|TX148, the third prototype on a test flight, c. 1949|
|Manufacturer||Gloster Aircraft Company|
|First flight||9 March 1948|
|Primary user||Royal Air Force (intended)|
|Number built||3 (4th prototype not completed)|
The Gloster E.1/44 was a British single-engined jet fighter design of the Second World War, developed and produced by the British aviation firm Gloster Aircraft Company. It is amongst the first jet-propelled aircraft to be developed and had been produced on an experimental basis.
Following favourable testing of the turbojet-powered Gloster E.28/39 in 1941, Britain's first jet propelled aircraft, there was considerable interest in the application of these new propulsion technology to fighter aircraft. Thus, during 1942, work had commenced upon a development of a larger twin-engined fighter aircraft, which would become the Gloster Meteor, the first Allied jet fighter. However, British industrial manufacturer Rover, who had already been contracted to produce the Power Jets W.2 jet engine, experienced considerable difficult in achieving the necessary manufacturing rate for the engine. As such, the availability of suitable engines was heavily restricted throughout the wartime years. Concerned by the wider production consequences of this lack of adequate supply of jet engines, the British Air Ministry recognised the potential value of adopting a single-engined aircraft over the twin-engine configuration of the Meteor, leading to the issuing of Specification E.5/42, calling for the design and manufacture of such a fighter.
Gloster was amongst those companies to receive the specification and produced their own single-engine fighter design around a low-wing monoplane configuration, which was to be equipped with a highly tapered wing and a T-tail, as well as being alternatively powered by either a single Halford H.1 or Rolls-Royce Nene engine, fed by air intakes in the wing roots. During late 1943, work on a pair of prototypes, designated as the GA.1, commenced. However, the engine manufacturing problems were mostly rectified following the reassignment of production activity to Rolls-Royce Limited. Gloster decided to refine their GA.1 independently, until the Air Ministry issued Specification E.1/44 during 1944, which sought an experimental jet-powered aircraft that would be powered the newly developed Rolls-Royce Nene engine, leading to the revised GA.2. However, the rate of progress on the new fighter was slow, Gloster having concentrated the majority of its resources on the development and production of the Meteor instead. On 9 March 1948, the second E.1/44 performed its maiden flight at RAF Boscombe Down. Testing revealed unpromising performance and characteristics and Gloster recognised the Meteor as having more development potential. As such, the aircraft never entered production.
The development of the turbojet-powered E.1/44 was the product of a collaboration between the Gloster Aircraft Company and Sir Frank Whittle's firm, Power Jets Ltd. Whittle formed Power Jets Ltd in March 1936 to develop his ideas of jet propulsion, Whittle himself serving as the company's chief engineer. For several years, attracting financial backers and aviation firms prepared to take on Whittle's radical ideas was difficult; in 1931, Armstrong-Siddeley had evaluated and rejected Whittle's proposal, finding it to be technically sound but at the limits of engineering capability. Securing funding was a persistently worrying issue throughout the early development of the engine. The first Whittle prototype jet engine, the Power Jets WU, began running trials in early 1937; shortly afterwards, both Sir Henry Tizard, chairman of the Aeronautical Research Committee, and the Air Ministry gave the project their support.
On 28 April 1939, Whittle made a visit to the premises of the Gloster Aircraft Company, where he met several key figures, such as George Carter, Gloster's chief designer. Carter took a keen interest in Whittle's project, particularly when he saw the operational Power Jets W.1 engine; Carter quickly made several rough proposals of various aircraft designs powered by the engine. Independently, Whittle had also been producing several proposals for a high-altitude jet-powered bomber; following the start of the Second World War and the Battle for France, a greater national emphasis on fighter aircraft arose. Power Jets and Gloster quickly formed a mutual understanding around mid-1939.
