|Operational RAF Meteor F.4 in July 1955|
|Manufacturer||Gloster Aircraft Company|
|First flight||5 March 1943|
|Introduction||27 July 1944|
|Retired||1980s (RAF target tugs/Ecuador combat roles)|
|Primary users||Royal Air Force|
Royal Australian Air Force
Belgian Air Force
Argentine Air Force
The Gloster Meteor was the first British jet fighter and the Allies' first operational jet aircraft. The Meteor's development was heavily reliant on its ground-breaking turbojet engines, developed by Sir Frank Whittle and his company, Power Jets Ltd. Development of the aircraft began in 1940, work on the engines had started in 1936. The Meteor first flew in 1943 and commenced operations on 27 July 1944 with 616 Squadron of the Royal Air Force (RAF). Nicknamed by pilots the "Meatbox", although the Meteor was not an aerodynamically advanced aircraft, it proved to be a successful and effective combat fighter.
Several major variants of the Meteor were made to incorporate technological advances during the 1940s and 1950s. Thousands of Meteors were built to serve in the RAF and other air forces, and remained in use for several decades. The Meteor saw limited action in the Second World War, while Meteors of the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) provided a significant contribution to the Korean War and several other operators such as Argentina, Egypt and Israel also flew Meteors in regional conflicts. Specialised variants of the Meteor would also be developed to perform in the photo-reconnaissance and night fighter roles.
In the 1950s, the Meteor would become increasingly obsolete as more nations introduced jet fighters, many of these newcomers having adopted a swept wing instead of the Meteor's conventional straight wing; in RAF service, the Meteor was replaced by newer types such as the Hawker Hunter and Gloster Javelin. As of 2013, two Meteors, WL419 and WA638, remain in active service with the Martin-Baker company as ejection seat testbeds; two further aircraft in the UK remain airworthy, a single Meteor in Australia is also flight-capable.
A single experimental Meteor I, the "Trent-Meteor", EE227/G, powered by two Rolls-Royce Trent propeller turbines, was the first turboprop aircraft to fly on September 20, 1945.
- 1 Development
- 2 Design
- 3 Operational service
- 4 Variants
- 5 Operators
- 6 Survivors
- 7 Specifications (Meteor F.8)
- 8 Notable appearances in media
- 9 See also
- 10 References
- 11 External links
The development of the turbojet-powered Gloster Meteor was a collaboration between the Gloster Aircraft Company and Sir Frank Whittle's firm, Power Jets Ltd. Frank Whittle formed Power Jets Ltd in March 1936 to develop his ideas of jet propulsion, Whittle himself serving as the company's chief engineer, outside of his duties as an RAF flying officer. 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 ability. 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 spite of ongoing infighting between Power Jets and several of its stakeholders, the Air Ministry contracted Gloster to manufacture a prototype aircraft powered by one of Whittle's new turbojet engines in late 1939. The single-engined proof-of-concept Gloster E28/39, the first British jet-powered aircraft, conducted its maiden flight on 15 May 1941, flown by Gloster's Chief Test Pilot, Flight Lieutenant Philip "Gerry" Sayer. The success of the smaller E.28/39 proved the viability of jet propulsion, and Gloster pressed ahead with designs for a production fighter aircraft. Due to the limited thrust available from early jet engines, it was decided that subsequent production aircraft would be powered by a pair of turbojet engines.
In 1940, for a "military load" of 1,500 lb (680 kg), the RAE had advised that work on an aircraft of 8,500 lb (3,900 kg) all-up weight, with a static thrust of 3,200 lb (14.2 kN) should be started, with an 11,000 lb (4,990 kg) design for the expected more powerful W.2 and axial engine designs. George Carter's calculations based on the RAE work and his own investigations was that a 8,700–9,000 lb (3,900–4,100 kg) aircraft with two or four 20 mm cannon and six 0.303 machine guns would have a top speed of 400-431 mph at sea level and 450-470 mph at 30,000 ft. In January 1941 Gloster were told by Beaverbrook that the twin jet fighter was of "unique importance" and they were to stop work on a night-fighter to F.18/40.
