1/32 - The Gloster Gauntlet was the last open-cockpit biplane fighter to be used by the RAF
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The Gloster Gauntlet was the last open-cockpit biplane fighter to be used by the RAF. It was originally built to meet the 1926 Air Ministry specification. The Gauntlet made its inaugural flight in 1928, but was beaten out by the Bristol Bulldog and Hawker Hawfinch during the trials. Since the Gauntlet came in third and the margin for performance was only slightly less than the winners, Gloster continued development on its own. In 1933, after further improvements, 24 Gauntlets were ordered in 1933.
In 1934, Gloster was taken over by Hawker Aircraft and the Gauntlet II incorporated the construction methods of Hawker. The rear fuselage was changed to a Hawker system of steel and aluminum tubing, bolted together with fish plates. The tubing used a ball end that was cupped into bolts and passed through the fish plates and braced with cables. A new wing spar was of the Hawker type using steel strips rolled to form an octagonal structure and connected together with steel webbing.
The improved Gauntlet Mk II was the most produced model and 104 aircraft were ordered in April 1935 and an additional 100 aircraft were ordered the following September. It went into service in 1936 with the Nos. 56 and 111 Squadrons and was powered with a more powerful 645 hp (480 kW) Bristol Mercury VIS2 engine. It had a maximum speed of 230 mph (370 km/h), a range of 460 miles (740 km) and a service ceiling of 33,500 feet (10,210 meters). Armament consisted of two Vickers .303 caliber synchronized machine guns.
In November 1937, the Gloster Gauntlet became the first aircraft in history to be directed to a target solely with ground-based radar during night-fighter experiments, by intercepting a civilian airliner over the Thames River.4 In 1940, Gauntlets were still in service in Palestine and while in East Africa, Gauntlets were credited for the downing of an Italian Caproni Ca 133 series bomber and used for limited ground attack sorties.
The Gauntlet was said to be the last truly acrobatic plane of the RAF. It could be airborne in less than 100 yards (91 m) and the landing speed was only 55 mph (88 km/h). However, slow rolls were difficult to perform and the airplane would lose altitude, so this maneuver was restricted below 3,000 feet (915 m). Visibility in the air was good, but it was difficult to see ahead on the ground, which required weaving back and forth while taxiing.
The Gladiator that replaced it, never achieved the popularity of the Gauntlet. With its enclosed cockpit and landing flaps, it was more like flying a monoplane with a top wing. The Gauntlet was a pilot’s airplane.