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Avro Anson

Light Transport / Coastal Reconnaissance / Crew Trainer / Communications Aircraft

The Avro Anson served a multitude of roles during its time aloft including coastal reconnaissance, crew trainer and communications platform.
Authored By: Staff Writer | Edited: 5/20/2019
National Flag Graphic


Year: 1936
Status: Retired, Out-of-Service
Manufacturer(s): Avro / A.V. Roe - UK
Production: 11,020
Capabilities: Transport; Reconnaissance (RECCE); Training;
Crew: 3 to 5
Length: 42.26 ft (12.88 m)
Width: 56.50 ft (17.22 m)
Height: 13.09 ft (3.99 m)
Weight (Empty): 5,512 lb (2,500 kg)
Weight (MTOW): 8,598 lb (3,900 kg)
Power: 2 x Armstrong Siddeley "Cheetah" IX 7-cylinder air-cooled radial piston engines developing 350 horsepower each driving twin-bladed propeller units.
Speed: 188 mph (303 kph; 164 kts)
Ceiling: 18,999 feet (5,791 m; 3.6 miles)
Range: 808 miles (1,300 km; 702 nm)
Rate-of-Climb: 750 ft/min (229 m/min)
Operators: Afghanistan; Argentina; Australia; Belgium; Botswana; Canada; Cuba; Egypt; Estonia; Ethiopia; Finland; France; Greece; Iran; Iraq; Ireland; Israel; Netherlands; New Zealand; Norway; Portugal; Saudi Arabia; South Africa; Turkey; United Kingdom; United States
The Avro Anson was a militarized version of the commercial passenger transport Avro 652. The Anson itself was produced to fulfill Specification 18/35 brought about by the British Air Ministry and originally intended for use as a maritime reconnaissance platform. As the 1930's saw such great change in both technology and dedicated roles, the Avro Anson nearly (and quite quickly) fell away to oblivion were it not for its inherent rugged qualities and multi-faceted capabilities that made it useful in the training of pilots, bombardiers and gunners. The arrival of the Second World War sealed the future of the Anson as a primary trainer and multi-role platform for Britain, her Commonwealth nations and nations across the globe.

The Anson (Avro 652A) achieved first flight in this new militarized form on March 24, 1935. Evaluation of the system led to first-run production of the Anson Mk I model series with first deliveries occurring in March of 1936. The Royal Air Force's No.48 Squadron became the types first user.

Operationally, the Anson showcased her grit despite the arrival of more advanced twin engine systems. Many-an-aircrew saw their first taste of flight in an Anson while many of these aircrew were further defined as specialists in their roles through pilot, gunnery and bombardier training. For pilots, this meant a first-hand look at what awaited them in the multi-engined bombers they would be called upon to operate. For gunners, the Anson was a stable enough platform for which these aces would hone their skills in. Bombardiers were taught the finer points of target recognition, aiming and accuracy in their Ansons.

As with any other operational system used in a time of war, it was not wholly unheard of for Ansons to be involved in combat-related skirmishes against enemy aircraft. In one such amazing incident, no fewer than nine Messerschmitt BF 109 single-engine monoplane fighters dropped down on three Ansons, losing two of their own fighters with no losses on the part of the Ansons. Beyond this, the Anson could be called upon to carry a light bomb load for strike missions or undertake a coastal patrol sortie as needed. Both the Royal Air Force and Fleet Air Arm utilized Ansons.

Outwardly, the Anson was as utilitarian as her base functions. The fuselage was rounded and decidedly streamlined (sometimes showcasing rounded cabin windows - five windows to a side). Perhaps the most distinct feature of the aircraft's profile was its "duckbill" nose assembly, protruding well past the front windscreen. The aircraft sported low-mounted monoplane wings with rounded wingtips. Each wing held a radial piston engine housed in nacelles powering two-bladed propellers. The engines were placed well-forward of the wing leading edge and met up nearly at the length of the fuselage nose. The undercarriage was typical of the time, featuring two main landing gears and a tail wheel. The main landing gears retracted forward into the bottom of each engine nacelle. The Anson became the first RAF aircraft to feature a fully-retractable undercarriage, this accomplished via manual hand-crank controlled by the pilot. The empennage was of a conventional sort, with a rounded vertical tail fin and low-mounted horizontal planes. Typical crew accommodations amounted to 3 or 4 personnel. Armament consisted of up to 4 x 7.7mm (.303 cal) Vickers-type machine guns in the front fuselage, a dorsal turret and at two other cabin locations. Additionally, the Anson could be fitted with up to 500 lb of internal ordnance.

The legacy of the Anson was solidified by its sheer production numbers and quantity of variants the line evolved into. The Mk I represented the most quantitative Anson, with 6,688 examples seeing delivery. This version was powered by the Armstrong Siddeley Cheetah series engines of 350 (Cheetah IX) or 395 (Cheetah XIX) horsepower. Maximum speed for Cheetah IX-powered Ansons was reported to be around 188 miles-per-hour with a range topping off at 790 miles. Service ceiling figures put the Anson Mk I at a respectable 19,000 feet with a rate-of-climb nearing 750 feet-per-minute.

The Anson Mk II followed next and were built by Canadian factories to the tune of 1,822 examples. These Ansons were fitted with Jacobs L-6MB R-915 series radial piston engines of 330 horsepower. Britain took to producing these Ansons as well and designated them as Anson Mk III.

