Gloster Meteor F9/40 (DG202/G) [@ RAF Cosford]
Gloster Meteor F9/40 (DG202/G) [@ RAF Hendon]
The Gloster Meteor, the RAF’s first
operational jet fighter, traces its lineage to the first British experimental
Gloster E.28/39, which flew for
the first time on the 15th May 1941 under the power of a single
W.1 turbojet. The Meteor was Gloster’s answer to Air Ministry specification
F9/40, calling for a single-seat interceptor powered by gas turbine engines. Initially the type was going to be named
the Thunderbolt, however, to avoid confusion with the USAAF Republic
the name was quickly changed to Meteor. The low thrust output of the engines available at the time dictated a
twin-engine configuration, but apart from the radical nature of its form of
propulsion the Meteor was entirely conventional in design.
The construction was all-metal with conventional low straight wings, the
turbojets were mid-mounted in the wings and the tailplane was high-mounted to
keep it clear of the jet exhaust. Typical of early jet aircraft, the Meteor
suffered from stability problems at high transonic speeds. The aircraft
experienced large trim changes, high stick forces, and self-sustained yaw
instability (snaking) due to airflow separation over the thick tail surfaces. Twelve prototypes were ordered
(DG202-213) on the 7th February 1941 but only
eight F9/40's were completed, the first being
DG202/G. The fifth prototype (DG206/G) was the first Meteor to fly when it made its first
test flight on the 5th March 1943, piloted by Michael Daunt, at RAF
Cranwell. Due to engine problems with the
Whittle W.2, DG206/G was powered by two de Havilland
Halford H.1 or
but de Havilland reserved the
production of these engines for its own Vampire design. The first Whittle
powered (2 x Rover W.2B/23 engines) Meteor, DG205/G,
flew on the 12th June 1943
and it unfortunately crashed shortly after take-off on the 27th April
1944. DG205/G was followed
and DG203/G but this latter Meteor was soon relegated to a
ground instructional role. DG202/G first flew on the 24th
July 1943 powered by two Rover W.2B/23
engines while DG203/G first flew on the 9th November 1943 powered by
two W2/500 engines. Powered by
RAE/Metrovick F.2 engines, the first
British engine to use an axial-flow compressor, DG204/G first flew on the 13th
November 1943 but it unfortunately crashed on the 1st April 1944.
Unlike the other prototypes the engines were mounted under the wings.
The photograph shows the prototype livery of grey/brown upper surface camouflage with yellow under sides, wing and fuselage roundels and a yellow 'P' prototype marking on the fuselage. Employed in essential early airframe and engine development trials, the F9/40 fleet laid the groundwork for the introduction into RAF service of the Meteor fighter and the jet age.
The F.1, the first production version of the Meteor and built to DG210/G standard, were fitted with the Rolls Royce W.2B/Welland 1 engines - a Whittle W.2/Rolls Royce design and giving 7.55 kN (1,700lb) of thrust. The first F.1 flew on 12th January 1944 from Moreton Valence and had a maximum speed of 415 mph (667 km), a range of 1,340 miles (2,156 km), 41 ft 3 in (12.58 m) long, a wingspan of 43 ft (13.11 m) and armed with four 20 mm cannons in the nose. In all twenty Mk.1s were delivered to the RAF, the first 12 replacing the Spitfires of 616 Squadron based at RAF Culmhead on 1st June 1944. The Squadron then deployed to RAF Manston in Kent and saw action for the first time on 27th July 1944 in an anti-missile role (‘Diver’patrol), ultimately destroying only 13 V1 flying bombs (the first being on the 4th August) as it came very late to the battle and was underpowered. One flight was moved in January 1945 to Nijmegen but they were not flown over enemy territory. The F.1 was withdrawn at the end of January, however, the first production F.1 was sent to the US in exchange for a Bell YP-59A Airacomet for comparative evaluation.
