With the aircraft carrier established as the new Capital Ship of the high seas during the fighting of World War 2 (1939-1945), and the rise of the turbojet as the new propulsion system for military aircraft, the British Royal Navy in the post-war period sought to introduce an all-new twin-seat, jet-powered carrierbased attacker. Many of the usual British aero-concerns attempted to interest the service in their various designs - including Armstrong Whitworth with their AW.168 proposal.
The proposal was drawn up to satisfy requirement "M.148T" which sought a nuclear-capable counter to the growing fleet of new Soviet Navy cruisers - namely the Sverdlov-class. As such, the new Royal Navy attacker would be used in the low-level anti-ship strike role.
The aircraft was of largely conventional design arrangement with the cockpit set aft of a short nosecone assembly, the wings mounted along the midway point of the fuselage sides, and a single vertical tail fin mounting separate horizontal plane surfaces. One unique facet of its configuration was the side-by-side seating for the intended crew of two - improving communications between the two men and spreading out the mission workload evenly. The mainplanes were set near midships, if a little ahead, and sported sweepback along the leading and trailing edges with the wingtips curved. Each mainplane housed a single turbojet engine slung under the member - taking in air well-ahead of the leading edge and exhausting under each wing just ahead of the trailing edges. Airbrakes were positioned along the rear aft sides of the fuselage and a powered, wheeled, and retractable undercarriage rounded out the qualities of this aircraft.
Structural estimates included a running length of 59.8 feet with a wingspan (unfolded) of 47.5 feet (23 feet when folded), making the aircraft considerably more long than wide - of note when space aboard fleet carriers remained at a premium. Under full weapon loads, the aircraft's weight could tip the scales at nearly 40,000lb.
Beyond these details, the aircraft would have been given the usual carrierborne aircraft traits to include folding wings (hinged outboard of each engine nacelle), a reinforced undercarriage, and arrestor hook under the tail. Additionally, the nosecone assembly was designed to fold over the starboard side of the forward fuselage.
Power was to stem from 2 x de Havilland PS.43 "Gyron Junior" turbojet engines outputting 7,000lb of thrust. This was estimated to provide the AW.168 with a maximum speed of 675 miles-per-hour. Fuel would be spread about internal wing and fuselage stores for the needed operational range - this being about 590 miles. An in-flight refueling feature was in the plans as were additional, externally-held fuel tanks.
Primary ordnance would be held in an internal bomb bay located centrally along the ventral line of the airframe - this quality pushed the turbojet engines to be seated in underwing nacelles and outside of the streamlined fuselage. This would have included nuclear guided missiles ("Green Cheese" as well as "Red Angel") and conventional drop bombs. Provision would also be had for air-to-surface rockets, these mounted at hardpoints under the wing mainplanes.
In lieu of air-dropped and air-launched ordnance in the bomb bay, the aircraft was also drawn up with the capability to fit a "gun pack" at its belly - adding a strafing ability against ground targets. The gun pack consisted of 4 x 30mm ADEN automatic cannons.
At any rate, the impressive qualities of the AW.168 were never to be realized for the design was not selected for further work. Armstrong Whitworth engineers went so far as to generate a full-sized mockup and various models while also conducting wind tunnel testing of their design but it was all for naught in the end.
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