Saturday, 20 November 2010
RAF Early Jets - EE Canberra
English Electric's Canberra was a first-generation jet-powered light bomber manufactured in large numbers through the 1950s. It proved to be highly adaptable, serving in such varied roles for tactical bombing, photographic, electronic, and meteorological reconnaissance. The Canberra remained in service with the Royal Air Force until 23 June 2006, 57 years after its first flight. The Canberra could fly at a higher altitude than any other bomber through the 1950s and set a world altitude record of 70,310 ft (21,430m) in 1957. The Canberra had its origins in a 1944 Air Ministry requirement for a successor to the de Havilland Mosquito - that is, a high altitude, high speed bomber with no defensive armament. Several British aircraft manufacturers submitted proposals. Among the companies shortlisted to proceed with development studies was English Electric, a well-established industrial manufacturer with very little aircraft experience. A desperate need for bombers arose during the early years of World War II, when English Electric began to build the Hampden under licence. The new English Electric design team was headed by former Westland chief designer W. E. W. Petter. The aircraft was named Canberra after the capital of Australia by Sir George Nelson, chairman of English Electric, as Australia was the first export customer for the aircraft.In May 1945 a contract was signed, but with the post-war military reductions, the prototype did not fly until May 1949. It was a simple design, looking like a scaled-up Gloster Meteor with a shoulder wing. The fuselage was circular in cross section, tapered at both ends and, cockpit aside, entirely without protrusions; the line of the large, low aspect ratio wings was broken only by the tubular engine nacelles. Although jet-powered, the Canberra design philosophy was very much in the Mosquito mould, i.e. provide room for a substantial bomb load, fit two of the most powerful engines available, and wrap it in the smallest, most aerodynamic package possible. Rather than devote space and weight to defensive armament — which historically could not overcome purpose-designed fighter aircraft — the Canberra was designed to fly fast and high enough to avoid air-to-air combat entirely.