While Lockheed is a major defense player in the world of military products today, in its early days it fought hard to secure quantitative production contracts. It was not until World War 2 brewed in Europe that the company netted its first major windfall through its Lockheed "Hudson" multirole performer - thanks largely to the desperation of the British in attempting to strengthen their stock of warplanes. In the end, nearly 3,000 Hudson aircraft would be completed and these ended up serving with the British as well as Commonwealth forces during the conflict along with counting the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) and United States Navy (USN) as two of its other notable operators during the wartime period.
Lockheed marketed their new Model 14 in both a civilian and military guise as early as 1937 and this design caught the attention of the British who were readying for war in Europe. This led to a British commitment to the type through the "Hudson Mk.I" production model and these were used in the maritime patrol role (351 went to the British while a further 50 were delivered to the Australians). While defensive armament and its bombload were rather modest, the aircraft proved itself to be robust and reliable and, perhaps more importantly, all-modern and readily-available for procurement. A British Boulton Paul turret was added to both the Hudson Mk.I and Mk.II types to broaden its defense - though the latter mark also appeared with uprated engines as well as lacking propeller spinners and sporting constant-speed propellers instead. First-deliveries of Hudsons to the British occurred in February of 1939 so the series was well in place when World War 2 broke out in September of that year.
The design followed a conventional twin-engine arrangement which sat and engine nacelle at the leading edge of each wing mainplane. The mainplanes themselves were straight in their appearance though tapering at the tips. The fuselage was deep and relatively spacious with the nose section glazed for viewing, rectangular windows dotting the sides of the fuselage and an upswept tail unit holding the split-rudder arrangement. The cockpit position was stepped so as to provide for views over the nose and towards each engine. A dorsal gunner's position was seated just ahead of the horizontal stabilizer. The undercarriage, wheeled and retractable, was of a traditional "tail-dragger" arrangement.
With this light bomber design the Allies went to war. The aircraft was crewed by six personnel made up of pilots, machine gunners, bombardiers, navigations and radiomen. Dimensions included a length of 44.3 feet, a wingspan of 65.5 feet and a height of 11.9 feet. Empty weight was 12,000lb against an MTOW of 18,500lb. Performance specs included a maximum speed of 245 miles per hour, a range out to 1,950 miles and a service ceiling of 24,500 feet. Rate-of-climb was 1,200 feet-per-minute.
Standard armament comprised 2 x 7.7mm Browning machine guns fitted to a dorsal turret. An additional 2 x 7.7mm arrangement was had in the nose section to protect from oncoming attacks. The bombload was another limited quality about the aircraft - limited to 750lb of conventional drop munitions that included depth charges when in the maritime role.
The following Hudson Mk.III, numbering 428 total built, featured a retractable ventral gun position. The Hudson Mk.IIIA was a Lend-Lease version of the A-29/A-29A and added another 800 aircraft to the series.
Lockheed knew the Hudson militarized mark internally as the "Model 414". The initial American version was the "A-28" carrying 2 x R-1830-45 engines of 1,050 horsepower. The A-28A saw its interior reworked to serve as a troop transport and the Royal Air Force (RAF) took delivery of 450 of these.
The A-29 mark followed powered by 2 x R-1830-87 series engines of 1,200 horsepower. Some 416 were produced for the RAF but 153 of these were requisitioned by the USAAF (as the RA-29) and twenty of these were shipped to the USN (to operate as the PBO-1). The A-29A were converted into troop carriers and 384 were shipped to the RAF. The A-29B mark were 24 A-29 aircraft reworked into photographic surveillance platforms.
The AT-18 was a gunnery trainer form and carried 2 x R-1820-87 series engines. Some 217 of the mark were produced. The follow-up AT-18A was a navigational trainer and lost its dorsal turret emplacement. Eighty-three of this mark were produced.
