Handley Page Halifax B.Mk.II Series IA: The Humble Warrior (iii)

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Introduction: The Handley Page Halifax Mk.II Series IA was an improvement upon the Series I, with slightly better performance due to weight-saving measures. It is an important member of the Halifax family as it pointed the way towards the much-improved Mk.III.


Description: As mentioned previously, the Mk.II Series I suffered from being overweight, which had a negative effect on performance, despite having more powerful engines than its predecessor. As time progressed, the Halifax began to fall somewhat out of favour, as more Lancasters entered service. The Lancaster gave improved performance and bombload compared to the early Halifaxes, and it soon became the Bomber Command favourite. AOC-in-C Bomber Command Arthur Harris was critical of the early versions of the Halifax, and at some point, it was considered that production should end to focus solely on the Lancaster, but this never happened as it was logistically unfeasible. Handley Page began looking at ways to keep the aircraft relevant in face of the constantly changing nature of fighting. The Halifax was employed in day bombing at the start of the war, and it was thus given the necessary equipment to fight in this environment. However, as Bomber Command switched to area bombing German cities by night, there was simply a lot of equipment that was no longer necessary. For instance, the front turret was rarely used, as frontal attacks by German night fighters were rare. Therefore, many Mk.II Series Is had their nose turrets removed, but this was a temporary solution. The Series IA replaced it with a glazed nose, with a single 7.7mm machine gun for forward defence. A new, low-profile turret from Boulton-Paul, as mounted on the Defiant, was also added for better security in the rear.


The aircraft also received uprated Merlin XXIIs, which gave a 10% increase in performance. Some were also modified with a new horizontal stabiliser, built in a square, rather than triangular form, giving much improved controllability, making the Series IA a more stable bombing platform. As on the Series I, the aircraft could also be fitted with a turret on the bottom of the fuselage, with a single .50 cal machine gun, for defence against night fighters. The aircraft could also be fitted with an H2S system instead of the turret, as with its predecessor. Finally, new bomb bay doors were added to improve streamlining, as older ones generated more drag, as they often didn’t close properly. This greatly improved the performance of the aircraft, and “Bomber” Harris wrote a response to an earlier telegram by Fredrick Handley Page congratulating him about the 1000 Bomber Raid, by commenting that the Halifax played an important role during the operation. The improvements on the B.Mk.II Series IA would eventually lead to the much-improved Mk.III, with new Bristol Hercules engines, on top of various other improvements. Ironically, despite being one of the most well-regarded piston-engines of all time, it seems the Rolls-Royce Merlin did not complement the Halifax all that well.




Handley Page Halifax B Mk.II srs I

Four Rolls-Royce Merlin XXII liquid-cooled V-12 engines
Wing span, 30.12m; length 21.36m, wing area 111.48m2
Empty weight 16320kg, maximum take-off weight 24950kg
Speed 357.5km/h at 5410m
Range 4475km with 1360kg of bombs, 1600km with 5440kg
Service ceiling 5486m
Armament ten .303 guns and up to 5897kg of bombs

Conclusion: I believe that the Halifax Mk.II Series IA would be a fine addition to the UK’s heavy bomber line, with better performance than its predecessors, but with slightly limited forward armament.



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