In August 1940, Carter presented Gloster's initial proposals for a twin-engined jet fighter with a nosewheel undercarriage. On 7 February 1941, Gloster received an order for twelve prototypes (later reduced to eight) under Specification F9/40. A letter of intent for the production of 300 of the new fighter, initially to be named Thunderbolt, was issued on 21 June 1941; to avoid confusion with the USAAF Republic P-47 Thunderbolt, the aircraft's name was quickly changed to Meteor. Delays with getting type approval for the engines meant that although taxiing trials were carried out in 1942, it was not until the following year that any flights took place. On 5 March 1943, the fifth prototype, serial DG206, powered by two de Havilland Halford H.1 engines owing to problems with the intended Power Jets W.2 engines, became the first Meteor to become airborne at RAF Cranwell, piloted by Michael Daunt. On the initial flight, an uncontrollable yawing motion was discovered, which led to a redesigned larger rudder; however, no difficulties had been attributed to the groundbreaking turbojet propulsion. Only two prototypes would fly with de Havilland engines due to the low flight endurance they were capable of providing. Before the first prototype aircraft had even undertaken its first flight, an extended order for 100 production-standard aircraft had already been placed by the RAF.
The first Whittle-engined aircraft, DG205/G, flew on 12 June 1943 (later crashing during takeoff on 27 April 1944) and was followed by DG202/G on 24 July. DG202/G was later used for deck handling tests aboard aircraft carrier HMS Pretoria Castle. DG203/G made its first flight on 9 November 1943, later becoming a ground instructional model. DG204/G, powered by Metrovick F.2 engines, first flew on 13 November 1943; DG204/G was lost in an accident on 4 January 1944, the cause believed to have been an engine compressor failure due to overspeed.
DG208/G made its debut on 20 January 1944, by which time the majority of design problems had been overcome and a production design had been approved. DG209/G was used as an engine testbed by Rolls-Royce, first flying on 18 April 1944. DG207/G was intended to be the basis for the Meteor F.2 with de Havilland engines, but it did not fly until 24 July 1945, at which time the Meteor 3 was in full production and de Havilland's attention was being redirected to the incoming de Havilland Vampire, thus the F.2 was cancelled.
On 12 January 1944, the first Meteor F.1, serial EE210/G, took to the air from Moreton Valence. It was essentially identical to the F9/40 prototypes except for the addition of four nose-mounted 20 mm (.79 in) Hispano Mk V cannons and some changes to the canopy to improve all-round visibility. Due to the F.1's similarity to the prototypes, they were frequently operated in the test program to progress British understanding of jet propulsion, the first aircraft not making their way to squadron service until July 1944. EE210/G would later be sent to the U.S. for evaluation, where it was first flown at Muroc Army Airfield on 15 April 1944.
While originally 300 F.1s had been ordered, the total produced had been cut down to just 20 aircraft as the follow-on orders had been converted to the more advanced marks of the Meteor instead. Some of the last major refinements to the Meteor's early design were trialed using this first production batch, and what would become the long-term design of the engine nacelles was introduced first upon EE211. EE215 would be the first Meteor to be fitted with guns; EE215 was also used in engine reheat trials, and would subsequently be converted to become the first two-seat Meteor. Due to the radical differences between jet-powered aircraft and those that preceded, a special Tactical Flight or T-Flight unit was established to prepare the Meteor for squadron service, led by Group Captain Hugh Joseph Wilson. The Tactical Flight was formed at Farnborough in May 1944, the first Meteors arriving the following month, upon which both tactical applications and limitations were extensively explored.
