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  1. Jet engine development, the Gloster Meteor and the V1 threat
  2. Jet engine development, the Gloster Meteor and the V1 threat - History of Manston Airfield
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Power Jets was not in a position to mass-produce the Whittle engine, and trying to find another firm with adequate resources led to a two-year delay in production. As a result, progress of the G. By October , the Air Ministry was interested enough in the Whittle engine to arrange for production of the W. Unfortunately, the term "mis-arranged" is probably more appropriate, since Power Jets and Rover worked at all times at cross purposes, with the confusion aggravated by contrary instructions from the British Ministry of Production.

The jet engine development effort slowly strangled on its own red tape until , when Rolls-Royce's Ernest Hives took S. Wilks of Rover out to lunch and, as the story has it, asked Wilks: "Give us this jet job, and we'll give you our tank-engine factory in Nottingham.

Rolls-Royce wanted the jet engine and knew what they wanted to do with it, and indeed, beyond the end of the millennium, still does. In fact, the company's own engineering staff had been working on jet propulsion since , and in making the swap Rover was giving away something they didn't really want, while Rolls-Royce was obtaining a treasure.

The W. Rolls-Royce worked with Whittle to finally get an uprated version of the W.

Jet engine development, the Gloster Meteor and the V1 threat

The flow of air went through the combustors from back to front, with such a "reverse flow" arrangement reducing the length of the engine. These engines had only the broadest resemblance to a modern military turbojet engine, but the same design concepts would not be out of place in a modern helicopter turboshaft engine.

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Rolls-Royce then reworked the Whittle design to feature straight-through air flow through the combustors and better fuel and oil systems, resulting in the "Derwent I", providing 8. The Derwent was refined in various versions up to the Mark IV, which provided Hooker, realizing that the British had been thinking small, went back to Britain and initiated a fast-track project to build a new, much more powerful centrifugal-flow engine. The result was the "RB. The Nene was the world's most powerful engine at the time, and it was also simple, cheap, and reliable. The Nene was such a good engine that Rolls-Royce decided to build a scaled-down version, which was designated the "Derwent 5", though it had little direct relationship to earlier Derwent marks.

The Derwent 5 was first bench-tested in June , with the test engine providing The result was the de Havilland "Halford H. By late , the H. As far back as , Metropolitan-Vickers "MetroVic" , a Manchester firm that specialized in steam turbines, was working on what would become the first British "axial-flow" turbojet engine, a design that was very different from the centrifugal-flow engines being developed by Whittle and others.

Such axial-flow engines featured sets or "stages" of fan blades arranged around a central axle, compressing air into a combustion chamber, which was followed by another set of fan blades that kept the axle spinning.

Jet engine development, the Gloster Meteor and the V1 threat - History of Manston Airfield

The axial-flow turbojet would prove to be the way of the future for high-speed combat aircraft, though as noted the centrifugal-flow engine would become the basis for modern helicopter turboshaft engines. The initial MetroVic engine, the "F. The MetroVic designs eventually led to the "F. They featured a confusing variety of engine fits, reflecting the zigs and zags of British engine development.

The initial engine fit was specified as Rover W. However, after performing taxi tests and short hops with the first G. The first Meteor to actually fly took to the air on 5 March , with Michael Daunt at the controls. It was the fifth in the prototype manufacturing sequence and was fitted with de Havilland Halford H. This particular engine fit led to the sixth prototype, which flew on 12 July and featured full-development de Havilland Goblin engines. The third prototype featured another unusual engine fit, being powered by MetroVic F. It flew in November , but although other axial-flow engines would be tested on later versions of the Meteor, all operational Meteors would be fitted with centrifugal-flow engines.

The other prototypes were fitted with variations on the W. This aircraft flew on 18 April , and pointed the way to operational Meteor marks.

The jet engines available at the time were clearly "fuel hogs" and so the Meteor necessarily had limited range, making it suitable only as a interceptor. Since the bombers of the German Luftwaffe were no longer a real threat to the British Isles, and to the extent that they were they could be dealt with by current fighters, there was no immediate reason to disrupt critical production of existing aircraft to field the Meteor. However, from mid intelligence reports of new German jet aircraft and missiles had indicated that it might be wise to keep up with enemy technology, a realization that led to the first production Meteor, the "Mark I GA ", which was basically used for operational evaluation.

They were fitted with Rolls-Royce W. The Meteor I had a "clear-view" canopy instead of the heavy framed canopy of the prototypes. The problem with six cannons was that one pair of cannon was so mechanically inaccessible that, under some circumstances, ground crews would have had to remove them while they were still loaded.

That was a dangerously accident-prone arrangement; any experienced military person knows that if stupid accidents can happen, they will, and so those two cannon were deleted, leaving two cannon mounted on either side of the nose. The deletion of the two cannon led to balance problems that required nose ballast, a fix that would get worse before it got better. The Meteor I was an all-metal aircraft of conventional construction, with low-mounted straight wings with two spars, turbojets mid-mounted in the wings, and a high-mounted tailplane to keep it out of the way of the jet exhaust.

