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BAe P.103

Vertical Take-Off and Landing (VTOL) Fighter Study

United Kingdom | 1980

"The BAe P.103 fighter design study to come out of Warton during the late-1970s, early-1980s was a unique take on the VTOL requirement."

Power & Performance
Those special qualities that separate one aircraft design from another. Performance specifications presented assume optimal operating conditions for the BAe P.103 Vertical Take-Off and Landing (VTOL) Fighter Study.
2 x Turbo-Union (Rolls-Royce, MBB, Aeritalia) RB.199-62R afterburning turbofan engines developing 20,750lb of thrust dry and up to 37,850lb of thrust with reheat; engines fitted to wing mainplane member tiling mechanism for VTOL operations.
1,553 mph
2,500 kph | 1,350 kts
Max Speed
The nose-to-tail, wingtip-to-wingtip physical qualities of the BAe P.103 Vertical Take-Off and Landing (VTOL) Fighter Study.
50.0 ft
15.25 m
O/A Length
42.0 ft
(12.80 m)
O/A Width
Available supported armament and special-mission equipment featured in the design of the BAe P.103 Vertical Take-Off and Landing (VTOL) Fighter Study provided across 2 hardpoints.
2 x 20mm internal automatic cannons in lower forward fuselage.
2 x Air-to-Air Missiles (AAMs) at wingtips (one per wing member).

Other hardpoints to carry additional AAMs and most likely plumbed for jettisonable fuel tanks to extend inherent operational ranges.

Hardpoints Key:

Not Used
Notable series variants as part of the BAe P.103 family line.
P.103 - Project Designation; full-scale mockup completed before project's end.
Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited: 06/13/2021 | Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com | The following text is exclusive to this site; No A.I. was used in the generation of this content.

During the 1970s and 1980s, British studies into Vertical Take-Off and Landing (VTOL) fighter aircraft reached a fever pitch. While a mountain of designs were eventually drawn up, many would never see the light of day or exist solely as proposals rejected by higher-ups. The British Aerospace (BAe) concern certainly contributed to the effort by way of their Warton and Kingston sites during a period where no seemingly terrible idea was "off the table".

The P.103 project fighter emerged from the Warton location and this offering was one of the more unique designs to come out of the company during this time. The primary feature of the aircraft was its engines housed in underslung, outboard nacelles that could tilt to offer the needed VTOL performance and also coming in-line to provide the required forward propulsion. Design work on this single-seat, twin-engine solution was begun in 1978 with the hope that flight-testing could be had before the middle of the 1980s.

The tilting action of the engines, mounted to the mainplanes, necessitated a non-traditional arrangement in which foreplanes at the front of the fuselage sides took the place of conventional tailplanes normally positioned at the rear near the engine exhaust port. The mainplanes themselves were conventionally rear-swept with the engine nacelles positioned at their midway point. The members were shoulder-mounted along the sides of the semi-rounded fuselage and sported dihedral inboard and anhedral outboard of the engine housings. Control surfaces would have to be spread about the angled leading and trailing edges where possible due to the engines braking up the wing design.

The engine housings were essentially rounded-rectangles with circular intakes for aspiration and exhaust ports. The tail unit featured a single vertical plane and sat stop the tapering end of the fuselage which terminated at a shallow rounded cone. The single-seat, pressurized cockpit (no doubt sporting an ejection seat) was positioned ahead of the wing surfaces and aft of a traditional nosecone (to house radar in the finalized design). A wheeled / retractable tricycle undercarriage would be used for ground-running - the nose leg disappearing under the cockpit floor and the main legs pulling into the cramped fuselage section.

The Turbo-Union RB.199 turbofan (developed by the joint venture involving Rolls-Royce of Britain, MBB of West Germany, and Aeritalia of Italy) was at the center of the propulsion scheme. The units were short enough to be featured in the tilting engine arrangement and, more importantly, offered the inherent power required of the VTOL action. The mechanical system was to be able to move the engine through a range of up to 90-degrees - not only allowing for runway-free operation, but also shortening take-off runs if the fighter was operated in the usual, conventional take-off manner.

Beyond wind tunnel testing to prove aerodynamics sound, a full-sized mockup was completed at the Warton facility during 1980. However, the design did not proceed beyond this stage as its inherent complexity naturally doomed the venture before it went airborne. The mechanism needed to manage the tilting function was just one issue - the other being the loss of one engine in the design (due to failure and whatnot) destined to doom the entire aircraft and pilot in one fell swoop.

One short-lived version of this same aircraft study reworked the mainplanes to be forward-swept / forward-cranked. Interestingly, the foreplanes were retained as rearward-swept appendages.

With these failings, this optimistic aircraft project fell to British aviation history before the end of 1982.

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Total Production: 0 Units

Contractor(s): British Aerospace (BAe) (Warton) - UK
National flag of the United Kingdom

[ United Kingdom (cancelled) ]
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Image of the BAe P.103
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Going Further...
The BAe P.103 Vertical Take-Off and Landing (VTOL) Fighter Study appears in the following collections:
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