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Gloster Gladiator biplane fighter

Written by Sakhal

At the start of the Second World War many countries had in their armed forces many outdated aircraft such as the biplanes; among them distinguished itself the fighter Gloster Gladiator of the Royal Air Force. Designed in 1930, this aircraft had, for that time, some characteristics that surpassed the ones of other British aircraft. Armament was twice than normal, almost the same happened with speed and the possibility of operating as night fighter rendered the Gloster Gladiator a first class interceptor. Unfortunately, the first flight of the prototype did not occur until well advanced 1934 and the delivering of the mass-production units until 1937, when this aircraft had been already surpassed by more modern ones, like the wonderful Messerschmitt Bf 109, operating since 1936. However, the Gloster Gladiator operated in war missions until 1941, when it was retired from the frontline and turned into either a training or a meteorological aircraft. The Gloster Gladiator had its baptism of fire in the Sino-Japanese War (1938-39) and the Russo-Japanese War (1938-39), taking part as well in the Russo-Finnish War (1939-40) and later in the invasion of Norway (April 1940), in Belgium (May 1940), in Greece (April 1941), in the Mediterranean and in northern and eastern Africa; it did not took active part in the Battle of Britain. It served in a long list of countries apart from Great Britain: Australia, Belgium, China, Finland, Egypt, Greece, Irak, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Portugal and Sweden. Total production reached 768: 378 of the initial series Mark I, 311 of the Mark II, 60 of the Sea Gladiator and 18 of the Swedish Mark II version with Nohab Mercury engine.

Gloster Gladiator biplane fighter

Gloster Gladiator biplane fighter

The Gloster Gladiator had a robust structure, of easy manufacture but outdated conception; built exclusively with metallic materials, but with identical technique as the wooden biplanes from the First World War. Like in those, the structure was totally lined with fabric. It is worth mentioning that the Gloster Gladiator was the last biplane fighter operating in the Royal Air Force. The engine was a Bristol Mercury with nine cylinders and 830 HP. Pilots were not enthusiastic with this aircraft, because of its few advantages, light armament and vulnerability. Frequently it had the loss against the enemy, with a high number of casualties. It could only match the CR 42 from the Italian Regia Aeronautica, being a tremendous adversary of these. Despite the severe disadvantages, British pilots achieved victories with the Gladiator, specially against the Italians, albeit many were not confirmed by the enemy. Besides, the very British admitted that the legendary deeds of the three Sea Gladiator (the carrier version of the Gloster Gladiator) known as "Faith", "Hope" and "Charity", which defended Malta in the summer 1940, were product of a legend well tapped by the propaganda. In this way ended, in the skies of the Mediterranean, the operative life of an aircraft that had been born too late for being appreciated as it deserved.

Gloster Gladiator biplane fighter

Gloster Gladiator Mark II (J 8A) of the Flygflottilj F 19, Swedish Squadron of Volunteers, Lake Kemi, North Finland, January 1940. The 12 Swedish Gladiators of the F 19, individually lettered from A to L, were assigned to the Finnish Air Force during the Winter War, being painted on them a black circle over the Swedish ensign with the three crowns; extraofficially the F 19 used as its own badge a skull with crossbones, painted over the ensigns or in the vertical tails. The drawing in yellow depicting a wing in this particular aircraft is personal from the pilot.

Specifications for Gloster Gladiator Mark I

First flight: 12 September 1934

Wingspan: 9.83 meters

Wing area: 30.01 square meters

Length: 8.36 meters

Height: 3.57 meters

Weight (empty): 1633 kilograms

Weight (full load): 2083 kilograms

Payload: 450 kilograms

Engine: Bristol Mercury IX 830 HP

Time to reach 4572 meters altitude: 5 minutes 40 seconds

Service ceiling: 9814 meters

Maximum speed at sea level: 340 kilometers/hour

Maximum speed at 4400 meters: 407 kilometers/hour

Cruising speed: 362 kilometers/hour

Defensive armament: two 7.7 mm Colt/Browning machine guns in the fore fuselage, two 7.7 mm Browning/Vickers/Lewis machine guns beneath the lower wings

Operational range: 714 kilometers at a speed of 362 kilometers/hour and an altitude of 4450 meters

Categories: Aircraft - World War Two - 20th Century - [General] - [General]


Website: Military History

Article submitted: 2014-10-29

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