Hawker P.1121: Britain's Lost Jet Fighter

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Introduction: The Hawker P.1121 was a design for a strike-fighter based of off designs that were rejected from a requirement for an interceptor requirement being tendered in Britain in the mid- to late 1950’s. The RAF was uninterested in the type, and an order from them was unlikely, yet Hawker persevered and began the construction of a prototype, but, to no avail. The P.1121 was only partially constructed, and it never flew.

The mockup behind the incomplete prototype:

Origins: The P.1121 story starts with F.155T, a specification for a supersonic, all-weather replacement for the Javelin, and, eventually, the Lightning. Most major aircraft companies in Britain undertook the task of designing a type that could meet the advanced and strict requirements, including Hawker, who tendered the P.1103. This aircraft did not meet the performance requirement, so a rocket was added to help boost the speed. Because of this, the project was dismissed, amongst many others from Britain’s foremost aircraft designers. The Fairey Delta III was chosen, as it met the requirements, and they were ordered to begin the construction of a prototype. However, politics soon got into the mix. The Suez Crisis of 1956 brought about massive shocks and repercussions for British political and military aspirations, and would forever change the landscape of of both these spheres. In 1957, the then Defence Minister Duncan Sandys announced massive defence budget cuts to reduce the armed forces in size to release members of the services into the job market to help the economy grow. These Defence Cuts led to the immediate cancellation of all fighter programs (except the Lightning) in the UK as these were viewed as unnecessary and outdated in the face of ever more advanced Surface to Air Missiles. F.155T would have lead to a project riddled with technical difficulties, as is evident from the procurement process alone. It would have been a massive strain on the economy, and there were no logical plans which properly set out the series production of the type. The project was highly ambitious from a technical perspective, but put all accountants into a cold sweat; Britain’s postwar economy could not sustain such a program. In order to visualise the requirements set out, the Delta III, the only aircraft that met the requirements in full, would have had similar performance to the MiG-25 from the USSR, which was of a similar size too.

A few contenders for F.155T:

Spoiler

Fairey Delta III
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Hawker P.1103:

Supermarine Type 559

From P.1103 to P.1121: The P.1103 was a single-engined type, which also used a rocket to boost performance. It carried an Air Intercept radar in the nose, requiring an observer, who sat behind the pilot. When Hawker was dismissed from the competition, they immediately set out to modify the design for other purposes. This began with the P.1116, which had a new wing with reduced wing sweep and length and had the rocket motor deleted. This design eventually evolved into the P.1121, which was to be a multirole type. By now, little traits of the original P.1103 remained, it was designed as a thoroughbred interceptor, while its descendants, the P.1116 and the P.1121 were designed as strike-fighters. The P.1121 was tendered as both a tentative Hunter and Canberra replacement. However, the RAF wanted a supersonic VTOL aircraft, which became another stillborn project from Hawker, the P.1154. The Hunter wasn’t truly replaced until the arrival of the Phantoms and Harriers. The Canberra replacement was heavily modified to meet the requirement, and thus received a new designation, P.1123, however, not all the specifications were met, mainly for the range requirement. The Canberra replacement program eventually led to the TSR.2. Both the P.1154 and TSR.2 were cancelled in 1964 under the new Labour Government. With the RAF uninterested in the project, Hawker kept the project alive by using their own money, in the hope of an export order. It was also hoped that if an export order materialised, the RAF would consider ordering it. Therefore, Hawker soldiered on and even stated that:

“ [the] project is going very well. It will be remembered that before the war we undertook as a private venture the development of the Hawker Hurricane and we believe that the same kind of private initiative should be shown in the present circumstances."


