Military Factory logo

Vickers Wellesley

United Kingdom (1937)
Picture of Vickers Wellesley Light Bomber Aircraft

Introduced in 1937, only 177 of the serviceable Vickers Wellesley bombers were produced - the line was given up as soon as 1944.


Detailing the development and operational history of the Vickers Wellesley Light Bomber Aircraft.  Entry last updated on 6/15/2016. Authored by Staff Writer. Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com

The Vickers Wellesley was one of two aircraft submitted by the Vickers-Armstrongs Ltd company to fulfill Air Ministry Specification G.4/31 of 1931 calling for a multirole/general purpose torpedo bombing platform - the second being the Type 253 biplane. The Type 253 biplane was eventually realized as a flyable prototype form and 150 of the type were ordered. Vickers then proceeded to work as a private venture on the Type 246 which was more in line with the light bomber role against no standing requirement. A first flight followed on June 19th, 1935.

Due to the promising nature of the Type 246 design, the order for the Type 253 was reduced and ended with a sole example being completed. The Type 246 managed a better return with 96 being contracted for production set to begin in March 1937. Air Ministry Specification 22/35 of 1935 was written to satisfy the Type 246's procurement.

Adopted as the "Wellesley", the finalized aircraft was a gangly creature. It featured two separate cockpits for its crew of three, creating a "double-hump" shape along the fuselage spine. A radial piston engine was fitted to the front of the fuselage with a single-finned conventional tail unit held aft. The wing mainplanes were straight appendages, mounted low along the fuselage sides. The aircraft used a "geodetic" airframe construction approach (designed by Barnes Wallis) which was intended to promote a stronger airframe. The wheeled undercarriage (in "tail dragger" configuration) was retractable but only through a manual process. The bomb load was to be carried in panniers held under the wings so as to not disrupt the special construction of the fuselage.

Power was from a Bristol Pegasus XX serial radial piston engine of 925 horsepower. Performance specifications included a maximum speed of 228 miles per hour, a range out to 1,220 miles, and a service ceiling of 25,500 feet. Cruising speeds were in the 180 miles per hour neighborhood.

Standard defensive armament was a single .303 caliber Vickers machine gun fitted to the starboard side wing in a fixed, forward-firing mount. A .303 caliber Vickers K machine gun was fitted on a trainable mount in the rear cockpit. The bomb load totaled 2,000 pounds.

The initial production models were known as Wellesley Mk I and these were delivered to the Royal Air Force's squadron No. 76 during April of 1937. By May of 1938, 177 total aircraft were delivered. Three specially-modified Wellesleys were used to set a world distance record on November 5th, 1938, traveling from Ismailia, Egypt to Darwin, Australia. The Wellesley Mk II differed only in that it had a single-piece cockpit canopy offering better streamlining.

Vickers delved into other related models that included the Type 289 serving as an engine testbed, the Type 291 as a "blind flying" model, the Type 292 which numbered three aircraft and were the ones used in the RAF's Long-Range Development Flight program mentioned above, the Type 294 for its reinforced wing elements, and the Type 402 experimental platform.

When Britain declared war on Germany in September of 1939, the Wellesley was still available in number though it was clear the aircraft was of an obsolete type. By this time, they were primarily based in the Middle East and ended up taking sorties over East Africa against Italian targets. Their range was an exceptional quality for bombing though the line was highly susceptible to Italian intercepting biplane fighters in the theater as the British bombers flew largely unescorted to this point in the war. The Wellesley maintained some value in raids and general reconnaissance work that continued into September of 1942. The line was retired in full during 1944. At least three Wellesleys were sold off to the Egyptian government to serve the local air force. Another notable operator became the South African Air Force.

Despite their limited production numbers, the Wellesley and her crews were able to provide some useful service in the early going of World War 2.

Any available statistics for the Vickers Wellesley Light Bomber Aircraft 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: 300mph
Lo: 150mph
    This entry's maximum listed speed (230mph).

    Graph average of 225 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 Vickers Wellesley'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
177
177


  * 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: 1937
Classification Type: Light Bomber Aircraft
Manufacturer(s): Vickers-Armstrongs Ltd - UK
Production Units: 177
Global Operators:
Egypt; South Africa; United Kingdom
Structural - Crew, Dimensions, and Weights:
Unless otherwise noted the presented statistics below pertain to the Vickers Wellesley model. Common measurements, and their respective conversions, are shown when possible.

Operational
CREW


Personnel
3


Dimension
LENGTH


Feet
39.21 ft


Meters
11.95 m


Dimension
WIDTH


Feet
74.64 ft


Meters
22.75 m


Dimension
HEIGHT


Feet
15.26 ft


Meters
4.65 m


Weight
EMPTY


Pounds
6,757 lb


Kilograms
3,065 kg


Weight
LOADED


Pounds
12,500 lb


Kilograms
5,670 kg

Installed Power - Standard Day Performance:
1 x Bristol Pegasus XX radial piston engine developing 925 horsepower.

Performance
SPEED


Miles-per-Hour
230 mph


Kilometers-per-Hour
370 kph


Knots
200 kts


Performance
RANGE


Miles
1,221 mi


Kilometers
1,965 km


Nautical Miles
1,061 nm


Performance
CEILING


Feet
25,509 ft


Meters
7,775 m


Miles
4.83 mi


Performance
CLIMB RATE


Feet-per-Minute
845 ft/min


Meters-per-Minute
258 m/min

Armament - Hardpoints (2):

STANDARD:
1 x 7.7mm Vickers machine gun in fixed, forward-firing mount in starboard wing.
1 x 7.7mm Vickers K machine gun in rear cockpit position.

OPTIONAL:
Up to 2,000 lb of bombs held underwing.
Visual Armory:

Graphical image of an aircraft medium machine gun
Graphical image of an aircraft conventional drop bomb munition
Variants: Series Model Variants
• Wellesley - Base Series Name
• Type 281 - Company model designation
• Mk I (Type 287) - Initial production model with separated cockpits.
• Mk II - Revised model with single-piece canopy
• Type 289 - Engine test platform
• Type 291 - Specialized "blind-flying" model
• Type 292 - Long-range modification aircraft for record-setting.
• Type 294 - Reinforced wing elements; prototype only.
• Type 402 - Experimental model; three crew.