In September 1939, the Air Ministry issued a specification to Gloster for an aircraft to test one of Frank Whittle's turbojet designs in flight, resulting in the development of the Gloster E.28/39, the first British jet aircraft. The designation adopted for this initial proof of concept aircraft, E.28/39, originated from the aircraft having been developed in conformance with the 28th "Experimental" specification issued by the Air Ministry in 1939. While the specification had included provisions for armaments, these were not initially included and the aircraft was principally intended to demonstrate the viability, qualities, and potential value of jet propulsion in broad terms, not to immediately produce a combat-capable platform. On 15 May 1941, Gloster's Chief Test Pilot, Flight Lieutenant Gerry Sayer flew the aircraft under jet power for the first time from RAF Cranwell, near Sleaford in Lincolnshire, in a flight lasting 17 minutes.
The successful testing of the E.28/39 had directly led to the design of the twin-engined Gloster Meteor jet fighter from 1940 onwards. However, during 1942, engine manufacturer Rover, who had already been contracted to produce the Power Jets W.2 jet engine, had experienced production problems in this regard; accordingly, the Air Ministry decided to issue Specification E.5/42, which sought out an aircraft design which would only be powered by a single engine, rather than two. In response to this request, Gloster set about producing such a design, which developed into a low-wing monoplane equipped with a highly tapered wing and a T-tail arrangement, along with the adoption of a tailwheel undercarriage. It was to be powered by a single Halford H.1 or Rolls-Royce Nene engine fed by intakes in the wing roots. During late 1943, construction activity on a pair of prototypes, designated as the GA.1, commenced.
However, the manufacturing difficulties experienced were resolved via alternative means; Rolls-Royce Limited agreed to exchange jet engine production (as such, the W2 engine would become known as the Welland) for Meteor tank engine production with Rover, the former proving able at overcoming the challenges encountered by the latter. In light of this resolution, the urgency that had driven the demand for a single-engined design had dissipated, meaning that the fledgling GA.1 was no longer required. Despite this, Gloster decided to continue to work on their design privately, intending to adopt a Halford H.1 engine to power the type instead of the originally intended W2/Welland powerplant.
During 1944, the Air Ministry issued Specification E.1/44, which sought an experimental jet-powered aircraft that would be powered the newly developed Rolls-Royce Nene engine. In response, Gloster's design team decided to approach the specified requirements of this new specification by developing a new design, which became known simply as GA.2. It was not based on the earlier E.5/42, being a significantly larger aeroplane. During 1944, after reviewing submissions, the Air Ministry issued a contract to Gloster for the construction of a single prototype; this order was joined during late 1945 by additional orders for the completion of a further three aircraft.
The Gloster E.1/44 was a stressed-skin mid-winged monoplane design, featuring a relatively broad fuselage and a wide-trac undercarriage. In terms of its general configuration, the design was bore little resemblance to the twinjet Meteor and only superficial similarities to the earlier pioneering E.28/29, being a larger and significantly heavier aircraft. Unlike the E.28/29, which had a central air intake in its nose that fed into a straight-through duct to reach its turbojet engine, the E.1/44's single Rolls-Royce Nene received air via a pair of semi-circular air intakes which were located ahead of the wing roots. The tailplane was mounted midway up the rear fuselage, set beneath the single fin and rudder. Unlike the earlier E5/42, a widely spaced tricycle landing gear arrangement was adopted for the E.1/44.
The unusually wide fuselage of the E.1/44 was constructed out of several sections, the front of which being attached to the central section via four longerons. The center fuselage, which was composed of reinforced Z-section frames and heavy double-channel section frames, accommodated the aircraft's Nene engine in addition to attachment points for the centre-section of the wing. Set into the sides of the central section were the air intakes, which featured boundary-layer bleeds and were readily detachable. The rear fuselage section used semi-monocoque construction, reinforced by several Z-section frames and top-hat stringers; the detachable tail section featured a similar structure. Apart from the upper portion of the fin, which was composed of wood for its insulating properties, the tail unit was an all-metal, stressed-skin unit. Rivets were used to attach the various sections together.
The centre-section of the wing, which accommodated the flaps, inboard air brakes and main undercarriage, was a single-spar stressed-skin structure, complete with an auxiliary rear spar. Both spars use a plate web design; while the main spar's booms were composed from high-tensile steel, the rear spar made use of light-alloy booms instead. The outer portions of the wing, which had similar construction methods, were fixed at the spars and at the leading edge. An unusual feature of the aircraft was the skin of the wings, which was composed of relatively difficult-to-work stainless-steel.