On the 7th March 1945 a Gloster Meteor F.1, EE227, was sent to the Rolls Royce Plant at Hucknall, Nottingham, for the installation of two RB.50 Trent turboprop engines [photograph - right]. The Trent engine was a modified Rolls Royce Derwent 2 turbojet fitted with an extra turbine stage driving a reduction gearbox and a five-bladed Rotol propeller. On the 20th September 1945, the Trent powered Meteor flew for the first time and became the first turboprop powered aircraft in the world. A number of problems were found with the prop wash and directional instability. The Meteor was returned to Hucknall were these were fixed and the aircraft had resumed its test flights by March 1946. In April 1948 the "Trent" Meteor was transferred to the Navy for testing, as they were interested in the use of turboprop aircraft for carrier operations. On the 22nd September 1948 EE227 was returned to Rolls Royce, were it was restored to its original condition before being returned to RAF Farborough. Unfortunately, EE227 was scrapped in June 1949.
Gloster Meteor F.4 (EE531) [@ Midland Air Museum]
The Meteor F.2 was an alternate Goblin engined version and only one prototype, DG207/G, was built. The next variant, the Meteor F.3, was a much better proposition. Similar to the F.1 but it incorporated numerous refinements, including a sliding canopy, increased fuel capacity (a ventral fuel tank was fitted) and a strengthened airframe. The first fifteen were fitted with Welland engines while the remainder of the total of 210 had the improved Derwent I, giving 2,000lb of thrust. The F.3 began coming off the production lines in early 1945 but deliveries to the first operational Squadron, 616, did not begin until December 1944. By this time the Luftwaffe had been virtually destroyed and the F.3 never met the leading German fighters in combat, however it was operationally tested in the ground attack role in Belgium and Nazi Germany with 616 and 514 squadrons in the closing weeks of the war. Eventually the F.3 equipped 15 squadrons of RAF Fighter Command in the immediate post-war years. All F.1's and F.3's were built by the Gloster Aircraft Co Ltd. On 7th September 1946 Gp Capt E M Donaldson raised the world air speed record to 615.78 mph in a specially modified F.3 (EE549). EE549 can be found at the Tangmere Military Aviation Museum where it is on loan from the Royal Air Force Museum.
EE531 was built at Baginton and is the oldest surviving production Meteor and the second oldest in existence.
The F.4 was similar to the F.3 but it had a strengthened fuselage and was powered by the Rolls Royce Derwent 5 engines [photograph - right], giving 3,500 lbs thrust. The F.4 first flew in April 1945 and evolved through the special F.3 (EE549) designed to secure the world air speed record so the top speed at sea level increased from 420 to 585 mph. The first squadron to receive delivery of this variant was 92. Later models had clipped wings and some aircraft of 245 Squadron were modified with probes for in-flight refuelling trials. A total of 654 F.4’s were built by Gloster and 46 of them by Armstrong Whitworth. It was the first variant to be exported, being supplied to Argentina (100), Holland (65), Belgium (48) and Denmark (20).
Gloster Meteor F.4 (EE549) [@ RAF Tangmere]
The RAF High Speed Flight was reformed in late 1945 at RAF Tangmere in order to make an attempt on the world air speed record. In August 1946 the Flight received EE549, along with EE548 and EE550, direct from the Gloster Aircraft Company. All three aircraft were basically standard F4s but with aluminium hoods and glass port holes in place of the standard canopies, all armaments were removed and a special high-gloss finish applied. On 7th September 1946, Gp Capt E M Donaldson set a new world record of 615.78 mph flying EE549 off the Sussex coast at Rustington. On returning from the Paris Air Show in January 1947 EE548 set a new record time of 20 min 11 sec between Paris (Le Bourget) and London (Croydon). In June 1952 EE549 was retired to instructional airframe duties at RAF Cranwell after seeing service with Fighter Command. EE549 went into store in June 1958 before going on display at the RAF Hendon in 1972. It is currently on long term loan from the Imperial War Museum at RAF Tangmere.
Gloster Meteor F.4 (EE549) [@ RAF Tangmere]
The FR.5 was a one-off fighter reconnaissance version of the F.4. It was built to capitalise on trials with camera installations on F.3 and F.4 aircraft. Unfortunately the prototype VT347 broke up in the air on its maiden flight, killing the pilot. The F.6 progressed no further than the drawing board and was a forerunner of the F.8.