The Hudson was not an outright star performer for its operators but it persevered in the early-war years in a variety of over-battlefield roles that tested the design to its limits. It operated as a light bomber, reconnaissance platform, submarine/ship hunter, trainer (gunnery and navigational) and transport. It was the first British-based (British Isles) Allied aircraft of the war to claim an enemy in aerial warfare and also became the first Allied aircraft to mount an attack in the Pacific Theater (the latter by the Australians). During combat the aircraft was well-regarded by its crews and enemies alike for its fighter-like control which more than caused fits for enemy fighter pilots attempting to take this compact bomber down.
The British clearly were the primary operators of this aircraft with dozens of squadrons committed to the type during the war years (1939-1945). Australia followed with a dozen of their own squadrons as did Canada with six squadrons. New Zealand also shared in operation of the aircraft and it stocked some eight squadrons of their own. The Chinese Nationalist Air Force was also handed the type to fight the Japanese and South Africa was another Commonwealth operator.
In the post-war period, Australia, Portugal, Trinidad and Tobago and the United Kingdom all operated the Hudson across the civilian market for a time.
Australia; Brazil; Canada; China (Taiwan); Ireland; Israel; Netherlands; New Zealand; Portugal; South Africa; Trinidad and Tobago; United Kingdom; United States
(OPERATORS list includes past, present, and future operators when applicable)
✓Ground Attack (Bombing, Strafing)
Ability to conduct aerial bombing of ground targets by way of (but not limited to) guns, bombs, missiles, rockets, and the like.
✓Maritime / Navy
Land-based or shipborne capability for operating over-water in various maritime-related roles while supported by allied naval surface elements.
General transport functionality to move supplies/cargo or personnel (including wounded and VIP) over range.
Used in roles serving the commercial aviation market, ferrying both passengers and goods over range.
✓Intelligence-Surveillance-Reconnaissance (ISR), Scout
Surveil ground targets / target areas to assess environmental threat levels, enemy strength, or enemy movement.
Developed ability to be used as a dedicated trainer for student pilots (typically under the supervision of an instructor).
44.3 ft (13.50 m)
65.5 ft (19.95 m)
11.9 ft (3.62 m)
11,905 lb (5,400 kg)
18,519 lb (8,400 kg)
+6,614 lb (+3,000 kg)
(Showcased structural values pertain to the Lockheed Hudson Mk I production variant)
2 x 7.7mm Browning machine guns in nose position.
2 x 7.7mm Browning machine guns in dorsal turret.
Up to 750lb of conventional drop ordnance, namely bombs and depth charges.
(Not all ordnance types may be represented in the showcase above)
Hardpoint Mountings: 0
Model 14 "Hudson" - Original company designation
Model 414 - Company designation for militarized forms.
Hudson Mk I - Initial British delivery model
Hudson Mk II - Secondary British model; sans propeller spinners and outfitted with constant speed propeller types.
Hudson Mk III - Retractable ventral machine gun position.
Hudson Mk IIIA - Lend-Lease A-29/A-29A models
Hudson Mk IV - Sans ventral gun station
Hudson Mk IVA - A-28 for RAAF
Hudson Mk V - 2 x PW R-1830-S3C40G Twin Wasp engines of 1,200 horsepower.
Hudson Mk VI - Lend-Lease A-28A models
A-28 - US military designation; PW R-1830-45 engines.
A-28A - Troop transports
A-29 - Fitted with 2 x PW R-1830-87 engines of 1,200 horsepower.
A-29A - Troop transports
A-29B - Photo-survey models
AT-18 - Gunnery trainer platforms
AT-18A - Navigational trainer platforms
C-63 - Alternative A-29A designation
PBO-1 - Former RAF Mk.IIIA models requisitioned by USN.
Ribbon graphics not necessarily indicative of actual historical campaign ribbons. Ribbons are clickable to their respective aerial campaigns / operations / aviation periods.
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Image from the archives of the United States Air Force.
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