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Boulton Paul P.3 Bobolink

United Kingdom (1918)
Picture of Boulton Paul P.3 Bobolink Prototype Biplane Fighter

The Boulton Paul Bobolink - the first fighter entry for the company - lost to the Sopwith Snipe in a competition designed to succeed the classic Sopwith Camel.


Detailing the development and operational history of the Boulton Paul P.3 Bobolink Prototype Biplane Fighter.  Entry last updated on 4/25/2016. Authored by Staff Writer. Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com

Boulton Paul's first entry into fighter aircraft design and development came through the P.3 "Bobolink" of 1918. It was intended for British service in World War 1 (1914-1918) and as the successor to the storied Sopwith Camel fighter (detailed elsewhere on this site) but the type never advanced beyond its prototype stage. Nevertheless, the offering put the company on a path to respectability heading into World War 2 (1939-1945). Design of the Bobolink was attributed to J.D. North.

Boulton Paul held origins as far back as the late-1700s with its headquarters being Norwich, UK. By the 1900s, the company had evolved along various names until, in 1905, it became known as Boulton & Paul Ltd - specializing in engineering and manufacturing. By the time of World War 1, Boulton Paul served the war effort by building other company's aircraft produced - including the Sopwith Camel.

Despite the excellence of the Sopwith Camel, the British Air Ministry looked to the future and inevitably sought a successor for their aging biplane. This led Boulton Paul to throw its hat into the ring with a possible contender - a fighting biplane named "Bobolink". A first flight (in prototype form) was had in January of 1918 and tests followed into February. In its earliest form, the aircraft lacked ailerons along its lower wing assembly but these were added prior to official trials.

Boulton Paul engineers relied on proven techniques for their fighter entry: It was a wood-and-fabric single-seater powered by a single engine at the nose. The powerplant of choice became the Bentley BR.2 rotary engine of 230 horsepower output. The biplane wing arrangement featured a two-bay approach and N-shaped struts. Overall dimensions of the product included a length of 6 meters, a wingspan of 8.8 meters and a height of 2.5 meters.

The Boulton Paul design performed largely as intended - it could reach speeds of 125 miles per hour and held a service ceiling of 19,500 feet. Endurance was over three hours which was a prime consideration for fighting aircraft of the period. Armament was rather standard - 2 x 0.303 inch Vickers fixed, forward-firing machine guns with interrupter gear set to allow for firing through the spinning propeller blades. One of the more unique features built into the Bobolink was a jettisonable fuel tank system intended to increase survivability of the pilot. The pilot was also shielded from the fuel stores by a section of armor.

Despite the promising nature of the Bobolink, British authorities selected the competing Sopwith Snipe (which also relied on the Bentley BR.2 rotary engine). Officials cited the Bobolink as lacking in maneuverability during its evaluation phase and the overall product was seen as more complex (and therefore more expensive) to produce in the numbers required. The Sopwith Snipe simply performed better, was easier to produce and would come from the proven designers/builders at Sopwith.

As such, only the single Bobolink prototype was ever completed though the company continued using the aircraft some time later in tests.

Any available statistics for the Boulton Paul P.3 Bobolink Prototype Biplane Fighter are showcased in the areas immediately below. Categories include basic specifications covering country-of-origin, operational status, manufacture(s) and total quantitative production. Other qualities showcased are related to structural values (namely dimensions), installed power and standard day performance figures, installed or proposed armament and mission equipment (if any), global users (from A-to-Z) and series model variants (if any).






Our Data Modules allow for quick visual reference when comparing a single entry against contemporary designs. Areas covered include general ratings, speed assessments, and relative ranges based on distances between major cities.

Image of collection of graph types

Relative Maximum Speed Rating
Hi: 150mph
Lo: 75mph
    This entry's maximum listed speed (124mph).

    Graph average of 112.5 miles-per-hour.
Relative Operational Ranges
NYC
 
  LON
LON
 
  PAR
PAR
 
  BER
BER
 
  MOS
MOS
 
  TOK
TOK
 
  SYD
SYD
 
  LAX
LAX
 
  NYC
Graph showcases the Boulton Paul P.3 Bobolink's operational range (on internal fuel) when compared to distances between major cities.
Aviation Era Impact
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Useful in showcasing the era cross-over of particular aircraft/aerospace designs.
Unit Production Comparison
Comm. Market HI*: 44,000 units
Military Market HI**: 36,183 units
1
1


  * Commercial Market High belongs to Cessna 172.

  ** Military Market High belongs to Ilyushin Il-2.


Altitude Visualization
Small airplane graphic
  Compare this entry against other aircraft using our Comparison Tool  
Supported Mission Types:
Air-to-Air
Interception
Unmanned
Ground Attack
Close-Air Support
Training
Anti-Submarine
Anti-Ship
Airborne Early Warning
MEDEVAC
Electronic Warfare
Maritime/Navy
Aerial Tanker
Utility/Transport
Passenger Industry
VIP Travel
Business Travel
Search/Rescue
Recon/Scouting
Special Forces
X-Plane/Development
National Flag Graphic
National Origin: United Kingdom
Service Year: 1918
Classification Type: Prototype Biplane Fighter
Manufacturer(s): Boulton Paul - UK
Production Units: 1
Global Operators:
United Kingdom (trialed)
Structural - Crew, Dimensions, and Weights:
Unless otherwise noted the presented statistics below pertain to the Boulton Paul P.3 Bobolink model. Common measurements, and their respective conversions, are shown when possible.

Operational
CREW


Personnel
1


Dimension
LENGTH


Feet
20.01 ft


Meters
6.1 m


Dimension
WIDTH


Feet
29.04 ft


Meters
8.85 m


Dimension
HEIGHT


Feet
8.37 ft


Meters
2.55 m


Weight
EMPTY


Pounds
1,235 lb


Kilograms
560 kg


Weight
LOADED


Pounds
1,995 lb


Kilograms
905 kg

Installed Power - Standard Day Performance:
1 x Bentley BR.2 rotary engine developing 230 horsepower.

Performance
SPEED


Miles-per-Hour
124 mph


Kilometers-per-Hour
200 kph


Knots
108 kts


Performance
RANGE


Miles
407 mi


Kilometers
655 km


Nautical Miles
354 nm


Performance
CEILING


Feet
19,685 ft


Meters
6,000 m


Miles
3.73 mi


Performance
CLIMB RATE


Feet-per-Minute
1,085 ft/min


Meters-per-Minute
331 m/min

Armament - Hardpoints (0):

STANDARD, FIXED:
2 x 0.303 caliber Vickers machine guns firing through the spinning propeller blades.
Visual Armory:

Graphical image of an aircraft medium machine gun
Variants: Series Model Variants
• P.3 "Bobolink" - Base Series Designation; sole prototype completed.