Gloster Meteor T.7 (VX634) [@ Newark Air Museum]
The next variant was the T.7, a two-seat trainer-dual-control, which was designed in response for the obvious need for a trainer, especially from overseas customers. A private venture by Gloster, the prototype G-AIDC (later G-AKPK) first flew on the 19th March 1948 nearly four years after the single seat fighter entered service.
Delivered to the RAF in July 1949, VZ634 was finally struck off charge in 1967. VZ634 then moved to Wattisham for crash rescue training before joining the museum on the 16th December 1985.
Gloster Meteor T.7/8 (WA634) [@ RAF Cosford]
As the F.4 and Vampire FB.5 entered service it hadn’t occurred to the RAF that a trainer version might be required. However a specification (T.1/47) was soon after forthcoming and the T.7 entered service with 203 Advanced Flying School in December 1948 as the Royal Air Force's first jet trainer. The fuselage was extended by thirty inches to accommodate the second seat. An extra fuel tank was fitted by replacing ballast, provision was made for the fitting of three under-wing drop tanks and the armament was removed. The canopy was heavily framed and the longer nose added directional stability, this was to have an impact on the design of later variants. Later production T.7’s were fitted with the Derwent 8 [photograph - left] and the square-cut tail unit of the F.8. Production ceased in 1954, the last aircraft built was given the service serial number XF279. By the middle of the 1950's T.7’s were being replaced by a combination of Provost and Vampire T.11’s, although they continued to serve until the late 1950's. However, T.7s remained in service with operational units for refresher training and as high speed communications aircraft. Most T.7s had been withdrawn by the early 1970s, the last of all being WA669. Two remain in service with Martin-Baker at Chalgrove Airfield as flying test-beds for the development of ejection seats. The company ran its first airborne ejection test using a F.3 on the 14th June 1946 and received three modified T.7s (T.7/8s) in 1952, WA634, WA838 and WL419, of which WA638 and WL419 still remain in active service. In total 712 T.7’s were built by Gloster, with around five-hundred serving with the RAF.
The UK's first 'dummy' ejection in flight was undertaken from a Boulton Paul Defiant on the 24th June 1946 followed closely by the first manned airborne test on the 24th July when Bernard (Benny) Lynch, then one of the company's experimental fitters, ejected from Meteor EE416 at 320mph. The World’s first live ejection test from runway level was by Squadron Leader J.S. Fifield on 3rd September 1955 at Chalgrove Airfield from WA634. Delivered to the RAF on the 10th November 1949, and having a maximum level speed at sea level of 585 mph, WA634 was soon to prove its value in the further development of the ejection seat in the higher speed ranges. Obtained through the Ministry of Supply WA634 arrived at Martin-Baker's on 30th January 1952 as a standard T.7. Modifications made by Martin-Baker included changing the bulkhead between the tandem cockpits, strengthening of the flooring and removal of the controls from the rear cockpit. On the 18th June 1952 WA634 returned to Gloster for the fitting of the E.1/44 “high speed” rear fuselage and tail unit, later to be fitted to the F.8’s. This modification improved the directional stability of the aircraft and gave more directional control under asymmetric power in the case of engine failure. Returning to Martin-Baker for further modifications on the 24th July WA634 began the first of its many ejection tests on the 31st August 1953. WA634 reached the end of its useful life during 1962 having participated in some seven hundred ejection seat tests, including over fifty with the rocket assisted seat. In 1955 the first seat capable of runway level ejection was tested in WA634. The photograph on the right shows a pre Mk 1 Martin Baker ejection seat (@ Solent Sky museum)
The most prolific of the Meteor variants was the Derwent 8 powered F.8, which equipped thirty-two regular and eleven RAuxAF squadrons in the early 1950s. The first prototype F.8 was a modified F.4 and was the result of increasing the nose of the F.4 by thirty inches to improve directional stability (intended to shift the aircraft's centre of gravity and also eliminate the use of ballast that had been necessary in earlier variants) and by the adding of additional fuel capacity. VT150 became the first purpose built prototype and flew for the first time on the 12th October 1948 at Moreton Valence. Unfortunately the new design brought with it additional stability problems, when the ammunition had been expended the aircraft became tail-heavy and unstable around the pitch axis due to the weight of fuel retained in fuselage tanks no longer being balanced by the ammunition, so a new tail unit was designed and fitted. Further improvements included a retractable gun-sight, a Martin Baker ejection seat and a "blown" teardrop cockpit canopy to provide improved pilot visibility. Gloster built 751 F.8’s while Armstrong Whitworth built a further 430. Between 1950 and 1955, the F.8 was the mainstay of RAF Fighter Command. The last F.8s in RAF front-line service was withdrawn from 245 Squadron in April 1957; the unit had been equipped with Meteor fighters continuously since August 1945. A number of F.8’s were converted into target tugs (F(TT).8) by connecting a towing lug to the ventral tank, the first being VZ438, while a number were designated as advanced trainers (F(T).8’s) and fighter-bombers (FB.8’s) when equipped to carry two under-wing 1,000lb bombs. The F.8 variant was also the subject of major export orders, going to Egypt (8), Belgium (23, plus 67 licence-built), Denmark (20), Syria (19), Holland (5, plus 155 licence-built), Brazil (60) and Israel (11).
