Introduction: The Hawker P.1081 was an important milestone in British aviation history that is often forgotten, despite the important role it played in the development of the Hunter. The aircraft was also well regarded by its pilots, who proved that it was a nimble fighter, able to match aircraft such as the F-86 and their equivalents, and even surpass them in certain aspects.
Description: As mentioned in the previous post, the second P.1052 prototype, VX279, was converted into P.1081 standard in 1950. The main difference between the two types was the new rear section, with a swept-back tail and straight-through jet pipe. The tail section was removed from VX279, and modified for naval trials, being fitted to the first P.1052 prototype. It was hoped that the type would be powered by a Rolls-Royce Tay, their ultimate centrifugal jet engine. In the end, it was never used by the British, but was produced in large quantities by both France and the United States. The fitting of this engine would’ve required some modifications to the centre fuselage, which had been designed around the Nene, but nothing that was too drastic. This variant had gained significant interest from the Australians, who wished to procure it as an interceptor. However, since the Tay was not in production, another option was the Nene fitted with reheat, which would still boost the fighter’s performance by a large margin. In the end, the intended second prototype with a reheated Tay was never built, nor was the Nene with afterburner, despite having one earmarked for it. Due to these factors, VX279 retained the standard Nene, and used a jet pipe from the Supermarine Attacker.
On 19th June, 1950, the P.1081 took to the air for the first time, under the command of “Wimpy” Wade, who took it on a 30 minute test flight. It was then shipped via road to Boscombe Down for tests, before eventually taking part in the Brussels Aero Show, the National Air Races and a photoshoot in Blackbushe. Following this, tests were carried out by both Wade and Neville Duke to eliminate directional oscillation. Duke also found that the rudder was also extremely heavy, almost inoperable at higher speeds, but tail vibration still developed into buffet. These issues were worked out as Hawker began to move towards production. However, it soon became known that the Australians had cancelled their order, despite showing great interest at first, even ordering a license and 72 aircraft from CAC. The decision to cancel the aircraft had the knock-on effect of affecting the Tay, which was also cancelled. Despite this, testing continued, and the aircraft had its rear fuselage fairing extended, which increased speed by 6 knots (11km/h). Further modifications to the tailplane, mainly that of a distributed mass rudder with reduced trailing edge sweep, helped solve the buffeting problem for the most part, and greatly improved overall performance, increasing manoeuvrability, reducing pilot stress and workload, as well as making the aircraft much more pleasant to fly. The aircraft was used in the development of the P.1067 (Hunter), mainly in the development of the dive recovery and landing flaps, which were to be used as airbrakes. Though results were encouraging, it was found that they produced insufficient drag to slow down the aircraft as much as they wanted. In 1951, Wade concluded a trip to the USA and found that the P.1081 possessed superior performance and armament than either the F-86A or F-86E, though the P.1081’s performance was somewhat limited by high jet pipe temperatures.
Tragedy struck on 3rd April 1952 when a noise “like a roll of thunder” came from the sky, and witnesses saw the P.1081 plummeting in a near vertical dive towards the ground. The ejection seat fell away, but tragically, Wade was still strapped in when the seat hit the ground, and he was killed. The aircraft recovered temporarily when the canopy was jettisoned, performing a wide right-hand circuit and some uncontrolled manoeuvres, before crashing at Ringmer. The aircraft was completely destroyed. Though the cause of the crash has never fully been identified, various modifications had been made to the aircraft, including the replacement of the tailplane actuator and the interconnection between the dive recovery and landing flaps.
Despite its loss, the P.1081 had gained a large amount of valuable information for the Hunter program, and certainly influenced the overall design of the aircraft.
|Type:||Single-seat jet fighter prototype|
|Span:||31ft 6in (9.6m)|
|Length:||37ft 4in (11.38m)|
|Gross Wing Area:||258sq ft (23.99sq m)|
|Wing Thickness/Chord (t/c) ratio:||10% constant|
|Max. Weight:||14,480lb (6,568kg)|
|Powerplant:||1x Rolls-Royce B.41 Nene 5,000lb (22.2kN)|
|Max. Speed:||696mph (1,119km/h) at sea level|
|Max. Mach||0.89 at 36,000ft (10,973m)|
|Speed/Mach data gathered on 15th September 1950 at 12,350lb (5,602kg) take-off weight||Max. Speed 635mph (1,022km/h), Mach 0.84, at sea level;|
601mph (967km/h) or Mach 0.89 at 30,000ft (9,144m)|
|Service Ceiling:|45,600ft (13,900m)|
|Climb Rate:|6,100ft/min (1,859m/min) at sea level|
|Radius of Action:|380 miles (611km) at 35,000ft (10,668m)|
4x 20mm Hispano cannons (never fitted)|
Conclusion: I believe that this aircraft would be a fine addition to the British aircraft collection in War Thunder, preferably as a Squadron vehicle at 8.7. Overall, this aircraft would make for a great flying aircraft, as well as being an enjoyable dogfighter, matching, and even surpassing the F-86 Sabre in some aspects.
“X-Planes of Europe II: Military Prototype Aircraft from the Golden Age 1945-1974” by Tony Buttler