Handley Page Halifax Mk.I Series I: The Humble Warrior (i)

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Introduction: The Handley Page Halifax is an aircraft which is often overshadowed by the more famous Lancaster. Despite this, it played a huge part in the Second World War, and was initially, the main British heavy bomber.


Background: In the mid-1930’s, the Air Staff believed that the heavy bomber would be the most effective weapon for both offensive and defensive operations. This was the time where it was believed that the “bomber would always get through”, which made it an unstoppable strike weapon that could solve many issues. This was also a time of rapid technological advance, with engines increasing in both size and power, and airframe manufacturing techniques making leaps and bounds from design to design. It was thus found necessary to design a new generation of bomber which would carry heavier loads than existing types over longer distances. The Air Staff had also sent fact finding missions to the US, and they were impressed by the projects going on at that point, with aircraft such as the B-17 and B-18 being drawn up and prepared for testing at this point. The UK issued two requirements: B.12/36 and P.13/36 were both issued in order to provide a wide-ranging modernisation to the British bomber fleet. For B.12/36, Shorts and Supermarine were chosen to produce aircraft, their designs becoming the Stirling and the Type 317 respectively. Meanwhile, P.13/36 would ultimately lead to the Manchester and Halifax.

The HP.56:

P.13/36 ran concurrently with the B.12/36 requirement, and aimed to achieve a relatively similar requirement, albeit on a smaller platform. In some documentation, it was referred to as a medium bomber requirement, though for all intents and purposes, it was a heavy bomber requirement. The aircraft was intended to be around the same weight as the Vickers Warwick, which was then in development, although smaller in size and faster. The requirement called for a maximum bombload of 8,000lb (3,629kg) with a range of at least 2,000 miles (3,219km) with this load, and 3,000 miles (4,828km) using a lighter load. A high cruising speed and altitude was required in order to provide the best survivability over enemy territory, with a speed of at least 275mph (442km/h) at 15,000ft. Survivability also depended on self-defence, and the aircraft was to be provided with all-round cover through the use of machine guns. The weapons load was 8,000lb (3,629kg), with the option for two 18in (45.7cm) torpedoes included into the requirement. Additionally, catapult-assisted take-off was proposed. P.13/36 was issued on the 5th November 1936 to Avro, Boulton Paul, Bristol, Fairey, Handley Page, Hawker, Shorts and Vickers. Out of these companies, Avro and Handley Page were chosen to proceed with their designs.

First Halifax Prototype:

Development: The HP.56 was designed by George Volkert designed the HP.56, a twin-engine aircraft of metal construction, with a twin tail and a wing of two-spar construction, with a mix of corrugated and flat sheet covering areas which were to be under high stresses, something which broke away from HP’s normal practice. The wing also held all of the fuel in integral cells. The aircraft was intended to be powered by two Rolls-Royce Vultures, but other powerplants were also considered. The aircraft was chosen alongside the Avro 679 Manchester, and a mock-up conference was held on 8th July, 1937, and the go-ahead was given to start construction. However on the 24th, the decision was made to change the design in order to accommodate four engines. The Air Staff was beginning to have misgivings about twin-engine bombers, in addition to the fact that the Rolls-Royce Vulture was having severe reliability issues. These reasons would ultimately lead to the failure of the Manchester and its total redesign, and would require extensive modifications on the HP.56. Work was abandoned on August 18th. It was decided to use four Rolls-Royce Merlin, or Bristol Taurus, engines, depending on availability. Volkert initially saw the redesign as a blow, having to completely redesign the wing, but would eventually realise the advantages of the switch. The project was delayed by six months, during which the catapult and torpedo requirements were dropped, and the project was renumbered to HP.57. The prototypes began construction in March 1938, with work beginning in earnest by July. The aircraft took its first flight on the 25th of October, 1939. The Manchester was initially seen as having more potential to the P.13/36 requirement, though the HP.57 would ultimately be a lot more successful, and would ultimately enter service as the Halifax.

Second Halifax Prototype:

Service: The first production Halifax was a set of 50 aircraft built to the Mk.I Series I standard. These featured a nose and tail turret and two beam gunners. They were powered by Rolls-Royce Merlin Xs, with large radiators. They were also fitted with the triangular tails, which would be common on all early mark Halifaxes.





wingspan 30.12 meters 98 feet 10 inches
wing area 116 sq_meters 1,250 sq_feet
length 21.36 meters 70 feet 1 inch
height 6.32 meters 20 feet 9 inches

empty weight 15,370 kilograms 33,860 pounds
maximum bombload 5,900 kilograms 13,000 pounds
MTO weight 26,310 kilograms 58,000 pounds

max speed at altitude 420 KPH 260 MPH / 225 KT
service ceiling 5,490 meters 18,000 feet
range, max load 1,610 kilometers 1,000 MI / 870 NMI

Conclusion: I believe that the Halifax Mk.I would be a welcome addition to the British tree and it’s quite surprising that it was not added. Nevertheless it think it would be a great aircraft to fly, and might also give some much wanted heavy bomber capability at a slightly lower BR, which would complement the Wellingtons quite nicely, I must say.



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

Handley Page Halifax L7245 2nd prototype at Radlett 1940 | World War Photos

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File:Handley Page Halifax Mk II Series 1 of No. 10 Squadron RAF based at Leeming, Yorkshire, 12 December 1941. CH4435.jpg - Wikipedia

Handley Page Halifax - history, photos, specification of the Handley Page Halifax

Handley-Page Halifax

Blueprints > WW2 Airplanes > Handley-Page > Handley-Page HP.56

+1 more british bombers are always acceptable, would be a good 3.7 bomber

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