Passed on by the British Royal Air Force, the Vickers Vespa was ordered by the governments of Bolivia and Ireland and operated until 1940.
Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited:
Credit: Image from the Public Domain.
The Vickers "Vespa" biplane aircraft served from 1928 until 1940 and was intended for the "Army Cooperation" role. It was of British origin but primarily operated by the Irish Air Corps and the Bolivian Air Force (the Royal Air Force passed on this Vickers product). Several notable variants emerged though total production numbered just 15 units. In Bolivian service, they fought during the "Chaco War" (1932-1935).
Army Cooperation aircraft are lightweight designs intended for lightweight roles such as observation, artillery-spotting and liaison. They are reasonably powerful for their given role and intended for short-field / rough-field operation. Such aircraft are typically low-cost commitments and inherently rugged in their construction. The Vickers Vespa fit many of these qualities when it was first flown in 1925.
The Vespa emerged from Vickers Ltd by way of a private venture initiative targeting Specification 30/24 for the Royal Air Force (RAF). Specification 30/24 sought a two-seat reconnaissance-minded Army Cooperation platform and several other contenders were also in play for the contract- de Havilland arrived with their "Hyena" and Short Brothers pushed their "Chamois" (none of these saw adoption). "Vespa I" (company Type 113) marked the first available Vickers prototype and sported many characteristics of the period - biplane wing arrangement, open-air cockpit and fixed tail-dragger undercarriage. It was powered by a Bristol Jupiter IV series radial piston engine. Later, the Jupiter VI radial was installed.
Flying for the first time during September 1925, engine issues marred its evaluation with the RAF in June of 1926. After reconstruction of the damaged prototype (incorporating more modern attributes such as metal wings), the "Vespa II" (company Type 119) was born. While RAF authorities passed on the Vespa II, the aircraft was ordered by the Bolivian government as the "Vespa III" (company Type 149). This time, the product was an all-metal aircraft (fuselage included) and a Jupiter Vi engine of 455 horsepower output was fitted. Six of the mark were ordered and used in the Chaco Air War as long range bombers and reconnaissance platforms.
The Irish Air Corps took on a stock of four "Vespa IV" (company Type 193) aircraft in 1929 and these arrived with Armstrong Siddeley Jaguar VIC engines of 490 horsepower. Another four were ordered in 1930 as the "Vespa V" (company Type 208) and these differed by having a "Townend" ring set around the engine compartment (the ring was a tight cowling fitted over the exposed cylinders and used as an aerodynamic measure).
Beyond these military-minded marks, there existed the "Vespa VI" (company Type 210) for demonstration to the Chinese government (it was not adopted) and the "Vespa VII" (company Type 250) intended for high-altitude work (carrying a Bristol Pegasus S series engine). The Vespa VII was rebuilt from the Vespa VI Chinese demonstrator which, itself, was the a rebuilt version of the first Vespa prototype.
All Vespa aircraft were out of service - or reaching their useful existences - by the time of World War 2 (1939-1945).
Status Retired, Out-of-Service
[ 15 Units ] : Vickers Limited - UK
Bolivia; Ireland; United Kingdom (evaluated)
- Ground Attack
- Reconnaissance (RECCE)
32.97 ft (10.05 m)
50.03 ft (15.25 m)
10.50 ft (3.2 m)
(Showcased structural dimension values pertain to the Vickers Vespa production model)
2,888 lb (1,310 kg)
4,409 lb (2,000 kg)
(Showcased weight values pertain to the Vickers Vespa production model)
(Showcased powerplant information pertains to the Vickers Vespa production model)
140 mph (225 kph; 121 kts)
25,919 feet (7,900 m; 4.91 miles)
581 miles (935 km; 505 nm)
935 ft/min (285 m/min)
(Showcased performance values pertain to the Vickers Vespa production model; Compare this aircraft entry against any other in our database)
1 x 0.303 caliber (7.7mm) Vickers machine gun in fixed, forward-firing position.
1 x 0.303 caliber (7.7mm) Lewis machine gun on trainable Scarff round mounting in rear cockpit.
(Showcased armament details pertain to the Vickers Vespa production model)
Vespa - Base Series Name
Type 113 "Vespa I" - Prototype; Bristol Jupiter IV or Jupiter VI engine.
Type 119 "Vespa II" - Vespa I with metal wings
Type 149 "Vespa III" - Bolivian export model; all-metal construction; Jupiter VI engine of 455 horsepower; six examples.
Type 193 "Vespa IV" - Irish export model; Armstrong Siddeley Jaguar VIC engine of 490 horsepower; four examples.
Type 208 "Vespa V" - Irish export model; aerodynamic Townend ring around cylinders; four examples.
Type 210 "Vespa VI" - Chinese demonstrator model developed from first prototype airframe; not adopted.
Type 250 "Vespa VII" - High-altitude performer built from Vespa VI demonstrator.
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