On 17 July 1944, the Meteor F.1 was cleared for service use; shortly afterwards, elements of the Tactical flight would be transferred along with their aircraft to operational RAF squadrons. The first deliveries to No. 616 Squadron RAF, the first operational squadron to receive the Meteor, began in July 1944. With the F.2 being eventually cancelled, the Meteor F.3 would become the immediate successor to the F.1 and would alleviate some of the shortcomings of the F.1. Several Meteor F.3s would be converted into navalised Meteors, the adaptions included a strengthened undercarriage and arrestor hook; operational trials of the type took place aboard HMS Implacable, which included carrier landings and takeoffs. Performance of these naval prototype Meteors proved to be favorable, including takeoff performance, leading to further trials with a modified Meteor F.4 fitted with folding wings, a 'clipped wing' was also later adopted. The Meteor would enter service with the Royal Navy, but only as a land-based trainer, the Meteor T.7, to prepare pilots of the Fleet Air Arm for flying other jet aircraft such as the de Havilland Sea Vampire.
While various marks of Meteor had been introduced by 1948, they had remained fundamentally very similar to the prototypes of the Meteor; consequently, the performance of the Meteor F.4 was beginning to be eclipsed by entirely new jet designs. Thus, Gloster embarked on a major redesign programme to produce a new version of the Meteor with considerable performance increases, introducing new equipment and technologies to help the new aircraft meet the increasingly-demanding operational requirements of the RAF. Designated Meteor F.8, this upgraded variant was a highly potent fighter aircraft, forming the bulk of RAF Fighter Command between 1950 and 1955; the Meteor would continue to be widely operated by a number of nations into the 1960s.
Two F.4s later went to Rolls-Royce for experimental engine trials, RA435 being used for reheat testing, and RA491 being fitted with the Rolls-Royce Avon.
The Meteor's construction was all-metal with a tricycle undercarriage and conventional low, straight wings, featuring turbojets mid-mounted in the wings with a high-mounted tailplane to keep it clear of the jet exhaust. The design of the Meteor was relatively orthodox. Despite the revolutionary turbojet propulsion, it did not take advantage of many of the aerodynamic features that would be utilised on the jet fighters that rapidly followed in the Meteor's wake, such as swept wings. The type exhibited some of the problematic flying characteristics typical of early jet aircraft; the Meteor F.1 suffered from stability problems at high transonic speeds, experiencing large trim changes, high stick forces and self-sustained yaw instability (snaking) caused by airflow separation over the thick tail surfaces.
Structurally, the Meteor was constructed out of several modular sections or separately produced units; the sections of each aircraft were the nose, forward fuselage, central section, rear fuselage and tail units, the wings were also built out of lengthwise sections. Several subcontractors would manufacture sections of the Meteor, Bristol Tramways produced the forward fuselage, while the Standard Motor Company manufactured the central fuselage and inner wing sections. The dimensions of the standard Meteor F.1 were 41 ft 3 in (12.58 m) long with a span of 43 ft 0 in (13.11 m), with an empty weight of 8,140 lb (3,823 kg) and a maximum takeoff weight of 13,795 lb (6,270 kg). The Meteor shared a similar basic configuration to its German equivalent, the Messerschmitt Me 262; incidents were reported of pilots on both sides mistaking one aircraft for the other.
The Meteor F.1 was powered by two Rolls-Royce Welland turbojet engines, which were manufactured by Rolls-Royce. The W.2B/23C engines produced 1,700 lbf (7.58 kN) of thrust each, giving the aircraft a maximum speed of 417 mph (670 km/h) at 3,000 m and a range of 1,006 miles (1,610 km). The acceleration rate of the engines was at the manual control of the pilot; rapid engine acceleration would frequently induce compressor stalls in early aircraft, the likely occurrence of compressor stalls was effectively eliminated with further design refinements of both jet engine and the Meteor itself. At high speeds, the Meteor had an unfortunate tendency to lose directional stability, often during unfavorable weather conditions, leading to a 'snaking' motion; this could be easily resolved by throttling back to reduce speed.
Based upon designs produced by Power Jets, Rolls-Royce produced more advanced and powerful turbojet engines for the Gloster, beyond improvements to the Welland engine, the Rolls-Royce Derwent engine adopted upon later marks of Meteors led to considerable performance increases. The Meteor's engines were considerably more practical than those of the German Me 262, having both a longer service life and being more efficient; unlike the Me 262, the engines were embedded into the wing rather than underslung. The Gloster Meteor embodied the advent of practical jet propulsion; in the type's service life, both military and civil aviation manufacturers would rapidly integrate turbine engines into their designs, favoring its advantages such as smoother running and greater power output.
