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Hawker Henley

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Intended to operate as a light bomber the Henley would never serve in the role and would be used as a target tug. Its service in this role came to an end after a series of engine failures saw the Hawker Henley removed from service.

Quick Facts
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First flight
10th March 1937
Entered service
November 1938
Total built

Front view
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Side view
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Rear view
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With the Air Ministry requiring a high speed light bomber to operate in a close support role at a speed of around 300 mph Specification P.4/34 was issued during February 1934 with Fairey, Gloster and Hawker all competing. Hawker at this time were well advanced with the development of the Hawker Hurricane and the Henley would share outer wing and tailplane jigs with the Hurricane, this would provide both production and economy benefits, and the Henley would also have its power supplied by the Rolls-Royce Merlin.

With Hawker giving their Hurricane fighter priority the Henley prototype would not fly until the 10th March 1937 nearly two years after construction began during the middle of 1935. With a Merlin 'F' engine, later a Merlin I engine, the overall performance of the aircraft would prove excellent. However the Henley would never serve in the role intended for it as the Air Ministry no longer required a light bomber as during 1937 the Fairey Battle entered service, instead it would be used as a target tug and so the second Hawker Henley prototype was converted for this role and on the 26th May 1938 made its first flight. The following year saw the first prototype fitted with a Rolls-Royce Vulture II engine and this flew for the first time on the 17th April 1939.

The production Henley, designated as a Mk III, would first enter service with Nos. 1,5 and 10 Bombing and Gunnery schools however a major flaw was soon discovered with the aircraft. The Henley was susceptible to engine failure unless it towed at a speed of 220 mph which was unrealistically low and despite being moved to towing drogue targets it was discovered that it was even more unsuited to the role and after suffering the loss of several Henley's due to the engines cutting out and not being able to release the drogue quick enough, the aircraft was withdrawn and replaced by the Boulton Paul Defiant converted for the role and Miles Martinets. In a further twist of fate the Hurricane would end up being used in a similar light bomber role for which the Hawker Henley had been originally designed for.

By the time production ended 202 examples of the aircraft had been built.

Technical Details

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Top Speed Range Service Ceiling Armament
Henley Mk I First prototype.
Henley Mk II Second prototype.
Henley Mk III 270 mph 950 miles 27,000 ft none


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See This Aircraft

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

No known examples currently on public display in the UK.

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