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Boulton Paul P.3 Bobolink


Prototype Biplane Fighter


United Kingdom | 1918



"The Boulton Paul Bobolink - the first fighter entry for the company - lost to the Sopwith Snipe in a competition designed to succeed the classic Sopwith Camel."



Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited: 04/25/2016 | Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com | The following text is exclusive to this site; No A.I. was used in the generation of this content.
Boulton Paul's first entry into fighter aircraft design and development came through the P.3 "Bobolink" of 1918. It was intended for British service in World War 1 (1914-1918) and as the successor to the storied Sopwith Camel fighter (detailed elsewhere on this site) but the type never advanced beyond its prototype stage. Nevertheless, the offering put the company on a path to respectability heading into World War 2 (1939-1945). Design of the Bobolink was attributed to J.D. North.

Boulton Paul held origins as far back as the late-1700s with its headquarters being Norwich, UK. By the 1900s, the company had evolved along various names until, in 1905, it became known as Boulton & Paul Ltd - specializing in engineering and manufacturing. By the time of World War 1, Boulton Paul served the war effort by building other company's aircraft produced - including the Sopwith Camel.

Despite the excellence of the Sopwith Camel, the British Air Ministry looked to the future and inevitably sought a successor for their aging biplane. This led Boulton Paul to throw its hat into the ring with a possible contender - a fighting biplane named "Bobolink". A first flight (in prototype form) was had in January of 1918 and tests followed into February. In its earliest form, the aircraft lacked ailerons along its lower wing assembly but these were added prior to official trials.

Boulton Paul engineers relied on proven techniques for their fighter entry: It was a wood-and-fabric single-seater powered by a single engine at the nose. The powerplant of choice became the Bentley BR.2 rotary engine of 230 horsepower output. The biplane wing arrangement featured a two-bay approach and N-shaped struts. Overall dimensions of the product included a length of 6 meters, a wingspan of 8.8 meters and a height of 2.5 meters.

The Boulton Paul design performed largely as intended - it could reach speeds of 125 miles per hour and held a service ceiling of 19,500 feet. Endurance was over three hours which was a prime consideration for fighting aircraft of the period. Armament was rather standard - 2 x 0.303 inch Vickers fixed, forward-firing machine guns with interrupter gear set to allow for firing through the spinning propeller blades. One of the more unique features built into the Bobolink was a jettisonable fuel tank system intended to increase survivability of the pilot. The pilot was also shielded from the fuel stores by a section of armor.

Despite the promising nature of the Bobolink, British authorities selected the competing Sopwith Snipe (which also relied on the Bentley BR.2 rotary engine). Officials cited the Bobolink as lacking in maneuverability during its evaluation phase and the overall product was seen as more complex (and therefore more expensive) to produce in the numbers required. The Sopwith Snipe simply performed better, was easier to produce and would come from the proven designers/builders at Sopwith.

As such, only the single Bobolink prototype was ever completed though the company continued using the aircraft some time later in tests.

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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 Boulton Paul P.3 Bobolink Prototype Biplane Fighter.
1 x Bentley BR.2 rotary engine developing 230 horsepower.
Propulsion
124 mph
200 kph | 108 kts
Max Speed
19,685 ft
6,000 m | 4 miles
Service Ceiling
407 miles
655 km | 354 nm
Operational Range
1,085 ft/min
331 m/min
Rate-of-Climb
City-to-City Ranges
Operational range when compared to distances between major cities (in KM).
NYC
 
  LON
LON
 
  PAR
PAR
 
  BER
BER
 
  MOS
MOS
 
  TOK
TOK
 
  SYD
SYD
 
  LAX
LAX
 
  NYC
Structure
The nose-to-tail, wingtip-to-wingtip physical qualities of the Boulton Paul P.3 Bobolink Prototype Biplane Fighter.
1
(MANNED)
Crew
20.0 ft
6.10 m
O/A Length
29.0 ft
(8.85 m)
O/A Width
8.4 ft
(2.55 m)
O/A Height
1,235 lb
(560 kg)
Empty Weight
1,995 lb
(905 kg)
MTOW
Design Balance
The three qualities reflected below are altitude, speed, and range. The more full the box, the more balanced the design.
RANGE
ALT
SPEED
Armament
Available supported armament and special-mission equipment featured in the design of the Boulton Paul P.3 Bobolink Prototype Biplane Fighter .
STANDARD, FIXED:
2 x 0.303 caliber Vickers machine guns firing through the spinning propeller blades.
Variants
Notable series variants as part of the Boulton Paul P.3 Bobolink family line.
P.3 "Bobolink" - Base Series Designation; sole prototype completed.
Operators
Global customers who have evaluated and/or operated the Boulton Paul P.3 Bobolink. Nations are displayed by flag, each linked to their respective national aircraft listing.

Total Production: 1 Units

Contractor(s): Boulton Paul - UK
National flag of the United Kingdom

[ United Kingdom (trialed) ]
Relative Max Speed
Hi: 150mph
Lo: 75mph
Aircraft Max Listed Speed (124mph).

Graph Average of 113 MPH.
Era Crossover
Pie graph section
Showcasing Aircraft Era Crossover (if any)
Max Alt Visualization
Small airplane graphic
Production Comparison
1
36183
44000
Entry compared against Ilyushin IL-2 (military) and Cessna 172 (civilian) total production.
MACH Regime (Sonic)
Sub
Trans
Super
Hyper
HiHyper
ReEntry
RANGES (MPH) Subsonic: <614mph | Transonic: 614-921 | Supersonic: 921-3836 | Hypersonic: 3836-7673 | Hi-Hypersonic: 7673-19180 | Reentry: >19030
Aviation Timeline
EarlyYrs
WWI
Interwar
WWII
ColdWar
Postwar
Modern
Future
1 / 1
Image of the Boulton Paul P.3 Bobolink
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.
AIR-TO-AIR COMBAT
X-PLANE
Recognition
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 Boulton Paul P.3 Bobolink Prototype Biplane Fighter appears in the following collections:
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