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Armstrong Whitworth AW.14 (Starling)

Biplane Fighter Prototype

United Kingdom | 1927

"The Armstrong Whitworth Starling lost out to the Bristol Bulldog biplane fighter when competing for a Royal Air Force contract."

Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited: 04/21/2020 | Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com | The following text is exclusive to this site; No A.I. was used in the generation of this content.
The "Starling" (company designation of "AW.14") was developed by the British concern of Armstrong Whitworth during the late-1920s to compete for Royal Air Force (RAF) fighter contract Specification 28/24 of 1924 (seeking a day / night fighter). The biplane, intended to succeed an aging line of Armstrong Whitworth "Siskin" biplanes, eventually lost out to the Bristol "Bulldog" (detailed elsewhere on this site), which went on to see production reach 443, while just two Starlings were completed for the prototype testing phase. A first-flight was recorded on May 12th, 1927.

Specification 28/24 called for a new biplane fighter of all-modern design capable of reaching / exceeding speeds of 180 miles-per-hour. Armstrong Whitworth engineers returned with a traditional offering featuring a conventional wing mainplane arrangement (over-under), fixed two-wheeled undercarriage, and single-seat / open-air cockpit. The mainplanes were of single-bay configuration and unequal span, with the lower member noticeably shorter than the upper. The members were braced by N-shaped struts as well as cabling as was the usual construction method of the period. The engine was fitted at the extreme forward end of the fuselage and drove a twin-bladed propeller unit. The pilot sat aft of the engine installation as well as the upper wing member so views forward were considerably limited. The fuselage tapered towards the tail to which a single, rounded vertical fin was situated. Horizontal planes were affixed to the fuselage at the base of the fin. Beyond the main landing gear legs, of which both were wheeled, the aircraft was braced along the ground by a simple tail skid featured under the tail unit. Internally, the fuselage carried a steel tube framework with wood and canvas completing the rest of the aircraft's construction makeup.

As a fighter, the aircraft was proposed with a typical fitting of 2 x 0.303 caliber Vickers Machine Guns. These air-cooled units were positioned over the nose of the aircraft and synchronized to fire through the spinning propeller blades.

The first AW.14 aircraft, flying in May of 1927 and eventually named the "Starling", was powered by the in-house Armstrong Siddeley "Jaguar VII" air-cooled radial piston engine offering 385 total horsepower. However, this powerplant failed to provide the performance required which led to the installation of the Armstrong Siddeley "Jaguar V" 14-cylinder air-cooled radial piston engine of 460 horsepower output instead. Despite the increase in output rating, the aircraft still struggled to impress in the skies, managing speeds under 160 miles-per-hour. As a result, the aircraft was passed on in favor of the Bristol design under the revised Specification F.9/26 of February 1926 (calling for a day / night "zone" fighter).

As built, the aircraft was given a length of 25.1 feet with a span of 31.3 feet and a height of 10.5 feet. Empty weight reached 2,060lb against an MTOW of 3,100lb. With its Jaguar V engine, the fighter prototype could manage a service ceiling of about 27,600 feet with a rate-of-climb of 1,428 feet-per-minute.

Armstrong Whitworth continued work on their AW.14 and fitted the prototype with new wings as well as the Armstrong Siddeley "Panther II" series engine of 525 horsepower hoping to solve both the performance issues as well as handling limitations encountered through Starling I. In this form, known as the "Starling II", the aircraft flew for the first time on December 5th, 1929 and was entered against Specifications F.20/27 (interception single-seat fighter) and N.21/26 - the later being a Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm "fleet fighter" requirement. Even in this guise, the aircraft failed to impress and was eventually used in testing by the company for the remainder of its operating days.

The Armstrong Whitworth AW.16, detailed elsewhere on this site, was heavily influenced by the company's work on the AW.14. However, this newer offering only resulted in eighteen total aircraft completed with sixteen being sent to fight in China.

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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 Armstrong Whitworth Starling I Biplane Fighter Prototype.
1 x Armstrong Siddeley "Jaguar V" 14-cylinder air-cooled radial piston engine developing 460 horsepower driving a two-bladed propeller at the nose.
162 mph
260 kph | 140 kts
Max Speed
27,559 ft
8,400 m | 5 miles
Service Ceiling
1,430 ft/min
436 m/min
The nose-to-tail, wingtip-to-wingtip physical qualities of the Armstrong Whitworth Starling I Biplane Fighter Prototype.
25.2 ft
7.67 m
O/A Length
31.3 ft
(9.55 m)
O/A Width
10.5 ft
(3.20 m)
O/A Height
2,061 lb
(935 kg)
Empty Weight
3,097 lb
(1,405 kg)
Available supported armament and special-mission equipment featured in the design of the Armstrong Whitworth AW.14 (Starling) Biplane Fighter Prototype .
2 x 0.303 caliber (7.7mm) Vickers Machine Guns in fixed,forward-firing mountings over the nose synchronized to fire through the spinning propeller blades.
Notable series variants as part of the Armstrong Whitworth AW.14 (Starling) family line.
Starling - Base Series Name; two prototypes completed.
Starling I - Initial prototype of 1927; Armstrong Siddeley Jaguar VII / V engines.
Starling II - Second prototype of 1930; Armstrong Siddeley "Panther" engine.
Global customers who have evaluated and/or operated the Armstrong Whitworth AW.14 (Starling). Nations are displayed by flag, each linked to their respective national aircraft listing.

Total Production: 2 Units

Contractor(s): Armstrong Whitworth - UK
National flag of the United Kingdom

[ United Kingdom (trialed) ]
Going Further...
The Armstrong Whitworth AW.14 (Starling) Biplane Fighter Prototype appears in the following collections:
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