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Westland Lysander

Liaison / Army Cooperation Aircraft

United Kingdom | 1938

"The Westland Lysander arrived just in time to do battle in World War 2 and saw considerable service in the period following the Grand Conflict."

Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited: 11/08/2017 | Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com | The following text is exclusive to this site; No A.I. was used in the generation of this content.
In 1934, the British Air Ministry released a requirement for a new "Army Co-Operation / Liaison Aircraft" (Specification A.39/34). The role called for a platform capable of rough-field / short-field operation, long loitering times and excellent vision out-of-the-aircraft. The result of the new initiative became the high-winged, two-seat (tandem) Westland "Lysander" of which 1,786 examples were produced. Service introduction came in June of 1938 following a first-flight recorded two years earlier on June 15th (1936).

The series went on to see operational service during all of World War 2 (1939-1945) and was ultimately taken on by the forces of Australia, British India, Canada, Egypt, Finland, France (Free France), Ireland, Poland, Portugal, South Africa, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States.

The aircraft was given a high-mounted monoplane wing arrangement sitting the wings well-forward of midships. The high wing mounting allowed for excellent lift properties needed for Short-Take-Off and Landing (STOL) operation. V-shaped struts secured the underside of the wing (at about the midway point) and reached down to the fixed undercarriage fairings. The main leg wheels were spatted to preserve aerodynamic efficiency while the tailwheel was fixed during flight. The crew cabin was extensively glazed for the vision out-of-the-aircraft needed. The engine was fitted to a compartment at the nose in the usual way (driving a three-bladed propeller unit) and the tail consisted of a single vertical fin with low-set horizontal planes.

Two prototypes were used to prove the design sound - the first flying with a Bristol Mercury XII radial engine of 890 horsepower. It proved successful and this led to adoption of the aircraft as the Lysander Mk.I of which 169 of the type followed into service.

There were ten notable variants of the Lysander line: Lysander Mk.I was armed with 2 x .303 Browning machine guns in fixed, forward-firing mounts at the wheel fairings and a trainable Lewis or Vickers machine gun for the rear observer / gunner. Additionally, this mark could carry a modest bombload totaling nearly 600lb of conventional drop ordnance. Lysander TT Mk.I marked target tug aircraft converted from retiring Mk.I airframes.

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The Lysander Mk.II was powered by the Bristol Perseus XII radial piston engine (sleeve valve) of 905 horsepower. Its target tug forms were known as Lysander TT Mk.II. 517 were built to the Lysander Mk.II standard.

The Lysander Mk.III (also 517 examples built) was fitted with the Bristol Mercury XX or Mercury 30 (347 aircraft) series radial engines of 870 horsepower. These carried a twin .303 machine gun installation for the rear gunner. The Mk.IIIA was based on the Mk.I model but carried the Bristol Mercury 20 series engine. It also showcased a dual-machine gun arrangement for the rear gunner. A special forces variant of Mk.III was the Mk.III SCW (Special Contract Westland). This platform lacked all armament and fitted additional fuel stores as well as an external ladder for quick entry / exit. TT Mk.III was the target tug form of Mk.I, Mk.II and Mk.III conversions. Mk.IIIA marked dedicated Mk.III conversion forms.

Structurally, the Lysander Mk.III held a length of 9.29 meters, a wingspan of 15.24 meters and a height of 4.42 meters. Empty weight was 2,000 kilograms against a MTOW of 2,875 kilograms. Performance-wise the aircraft could reach speeds of 212 miles per hour out to a range of 600 miles and a service ceiling of 21,500 feet. It required a take-off run of just 50 feet to get airborne. This variant was armed through 2 x .303 Browning forward-firing machine guns and one or two such guns at the rear cockpit (on a trainable mounting). Additionally, 4 x 20lb bombs could be affixed to the rear fuselage and 500lb across optional wing stubs for conducting light bombing of ground targets.

The P.12 Lysander Delanne (also "Westland Wendover") was a proposed Lysander II model installing a Nash & Thomson powered tail turret featuring four machine guns. A twin-tailed arrangement was needed to help clear the turret firing rearwards. Trials with a mocked up turret were had but little progress beyond this was seen on the project.

