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Hybrid Aircraft - Westland P.12 Lysander - Delanne Tail

Enlarge image (will open in a new window)The Westland Lysander was a sturdy aircraft with STOL abilities, generally used for army co-operation work. By late 1940 it was obsolescent, but production was extended until 1942 in the belief that new uses could be found for the type.

Uses were found, ranging from target towing with training units to special operations. The Lysander was especially suitable for clandestine delivery of Allied agents into France, and 419 Flight, RAF (later 1419 Flight) made use of the type until late 1941, when, after becoming 138 Squadron, it only had two, operating from Tangmere in great secrecy.Enlarge image (will open in a new window)

As far back as 1939, thought had been given to a patrolling night-fighter version of the Lysander. Tests with a belly gun pack of four .303 in. machine guns on L4673 were halted after a flying accident, early in the year. Next, a Boulton-Paul "A" Mk. III power-driven turret was installed in the observer's position of Lysander P1723 for tests which took took place later in 1939.

The concept of a turret night-fighter version of the Lysander culminated in the curious "Experimental Aeroplane No. 136". Late in 1940, a further attempt was made to fit a turret, this time according to the French Enlarge image (will open in a new window)Delanne formula. This meant fitting a second wing in tandem to the main one - effectively a much enlarged tailplane - with end-plate fins and rudders. The aircraft became a kind of hybrid, an army-co-operation aircraft with a "generic" heavy bomber tail unit.

The aircraft underwent trials in the winter of 1940-41. Lysander K6127 was by now fitted with a Bristol Perseus XII engine. Radical changes to the rear fuselage enabled a mock-up of a four-gun Nash & Thompson turret to be installed, made of plywood and perspex and having a very light framework. The overall length of the aircraft became 25 feet 7 inches. It was hoped the design would develop into an effective night-fighter, or at least a gunnery trainer. However, the Lysander turret night-fighter, despite successful flight trials, remained a one-off experiment.

K6127 was later used for communication tests, and in the Welkin program, before being broken up in 1944. Lysanders, apart from more regular roles, served on as experimental platforms. Few Lysanders lasted beyond WW.2, some surviving briefly as crop sprayers. By the late 1960s only two remained intact, one in England and another in Canada.


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