The Forgotten British Plane That Came with Giant Guns

As war neared in the 1930s, the RAF sought a heavy fighter that could conduct long-range escort missions. With its twin Rolls Royce engines, Hispano Suiza guns, precision and agility wings, and bubble canopy for unmatched visibility, the Westland Whirlwind fighter was a one-of-a-kind aircraft. Even with its powerful weapons and cutting-edge technology, the Westland struggled to unseat more mortal planes like the Hurricane and Spitfire. The United Kingdom started rapidly accelerating aircraft development in the middle of the 1930s as a potential conflict with the newly powerful Third Reich loomed. Britain wanted to be ready for this possible attack. In spite of its advanced weapons and cutting-edge technology, the Westland Whirlwind fighter encountered several difficulties in its quest for victory. In an arms race, Germany’s Luftwaffe and Kriegsmarine sought to outgun the Royal Navy and Air Force. The RAF had created the Hurricane and Spitfire, but their American Browning machine guns were simple and had a limited firing range. For modern air warfare, aviation specialists needed powerful gun, long-range aircraft. The British Air Ministry released operating requirements F 37 35 in 1935 stating that they need an aircraft equipped with a 20 millimeter gun. With four Hispano 20 millimeter guns and a maximum speed of at least 330 miles per hour—more than 40 miles faster than the typical British bomber operating at 15,000 feet—the aircraft was designed to be a single-seat, all-weather heavy fighter.

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