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DH 103 Hornet

Multipurpose Fighter

De Havilland

Sea Hornet F.Mk.20

Work on projects DH 101 and DH 102 was carried out from October 1941 to the end of 1942. However, both projects were retired in favor of the more interesting and promising DH 103 aircraft, the preliminary design of which began in September 1942. Five months later, De Havilland was already able to demonstrate its layout. The new aircraft, incorporating all the best from its predecessors, aroused interest in the British Ministry of Aviation. The firm received an order for a long-range escort fighter intended for the Pacific theater of operations. Funding has begun to improve performance to ensure superiority over the latest Japanese interceptors Mitsubishi J2M "Raiden" and Kawanishi N1K "Shiden" , flying at speeds of 574 - 587 km / h and at altitudes of 10,000 - 12,000 m.

It was necessary to improve aerodynamics and, first of all, to reduce the drag of the aircraft. Collaboration with Rolls-Royce was essential to success. The DH 103 was powered by Rolls-Royce Merlin 130 (left) and Merlin 131 (right) engines with a takeoff power of 1670 hp each. and maximum power at an altitude of 2030 hp. The De Havilland Hydromatic four-bladed propellers with a diameter of 3.66 m rotated in different directions, which compensated for their reactive moments and improved the controllability of the aircraft.

Engine builders have matched the geometry of the engines with the streamlined forms of the aircraft nacelles, the frontal area of ​​which has been reduced by 15% compared to the Mosquito. The block of the crankcase and the cylinders is "compressed". Most of the units were located, if possible, behind the engine mount. Radiators of engine cooling systems, oil coolers and heat exchangers were combined into a single unit and placed in the wing nose, between the engines and the fuselage. The intake pipes of the engines were brought out to the leading edge of the wing from the outside of the engine nacelles.

The regular fuel supply of 1630 liters was located in four tanks of the center section. The volume of fuel together with four additional tanks in the wing consoles is 2400 liters, and the maximum, with two outboard tanks, is 4220 liters.

In June 1943, serial production of the DH 103 fighter was recognized as a priority. Apparently, it was the display of the full-size model of the aircraft, which impressed with its graceful contours, powerful armament (four Hispano cannons) and excellent visibility from the cockpit with a "clean" teardrop-shaped canopy. By the way, the layout of the front part of the DH 103 fuselage was so dense that the usable cockpit area did not exceed half that of the Mosquito.

The first DH 103, numbered RR 915, named Hornet, made its maiden flight on July 28, 1944, 3 years after the start of work on the project. In flight in a straight line, the prototype reached a speed of 780 km / h, service ceiling - 10 600 m, non-stop range - 4000 km. Tests with the suspension of two 908 L tanks or two 454 kg bombs were carried out on the second prototype (RR 919).

Impressed by the early successes of the new aircraft, the RAF ordered about five hundred DH 103 Hornet F.Mk.I. The British Admiralty also showed interest, since the DH 103 was suitable for the role of a carrier-based fighter, thanks to its short take-off and landing distances, high resource and durability.

By the time Japan surrendered, De Havilland had produced 60 Mk.I machines. The aircraft began arriving from the factory at the Hatfield airfield at the end of 1944. The first of them were flown in February of the following year. The lead vehicle of the series was sent to the flight research center for state tests. The fighter flew at a speed of 760 km / h at an altitude of 6700 m, which was not much less than that of the RR 915 prototype.

On October 29, 1945, the Hornet was shown to the public at the Farnborough Aviation Festival. The first fighter squadron to receive the new aircraft was the 64th squadron, which ended the war in Mustangs. In addition to the 64th, four more squadrons of the RAF fighter command were armed with Hornets.

Since 1955, Hornets began to be replaced by jet aircraft and by the end of 1956 they were withdrawn from service. Thus, the DH-103 Hornet became the last piston fighter in the RAF. Its naval version served the same period.

DH 103 F.Mk.III F.Mk.XX
Crew 1
Wing span, m 13.716
Wing area, m² 33.54
Length, m 11.176 11.102
Height, m 4.318 3.962
2 × PE Rolls-Royce Merlin 134, power, h.p. 2 × 2030
Weight, kg:
Empty 5,842 6,046
Gross weight 9,480 8,405
Maximum speed, km/h 759 752
Service ceiling, m 11430 10670
Service range, km 4020
Maximum rate of climb, m/min 1219
Cannons Hispano 20 мм 4
Bomb load up to, kg 2×454


  • Hornet F.Mk.I. first production fighter
  • Hornet РR.Mk.II. part of F.Mk.1 aircraft converted for the role of photo reconnaissance.
  • Hornet F.Mk.III. modernized version of 1949 release.
  • Hornet F.Mk.III. a modernized version of the 1950 Hornet F.Mk.3
  • Sea Hornet F.Mk.XX. a variant of the Hornet F.Mk.I. carrier-based fighter
  • Sea Hornet NF.Mk.XXI. night fighter variant.
  • Sea Hornet PR.Mk.XXII2. Marine version of the Hornet PR.Mk.2 with 2 F.52 cameras.
  • Sea Hornet F.Mk.II. a variant of the Sea Hornet PR.Mk.22 with suspended weapons.
Photo Description
Drawing Hornet F Mk.I

Drawing Hornet F Mk.I

Drawing Hornet F Mk.III

Drawing Hornet F Mk.III

Drawing Hornet NF Mk.21

Drawing Hornet NF Mk.21


  • "Encyclopedia of Military Equipment" / Aerospace Publising /
  • "British military aircraft of the Second World War" / ed. Daniel March /

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November 14, 2019
Film English composite of the Second World War. The DH 103 airframe manufacturing technology was traditional for the British aircraft industry of those years, but had its own peculiarities.
The two-piece solid wood fuselage was glued similarly to the Mosquito fuselage from two layers of plywood with a balsa interlayer for lightness. A kind of composite material was used in the wing design. The upper double plywood covering was connected with a layer of duralumin and combined wood-metal spars using synthetic resins. This technology of the Aero Research firm, called "Redux", was applied for the first time. It made it possible to improve the strength and elastic characteristics of the wing and, by reducing the thickness of the structural elements, to obtain a gain in weight and useful volume.