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Gloster Gauntlet

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The Gauntlet would be the last opened cockpit fighter to be used by the Royal Air Force and would achieve the historic landmark of becoming the first aircraft to intercept another by the use of Radar. In use at the outbreak of the Second World War with the RAF the Gloster Gauntlet was also sold overseas and used by the Finish Air Force during the Winter War in 1939 - 40.

Quick Facts
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First flight
July 1933
Entered service
May 1935
Total built

Front view
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Side view
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Rear view
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With the Air Ministry looking to replace the Bristol Bulldog fighter, Specification F.20/27 was issued for which Gloster submitted their 450-hp Bristol Mercury powered SS.18 design and this made its maiden flight during January 1929. Further development of the design continued with the SS.18A powered by a 480-hp Bristol Jupiter VIIF and the SS.18B with a 560-hp Armstrong Siddeley Panther III being developed. These were then followed by the SS.19 powered by a Jupiter VIIF and the SS.19A and SS.19B fitted with the 510-hp Mercury IVS.2

It was to be the SS.19B fitted with a 640-hp Mercury VIS.2 engine that would be ordered under Specification 24/33 as the Gauntlet and the prototype made its first flight during July 1933. The Gauntlet Mk I was a single seat opened cockpit biplane with fixed landing gear and tail wheel with a top speed of 230 mph, a range of 460 miles and a service ceiling of 33,500ft. Armament would consist of two 0.303-in Vickers machine-guns. With its biplane design drag was always going to be an issue but Gloster took a lot of care to make sure the Gauntlets design would suffer as little as possible. With this being achieved it meant that when the type appeared in Royal Air Force service it was said to be the best day/night fighter in the world.

The 17th December 1934 saw the first of twenty four production Mk Is fly, with deliveries of the type beginning five months later in May 1935 when No. 19 Squadron, RAF Duxford began to be equipped with the aircraft, replacing their Bulldog Mk IIAs.

During 1934 Hawker Aircraft had purchased the Gloster Aircraft Company, this lead to the only other production variant the Gauntlet Mk II being built inline with Hawker's methods. This was the only difference to the Mk I with top speed, range, service ceiling and armament being identical.

At the height of its service with Fighter Command 14 squadrons were equipped with the Gauntlet. Its most notable, and important, achievement happened in 1937 when on November 8th Gauntlets of No. 32 Squadron achieved the first radar-controlled airborne interception when they intercepted a civil airliner over the Thames. By the time the Second World War (1939 - 1945) started in September 1939 the Hawker Hurricane and Supermarine Spitfire had entered service on the Home Front and so UK based Gauntlets had been relegated to meteorological duties. Performing these for the last time on the 6th December 1939. In the Middle East the type would still be used as a front line aircraft by the Royal Air Force and Royal Australian Air Force until late 1940.

Gauntlets would also be used by the Finnish Air Force when 25 ex-RAF examples were delivered during 1940. These would see service for five years and were used during the Winter War (1939 – 1940), with the 18th February 1945 seeing the last Finnish Gauntlet fly. 17 examples would also be built in Denmark though these would not see any combat.

In total 246 aircraft were produced.

Technical Details

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Top Speed Range Service Ceiling Armament
Gauntlet Mk I 230 mph 460 miles 33,500 ft two Vickers machine-guns
Gauntlet Mk II 230 mph 460 miles 33,500 ft two Vickers machine-guns


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No known examples currently on public display in the UK.

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