It had "fence"-style air brakes above and below the wings inboard of the engines to keep the aircraft controllable in a high-speed dive. The Meteor was designed in a "modular" fashion, a consequence of the fact that it had been originally ordered during the Battle of Britain, when planners had considered the need for "dispersed production" -- different factories building different subassemblies of the aircraft, for final assembly at a central location.

This basic scheme was retained in later versions, making the Meteor easy to transport, repair, and salvage.

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  • The Meteor had tricycle landing gear, which were shorter than those for a piston aircraft since there were no propellers to divot up the ground. A mechanical indicator popped up from the nose when the nose gear was down to alert the pilot. The cockpit was pressurized and mounted well forward. An external tank, with a capacity of liters US gallons could be bolted on to the belly of the aircraft. A few Mark Is were retained for development work in Britain. Of these aircraft, one of the most interesting was the 18th Meteor I, which became the "Trent Meteor".

    This was the world's first turboprop-powered aircraft, performing its initial flight in that configuration on 20 September It was powered by Rolls-Royce Trent engines, which were basically Derwent IIs hastily fitted with a gearbox system to drive propellers. This engine of course had no direct connection to the later series of Rolls-Royce Trent high-bypass turbofans.

    The Meteor I was no faster than contemporary piston-engine fighters at high altitude, but unlike them it retained its speed at low altitude, and so was pressed into service to intercept German V-1 flying bombs that summer. Flying Officer "Dixie" Dean scored the Meteor's first kill, against such a missile, on 4 August Dean, his cannons having jammed, maneuvered his aircraft under the wing of the flying bomb to throw it off guidance and into the ground.

    Another Meteor pilot, Flying Officer J.

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    • Roger, shot down another flying bomb later that day with his cannons, and a total of 13 kills were scored with cannon fire into August, when the flying-bomb attacks faded out. That was a very small quantity compared to the total of thousands of flying bomb attacks and kills, but the Meteors served a useful propaganda purpose.

      In October, four Meteors participated in exercises designed to develop defensive tactics for Allied bomber formations under attack by Luftwaffe jets. The final report from the exercises provided recommendations for appropriate tactics, but concluded that stopping the German fighters might be very difficult. In operational practice, however, the tactics proved highly effective. The Meteor I was underpowered, had heavy controls, and pilots complained about the poor view to the sides and rear. The cannon suffered from jams, which turned out to be caused by the spent links from the ammunition belts accumulating in the ejection chutes.

      The jamming problem was quickly resolved, but there were doubters in the RAF that the newfangled Meteor was the way of the future. Others believed the type had considerable potential, The believers would be proven right. The Meteor III featured a stronger airframe, greater internal fuel capacity, and a rear-sliding canopy, as opposed to the side-hinged canopy of the Meteor I.

      The heavier engines increased the balance problem; the solution was to add yet more ballast. The pilots appreciated the additional power of the Meteor III over the Meteor I, as well as the improved view with the new canopy.

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      However, the ailerons had been deliberately wired to be "heavy" to prevent aerobatic maneuvers from overstressing the wings, and pilots complained that flying the aircraft could be very tiring; that hadn't been a problem with the Meteor I, since it hadn't been cleared for aerobatic maneuvers. Pilots also complained that the machine tended to "snake" at high speed, limiting its accuracy as a gun platform, and it tended to become uncontrollable in a dive due to compressibility buffeting. However, the aircraft was basically liked.

      A flight combat exercise against the excellent Hawker Tempest V piston fighter concluded:. If it were not for the heaviness of its ailerons and the consequent poor maneuverability in the rolling plane, and the adverse effect of snaking on it as a gun platform, it would be a comparable all-round fighter with greatly increased performance. They performed ground strafing attacks, but never engaged in air combat. Meteor pilots were keen to test their aircraft against the Messerschmitt Me jet fighter, but at least initially they had orders not to fly beyond enemy lines lest one of their aircraft be shot down and examined.

      As the war dragged on to its finale and German fuel supplies dried up, the Luftwaffe flew fewer and fewer sorties and opportunities for a jet-on-jet encounter faded out. The first jet dogfights would have to wait for the next war. Some Meteors were painted white during the winter of for camouflage, and also so that Allied anti-aircraft gunners wouldn't mistake them for German jets. Meteors were fired on anyway, but none were lost to "friendly fire" -- though there were losses in flight accidents, some fatal.

      Just after the end of the war in Europe, a few Meteor IIIs were evaluated for possible use in the photo-reconnaissance role, but at the time their performance was not that superior to the Spitfire PR. XIX and the Meteor's range was definitely worse. The idea was not adopted, but it wasn't forgotten, either.

      Following deck handling trials with a Meteor prototype in , two Meteor IIIs were fitted with an arresting hook and reinforced landing gear, and used for carrier trials in The Royal Navy was impressed by the navalized Meteor, but decided to obtain the Supermarine Attacker instead.

      Wind-tunnel and flight tests demonstrated that the short nacelles of the Meteor III, which ended just behind the wing, contributed heavily to compressibility buffeting at high speed, and a new, longer nacelle was designed as a fix. The new nacelles increased the redline speed at altitude by a startling KPH 75 MPH , even without new powerplants.