The F.8 also equipped 77 Squadron RAAF, which saw action in Korea. The squadron, which had previously flown North American Mustangs in Korea, first flew Meteors on 30th July 1951 and had some success in jet-versus-jet combat against MiG-15 pilots, shooting down five of the newer and generally superior MiGs in the period of September to November. However, four RAAF Meteors were lost on 1st December 1951 in a dogfight between twelve aircraft from 77 Squadron and 40 MiGs. As a result, 77 Squadron was relegated to ground attack duties, a role in which it performed well. While at least twenty-nine Meteors were lost as a direct result of enemy action in Korea, the vast majority of these were shot down by anti-aircraft fire while serving in a ground attack capacity.
To replace the ageing Spitfires and Mosquitos in the photo-reconnaissance role two FR.5 prototypes were built using the F.4 fuselage. One was used for nose section camera tests while the other broke-up in midair while in testing over Moreton Valence.
Gloster Meteor F.8 (WK991) [@ RAF Duxford]
The F.8 Meteor on display at RAF Duxford was built by Armstrong Whitworth and served with 56, 46 and 13 Squadrons of the RAF. Delivered to the RAF on the 13th July 1953, WK991 arrived at the museum on the 10th December 1963.
Gloster Meteor F.8 "Prone Position" (WK935) [@ RAF Cosford]
Armstrong Whitworth was selected on the 12th September 1952 to modify WK935, one of last F.8s off its production line, to the “prone position” to evaluate the advantages of coping with the effects of gravity while flying lying down. The adoption of a prone position cockpit in future combat aircraft designs appeared attractive for two reasons. Firstly, such a configuration enabled the frontal area of the airframe to be reduced and therefore reduced drag. Secondly, aircrew can withstand greater 'g' forces if not sitting upright - a vital consideration given the need for jet combat aircraft to manoeuvre at ever increasing speeds. The Bristol Aeroplane Company sought to exploit these advantages by incorporating a prone pilot position in its proposal for a rocket powered fighter, the Bristol Type 178.
The standard fighter cockpit was retained but the new front cockpit incorporated a custom-built coach, an offset tiny control column, suspended rear pedals and a radically modified display layout. To compensate for the longer nose an NF.12 tail unit with additional fin area was fitted. The prone pilot's emergency escape involved an extremely complex procedure which included jettisoning the rudder pedals, crawling backward to an escape hatch and retracting the nose wheel. Fortunately, this complicated system was never used.
On the 10th February 1953 WK935 was handed over for trials work. The first flight in the prone configuration was made by Armstrong Whitworth’s chief test pilot Eric Franklin at Baginton, Coventry, on 10th February 1954 with Bill Else in the prone position. After 16 hours of flight testing WK935 was sent to the R.A.E at Farnborough for temporary storage. On the 1st November 1954 WK935 was allocated to the Institute of Aviation Medicine at Ruislip. Before the program was terminated on the 31st July 1955 ninety-nine flights had been made by mainly four pilots from the Institute and two Royal Aircraft Establishment test pilots but a few flights were flown by pilots from RAF units and the aircraft industry. The fifty-five hours of flight testing revelled that the prone position concept was feasible, but only if absolutely necessary for aerodynamic reasons. In reality the difficulties of operating the controls of the aircraft outweighed the advantages and with the development of special aviation clothing a simpler solution to the problem of counteracting “g” forces became available. Prone position pilots were able to control the aircraft as well as a standard cockpit pilot, however, the extreme forward position with its limited rear view presented a problem in mock combat with conventional aircraft. An interest point to note is that the aircraft was never flown solo from the front "prone position" cockpit. WK935 was then placed into storage at various sites. However, around May/June 1959 WK935 was used for a short series of handling flight from RAF Lyneham with Hugh Field in the prone position and again a safety pilot was carried in the standard cockpit. Placed again in storage, WK935 was transferred to the Air Historical Branch and moved to RAF Colerne, Wilts, on 12th January 1965 for display purposes. With closure of Colerne, WK935 was stored at RAF St Athan, Glamorgan, until early 1977 when WK935 was transferred to RAF Cosford.
