Avro Lancaster Prototype BT308: All Good things have Humble Beginnings

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Introduction: The Avro Lancaster is perhaps Britain’s most highly-regarded bomber, being the face of RAF Bomber Command during the Second World War, and leaving a lasting impression on both members of the military and civilians alike. Its place in history was secured by flying daring missions like those done by the Dam Busters, which also ended up being made into films. However, the Lancaster was close to not being built at all, and it could have very well remained one of the many British projects which were stuck on the drawing board. Thus, it can be said that, like a phoenix, the Lancaster emerged from the ashes of the Manchester program, turning a doomed design into one of the UK’s most famous aircraft.

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Description: The idea of a “Four-Engined Manchester” came about as early as April 1937, when Roy Chadwick, chief designer at Avro, considered the idea of fitting four Bristol Hercules engines onto the Manchester (then still on the drawing board). This is quite significant, as it was before his counterpart at Handley Page considered doing the same on their design, the HP.56, which would ultimately turn into the Halifax. Drawings for such an aircraft were produced in 1939, though the program proceeded with great caution, partly due to the Manchester’s major reliability issues, and partly due to the presence of the Halifax. In fact, the latter was considered to be the basic standard for all future British heavy bombers from then on. The Battle of Britain did not help prospects, as the Ministry of Aircraft Production limited the number of projects which could go on at the same time, in order to preserve resources, and focus them where they could be used best. Air Chief Marshall Freeman was supportive of the project, but his boss at MAP, Lord Beaverbrook, was much less enthusiastic. The only advantage that the latter saw was that the aircraft could use existing jigs intended for Manchester production. Beaverbrook was eventually convinced by Freeman, and a contract for one prototype was placed. Despite this, the program faced massive roadblocks from Patrick Hennessy, who held quite a lot of influence, made life difficult for the engineers over at Avro, even going so far as to refuse them raw materials and tell them to “dig for it". Fortunately, Avro managed to find ways to acquire the materials needed, and work progressed on the prototype from August 1940, after a Manchester was taken off of the production line. Hennessey would later come round to the idea of a new bomber, and thus no longer presented any opposition to the project.

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Eventually, MAP also came round to the idea, once it became clear that the aircraft was as good as the Halifax, and the project proceeded smoothly from November. BT308 was completed, and first flew in Janaury of 1941, the first of 7,370 aircraft. The aircraft was structurally identical to the Manchester, according to Chadwick, though the wings and undercarriage were redesigned at Air Ministry request. The Lancaster soon became Bomber Command’s favourite, and it led the RAF’s charge against Germany from 1942 onwards, taking part in many daring raids, and would have a long career with the RAF and many airforces around the world. BT308 is noteworthy for flying with the Manchester’s three tail layout, which rapidly gave way to an improved tail, more or less similar to what was added on the Manchester Mk.IA.

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Performance:

Spoiler
Span: 102ft 0in (31.09m)
Length: 68ft 10in (20.89m)
Wing Area: 1,300sq ft (120.77sq m)
All-Up-Weight: 68,000lb (30,844kg)
Powerplant: 4x 1,460hp (1,089kW) Rolls-Royce Merlin XX
Max. Speed/Height: 281mph (452km/h) at 11,000ft (3,353m)
Armament: 14,000lb (6,350kg) bombs
8x .303in (7.7mm) machine guns

Conclusion: The Lancaster is one of Britain’s most famous aircraft, and having its unique looking prototype in game would be highly interesting, from both a historical and in-game perspective, representing the first in a large family of aircraft.

Sources:

Spoiler

“British Secret Projects 4: Bombers 1935 to 1950” by Tony Buttler

Lancaster prototype maiden flight 9th January 1941 | RAF Memorial Flight Club

BT308 | This Day in Aviation

Avro Lancaster - BCAR.org.uk

https://www.tracesofwar.com/articles/7325/AVRO-Lancaster.htm

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would make a great premium or when ever the Manchester gets added it could be foldered with that

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