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Westland Whirlwind


Heavy Fighter / Fighter-Bomber Aircraft


United Kingdom | 1940



"Impressive when it appeared in the late 1930s, the Westland Whirlwind was all but outmoded by 1943 and primarily doomed by its choice of engine."



Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited: 10/18/2018 | Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com | The following text is exclusive to this site; No A.I. was used in the generation of this content.
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Firepower
Performance
Survivability
Versatility
Impact
The Westland Whirlwind became a capable twin-engined, heavy fighter design that might have seen even better service numbers were it not for its selection of Rolls-Royce Peregrine engines. Originally slated to utilize the Rolls-Royce Merlin, the Whirlwind platform was instead relegated to using the underpowered Peregrine for nearly all Merlin stocks were directed to Supermarine Spitfire and Hawker Hurricane fighter production. As a result, the Whirlwind would break into military aviation with much promise but become an obsolete design as soon as June 1944 - replaced by the more capable Hawker Typhoon types in service. Total production of Whirlwinds netted just 116 units.

The Whirlwind was given an identifiable design with two underslung engine nacelles mounted under low-wing monoplane assemblies. While this elevated cockpit viewing for improved situational awareness, the pilot's vision was still obstructed by the wings and engine housings while also seated aft of a long nose assembly. The fuselage was tubular in its general shape with the tail unit of a T-style arrangement fitting a pair of horizontal planes to either side of a single rudder. Space in the nose section was reserved for a battery of 4 x 20mm cannons. The undercarriage continued the accepted "tail-dragger" three-point form featuring two main landing gear legs and a tail wheel. All were retractable into the airframe.

Tested as early as 1938 through the P.9 prototype (two completed), the Whirlwind did not see frontline service until 1940 to which it entered the war with some revolutionary design features. Chief among these became use of a "bubble" canopy which promised excellent all-around visibility for the pilot and became a fixture by war's end on several other fighter designs. Leading edge-mounted wing radiators were instituted as well.

Initial performance of the aircraft type proved only adequate though far below what was anticipated. The Peregrine powerplants did not offer huge gains though the airframe itself was reportedly extremely stable and fast at low altitudes. Whirlwinds were eventually given bomber escort roles during critical daylight bombing raids designed to disrupt and destroy Axis infrastructure and war-making capabilities. A dedicated fighter-bomber form, with underwing bomb racks (2 x 250lb or 500lb bombs), then appeared as the Whirlwind FB.Mk II. These were 67 Mk I fighter models converted to the role.

Stated performance figures for the Whirlwind included a maximum speed of 360 miles per hour, a range of 800 miles and a service ceiling of 30,300 feet. The engines of choice were Rolls-Royce Peregrine V12 liquid-cooled types which outputted at 885 horsepower each. These drove a pair of three-bladed propellers from de Havilland.

Engine development issues continued and this was coupled to a fast landing speed that did not endear the machine to warplanners who were already looking for a replacement. As such, the Whirlwind would lead a very short wartime service life and was retired in 1943. In fact, the final flight of a Whirlwind was recorded in June of 1943 after an attack on a German airfield at Poix, France (northeast). It only ever stocked two Royal Air Force squadrons from June 1940 to October 1943 (No. 137 and No. 263 squadrons). Production spanned from 1940 to January 1942.

An impressive initial design, history would force the Whirlwind to play second fiddle to the United Kingdom's more notable fighter and fighter-bomber designs.

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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 Westland Whirlwind Mk I Heavy Fighter / Fighter-Bomber Aircraft.
2 x Rolls-Royce Peregrine liquid-cooled piston engines developing 885 horsepower each and driving three-bladed propeller units.
Propulsion
360 mph
580 kph | 313 kts
Max Speed
30,000 ft
9,144 m | 6 miles
Service Ceiling
802 miles
1,290 km | 697 nm
Operational Range
3,000 ft/min
914 m/min
Rate-of-Climb
City-to-City Ranges
Operational range when compared to distances between major cities (in KM).
NYC
 
  LON
LON
 
  PAR
PAR
 
  BER
BER
 
  MOS
MOS
 
  TOK
TOK
 
  SYD
SYD
 
  LAX
LAX
 
  NYC
Structure
The nose-to-tail, wingtip-to-wingtip physical qualities of the Westland Whirlwind Mk I Heavy Fighter / Fighter-Bomber Aircraft.
1
(MANNED)
Crew
32.7 ft
9.98 m
O/A Length
45.0 ft
(13.72 m)
O/A Width
11.5 ft
(3.52 m)
O/A Height
7,840 lb
(3,556 kg)
Empty Weight
10,269 lb
(4,658 kg)
MTOW
Design Balance
The three qualities reflected below are altitude, speed, and range. The more full the box, the more balanced the design.
RANGE
ALT
SPEED
Armament
Available supported armament and special-mission equipment featured in the design of the Westland Whirlwind Heavy Fighter / Fighter-Bomber Aircraft .
STANDARD (Mk I):
4 x 20mm Hispano cannons in nose.

STANDARD (Mk II):
4 x 20mm Hispano cannons in nose.
2 x 250lb or 500lb conventional drop bombs under the wings.
Support for aerial rockets.
Variants
Notable series variants as part of the Westland Whirlwind family line.
Mk I - Base Fighter Designation; fitted with 2 x Rolls-Royce Peregrine liquid-cooled piston engines delivering 885 horsepower each.
Mk II - Fighter-Bomber Variant; fitted with 2 x Rolls-Royce Peregrine 12-cylinder V-type engines delivering 765 horsepower each; up to 1,000lb of bombs.
Operators
Global customers who have evaluated and/or operated the Westland Whirlwind. Nations are displayed by flag, each linked to their respective national aircraft listing.

Total Production: 116 Units

Contractor(s): Westland Aircraft Limited - UK
National flag of the United Kingdom

[ United Kingdom (retired) ]
Relative Max Speed
Hi: 400mph
Lo: 200mph
Aircraft Max Listed Speed (360mph).

Graph Average of 300 MPH.
Era Crossover
Pie graph section
Showcasing Aircraft Era Crossover (if any)
Max Alt Visualization
Small airplane graphic
Production Comparison
116
36183
44000
Entry compared against Ilyushin IL-2 (military) and Cessna 172 (civilian) total production.
MACH Regime (Sonic)
Sub
Trans
Super
Hyper
HiHyper
ReEntry
RANGES (MPH) Subsonic: <614mph | Transonic: 614-921 | Supersonic: 921-3836 | Hypersonic: 3836-7673 | Hi-Hypersonic: 7673-19180 | Reentry: >19030
Aviation Timeline
EarlyYrs
WWI
Interwar
WWII
ColdWar
Postwar
Modern
Future
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Image from the Public Domain.

Mission Roles
Some designs are single-minded in their approach while others offer a more versatile solution to airborne requirements.
AIR-TO-AIR COMBAT
INTERCEPTION
CLOSE-AIR SUPPORT
RECONNAISSANCE
Recognition
Some designs stand the test of time while others are doomed to never advance beyond the drawing board; let history be their judge.
Going Further...
The Westland Whirlwind Heavy Fighter / Fighter-Bomber Aircraft appears in the following collections:
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