recalls some time in the Drawing Office working on what could perhaps
have been Britain's first supersonic fighter...
I joined Hawkers in August 1943 as a Pupil Apprentice and
took early retirement in August 1988 as Head of Stress (Harrier).
During those 45 years there were, of course, many highlights and
projects, not all of which came to fruition. I would like to recall one
such project of the early 1950s.
There were several 'supersonic' jet fighters flying at that
time: the Supermarine Swift, the US North American F-86 Sabre, the
Soviet MiG-15, and of course, our own P.1067 Hunter, for example. These
aircraft, however, had one big shortcoming; they were only supersonic
in a shallow dive. They were not 'Mach One' fighters in level flight.
In 1950 it had been decided that Hawkers, on a PV (private venture -
company funded in today's parlance) basis, should do something about
this state of affairs.
In 1952-53 I was a designer-draughtsman
in the Production Drawing Office in which a small team was formed, led
by Bob Copland of model aircraft fame and later Chief Design Engineer,
to scheme and produce drawings for a new 'thin wing' Hunter known as
the P.1083. We were young and enthusiastic, spurred on by the goal of
helping Hawkers to produce the World's first truly supersonic jet
The wing design
incorporated 50 degrees of leading edge sweepback and a mean
thickness:chord ratio of 7.5% compared with the P.1067 Hunter's 45
degrees and 8.5%. The leading edge portion of the new wing, forward of
the front spar, made provision for internal fuel bags, an innovation
not fitted to early Hunters. The increased sweepback meant that, during
a high speed pull-out, a very much greater loading was applied to the
rear spar/undercarriage girder than on the standard machine. I remember
designing this component, assisted by a 'tame' stress-man, which
required massive high tensile steel forgings for the booms. These
forgings were produced and machined complete with integral wing
attachment eyes. The completed spars were assembled in the wing build
There were of course other
tricky design problems, one of which was 'shoehorning' the main
undercarriage into the very shallow wheel bays. However, solving such
conundrums was our stock in trade and by and large I believe we were
making good progress.
one morning we came into the office in which gloom pervaded. Bang! The
project was stopped and scrapped. The precise reason for this I was not
party to but it was rumoured that the firm was not prepared to put up
the quarter of a million pounds needed to finish the project. And so a
big opportunity was missed and the accolade for the first supersonic
fighter went to the North American F-100 Super Sabre.
As a footnote I would say that the work on the P.1083 project was not
completely wasted as the aforementioned wing fuel tank design was
quickly modified and applied to later Marks of Hunter thus ensuring
adequate range for successful future developments. What did Bob's team
do next? I seem to remember we worked on the P.1101 two-seater Hunter
which was produced as the TMk7; the one with the old 'Morris Minor'
windscreen. But that is another story.
Editor's Note. The
full and complex story of the P.1083, its engines and armament, all of
which contributed to its delay and demise, can be found in "British
Secret Projects, Jet Fighters Since 1950" by Tony Buttler, Midland
Publishing, 2000. To summarise: initial discussions with the Director
of Operational Requirements (DOR) took place in May 1950, Ministry
go-ahead was given in December 1951, Specification F.119D was issued in
April 1952 and wing build commenced in October. In June 1953 the DOR
advised Hawker that the P.1083 was no longer required and the
official cancellation was received on 13th July.
Serial number WN740 had been allocated to the prototype. After the
cancellation Hawkers was authorised to use the front and centre
fuselages and the tail unit in the P.1099, prototype of the FMk6
Hunter. The F-100 Super Sabre flew in May 1953 but the Mk6 Hunter and
its variants sold in large numbers, world-wide. The more highly swept
P.1083 would probably not have been so adaptable and as tolerant.