The Gloster F.9/37 was a British pre-World War 2 aircraft developed by the Gloster Aircraft Company to satisfy a 1935 Air Ministry Requirement for a twin-engine heavy fighter / "turret fighter" platform (whose design was also to progress into a dedicated night-fighter platform). The aircraft was evolved along this line under the care of various lead engineers and was able to record a first-flight in April of 1939. However, the Royal Air Force (RAF) realized that the aircraft would become obsolete before it could be produced in the numbers required for 1940 and the design was dropped after two flyable prototypes were made.
The aircraft existed in an initial form known as the F.34/35 and it was this aircraft that was drawn up with the dorsal turret in place as well as nose-mounted machine gun armament. The aircraft appeared conventional by late-1930s standards and featured the cockpit aft of the nosecone. The wing mainplanes were straight with rounded tips and set well ahead of midships. Each wing held an aerodynamically refined engine nacelle and each unit drove three-bladed propellers. The fuselage tapered towards the tail to which a double-finned tail unit was affixed. A tail-dragger undercarriage completed the look of this aircraft. The dorsal turret was given complete 360-degree rotation over the aircraft and held 4 x 7.7mm machine guns in paired side-by-side installations.
Though ordered in prototype form in 1936, this design was cancelled before any physical work could begin (the requirement being fulfilled by the Boulton Paul Defiant turret fighter). However, Gloster was allowed to evolve this aircraft into something more under Specification F.9/37 of 1937. This revised requirement sought a new heavy fighter with a minimum speed of 300 miles per hour with a minimum rate-of-climb of 2,725 feet-per-minute. Power would come from 2 x Bristol Taurus T-S(a) engines or 2 x Rolls-Royce Kestrel KV.26 engines and these would be fitted one per wing element. In terms of armament, the heavy fighter would carry 2 x 20mm cannons at the nose, these managed by the pilot, and the rear crewman would manage the powered dorsal turret armed with 4 x 7.7mm machine guns. Before the end of 1938, the second crewman and his position were dropped from the design to better streamline the fighter. In place of the dorsal turret was 3 x 20mm cannons arranged to fire over the cockpit and aircraft's nose, providing the fighter with a lethal forward "punch" against any target in the sky.
The first prototype was equipped with the Taurus engine and the second followed with the Rolls-Royce installations - though the latter was now changed to the Rolls-Royce "Peregrine" series. After early runs for the aircraft, which proved successful and eased development, a first-flight was recorded on April 3rd, 1939. At 360 miles per hour, the F.9/37 was a speedster compared to British fighters in service. Pilots admired the design and found her easy to fly and control.
However, a belly-landing of the first prototype on July 27th delayed development and the specimen was reinstated with Bristol Taurus T-S(a) III engines - but this served to reduce performance for the design. More test flights and weapons evaluation followed but these were lengthy and drawn out.
The second prototype appeared with its Peregrine engines but suffered from excess weight and being underpowered compared to the first - able to make just 330 mph in testing.
Other forms were considered including a dedicated night fighter - the two-seat F.18/40 - and this was to feature a 4 x 20mm cannons under the cockpit floor and reach speeds of 390 mph to take down enemy bombers under the cover of darkness with assistance from onboard (AI = Airborne Interception) radar. One of the existing F.9/37 prototypes was slated to be converted to the F.29/40 "Reaper" night fighter but the project was ended in May of 1941 with the war in full swing - the twin-engined de Havilland DH.98 "Mosquito" heavy fighter proved itself more than capable of conversion to a night fighter.
The F.9/37 program never achieved more than its flyable prototype forms despite its promising nature and was heavily delayed in development to the point that it made itself an unlikely candidate for a serial production contract.
(OPERATORS list includes past, present, and future operators when applicable)
✓Air-to-Air Combat, Fighter
General ability to actively engage other aircraft of similar form and function, typically through guns, missiles, and/or aerial rockets.
✓X-Plane (Developmental, Prototype, Technology Demonstrator)
Aircraft developed for the role of prototyping, technology demonstration, or research / data collection.
37.1 ft (11.30 m)
50.0 ft (15.25 m)
11.6 ft (3.55 m)
8,852 lb (4,015 kg)
11,640 lb (5,280 kg)
+2,789 lb (+1,265 kg)
(Showcased structural values pertain to the base Gloster F.9/37 production variant)
2 x Bristol Taurus T-S(a) 14-cylinder air-cooled radial piston engines developing 1,000 horsepower each and driving three-bladed propeller units.
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