During development, skeptical elements of the Air Ministry had expected mature piston-powered aircraft types to exceed the capabilities of the Meteor in all regards except that of speed; thus, the performance of early Meteors was considered favorable for the interceptor mission, being capable of out-diving the majority of enemy aircraft. However, the conclusion of in-service trials held between the Meteor F.3. and the Hawker Tempest V was that the performance of the Meteor exceeded the Tempest in almost all respects and that, barring some maneouverability issues, the Meteor could be considered to be a capable all-round fighter. The Meteor F.8, which emerged in the late 1940s, was considered to have substantially improved performance over prior variants; the F.8 was reportedly the most powerful single-seat aircraft flying in 1947, capable of ascending to 40,000 feet within five minutes. A total of 890 Meteors were lost in RAF service (145 of these crashes occurred in 1953 alone), resulting in the deaths of 450 pilots. Contributory factors in the number of crashes were the high fuel consumption and therefore a short flight endurance (less than one hour), causing pilots to run out of fuel, and difficult handling with one engine out due to the widely set engines. The casualty rate was exacerbated by the lack of ejection seats in early series Meteors; ejection seats would be fitted in the later F.8, FR.9, PR.10 and some experimental Meteors.[N 1] The difficulty of bailing out of the Meteor has been noted by pilots during development, reporting several contributing design factors such as the limited size and relative position of the cockpit to the rest of the aircraft, and difficulty in using the two-lever jettisonable hood mechanism.
Second World War
No. 616 Squadron RAF was the first to receive operational Meteors, a total of 14 aircraft initially. The squadron was based at RAF Culmhead, Somerset and had been previously equipped with the Spitfire VII. After a conversion course at Farnborough for the six leading pilots, the first aircraft was delivered to Culmhead on 12 July 1944. The squadron now with seven Meteors moved on 21 July 1944 to RAF Manston on the east Kent coast and, within a week, 30 pilots were converted.
The Meteor was initially used to counter the V-1 flying bomb threat. 616 Squadron Meteors saw action for the first time on 27 July 1944, when three aircraft were active over Kent. These were the first operational jet combat missions for the Meteor and for the Royal Air Force. After some problems, especially with jamming guns, the first two V1 "kills" were made on 4 August. By war's end, Meteors accounted for 14 flying bombs. After the end of the V-1 threat, and the introduction of the ballistic V-2 rocket, the RAF was forbidden to fly the Meteor on combat missions over German-held territory for fear of an aircraft being shot down and salvaged by the Germans.
No. 616 Squadron briefly moved to RAF Debden to allow USAAF bomber crews to gain experience and create tactics in facing jet-engined foes before moving to Colerne, Wiltshire. For a week from 10 October 1944 a series of exercises were carried out in which a flight of Meteors made mock attacks on a formation of 100 B-24s and B-17s escorted by 40 Mustangs and Thunderbolts. These suggested if the jet fighter attacked the formation from above it could take advantage of its superior speed in the dive to attack the bombers and then escape by diving through the formation before the escorts could react. The best tactic to counter this was to place a fighter screen 5,000 ft above the bombers and attempt to intercept the jets early in the dive.
No. 616 Squadron exchanged its F.1s for the first Meteor F.3s on 18 December 1944. These first 15 F.3s differed from the F.1 in having a sliding canopy in place of the sideways hinging canopy, increased fuel capacity and some airframe refinements. They still were powered by Welland I engines. Later F.3s were equipped with the Derwent I engines. This was a substantial improvement over the earlier mark, although the basic design still had not reached its potential. Wind tunnel and flight tests demonstrated that the original short nacelles, which did not extend very far fore and aft of the wing, contributed heavily to compressibility buffeting at high speed. New, longer nacelles not only cured some of the compressibility problems but added 120 km/h (75 mph) at altitude, even without upgraded powerplants. The last batch of Meteor F.3s featured the longer nacelles while other F.3s were retrofitted in the field with the new nacelles. The F.3 also had the new Rolls-Royce Derwent engines, increased fuel capacity, and a new larger, more strongly raked bubble canopy.