With service entry in mid-1938, the Lysander was on-call in number when World War 2 came to Europe. Early-use found the aircraft limited in the face of aggressive tactics and a heavy fighter presence over France. Then followed limited exposure in both the Middle East and Far East theaters but the design's limitations over contested airspaces continued to show through. As such, the series was eventually relegated to second-line roles in due time. For its part in the war, the Lysander did provide great short-field / rough-field performance and was particularly useful for special missions in and around German-occupied France where agents could be picked up and dropped off in short order under the nose of the enemy.

British Lysanders was given up rather quickly after the war as soon as 1946. The Royal Air Force (RAF) was also its largest user with dozens of squadrons assigned the type. The USAAF fielded the aircraft in five total squadrons including the 496th Fighter Training Group. Canada showcased the aircraft in ten total squadrons, British India in six squadrons and Australia in two squadrons.

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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 Westland Lysander Mk III Liaison / Army Cooperation Aircraft.
1 x Bristol Mercury XX radial piston engine developing 870 horsepower.
211 mph
340 kph | 184 kts
Max Speed
21,490 ft
6,550 m | 4 miles
Service Ceiling
600 miles
965 km | 521 nm
Operational Range
1,250 ft/min
381 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 Westland Lysander Mk III Liaison / Army Cooperation Aircraft.
30.5 ft
9.30 m
O/A Length
50.0 ft
(15.25 m)
O/A Width
14.5 ft
(4.43 m)
O/A Height
4,376 lb
(1,985 kg)
Empty Weight
6,338 lb
(2,875 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 Westland Lysander Liaison / Army Cooperation Aircraft .
2 x 7.7mm Browning machine guns in fixed, forward-firing positions at wheel fairings.
2 x 7.7mm Lewis machine guns at observer's position.

4 x 20lb conventional drop bombs (rear fuselage)

up to 500lb of conventional drop bomb under wings if fitted with wing stubs.
Notable series variants as part of the Westland Lysander family line.
Lysander - Base Series Name
Lysander Mk I - Initial production mark; Bristol Mercury XII engine of 890 horsepower; 2 x .303 Browning fixed machine guns; 1 x .303 Lewis/Vickers trainable machine gun; optional wing stubs for conventional drop ordnance.
Lysander TT Mk I - Target tug conversion model
Lysander Mk II - Fitted with Bristol Perseus XII radial engine of 905 horsepower.
Lysander TT Mk II - Target tug conversion model
Lysander Mk III - Fitted with Bristol Mercury XX / 30 radial engines; 2 x .303 machine guns in rear cockpit.
Lysander Mk IIIA - Bristol Mercury 20 series engine; 2 x .303 machine guns in rear cockpit.
Lysander Mk III SCW ("Special Contract Westland") - Specially-modified version for clandestine operations; external ladder fitted; increased fuel stores; sans all armament.
Lysander TT Mk III - Target tug conversion model from stock of Mk.I, Mk.II and Mk.III aircraft.
Lysander TT Mk IIIA - Target tug conversions from Mk.III models; 100 examples.
P/12 Lysander Delanne ("Westland Wendover") - Proposed version fitting 4-gunned powered turret at rear of fuselage; revised, twin-tailed arrangement; trialed with dummy turret but not adopted for service.
Global customers who have evaluated and/or operated the Westland Lysander. Nations are displayed by flag, each linked to their respective national aircraft listing.

Total Production: 1,786 Units

Contractor(s): Westland Aircraft - UK
National flag of Australia National flag of Canada National flag of Egypt National flag of France National flag of Finland National flag of India National flag of Ireland National flag of Poland National flag of Portugal National flag of South Africa National flag of Turkey National flag of the United Kingdom National flag of the United States

[ Australia; Canada; Egypt; Finland; France (Free French); India (British India); Ireland; Poland; Portugal; South Africa; Turkey; United Kingdom; United States ]
Relative Max Speed
Hi: 300mph
Lo: 150mph
Aircraft Max Listed Speed (211mph).

Graph Average of 225 MPH.
Era Crossover
Pie graph section
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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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 Westland Lysander Liaison / Army Cooperation Aircraft appears in the following collections:
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