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Handley Page Hampden

Medium Bomber / Night Bomber / Maritime Patrol Aircraft

United Kingdom | 1938

"On the whole, the Handley Page Hampden offered limited value to the Allies during the early going of World War 2."

Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited: 01/29/2019 | Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com | The following text is exclusive to this site; No A.I. was used in the generation of this content.
In 1932, the British Air Ministry sent out Specification B.9/32 calling for a high performance, twin-engine, medium-class bomber. This led to three primary submissions being reviewed - the Bristol Type 131, the Vickers Crecy (to become the Vickers Wellington), and the Handley Page HP.52 (Hampden). The Handley Page design was ordered in prototype form and, when completed, recorded a first flight on June 21st, 1935. The design was thought well enough of that a production contract followed for Hampden Mk. I models and development eventually led to trials occurring in 1938. Production spanned from 1936 to 1941 with a total of 1,430 being built (some sources read 1,532).

The finalized Hampden product featured a slim, though deep, fuselage with stepped single-seat cockpit and heavily glazed nose section. The total crew complement numbered four and included the pilot, navigator/bombardier, and dedicated gunners (one of whom doubled as the radioman). The cockpit held a greenhouse-style canopy while additional glazed positions were found at the dorsal and ventral sections of the rear fuselage for the defensive machine gun emplacements. The Hampden was given a rather unique shape as interwar bombers go, featuring a thin tail unit extending aft to which was seated a twin vertical tail assembly at the extreme rear of the design. This stem allowed for both a dorsal and ventral gun position to be featured along the aft section of the fuselage - providing good views for the guns. The wing mainplanes were mid-mounted with each housing a radial piston engine along the leading edge while driving three-bladed propellers. The undercarriage was wheeled and wholly retractable while arranged in a tail-dragger configuration (giving the aircraft a pronounced "nose-up" attitude when on the ground).

Performance came from 2 x Bristol Pegasus XVIII 9-cylinder radial piston engines of 1,000 horsepower each. This supplied the airframe with a maximum speed of 250 miles per hour, a cruising speed of around 200 miles per hour, a range out to 1,720 miles, and a service ceiling of up to 19,000 feet. At one point, the original B.9/32 specification was revised to include use of the Rolls-Royce "Goshawk" V12 engine but this requirement was later dropped and just twenty of the engines were produced in all.

Defensive armament was entirely machine gun-based: 1 x 7.7mm Browning M1919 machine gun was set in a fixed, forward-firing position over the nose while another 7.7mm machine gun was set on a trainable mounting looking down from the lower nose windscreen. The dorsal and ventral aft positions each managed a single 7.7mm Vickers K machine gun - also on trainable mounts. All told, this was intended to provide maximum coverage against intercepting enemy fighters though wartime experience would show that the aircraft was truly under-gunned for daylight work. Also its machine guns were directed by hand and not power-assisted in any way.

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Internally, the bomb bay could store up to 4,000 lb of conventional drop bombs or a single 18" torpedo (the latter for anti-ship work). The bomber also could disperse naval mines in place of conventional drop bombs. A stock of Hampden Mk I bombers were converted for the torpedo bomber role under the designation of "TB.Mk I".

By the end of 1938, several Royal Air Force (RAF)squadrons had formed around the Hampden Mk I. This meant that when Britain declared war on Germany in September of 1939, the Hampden was already on hand as part of the active Allied air campaign. More squadrons had also formed with this bomber by the time of the declaration to further bolster Hampden strength. However, the fighting that followed soon showcased the Hampden as a very limited weapons platform, particularly in daylight operations when unescorted by fighter protection. Losses mounted to intercepting German cannon-armed fighters and heavy fighters. It was this sort of result that spurred the RAF to take their bombing campaign to the night hours where the German response was restricted some. The Hampden formed a component of the nocturnal RAF bomber force while other heavies were used to continue the daytime pressure. The Hampden, while outclassed as a traditional daylight bomber, could still field a serviceable bomb load and performed admirably in the night bomber role when pressed.

Handley Page manufacture about 500 of its Hampdens while additional quantities stemmed from English Electric (adding 770 aircraft) and Canadian CAA (adding 160). Beyond the primary Mk I model was the short-lived Mk II (HP.62) which attempted to improve the series by introducing Wright "Cyclone" engines of 1,000 horsepower. However, only two Mk I models were converted to the Mk II standard and nothing more came of the program. Another engine installation project - this involving Napier "Dagger" VIII 24-cylinder inline types of 1,000 horsepower - produced 100 examples of the Handley Page "Hereford". However, persistent engine cooling problems led to this stock being converted back to the Hampden Mk I standard and used as bombers.