Judging the Meteor F.3s were ready for combat over Europe, the RAF finally decided to deploy them in the continent. On 20 January 1945, four Meteors were moved to Melsbroek in Belgium and attached to the Second Tactical Air Force. Their initial purpose was to provide air defence for the airfield, but their pilots hoped that their presence might provoke the Luftwaffe into sending Me 262s against them. At this point the Meteor pilots were still forbidden to fly over German-occupied territory, or to go east of Eindhoven, to prevent a downed aircraft being captured by the Germans or the Soviets.
In March, the entire squadron was moved to Gilze-Rijen and then in April, to Nijmegen. The Meteors flew armed reconnaissance and ground attack operations without encountering any German jet fighters. By late April, the squadron was based at Faßberg, Germany and suffered its first losses when two aircraft collided in poor visibility. The war ended with the Meteors having destroyed 46 German aircraft through ground attack and having faced more problems through misidentification as the Messerschmitt Me 262 by Allied aircraft and flak than from the Luftwaffe. To counter this, continental-based Meteors were given an all-white finish as a recognition aid. The nearest No.616 squadron came to a jet-to-jet battle came on 19 March, when a force of Arado Ar 234 jet bombers attacked their airfield.
The next major change was the Meteor F.4 that went into production in 1946, by which time there were 16 RAF squadrons equipped with Meteors. The first F.4 prototype flew on 17 May 1945. The F.4 had the Rolls-Royce Derwent 5 engines (a smaller version of the Nene), wings 86.4 cm shorter than the F.3's and with blunter tips (derived from the world speed record prototypes), a stronger airframe, fully pressurized cockpit, lighter ailerons (to improve manoeuvrability), and rudder trim adjustments to reduce snaking. The F.4 could also be fitted with a drop tank under each wing while experiments were performed with carriage of underwing stores and also in lengthened fuselage models. The F.4 was 170 mph (270 km/h) faster than the F.1 at sea level (585 against 415), although the reduced wings impaired its rate of climb.
Because of the increased demand, F.4 production was divided between Gloster and the Armstrong Whitworth factory at Baginton. The majority of early F.4s did not go directly to the RAF: 100 were exported to Argentina (and saw action on both sides in the 1955 revolution, one being lost on 19 September 1955) while in 1947, only RAF Nos. 74 and 222 Squadrons were fully equipped with the F.4. Nine further RAF squadrons were upgraded over 1948. From 1948, 38 F.4s were exported to the Dutch, equipping four squadrons (322, 323, 326 and 327) split between bases in Soesterberg and Leeuwarden until the mid-1950s. In 1949, only two RAF squadrons were converted to the F.4, Belgium was sold 48 aircraft in the same year (going to 349 and 350 Squadrons at Beauvechain) and Denmark received 20 over 1949–50. In 1950, three more RAF squadrons were upgraded, including No. 616 and, in 1951, six more. In 1950, a single order of 20 F.4s was delivered to Egypt.
A modified two-seater F.4 for jet-conversion and advanced training was tested in 1949 as the T.7. It was accepted by the RAF and the Fleet Air Arm and became a common addition to the various export packages (for example 43 to Belgium 1948–57, a similar number to the Netherlands over the same period, two to Syria in 1952, six to Israel in 1953, etc.). Despite its limitations—unpressurized cockpit, no armament, limited instructor instrumentation—over 650 T.7s were manufactured. The T.7 would operate for a considerable length of time in RAF service; small numbers remained operational into the 1970s.