Anson MK IV's were produced in Britain and fitted Wright Whirlwind engines.

Canada also produced the Anson Mk V models. These were intended for navigator training and were fitted with 2 x Pratt & Whitney Wasp Junior R-985 series engines of 450 horsepower. At least 1,069 examples of this model were produced. The Anson Mk VI was a "one-off" Canadian Anson fitting two Pratt & Whitney Wasp Junior engines of 450 horsepower and intended for gunnery and bombardier training.

The Anson Mk X represented at least 104 Anson Mk I models converted to the new Mk X designation. Similarly, the Anson Mk 11 was formed from 90 Mk I models conversions. The Anson Mk 12 was well-formed in two-hundred twenty-one new-build production examples along with 20 conversions from Anson Mk I models.

The Anson Mk XIII was a proposed gunnery trainer that was never put into production. These would have been powered by twin Cheetah XI /XIX series engines. The Mk XIV was another gunner trainer proposal that never saw the light of day. These would have fitted the Cheetah XV series engines. The Mk XVI was to be a navigational trainer and the Mk XV would have been used as a bomber trainer - both of these designs were never put into production.

The Royal Air Force used 264 Ansons as transport and communications platforms under the C 19 designation. Navigational trainers were also fielded, these coming in 252 examples under the T 21 designation. Anson T 22s were 54 radio trainers for the Royal Air Force. RAF Ansons made up 26 squadrons at their peak of usage. Australia was a major Commonwealth operator, utilizing no fewer than 1,028 Ansons up until 1955.

The Avro XIX (also known as "Avro Nineteen") was a civilian passenger transport derivative of the Anson. Two production series made up this mark, totaling 56 examples.

Foreign deliveries of note became the sixty T 20 navigational and bomber trainers exported to Southern Rhodesia, the twelve communications and reconnaissance Anson 18s (spawned from the Avro XIX) delivered to Afghanistan and the thirteen pilot trainers Anson 18Cs delivered to India. The United States Army Air Force received 50 production Ansons built in Canada and re-designated them as the AT-20.

The Avro Anson was produced from 1935 to 1952, to which some total 11,020 examples were built. Avro handled production in Britain with 8,138 total examples being produced there while Canadian Federal Aircraft LTD provided for a further 2,882 examples locally-produced in Canada. RAF Ansons were retired as late as 1968, thirty-three years after the type's inception into service. No fewer than 27 nations across the world ended up fielding the Anson in some form or another.

The Avro Anson was named after British Admiral George Anson, 1st Baron Anson who served the Royal Navy from 1712 to 1762, taking part in conflicts such as the War of the Austrian Succession, the War of Jenkins' Ear and the Seven Years' War.

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


Up to 4 x 7.7mm Vickers machine guns mounted in the front fuselage, dorsal turret, and cabin locations.

Up to 500 lb of conventional drop bombs held internally.

Cockpit Picture

Variants / Models

• Anson C.Mk I - Production Model Designation for RAF Coastal Command; redesigned with larger crew cabin and new empennage; 2 x Cheetah IX radial engines of 350- OR 395-horsepower; 6,688 examples produced.
• Anson C.Mk II - Canadian-produced Ansons; 1,822 examples produced with 2 x Jacobs L-6MB R-915 330hp series engines.
• Anson C.Mk III - British-produced Ansons with the 2 x Jacobs L-6MB R-915 330hp series engines.
• Anson C.Mk IV - British-produced Ansons fitted with 2 x Wright Whirlwind R-975 series engines.
• Anson C.Mk V - Canadian-produced Ansons with 2 x Pratt & Whitney Wasp Junior R-985 450hp series engines; used for nvigational training; 1,069 examples produced.
• Anson C.Mk VI - Single Candian-produced example fitted with 2 x Pratt & Whitney Wasp Junior R-985 450hp series engines; bombing and gunnery trainer.
• Anson C.Mk X - 104 Anson Mk I examples converted to Mk X models.
• Anson C.Mk 11 - 90 Anson Mk I examples converted to Mk 11 models.
• Anson C.Mk 12 - 20 Anson Mk I examples converted to Mk 12 models; 221 additional new-build examples.
• Anson C.Mk XIII - Fitted with 2 x Cheetah XI OR Cheetah XIX engines; proposed gunnery trainer platforms; never entered production.
• Anson C.Mk XIV - Fitted with 2 x Cheetah XV engines; proposed gunnery trainer platforms; never entered production.
• Anson C.Mk XVI - Proposed Navigational Trainer; never entered production.
• Anson C.Mk XV - Proposed Bombing Trainer; never entered production.
• Anson C 19 - Communications/Transport Aircraft for RAF use; 264 examples produced.
• Anson T 20 - Bombing/Gunnery Trainer for use by RAF; 60 examples produced.
• Anson T 21 - Navigational Trainer for use by RAF; 252 examples produced.
• Anson T 22 - Radio Trainer for use by RAF; 54 examples produced.
• Anson 18 - Based on the "Avro Nineteen"; Communications/Patrol/Aerial Survey Platforms; 16 examples exported to Afganistan.
• Anson 18C - Indian Export Civilian Training Model; 13 examples produced.
• Anson XIX (Avro Nineteen) - Civilian Transport Variant; 56 examples produced.
• AT-20 - Canadian-produced Ansons for the United States Air Force; 50 examples produced.
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