The advanced Hawker "Sea Hawk" single-seat, single-engine jet-powered naval fighter program gave rise to several offshoots that included the swept-winged "P.1052" (detailed elsewhere on this site) and straight-winged, rocket-boosted "P.1072" (the focus of this article). Both were specifically developed as data-collecting aircraft for very distinct research - the latter having its aft-section reworked to install a rocket engine for a considerable bursts of super-high-speed flying power. Only one prototype of this design was completed and flown as British authorities elected instead to concentrate on afterburning turbojets as opposed to rocket-assisted performance types.
This hybrid power approach was entertained by several of the leading aircraft powerhouses of the period including those in the United States - attempting to exact any and all performance from an airframe to gain the advantage over a potential foe - in this case the mighty Soviet Union. There was considerable experimentation with propeller aircraft featuring jet-/rocket-boosting and jet aircraft featuring rocket-boosting to achieve the same result - though few were successful enough to warrant serial production in any way.
With World War 2 having ended in September of 1945, work on the P.1072 project began during the fallout of 1946 with Armstrong Siddeley responsible for the liquid-fueled rocket booster engine component. The P.1040, becoming the Hawker Sea Hawk, was used as the basis for the airframe and general aircraft arrangement. The original P.1040 project prototype, designated "VP401", was set aside and reconstituted for the work ahead - involving a reworking of the Sea Hawk's internals to accommodate the rocket booster while still retaining the single turbojet installation. Only the turbojet required aspirating (air-feeding) and this was handled by triangular intakes at the wing roots with exhaustion through the aft section of the wing roots. The rocket motor could then be buried within the aft section of the fuselage and exhaust through a pipe under the tail at the extreme rear of the aircraft.
To compensate for the needed rocket fuel, turbojet fuel stores were sacrificed and, to similarly compensate for the high-speed forces at play, the aircraft was wholly reinforced though it retained its straight mainplane wing members. The single-seat cockpit was retained over the nose and a retracting tricycle undercarriage was still used for ground-running.
In this guise, the aircraft was designated "P.1072".
The turbojet was a Rolls-Royce Nene 103 series centrifugal flow installation outputting 5,180 lb of thrust. This powerplant would be used for taking off and the initial climb-to-altitude action to which point the rocket could then be activated as needed to achieve additional altitude climb or an increase to speed. The Armstrong Siddeley rocket was the ASSn.1 "Snarler", a liquid-fueled development capable of 2,000 lb but only having enough fuel to burn for about 2 minutes and 45 seconds. Under normal "cruising" circumstances, the turbojet would handle a majority of the flight.
The P.1072 went to the air for the first time on November 20th, 1950 and would go on to complete a total of six flights before it met its end. The program was set back by a small explosion of the rocket motor during one flight but at this point, thought was already moving to a more advanced turbojet-powered form involving afterburning (reheat) technology to get the most out of the engine.
The P.1072 was tested to speeds of 553 miles-per-hour, cruising around 447 mph and ranging out to 350 miles. Its service ceiling reached 44,500 feet and rate-of-climb was 5,000 feet-per-minute.
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