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Handley Page HP.54 Harrow

Heavy Bomber Aircraft

United Kingdom | 1937

"100 HP.54 heavies were built by Handley Page across two major marks - just in time to see service in World War 2."

Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited: 12/23/2020 | Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com | The following text is exclusive to this site; No A.I. was used in the generation of this content.
The one-off Handley Page HP.51 bomber-transport prototype of 1935 (designed against the 1931 Specification C.26/31) was selected for serial production to become the HP.54 "Harrow" heavy bomber. The revised design retained the former's twin-engine arrangement and high-wing monoplane and was flown for the first time on October 10th, 1935. Produced from 1936 to 1937, one hundred examples were ultimately realized across two major variants, Mk.I and Mk. II - these going on to serve both the British Royal Air Force (RAF) and Royal Canadian Air Force for their time in the air.

Design of the series was attributed to G.V. Lachmann (1896-1966) and the aircraft was offered specifically against the newly drawn Specification B.29/35 of 1935 for the dedicated heavy bomber role. Even before the finalized design flew, the RAF - desperate to modernize its attack wings - contracted for 100 of the type.

The end-result was a relatively modern bomber retaining its transport capabilities. The aircraft featured a stepped cockpit aft and above a glazed nose section and, beyond the high-wing monoplane, were twin vertical rudder fins and a fixed, wheeled undercarriage. The crew numbered five and defensive gun positions allowed for up to 4 x 7.7mm Lewis Machine Guns to be fitted in turrets set about the airframe. The single-gunned nose and twin-gunned tail turrets were power-assisted while the single-gunned dorsal turret was manually-trained. Beyond this armament was an inherent capability to carry up to 3,000lb of conventional drop ordnance.

In its original Harrow Mk.I production form (of which 19 were eventually built), the bomber was powered by 2 x Bristol Pegasus X air-cooled radial piston engines of 830 horsepower driving three-bladed propeller units. The follow-on Harrow Mk.II variant, definitively produced in 81 examples, carried twin Bristol Pegasus XX series radials of 925 horsepower.

Structural dimensions included a running length of 82.1 feet, a wingspan of 88.4 feet, and a height of 19.4 feet. Empty weight reached 13,600lb against a gross of 23,000lb. Performance figures included a maximum speed of 200 miles-per-hour, a cruising speed of 165 mph, a service ceiling of 22,800 feet, and a rate-of-climb nearing 710 feet-per-minute.

Initial deliveries to the RAF inventory was in January of 1937 (World War 2 would formally begun in September of 1939) and the type eventually stocked no fewer than nine total RAF squadrons as well as No.782 Naval Air Squadron of the Fleet Air Arm (FAA). In service, the type soldiered on as best it could in the bomber role and was quickly superseded by more modern bomber solutions coming online. This relegated the Harrow series to its second-line role of transport before the end of 1939 where it conducted general cargo ferrying and MEDEVAC support across Western Europe. As a transport, Harrows could carry up to 20 combat-ready troopers or 12 medical patients. All Harrows were retired as soon as the war ended in 1945. RCAF use amounted to a pair of aircraft being passed on to the service from the RAF stock in 1940. These were operated from Gander, Newfoundland.

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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 Handley Page Harrow Mk.II Heavy Bomber Aircraft.
2 x Bristol Pegasus XX 9-cylinder air-cooled radial piston engines developing 925 horsepower driving three-bladed propeller units.
199 mph
320 kph | 173 kts
Max Speed
22,966 ft
7,000 m | 4 miles
Service Ceiling
1,274 miles
2,050 km | 1,107 nm
Operational Range
710 ft/min
216 m/min
City-to-City Ranges
Operational range when compared to distances between major cities (in KM).
The nose-to-tail, wingtip-to-wingtip physical qualities of the Handley Page Harrow Mk.II Heavy Bomber Aircraft.
82.2 ft
25.05 m
O/A Length
88.4 ft
(26.95 m)
O/A Width
19.5 ft
(5.95 m)
O/A Height
13,603 lb
(6,170 kg)
Empty Weight
23,038 lb
(10,450 kg)
Design Balance
The three qualities reflected below are altitude, speed, and range. The more full the box, the more balanced the design.
Available supported armament and special-mission equipment featured in the design of the Handley Page HP.54 Harrow Heavy Bomber Aircraft .
1 x 7.7mm Lewis Machine Gun in power-assisted nose turret.
1 x 7.7mm Lewis Machine Gun in manually-trained dorsal turret.
2 x 7.7mm Lewis Machine Guns in power-assisted tail turret.

Up to 3,000lb of conventional drop bombs.
Notable series variants as part of the Handley Page HP.54 Harrow family line.
HP.54 "Harrow" - Base Series Designation.
Harrow Mk.I - Initial production model with Bristol Pegasus X series engines of 830 horsepower; 19 examples completed.
Harrow Mk.II - Definitive production model with Bristol Pegasus XX engines of 925 horsepower; 81 examples completed.
Global customers who have evaluated and/or operated the Handley Page HP.54 Harrow. Nations are displayed by flag, each linked to their respective national aircraft listing.

Total Production: 100 Units

Contractor(s): Handley Page - UK
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[ Canada; United Kingdom ]
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Image of the Handley Page HP.54 Harrow
Image from the Public Domain.

Going Further...
The Handley Page HP.54 Harrow Heavy Bomber Aircraft appears in the following collections:
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