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Gloster Meteor turbojet fighter

Written by Sakhal

The Gloster Meteor was the first true British turbojet fighter and also the only Allied turbojet fighter that fought in the Second World War. It was designed as a bimotor because a single turbojet engine of the ones available in that time would be insufficient to improve the performance achieved by contemporary piston-engine fighters, and also because with two engines reliability and safety would be higher. The engines were allocated in the wings - not beneath them as in the Messerschmitt 262 - which required a particular design of the structural elements to allow the pass of the engine exhaust. Another important characteristics were the rear stabilizers placed in elevated position and the tricycle landing gear, rarely used by aircraft until then. A modern detail was the placement of the pressurized cockpit, very forward, which was unusual in that time. The armament consisted of four 20 mm cannons installed in the fore fuselage, two on each flank of the cockpit. This scheme, different to the one used in the Messerschmitt 262, was later adopted by Heinkel for the He 162. However, the design of the wings in the Gloster Meteor was totally conventional and had none of the advanced characteristics found in the wings of the Messerschmitt 262. Allied technicians admitted that the design of the fuselage and specially the wings of that aircraft revealed that Germany was far ahead than them in the investigation of high speed flight. The design works for the Gloster Meteor started circa August 1940 but one year later problems appeared with the engines Power Jets W 2B, which did not surpass the tests. Therefore a prototype was modified to equip the engines Halford H1, while another one would equip the engines Metropolitan-Vickers F2. The prototype of the Gloster Meteor fitted with Halford engines effectuted its first flight the 5th March 1943, manned by Michael Daunt. But the Rolls Royce company was interested in the production of the engines for the Gloster Meteor and they managed to obtain the definitive contract for equipping the Gloster Meteor with their Welland W 2B engine, essentially a perfectionated model of the Power Jets developed by Whittle.

The Welland engine was installed in the first serial units, 20 Meteor Mk I that were put hastily into production. Delivered to the RAF 616th Squadron based in Culmhead and later in Manston, they entered action for the first time the 27th July 1944, with the objective of intercepting the V-1 missiles, propelled by a pulse jet engine, that were falling over London. The first pilot of a Gloster Meteor that made contact with an V-1 was the Squadron Captain Watts, but the cannons were jammed and the flying bomb could continue its course. The 4th August the pilot Dean, having sighted another V-1, had the same problem with the cannons, but an idea came to his mind: with caution touched with the wing of his aircraft the wing of the flying bomb, causing this one to abruptly roll. The V-1 fell in a spin and exploded in the countryside. That was the first overthrown of an V-1 by an aircraft. Soon after, another pilot, Rogers, managed to shoot down an V-1 with the cannons, for once working. At the end of September 13 flying bombs had been overthrown by the pilots of the Gloster Meteor. In January 1945 a section of the squadron equipped with the Gloster Meteor was sent to the continental Europe to serve as defense against the Messerschmitt 262, however no engagement between both was ever registered. This unit was forbidden to fly over enemy territory for safety reasons, but the prohibition was cancelled in March 1945 when the entire squadron was reunited, being employed during the last three weeks of war in attacks against military vehicles.

Gloster Meteor turbojet fighter

The version Mk II was only a project in which the Halford engines would be tested; the definitive version of the Gloster Meteor developed during the Second World War was the Mk III, equipped with turbojets Derwent I of 905 kilograms of thrust, except the 15 first units, that were fitted with Wellan I. In total 280 units of this version were built. After the war the Gloster Meteor was widely developed and improved; all the variants built after the war amounted for a total of 3237 units.

Gloster Meteor turbojet fighter

Gloster Meteor Mk III (EE239) YQ.Q. of the 616th Squadron "South Yorkshire" of the RAF, operating in Melsbroek, Belgium, March 1945; temporally painted white on its totality - even the letters - to reduce the risk of being shot down by their own anti-aircraft artillery, for in that time any turbojet aircraft was immediately assumed as a Messerschmitt 262.