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The Project’s demise: However, it was not to be. The “Hurricane”, as the P.1121 was sometimes referred to, was, in the eyes of many at the Air Staff, surplus to requirements, despite Camm receiving encouragement from Air Marshal Tuttle, which meant that a prototype began constrcution. As a fighter, the aircraft did not meet the requirements the Air Staff were interested in, they still had performance similar to that they had wished for in F.155T in mind. An order from the RAF was always unlikely, if it were to be used as a fighter, as the P.1121’s ancestor, the P.1103 was dismissed on the grounds that it didn’t meet the speed and range requirements, and it had a rocket to boost it, the P.1121 did not. The RAF wished, as previously mentioned, that a VTOL aircraft should be the main strike element. This meant that the ground attack role was left for the P.1154. With no export orders incoming, the project was forced to stop. What was built was shipped to the Cranfield College of Aeronautics in 1961, before being moved to the RAF Museum at Cosford, where it remains today, in a hangar, in storage, out of the public eye, where it is slowly being forgotten by the general public. It is truly a sad ending for such a promising aircraft.

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Performance:

Spoiler

Manufacturer: Hawker Siddeley Aviation, United Kingdom Max speed: 2,394 km/h at 36,000 feet

(1,488 mph)

1,300km/h at Sea Level
Type: fighter-bomber Range: 1,930 km

(1,200 mi)
Description: British supersonic fighter taken to the stage of unfinished prototype aircraft and financed by Hawker itself Ferry range: NA
Cancelled: 1958 Ceiling: NA
Engine: 1 × de Havilland Gyron,

(Options for Bristol-Siddeley-Olympus or Rolls-Royce-Conway turbojet) Climb rate: NA
Thrust: 1 x 89 kN (1 x 20.000 lbf) de Havilland-Gyron PS.26-3 dry thrust

1 x 120,1 kN (1 x 27.000 lbf) de Havilland-Gyron PS.26-3 with reheat Crew: 1
Armament: Guns: 30 mm (1.18 in)

Rockets: 50 x 50,8 mm (2 in)

Missiles: 2 x air-to-air (Red Tops) Length: 20,27 m

(66 ft 6 in)
Radar: AI.23 Span: 11,28 m

(37 ft 0 in)
Height: 4,51 m

(14 ft 10 in)
Loaded weight: 19.730 kg

(43.500 lb)
Number built: 1 mock up

1 unfinished

prototype


Hawker P.1121 mockup

Hawker P.1121 structure

Conclusion: This aircraft should be in game as a reminder to a great plane that never was, a product with loads of potential, that never got to fly, and is now slowly being eroded from the memories of many and is now only a footnote in the history of aviation. This aircraft never got to fly in real life, but I hope it would be given a chance to fly in a virtual world, thus exposing it to a wider audience, giving it the attention it truly deserves, and as a tribute to Sidney Camm, and all those who worked on the project.

Sources:

Spoiler

“British Secret Projects 1: Jet Fighters since 1950” by Tony Buttler (information regarding the P.1121 and performance data)

“Battle Flight: RAF Air Defence Projects and Weapons since 1945” by Chris Gibson (information regarding F.155T)

Hawker P.1121 "Hurricane" | Secret Projects Forum (Mainly images, although information was also gathered from here)

Image sources for the contenders to F.155T:

Saunders-Roe P.187 : F.155T contender | Secret Projects Forum

Fairey F155T (OR 329) interceptor: "Fairey Delta 3" | Secret Projects Forum

Armstrong Whitworth AW.169: F155T contender | Secret Projects Forum

Hawker P.1103 image was sourced from P.1121 thread

Hawker's Secret Projects: Cold War Aircraft That Never Flew - Christopher Budgen - Google Books

Hawker P.1121 model

2 Likes

+1 cool idea but i think it’s not gonna be added.

+1 Another fantastic British supersonic which nearly made it, would be a nice way to finish the ‘Hunter’ lineage of aircraft.

1 Like

Definitely +1, given Britain currently has no 10.0-11.0 fighters (and only 2 other aircraft in that range) this would make for a great addition to the tree after the Hunters and an end to a once great lineage of aircraft

3 Likes