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Handley Page HP.21 / Type S (HPS-1)

Single-Seat, Single-Engine Monoplane Fighter [ 1924 ]

The only foray into fighter design attempted by Handley Page of Britain was the HPS-1 - this intended for service with the United States Navy during the 1920s.

Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited: 01/29/2019 | Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com | The following text is exclusive to this site.

Heading into the 1920s, the United States Navy (USN) looked to a new, all-modern fighter type with a dual-role capability in mind. This single-seat, single-engine mount would be of standardized design for equipping a wheeled undercarriage for land-based service or twin floats for operating on water. In 1921, the requirement was fleshed out and the competition was open to both local aero-industry as well as those with wartime experience in Europe.

The British concern of Handley Page, founded back in 1909, responded with a modern monoplane of advanced design for the period. The fuselage was well-streamlined and incorporated the powerplant at the extreme front end of the design in the usual way with the open-air cockpit positioned just aft. The pilot sat behind a windscreen and ahead of a raised section of the dorsal spine to protect the head and neck from violent forces or rollovers. The fuselage tapered elegantly to the tail to which a high-reaching, large-area, single-finned rudder arrangement was set in place. The wing mainplanes were set low against the sides of the fuselage, though positioned nearly at the nose which drove center mass considerably forward. The undercarriage was a twin-wheeled, strutted arrangement under the nose with a skid installed at the underside of the tail. As stated, the aircraft would be able to swap out the wheeled undercarriage for twin floats for water landings. Construction was largely of wood with plywood skinning used at both the wings and fuselage.

The aircraft was planned from the outset to carry a 400 horsepower output engine through its serial production models but prototypes were powered by the lower-rated Gwynne (Bentley) BR.2 rotary engine of 230-232 horsepower used to drive the two-bladed propeller unit at the nose.

As with other fighters of the period, this monoplane would be capably armed through a pairing of machine guns in fixed, forward-firing mounts set over the nose and synchronized to fire through the spinning propeller blades. Based on the local USN requirement, these weapons were to be 2 x 0.30 caliber (7.62mm) Marlin Machine Guns (as opposed to the popular British Vickers used across European fighter designs).

Internally, the aircraft was known to Handley Page as the "Type S".

Three prototypes were contracted by the USN under the local designation of "HPS-1" (for "Handley Page Scout"). The first of these was readied and flown for the first time on September 7th, 1923 but its handling (particularly in the realm of directional stability) left something to be desired so various fixes were enacted in an attempt o resolve the issues. The second prototype was given an advanced mainplane form in which dihedral (upward angle) was six degrees. This model was tested beginning in February of 1924.

It was this prototype that, with a ballast added to simulate the required USN war load, hard-landed during evaluations, its undercarriage collapsing as a result. The accident more or less spelled the death knell for this monoplane program and third prototype, to feature the requisite twin floats, was never realized. The Type S became Handley Page's only attempt at a frontline fighter - the firm known largely for design and construction of oversized aircraft more suitable for the bombing role than one-on-one combat. In later literature, the Type S would be referred to as the "HP.21".

As completed, the stylish, racer-like aircraft had a running length of 21.5 feet, a wingspan of 29.2 feet, and a height of 9.6 feet. Empty was 1,320lb with a Maximum Take-Off Weight (MTOW) of 2,030lb. It managed a maximum speed of 147 miles-per-hour with a service ceiling of 21,000 feet and a rate-of-climb nearing 1,800 feet-per-minute. Flying endurance was up to three hours on internal fuel.©MilitaryFactory.com
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Service Year

United Kingdom national flag graphic
United Kingdom

Development Ended.


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.

21.5 ft
(6.55 m)
29.3 ft
(8.92 m)
9.6 ft
(2.92 m)
Empty Wgt
1,323 lb
(600 kg)
2,039 lb
(925 kg)
Wgt Diff
+717 lb
(+325 kg)
(Showcased structural values pertain to the Handley Page HPS-1 production variant)
Installed: 1 x Gwynne (Bentley) BR.2 rotary engine developing 230 horsepower and driving a two-bladed propeller unit at the nose.
Max Speed
147 mph
(236 kph | 127 kts)
20,997 ft
(6,400 m | 4 mi)
435 mi
(700 km | 1,296 nm)
1,800 ft/min
(549 m/min)

♦ MACH Regime (Sonic)
RANGES (MPH) Subsonic: <614mph | Transonic: 614-921 | Supersonic: 921-3836 | Hypersonic: 3836-7673 | Hi-Hypersonic: 7673-19180 | Reentry: >19030

(Showcased performance specifications pertain to the Handley Page HPS-1 production variant. Performance specifications showcased above are subject to environmental factors as well as aircraft configuration. Estimates are made when Real Data not available. Compare this aircraft entry against any other in our database or View aircraft by powerplant type)
2 x 0.30 caliber (7.62mm) Marlin Machine Guns in fixed, forward-firing mountings over the nose and synchronized to fire through the spinning propeller blades.

Supported Types

Graphical image of an aircraft medium machine gun

(Not all ordnance types may be represented in the showcase above)
Hardpoint Mountings: 0

Type S - Base Series Designation.
HPS-1 - USN designation; two flyable prototypes completed and tested.
HP.21 - Retrospective redesignation of Type S.

General Assessment
Values are derrived from a variety of categories related to the design, overall function, and historical influence of this aircraft in aviation history.
Overall Rating
The overall rating takes into account over 60 individual factors related to this aircraft entry.
Rating is out of a possible 100 points.
Relative Maximum Speed
Hi: 150mph
Lo: 75mph
This entry's maximum listed speed (147mph).

Graph average of 113 miles-per-hour.
City-to-City Ranges
Handley Page HPS-1 operational range when compared to distances between major cities (in KM).
Max Altitude Visualization
Small airplane graphic
Design Balance
The three qualities reflected above are altitude, speed, and range.
Aviation Era Span
Pie graph section
Showcasing era cross-over of this aircraft design.
Unit Production (2)
Compared against Ilyushin IL-2 (military) and Cessna 172 (civilian).

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Images Gallery

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Image of the Handley Page HP.21 / Type S (HPS-1)
Image from the Public Domain.


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