Gloster Meteor F.8 "Prone Position" (WK935) [@ RAF Cosford]
Gloster Meteor F.8 (WL168) [@ York Air Museum]
WL168 was part of the last batch of F.8s to be built by Gloster at Hucclecote and entered service with the RAF on the 22nd February 1954. For the first year it was with 111 Squadron at North Weald, then with 604 (County of Middlesex) Squadron at the same airfield, until the RAAF was disbanded in March 1957. Converted into a F(TT).8 it was used from January 1959 until September 1961 by the Armament Practice School at RAF Sylt, West Germany, to tow banner targets for shooting practice. Struck of charge on the 10th May 1962, WL168 has been a display aircraft in various markings at RAF Heywood, RAF Finningley, RAF Swinderby and RAF St Athan. From June 1988 it was the gate guard at RAF Finningley and came to the museum in May 1996. In the photograph its livery commemorates 616 (South Yorkshire) Squadron, Royal Auxiliary Air Force, and carries the markings of WK864. The genuine WK864 was delivered to the RAF on the 24th April 1953 and was sold for scrap on the 21st November 1963 at 33 MU RAF Lyneham.
Gloster Meteor F.8 (WK654) [@ City of Norwich Aviation Museum]
WK654 was delivered to 20MU on the 24th March 1952 and entered active service in May 1952 with 247 Squadron and then in June 1956 with 46 Squadron, both at RAF Odiham. In August 1959 WK654 was transferred to the ‘All Weather Flying Squadron’ at RAF West Raynham, in November 1962 to the Central Fighter Establishment at RAF West Raynham and finally to 85 Squadron at RAF Binbrook in August 1964. On 22nd December 1969 WK654 aircraft took its final flight to RAF Kemble and was struck off charge on 9th April 1970. WK654 was then allocated to RAF Neatishead to serve as a ‘Gate Guard’. In 1992 WK654 was replaced by a Phantom from RAF Wattisham thus leaving this airframe surplus to requirements and was moved to the museum.
Gloster Meteor F.8 (WH301) [@ RAF Hendon]
WH301 was built by Armstrong Whitworth at Baginton and delivered to 29 MU at High Ercall, Salop (Aircraft Storage Unit) on the 27th November 1951. On the 29th January 1952 WH301 moved to the Day Fighter Leaders School at Central Fighter Establishment, West Raynham. WH301 continued to serve with a number of different units including 609 (West Riding of Yorkshire) Squadron, Royal Auxiliary Air Force at RAF Church Fenton (Yorkshire), the RAF Flying College at Manby (Lincolnshire) and 85 Squadron at RAF Binbrook (Lincolnshire). 85 Squadron was a `target squadron' flying Meteors and Canberra T.11s as targets for radar controllers and during fighter interception exercises. The Squadron retired its last Meteors in June 1970. The final flight was on the 26th November 1965 when WH301 was transferred to 5 MU at Kemble and by this time WH301 had completed 2119 flying hours with 4925 landings. During the autumn of 1978 WH301 was transferred to Hendon. Between the 22nd and the 25th April 1996 the engines were removed and exchanged with time-expired engines by technicians from Martin-Baker. The original engines were to be held as spares for the two airworthy ejection seat test Meteor T7/8 aircraft operated by Martin-Baker.