Specifications for Gloster Meteor Mk I

Type: Interceptor fighter

Propulsion plant: Two Rolls Royce Welland I of 773 kilograms of thrust

Maximum speed at sea level: 620 kilometers/hour

Maximum speed at an altitude of 9000 meters: 660 kilometers/hour

Initial climb rate: 657 meters/minute

Time to reach 9000 meters of altitude: 15 minutes

Operative altitude: 12200 meters

Operational range: N/A

Weight (empty): 3692 kilograms

Weight (full load): 6260 kilograms

Wingspan: 13.11 meters

Length: 12.57 meters

Height: 3.96 meters

Wing area: 34.74 square meters

Armament: Four Hispano Mk III 20 mm cannons

After the war

The months just after the Second World War constituted a period in which Great Britain kept for a short time the supremacy in aeronautical technology, samely as had happened after the First World War. At the lead of this supremacy was Rolls Royce; determined to demonstrate this superiority, the company decided to sponsor their appearing in the race for the worldwide absolute record of flight speed. At the end of the summer 1945 Gloster prepared two aircraft for the competition. The trials pilot for the Gloster was then Eric Stanley Greenwood, born in 1908 and formerly serving in the RAF during 1928-33. The reports by Greenwood noted the fortunate combination of the Gloster Meteor and the Rolls Royce Derwent engines and therefore the Meteor Mk III was modified to equip larger engines, particularly the Derwent 5 of 1585 kilograms of thrust. With these engines it was expected to reach a speed of 940 kilometers/hour at sea level. With the elimination of the armament, a special preparation for the surfaces and certain attention to the atmospheric conditions, it was expected to surpass 965 kilometers/hour. Two Gloster Meteor of similar characteristics, serialized EE454 and EE455, and manned, respectively, by Captain Hugh Wilson, one of the most experienced pilots of turbojets who had trained the members of the 616th Squadron, and by Eric Greenwood. The 7th November 1945, flying in a race of three kilometers in Herne Bay, Kent, Wilson stablished a new speed record when reaching 975.66 kilometers/hour, beating the record of 754.8 kilometers/hour set by Fritz Wendel in 1939. The aircraft manned by Greenwood reached 970 kilometers/hour.

Gloster Meteor turbojet fighter

The Gloster Meteor EE454 photographed while supported by jacks in the airport at Moreton Valence, Gloucester, during the preparatives for the flight in which it reached the worldwide flight speed record.

At the end of 1947 the Gloster Meteor was expected to be technically surpassed by the new turbojet fighters that would be introduced in the next years: the American F-86 Sabre and the Soviet MiG- 15. The successive versions of the Gloster Meteor adopted larger and more powerful engines to increase power and speed and also many structural modifications. In the illustration below we can see a Meteor Mk VIII, a late version of this aircraft, introduced in December 1949; it can be noticed the structural differences in respect to the version used during World War Two: the engines, Derwent 8, were considerably larger, wingspan was reduced and the fuselage elongated, while wings and tails became more square-shaped; this all giving a shape more in consonance with modern turbojets. However the design of the wings continued being conventional and despite the new engines, the mediocre aerodynamic qualities of this aircraft prevented it from reaching the speeds that were available for other more modern designs. The elongation of the fuselage allowed to increase fuel capacity but this added extra weight to an aircraft whose propulsion plant was still insufficient. This version had as well ejection seat as a serial component.

The Meteor Mk VIII served with the RAF between 1950 and 1954, when it started to be replaced by the excellent Hawker Hunter. During the Korean War (1950-53) the Meteor Mk VIII served with the 77th Squadron of the RAAF (Royal Australian Air Force) achieveng modest results against the qualitatively superior MiG-15, being subsequently relegated to ground attack missions with unguided rockets. Albeit the Gloster Meteor worked well in these kind of missions, the largest part of the 32 Gloster Meteor shot down in Korea were victims of the anti-aircraft artillery. On the other hand, Argentina had acquired 100 units of the Meteor Mk IV; 32 of them took part in the bombings and strafing runs in Plaza de Mayo (May Square) at Buenos Aires in 1955, when aircraft manned by both rebels (4) and loyals to the regime (28) operated during the attempt of a putsch against the government. Plaza de Mayo (May Square) and Casa Rosada (Pink House) suffered severe attacks which caused hundreds of deads and wounded. The Gloster Meteor was used by both rebels and loyals during the successive revolutions in that year, which would finally bring down the government. In 1960 Argentina acquired the F-86 Sabre - which was then already obsolete for American standards - and this allowed to relegate the Gloster Meteor to ground attack roles, equipped with bombs, unguided rockets and painted with a camouflage scheme, remaining operative until 1970.

Gloster Meteor turbojet fighter

Gloster Meteor Mk VIII (WF714) piloted by Lieutenant Colonel Desmond de Villiers, who commanded the 500th Squadron of the British Auxiliary Air Force in West Malling, Kent, from September 1952. Professional test pilot for De Havilland, De Villiers prolonged his distinctive marks of Squadron Leader to the rear tails of this aircraft, symbolizing the blue color the estuary of the Thames and the English Channel, the white color the cliffs of Dover and the green color the fields of Kent.

Specifications for Gloster Meteor Mk VIII

Type: Interceptor fighter

Propulsion plant: Two Rolls Royce Derwent 8 of 1550 kilograms of thrust

Maximum speed at sea level: 953 kilometers/hour

Maximum speed at an altitude of 9145 meters: 885 kilometers/hour

Initial climb rate: N/A

Time to reach 9180 meters of altitude: 6 minutes 30 seconds

Operative altitude: 13410 meters

Operational range: 1111 kilometers (without external tanks)

Weight (empty): 4846 kilograms

Weight (full load): 7122 kilograms

Wingspan: 11.33 meters

Length: 13.59 meters

Height: 3.96 meters

Wing area: 32.51 square meters

Armament: Four Hispano Mk V 20 mm cannons

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


Website: Military History

Article submitted: 2014-11-03

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