By August of 1942, the Hampden line had seen its best days behind it and was relegated to second line status. The final forms - these being TB.Mk I torpedo bombers - were released from service by December of 1943 which ended the wartime service career of the Hampden in full.

Beyond its service with the RAF, the line also stocked the inventories of Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Soviet Union. A single Australian and New Zealand Hampden squadron was formed (No. 455 and No.489 respectively) while three Canadian units were arranged (Nos. 408, 415, 420 and 32 (Training)). Soviet Naval Aviation operated the bomber through squadron No.24 MTAP. The Swedish Air Force purchased a single Hampden (model HP.53 operated as the P.5) for evaluation but no further orders followed. This airframe ended its days as an avionics text platform for SAAB.

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Power & Performance
Those special qualities that separate one aircraft design from another. Performance specifications presented assume optimal operating conditions for the Handley Page Hampden Mk I Medium Bomber / Night Bomber / Maritime Patrol Aircraft.
2 x Bristol Pegasus XVIII 9-cylinder radial piston engines developing 980 horsepower each.
255 mph
410 kph | 221 kts
Max Speed
18,996 ft
5,790 m | 4 miles
Service Ceiling
1,095 miles
1,762 km | 951 nm
Operational Range
980 ft/min
299 m/min
City-to-City Ranges
Operational range when compared to distances between major cities (in KM).
The nose-to-tail, wingtip-to-wingtip physical qualities of the Handley Page Hampden Mk I Medium Bomber / Night Bomber / Maritime Patrol Aircraft.
53.6 ft
16.33 m
O/A Length
69.2 ft
(21.08 m)
O/A Width
14.3 ft
(4.37 m)
O/A Height
11,773 lb
(5,340 kg)
Empty Weight
18,739 lb
(8,500 kg)
Design Balance
The three qualities reflected below are altitude, speed, and range. The more full the box, the more balanced the design.
Available supported armament and special-mission equipment featured in the design of the Handley Page Hampden Medium Bomber / Night Bomber / Maritime Patrol Aircraft .
1 x 7.7mm Vickers machine gun in upper fuselage (fixed, forward-firing).
1 x 7.7mm Vickers K machine gun in trainable nose position.
1 x 7.7mm Vickers K machine gun in dorsal position (trainable).
1 x 7.7mm Vickers K machine gun in ventral position (trainable).

Up to 4,000 lb of internal stores OR equivalent in naval mines OR 1 x 18" torpedo.
Notable series variants as part of the Handley Page Hampden family line.
Hampden - Base Series Designation
Hampden Mk I (HP.52) - Definitive bomber model; Bristol Pegasus XVIII radial piston engines.
Hampden TB.Mk I - Torpedo Bomber Variant
Hampden Mk II (HP.62) - Two modified Mk I bombers with Wright Cyclone engines of 1,000 horsepower; not adopted.
HP.53 (P.5) - Swedish designation for evaluation prototype fitted with Napier Dagger VIII inline engines of 1,000 horsepower; not adopted.
Global customers who have evaluated and/or operated the Handley Page Hampden. Nations are displayed by flag, each linked to their respective national aircraft listing.

Total Production: 1,430 Units

Contractor(s): Handley Page - UK
National flag of Australia National flag of Canada National flag of New Zealand National flag of the Soviet Union National flag of Sweden National flag of the United Kingdom

[ Australia; Canada; New Zealand; Soviet Union; Sweden; United Kingdom ]
Relative Max Speed
Hi: 300mph
Lo: 150mph
Aircraft Max Listed Speed (255mph).

Graph Average of 225 MPH.
Era Crossover
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Showcasing Aircraft Era Crossover (if any)
Max Alt Visualization
Small airplane graphic
Production Comparison
Entry compared against Ilyushin IL-2 (military) and Cessna 172 (civilian) total production.
MACH Regime (Sonic)
RANGES (MPH) Subsonic: <614mph | Transonic: 614-921 | Supersonic: 921-3836 | Hypersonic: 3836-7673 | Hi-Hypersonic: 7673-19180 | Reentry: >19030
Aviation Timeline
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Image of the Handley Page Hampden
Image from the Public Domain.
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Image of the Handley Page Hampden
Image from the Public Domain.

Mission Roles
Some designs are single-minded in their approach while others offer a more versatile solution to airborne requirements.
Some designs stand the test of time while others are doomed to never advance beyond the drawing board; let history be their judge.
Going Further...
The Handley Page Hampden Medium Bomber / Night Bomber / Maritime Patrol Aircraft appears in the following collections:
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