Gloster Meteor F.8 (VZ477) [@ Midland Air Museum]
VZ477 was delivered to the RAF on the 30th June 1950 and sold as scrap on the 22nd June 1962 at 33 MU Lyneham. The cockpit section went to Kimbolton, Bedfordshire before going on display at the museum.
Gloster Meteor F.8 (WA829 / WA984) [@ RAF Tangmere]
The F.8 shown above is a composite airframe of at least two aircraft. WA829 was delivered to 245 Squadron at RAF Horsham, St Faith, on the 28th June 1950 as one of 16 aircraft fitted with flight refuelling probes to conduct operational refuelling trials. This role continued until the Squadron's Meteors were phased out in 1957. WA984 was delivered to 19 Squadron on the 16th April 1951 and was later cannibalized to provide spares for the U.16 drone programme. Major components of WA984 were used in the post-service restoration of WA829.
The next types were the Derwent 8 engined FR.9, a fighter-reconnaissance variant, and the PR.10 which was an unarmed photoreconnaissance aircraft. The FR.9 was used by the RAF in the low-altitude reconnaissance role before being replaced by the Canberra and Swift. Based on the F.8 it had a new nose which retained the four cannons but incorporating glazed panels on either side of the nose for the remotely controlled F.24 camera and additional external ventral and wing fuel tanks. To prevent damage to the camera at low temperatures hot air was fed from the starboard engine. The prototype flew on the 22nd March 1950 and 126 were produced by Gloster. 208 Squadron, then based at Fayid, Egypt, was the first to be upgraded followed by the 2nd Tactical Air Force in West Germany. 79 Squadron flew the FR.9 from 1951 until 1956 while 8 Squadron was given the FR.9 in November 1951 and used them until 1961. PR.9’s saw extensive use in the 1956 Suez crisis and after service with the RAF a number were refurbished and “sold on”, 12 to Ecuador, 7 to Israel and 2 to Syria.
Gloster Meteor F.8 (EG224) [@ Koninklijk Leger Museum, Brussels]
Built under licence in Belgium by Avions Fairey, with parts provided by Gloster, EG224 entered service with the Belgium Air Force in 1952. Before being Struck Off Charge on the 19th September 1963 EG224 served with 349 Squadron (1 Wing), Beauvechain AB and 33 Squadron (13 Wing), Brustem AB. Stored at Koksijde AB before transfer to the museum 20th March 1964.
Gloster Meteor FR.9 (VZ608) [@ Newark Air Museum]
VZ608 originally served with 208 Squadron as a standard FR.9 before returning to Glosters for test-bed duties. In 1951 VZ608 was transferred to Rolls Royce at Hucknall for reheat trials and in 1955 VZ608 was used by Rolls Royce as the test bed for the RB108 lift engine for the Short SC.1 programme. By removing the main fuel tank it was possible to install the RB108 behind the cockpit. The orientation of the engine could be altered in flight to simulate vertical flight, with a replica of the Short SC.1 air scoop fitted, to accurately simulate the SC.1 aerodynamics. Although VZ608 had under-wing fuel tanks the flying time was limited to about 30 minutes. After the successful trials, VZ608 was placed on the scrap heap at Hucknall but was rescued in February 1970 and moved to the museum. It is the only survivor of its mark.
Similarly, and probably the most effective Meteor reconnaissance variant, the PR.10 was based on the F.8 and was designed to replace the Spitfire IX and XIX in the high-altitude reconnaissance role. The F.8 fuselage was mated to a F.4 tail unit, a FR.9 nose and the long wings of the F.3 for high altitude work. The first prototype flew on the 29th March 1950 and was actually converted into the first production aircraft. The type could reach an altitude of 47,000 ft and had an endurance of 3 hrs 40 min with wing and ventral tanks. The cannons were removed and two additional F.52 cameras were located in the rear fuselage. The PR.10’s were delivered to the RAF from December 1950 and were given to 2 and 541 Squadrons in Germany and 13 Squadron in Cyprus. Between 1951 and 1956 it is believed that PR.10’s of 541 Squadron took part in a series of reconnaissance sorties over East Germany. These flights were ended when the Soviet Air Force deployed MiG-19’s to East Germany, however, the PR.10s continued to fly reconnaissance sorties along the edge of the East German airspace. In all fifty-eight PR.10’s were built by Gloster and none were exported.