The flying controls of the E.1/44 was relatively conventional, employing an array of push-rods and spring-torque shafts (the latter being primarily used for actuation of the spring tabs) to feed control inputs to the relevant flight control surfaces. Power for both the undercarriage and the flaps was provided by a Dowty-built hydraulic pump, driven via a gear box from the Nene engine; fall-back measures included a hand-pump for the flight surfaces and an emergency compressed-air system for the undercarriage. Electrical power was provided by a 1,500-watt HX2 generator, which was against driven via the gear box, which charged a pair of series-connected 12-volt accumulators. Onboard equipment included a two-way radio set, IFF, oxygen tanks, windscreen de-icing system, fire detectors and fire extinguishers, and a drogue parachute installed in the tail.
Progress on the new fighter was slow, Gloster having chosen to concentrate its resources on the development and refinement of the in-production twin-engined Meteor. The first prototype was not completed until July 1947. However, the project received a considerable setback when the first prototype was destroyed on the ground as a result of a road accident while being transported to RAF Boscombe Down to commenced the flight test programme.
As such, the first E.1/44 to fly was in fact the second prototype. On 9 March 1948, it performed its maiden flight at RAF Boscombe Down, flown by Gloster Chief Test Pilot Bill Waterton. Reportedly, Waterton was not impressed with the aircraft, commenting on its lack of power and its unfavourable flying characteristics, unflatteringly referring to it as the "Gormless". This unofficial name never stuck, however, the prototype never received an official name, although "Ace" was proposed at one point. Shortly after performing its first flight, the second prototype was dispatch to RAF Moreton Valence, Gloucestershire, to conduct further test flights.
Flight testing revealed the aircraft's handling to have been initially poor; in response to this feedback, a revised tail unit outfitted with a high mounted tailplane was later installed onto the prototype. While this change has been credited with resolved the aforementioned handling problems, its performance remained little better than that of the existing Meteor. This comparison was a major factor in the ultimate termination of the test programme during 1949, it having been recognised that the design did not possess the development potential of the Meteor; as such, the fourth prototype (TX150) was never completed.
Some elements of the design were applied to other aircraft. Specifically, the revised tail design developed for the E.1/44 was subsequently carried over to the Meteor, having been employed on the Meteor F 8 and later models. Following the end of the programme, the only two aircraft to achieve flight were reused as aerial testbeds for some time prior to being eventually scrapped; reportedly, at least one of these prototypes had remained in use until at least 1951.
- Single-engined version of the design to meet Air Ministry Specification E.5/42 – two aircraft serial numbers SM801 and SM805, construction abandoned.
- GA.2 Ace
- Improved variant to meet E.1/44, three built, SM809 was destroyed during transit to Boscombe Down by road and never flew. TX145 was first to fly on 9 March 1948. TX148 with a modified tail first flew in 1949, the tail design was later used on the Gloster Meteor F.8.
- Pre-production aircraft, serial number TX150, not built.
- Forty early production aircraft were ordered in two batches in April and July 1946, cancelled and not built.
Data from The British Fighter since 1912 
- Length: 38 ft 0 in (11.59 m)
- Wingspan: 36 ft 0 in (10.98 m)
- Height: 11 ft 8 in (3.56 m)
- Wing area: 254 ft² (23.6 m²)
- Empty weight: 8,260 lb (3,755 kg)
- Loaded weight: 11,470 lb (5,214 kg)
- Powerplant: 1 × Rolls-Royce Nene II centrifugal flow turbojet, 5,000 lbf (22.3 kN)
- Maximum speed: 539 knots (620 mph, 998 km/h)
- Range: 357 nm (410 mi, 660 km)
- Service ceiling: 44,000 ft (13,400 m)
- Climb to 40,000 ft (12,200 m): 12 min 30 sec
- Guns: 4 x 20 mm Hispano cannon
Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era
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