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Weapons of World War Two

The Battle of the Mediterranean (Jun 1940)

Gloster Gladiator

Gloster Gladiator

At the outbreak of the Second world War, many nations had in their own Armed Forces outdated aircraft such as the biplanes; among these the Gloster Gladiator fighter of the Royal Air Force distinguished itself. Designed in 1930, it had, in that time, some characteristics which surpassed those of other British aircraft. The armament was twice than normal, the same happened with the speed and the possibility of operating as a night fighter turned it into a first-rate interceptor. Unfortunately, the first flight of the prototype did not happen until 1935, and the series deliveries until 1937, when it had already been surpassed by more modern aircraft, such as the splendid Messerschmitt Bf 109, in service from 1936. However it would continue flying until 1941, when it was retired from combat service to be used as a training aircraft or for meteorological purposes. It had its baptism of fire in the Russo-Finnish War and then it operated in the French front of the Mediterranean, North Africa and East Africa; it did not take active part in the Battle of Britain. The Gloster Gladiator had a robust structure, of easy construction but outdated conception; it was built with metallic materials only, but with techniques identical to those used in the wooden biplanes from the First World War. Entirely coated with fabric, it was fitted with a Bristol Mercury engine of nine cylinders, with a power of 830 horsepower. The pilots were not enthusiastic about it, because of its few advantages, light armament and notable vulnerability. It often had the losing side when facing the enemies, with a high number of casualties. It could be matched only against the CR 42 of the Italian Regia Aeronautica, being a tremendous adversary of these. Despite its severe disadvantages, the British pilots achieved victories with it, especially against the Italians, albeit many were not confirmed by the enemy. Besides, the British themselves admitted that the legendary deeds of the three Sea Gladiator (aircraft carrier version) named as "Faith", "Hope" and "Charity", which defended Malta in the summer of 1940, were the product of a legend which was well exploited by the propaganda. This way it ended, in the skies of the Mediterranean, the operational life of an aircraft which had been born too late to be appreciated as it deserved.

Gloster Gladiator
Designer: Henry Philip Folland

First flight: 12 September 1934

Wingspan: 9.83 meters

Wing area: 30.01 square meters

Length: 8.36 meters

Height: 3.57 meters (Mark I); 3.52 meters (Mark II and Sea Gladiator)

Full load/Empty weight: 2083/1633 kilograms (Mark I); 2206/1745 kilograms (Mark II); 2227/1815 kilograms (Sea Gladiator)

Payload/Crew: 450 kilograms/1 (Mark I); 461 kilograms/1 (Mark II); 462 kilograms/1 (Sea Gladiator)

Engine: Bristol Mercury IX of 830 horsepower (Mark I); Bristol Mercury VIII A or VIII AS of 840 horsepower (Mark II and Sea Gladiator)

Time to reach 4572 meters of altitude: 5 minutes 40 seconds (Mark I and Mark II); 5 minutes 55 seconds (Sea Gladiator)

Maximum speed: 407 kilometers/hour at 4420 meters (Mark I); 407 kilometers/hour at 4450 meters (Mark II); 413 kilometers/hour at 4450 meters (Sea Gladiator)

Service ceiling: 9997 meters (Mark I); 9814 meters (Mark II); 10211 meters (Sea Gladiator)

Defensive armament: Four Colt-Browning 7.7-millimeter machine guns

Operational range: 689 kilometers at 362 kilometers/hour and 4420 meters (Mark I); 714 kilometers at 362 kilometers/hour and 4450 meters (Mark II); 668 kilometers at 354 kilometers/hour and 4450 meters (Sea Gladiator)

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