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Hawker Hart

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The Hart bomber would provide the Royal Air Force with a problem when it entered service in 1930 as it was faster than its current fighters. One of the most successful Hawker aircraft of the interwar years, it would provide the basis for several other aircraft produced by the company. Seeing limited service during the Second World War in the Middle East and as a trainer, the Hawker Hart was also used as an engine test bed.

Quick Facts
Sorry, no image available
First flight
June 1928
Entered service
February 1930
Total built

Front view
Hart front view photo
Side view
Hart side view photo
Rear view
Sorry, no view photo available

With the Air Ministry looking for a new bomber, Specification 12/26 was issued in May 1926 which called for a two-seater aircraft with a top speed of 160 mph. Sydney Camm would design Hawker's aircraft, powered by the Rolls-Royce F.XIB engine, which was to become the Kestrel, with three other aircraft also being considered. The Avro Antelope, de Havilland Hound and a new version of the Fairey Fox IIM.

In June 1928, the Hart prototype made its maiden flight, and it comfortably beat the specification requirement of 160 mph as it had a top speed of 184 mph. This would pose the Royal Air Force with a problem, although the Hart was faster than other bombers, it was also 10 mph faster than one of its newest fighters, still in development, the Bristol Bulldog, which had a top speed of 174 mph. The Hart would then be sent to the Aeroplane and Armament Experimental Establishment to undergo testing on the 8th September 1928.

It would be in February 1930 that the Hart began to enter Royal Air Force service when No. 33 Squadron, based at RAF Eastchurch started to take delivery of the type, to replace their Hawker Horsleys. Powered by the 510-hp Rolls-Royce Kestrel IB engine, and with a crew of two, the Hart had a top speed of 184 mph, range of 470 miles and a service ceiling of 21,350 ft. Armament consisted of two 0.303-in machine-guns, one forward firing and one rear firing, bomb load was 500lb.

The subplot to the Hart's entry into service was that it made the Royal Air Force speed up development of the Hawker Fury fighter in the short term but also think about the next generation of aircraft. This would lead to aircraft of monoplane design.

During 1931 further proof of the Hart's superiority over other Royal Air Force aircraft was shown during yearly air exercises when the type could carry out attacks with hardly any interference from other aircraft. It was only when No. 23 Squadron operating Hart fighters arrived was an adequate defence put up.

By the time the Second World War (1939 - 1945) started Hart bombers had already been out of frontline service in the UK since the previous year. However, they would see action in the Middle East until newer aircraft slowly phased them out of service. The Hart would still be used as they served as communication and training aircraft until 1943.

One of the most successful interwar years aircraft, the Hart provided the basis for at least another six Hawker aircraft, including the Demon and Hind. The aircraft would also prove useful as an engine test bed, with the 21st February 1935 seeing a Hart fitted with the Rolls-Royce PV.12 make the engine's first flight, this would become the Merlin. The Bristol Mercury and Napier Dagger engines would also be tested in the Hart.

When production of the aircraft ceased 1,042 had been built, including 42 examples built under licence in Sweden and fitted with the 580-hp Bristol Pegasus engine and used by the Swedish Air Force.

Technical Details

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Top Speed Range Service Ceiling Armament
Hart Mk I 184 mph 470 miles 21,350 ft two 0.303-in machine-guns
500lb bombs
Hart Trainer (Mk II) 168 mph 430 miles 22,800 ft none


Click on a photo to view a larger version.
Hart Mk II Hart Trainer

See This Aircraft

(C) = Cockpit only exhibit. (F) = Fuselage only exhibit. (R) = Remains of an aircraft.

Hart Mk II Royal Air Force Museum, London
Hart Trainer Royal Air Force Museum, Midlands

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