Armstrong Whitworth Meteor NF.11/NF.14 (WM261) [@ RAF East Fortune]
With the Soviet Union and its satellite states rapidly re-equipping their air forces with high performance jet aircraft immediately after WW2, a replacement for the Royal Air Force's piston-engined Mosquito night fighters became an urgent matter. Gloster put forward a proposal to specification F.24/48 for a two seat, twin engined, night fighter variant with airborne intercept (AI) radar. The design was accepted but as Gloster were fully committed to manufacturing the F.8 it was decided to sub-contract the development and production of the night fighter variant to Armstrong Whitworth. The first prototype was a converted T.7, VW413, but the first purpose built NF.11, WA546, flew for the first time on 31st May 1950. The production models utilized the fuselage and tail of the F.8, the longer wings of the F.3 and the double canopy of the T.7. The lengthened nose contained an AI Mark 10 (SCR 720) radar and the four 20 mm Hispano cannon were repositioned in the wings, outboard of the engines. The Derwent 8 engined NF.11 entered RAF service with 29 Squadron which was then based at RAF Tangmere in May 1951 and latter with 141 and 85 Squadrons. Final deliveries ended in 1955 with the type finally departing from front-line service when 5 Squadron became operational on the Gloster Javelin in June 1960. In total 334 were built were built for the RAF and an additional twenty going for export to Denmark. Thirty two ex-RAF NF.11's were latter sold to France together with twenty-four to Belgium to replace aging Mosquito NF.30s.
Although assigned the serial WM261 it never served with the RAF and became the NF.14 prototype. Built in 1953 WM261 started life as an NF.11 and was progressively modified to NF.14 standard. As “G-ARCX” WM261 lead a life of trials and testing with the manufacturers and Ferranti. Due to the distinctive red cheatline the aircraft was nicknamed “Mentadent” after a brand of toothpaste. After flying only 346 flying hours WM262 was retired in 1969 and it is believed to be the lowest houred Meteor in existence. WM261 was donated to the museum in 1973.
Armstrong Whitworth Meteor NF.11 (WD686) [@ Muckleburgh Collection]
WD686 was delivered to the RAF on the 23rd April 1952 and it appears that it was used by the Telecommunications Research Establishment.
Armstrong Whitworth Meteor NF.11 (WM298/NF-3) [@ Koninklijk Leger Museum, Brussels]
WM298 was built for the RAF by Armstrong Whitworth but was never delivered. Instead it was directed to the French Armée de l'Air as NF11-3.
Armstrong Whitworth Meteor NF.12 (WS692) [@ Newark Air Museum]
Delivered to the RAF on the 4th September 1953 and became 7605M on the 8th July 1959. During 1981 WS692 was put up for sale by the Ministry of Defence and transported by road to the museum on the 31st October 1981.
Armstrong Whitworth Meteor NF.14 (WS843) [@ RAF Cosford]
The Derwent 8 engined NF.13 was a tropicalised version of the NF.11 and had larger engine nacelles, a cold air unit and a modified radio. The prototype first flew on the 23rd December 1952 and went on to equip 219 Squadron at Kabrit and 39 Squadron at Fayid, both in Egypt. The aircraft served during the Suez crisis. Forty were built for use in the Middle East and a number of ex-RAF were later sold on to Syria, Egypt Israel and Israel. A number were built for the export market, Belgium (24), Denmark (20), Australia (one) and France (41). Some of the French aircraft remained in operation as test beds into the 1980s.
The Derwent 9 [photograph - left] engined NF.12 was a longer nosed version of the NF.11, with an American APS 21 radar, and first flew on the 21st April 1953. To counter the extra length the fin was faired at the junction with the enlarged tailplane and a total of one hundred were built. Seven RAF squadrons, no’s 85, 25, 152, 46, 72, 153 and 65, operated the NF.12 from August 1953 until its replacement in 1958 and 1959. No NF.12’s were exported.
