW (Special Contract Westland). This platform lacked all armament and fitted additional fuel stores as well as an external ladder for quick entry / exit. TT Mk.III was the target tug form of Mk.I, Mk.II and Mk.III conversions. Mk.IIIA marked dedicated Mk.III conversion forms.
Structurally, the Lysander Mk.III held a length of 9.29 meters, a wingspan of 15.24 meters and a height of 4.42 meters. Empty weight was 2,000 kilograms against a MTOW of 2,875 kilograms. Performance-wise the aircraft could reach speeds of 212 miles per hour out to a range of 600 miles and a service ceiling of 21,500 feet. It required a take-off run of just 50 feet to get airborne. This variant was armed through 2 x .303 Browning forward-firing machine guns and one or two such guns at the rear cockpit (on a trainable mounting). Additionally, 4 x 20lb bombs could be affixed to the rear fuselage and 500lb across optional wing stubs for conducting light bombing of ground targets.
The P.12 Lysander Delanne (also "Westland Wendover") was a proposed Lysander II model installing a Nash & Thomson powered tail turret featuring four machine guns. A twin-tailed arrangement was needed to help clear the turret firing rearwards. Trials with a mocked up turret were had but little progress beyond this was seen on the project.
With service entry in mid-1938, the Lysander was on-call in number when World War 2 came to Europe. Early-use found the aircraft limited in the face of aggressive tactics and a heavy fighter presence over France. Then followed limited exposure in both the Middle East and Far East theaters but the design's limitations over contested airspaces continued to show through. As such, the series was eventually relegated to second-line roles in due time. For its part in the war, the Lysander did provide great short-field / rough-field performance and was particularly useful for special missions in and around German-occupied France where agents could be picked up and dropped off in short order under the nose of the enemy.
British Lysanders was given up rather quickly after the war as soon as 1946. The Royal Air Force (RAF) was also its largest user with dozens of squadrons assigned the type. The USAAF fielded the aircraft in five total squadrons including the 496th Fighter Training Group. Canada showcased the aircraft in ten total squadrons, British India in six squadrons and Australia in two squadrons.
Status Retired, Out-of-Service
Production 1,786 Units
Westland Aircraft - UK
Australia; Canada; Egypt; Finland; France (Free French); India (British India); Ireland; Poland; Portugal; South Africa; Turkey; United Kingdom; United States
- Ground Attack
- VIP Transport
- Medical Evacuation (MEDEVAC)
- Search and Rescue (SAR)
- Reconnaissance (RECCE)
- Special Forces
30.51 ft (9.3 m)
50.03 ft (15.25 m)
14.53 ft (4.43 m)
4,376 lb (1,985 kg)
6,338 lb (2,875 kg)
(Showcased weight values pertain to the Westland Lysander Mk III production model)
1 x Bristol Mercury XX radial piston engine developing 870 horsepower.
211 mph (340 kph; 184 kts)
21,490 feet (6,550 m; 4.07 miles)
600 miles (965 km; 521 nm)
1,250 ft/min (381 m/min)
(Showcased performance values pertain to the Westland Lysander Mk III production model; Compare this aircraft entry against any other in our database)
2 x 7.7mm Browning machine guns in fixed, forward-firing positions at wheel fairings.
2 x 7.7mm Lewis machine guns at observer's position.
4 x 20lb conventional drop bombs (rear fuselage)
up to 500lb of conventional drop bomb under wings if fitted with wing stubs.
(Showcased armament details pertain to the Westland Lysander Mk III production model)
Lysander - Base Series Name
Lysander Mk I - Initial production mark; Bristol Mercury XII engine of 890 horsepower; 2 x .303 Browning fixed machine guns; 1 x .303 Lewis/Vickers trainable machine gun; optional wing stubs for conventional drop ordnance.
Lysander TT Mk I - Target tug conversion model
Lysander Mk II - Fitted with Bristol Perseus XII radial engine of 905 horsepower.
Lysander TT Mk II - Target tug conversion model
Lysander Mk III - Fitted with Bristol Mercury XX / 30 radial engines; 2 x .303 machine guns in rear cockpit.
Lysander Mk IIIA - Bristol Mercury 20 series engine; 2 x .303 machine guns in rear cockpit.
Lysander Mk III SCW ("Special Contract Westland") - Specially-modified version for clandestine operations; external ladder fitted; increased fuel stores; sans all armament.
Lysander TT Mk III - Target tug conversion model from stock of Mk.I, Mk.II and Mk.III aircraft.
Lysander TT Mk IIIA - Target tug conversions from Mk.III models; 100 examples.
P/12 Lysander Delanne ("Westland Wendover") - Proposed version fitting 4-gunned powered turret at rear of fuselage; revised, twin-tailed arrangement; trialed with dummy turret but not adopted for service.
* Ribbons not necessarily indicative of actual historical campaign ribbons. Ribbons are clickable to their respective campaigns/operations.
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