The NF.14 (Derwent 8) was the final night-fighter variant and one hundred were built. It differed from the NF.12 in having a completely transparent, electrically operated cockpit bubble canopy to replace the T.7 version. In common with the other Meteor night fighters no ejection seats were fitted. First flown on the 23rd October 1953, WS722 was the first NF.14 to be delivered to the RAF on the 19th November 1953 and the type entered RAF service in February 1954 with 25 Squadron. The NF.14 was being replaced as early as 1956 with the Gloster Javelin, however, 60 Squadron at Tengah, Singapore, operated the type until 1961.
WS843 was one the last production Meteors to be built and was delivered to the RAF on the 12th May 1954. The last production Meteor was WS848 and it was delivered to the RAF on the 26th May 1955 only to be sold as scrap at 33 MU RAF Lyneham on 6th December 1963.
Armstrong Whitworth Meteor NF.14 (WS739) [@ Newark Air Museum]
The designation NF(T).14 (Derwent 8) was applied to ex-front line NF.14 aircraft when they had their radars removed and replaced by UHF radios for navigation training. 14 were converted and given to No. 1 and 2 Air Navigation Schools where they served until 1965.
WS739 was delivered to the RAF on the 22nd February 1954 and initially served with 25 Squadron at both RAF Tangmere, Hampshire and RAF Waterbeach, Cambridgeshire. It was later converted into an NF(T).14 for use with No.1 and 2 Air Navigation Schools. From the late 1960's to mid 1970's it was at the gate of RAF Church Fenton. It arrived at the museum in January 1984.
Armstrong Whitworth Meteor NF.14 (WS838) [@ Midland Air Museum]
Variant U.15 was a target drone conversion of a redundant F.4 and the first flew as a drone on 11th March 1955. Similarly U.16 was a target drone but this time an F.8 conversion and all conversions were undertaken by Flight Refuelling Ltd. Eight F.8 airframes were prepared by FRL as target drones and shipped to Australia for re-assembly by Fairey Aviation. Further kits were supplied for local production and 22 F.8s were converted. The designations U.17, U.18 and U.19 was reserved for intended drone conversions of the NF11, 12 and 14 variants.
WS838 is on loan from RAF Cosford is in the colours of 64 Squadron with which it served at RAF Duxford. It was delivered to the RAF on the 30th April 1954.
Armstrong Whitworth Meteor NF.14 (WS788) [@ York Air Museum]
WS788 was built by Armstrong Whitworth at Bagington, Coventry, in February 1954 and delivered to the RAF on the 3rd March 1954. In July 1954 WS788 was issued to 152 Squadron at RAF Wattisham. Conveted to NF(T).14 standard WS788 served with the No.1 Air Navigation School at Thorney Island and later at No.2 School at Stradishall where it was damaged in an accident. In January 1966 it was allocated for ground instructional use only. In September 1969 WS788 was moved to Patrington Radar Station on Spurn Head as a static display aircraft. When Patrington closed it was moved to RAF Leeming as the Gate Guardian. It was brought to museum in 1991 and is displayed in 152 Squadron colours.
The TT.20 was a high speed target towing conversion based on the NF.11 airframe. The radar was removed to compensate for the weight of a winch above the port wing, between the fuselage and the engine nacelle and the VHF radio was replaced by a UHF set. The conversions were completed by ML Aviation and the type served with both the RAF and the Royal Navy. U.21 was the final Meteor variant apart from numerous trials aircraft; it was a target drone conversion of an F(T)8.
Armstrong Whitworth Meteor TT.20 (WM224) [@ East Midlands Air Museum]
WM224 entered RAF service on the 17th October 1952 and flew with 228 OCU (Operational Conversion Unit) as an NF.11. In 1957 WM224 joined 29 Squadron before being converted to TT.20 standard by Armstrong Whitworth in May 1961. WM224 then served as a TT.20 at Exeter with 3/4 CAACU (Civil Anti Aircraft Co-operational Unit) until 1968. After a period in storage WM224 became 8177M and was used as an instructional airframe to Swanton Morley. In 1978 WM224 was moved to North Weald airfield museum before joining the East Midlands museum on the 12th January 2003.
Meteor production, all variants, totalled some 3800 aircraft and remained in production until 1954. It proved itself to be a remarkably adaptable and robust aeroplane not just for the RAF but also for a wide range of development work. Although many Meteors survive in museums and collections only five remain airworthy, four in the United Kingdom and a F.8 which was exported to Australia in 2002.