As improved jet fighters began to emerge, Gloster decided to redesign the F.4 to modernise the Meteor while retaining as much of the manufacturing tooling of the F.4 as possible. The result was the Meteor F.8 (G-41-K) which was the definitive production model, serving as a major Royal Air Force fighter until the introduction of the Hawker Hunter and the Supermarine Swift. The first prototype F.8 was a modified F.4, followed by a true prototype, VT150, that flew on 12 October 1948 at Moreton Valence. Flight testing of the F.8 prototype led to the discovery of an aerodynamic problem: when ammunition was expended, the aircraft became tail heavy and unstable around the pitch axis due to the weight of fuel retained in fuselage tanks no longer being balanced by the ammunition. Gloster solved the problem by substituting the tail of the abortive "G 42" single-engined jet fighter. The F.8 and other production variants successfully used the new tail design, giving the later Meteors a distinctive appearance, with taller straighter edges compared with the rounded tail of the F.4s and earlier marks.
The F.8 also featured a fuselage stretch of 76 centimetres (30 inches), intended to shift the aircraft's centre of gravity and also eliminate the use of ballast that had been necessary in earlier marks. The F.8 incorporated uprated engines, Derwent 8s, with 16 kN (1,633 kgp / 3,600 lbf) thrust each combined with structural strengthening, a Martin Baker ejection seat and a "blown" teardrop cockpit canopy that provided improved pilot visibility. Between 1950 and 1955, the Meteor F.8 was the mainstay of RAF Fighter Command, and served with distinction in combat in Korea with the RAAF as well as operating with many air forces worldwide, although it was clear that the original design was obsolete compared with contemporary swept-wing fighters such as the North American F-86 Sabre and the Soviet MiG-15.
Initial deliveries of the F.8 to the RAF were in August 1949, with the first squadron receiving its fighters in late 1950. Like the F.4, there were strong export sales of the F.8. Belgium ordered 240 aircraft, the majority assembled in The Netherlands by Fokker. The Netherlands had 160 F.8s, equipping seven squadrons until 1955. Denmark had 20, ordered in 1951; they were to be the last F.8s in front line service in Europe. The RAAF ordered 94 F.8s, which served in the Korean War. Despite arms embargoes, both Syria and Egypt received F.8s from 1952, as did Israel (where they served until 1961). On 1 September 1955, two Israeli F.8s shot down two Egyptian Vampires and in the 1956 Suez Crisis, F.8s were employed by both Egypt and Israel in ground attack roles. After the crisis, both Egypt and Syria disposed of their Meteors in favour of various MiG variants. Brazil ordered 60 new Meteor F.8s and 10 T.7 trainers in October 1952, paying with 15,000 tons of raw cotton.
In the 1950s, Meteors also were developed into effective photo-reconnaissance, training and night fighter versions. The fighter reconnaissance (FR) versions were the first to be built, replacing the ageing Spitfires and Mosquitos then in use. Two FR.5s were built on the F.4 body; one was used for nose section camera tests and the other broke up in midair while in testing over Moreton Valence. On 23 March 1950, the first FR.9 flew. Based on the F.8, it was 20 cm longer with a new nose incorporating a remote control camera and window and was also fitted with additional external ventral and wing fuel tanks. Production of the FR.9 began in July. No. 208 Squadron, then based at Fayid, Egypt was the first to be upgraded followed by the 2nd Tactical Air Force in West Germany, No. 2 Squadron RAF at Bückeburg and No. 79 Squadron RAF at RAF Gutersloh flew the FR.9 from 1951 until 1956. In Aden, No. 8 Squadron RAF was given the FR.9 in November 1958 and used them until 1961. Ecuador (12), Israel (7) and Syria (2) were the only foreign customers for the FR.9.
In addition to the armed, low altitude operation, tactical FR.9 variant, Gloster also developed the PR.10 for high altitude missions. The first prototype flew on 29 March 1950 and was actually converted into the first production aircraft. Based on the F.4, it had the F.4-style tail and the longer wings of the earlier variant. All the cannons were removed and a single camera placed in the nose with two more in the rear fuselage; the canopy was also changed. The PR.10 was delivered to the RAF in December 1950 and were given to No. 2 and No. 541 Squadrons in Germany and No. 13 Squadron RAF in Cyprus. The PR.10 was rapidly phased out from 1956 with improving surface to air missile technology and newer, faster aircraft rendering it obsolete.
As a night fighter, the Meteor again replaced the Mosquito; however, it was never more than an interim measure. The Mosquito night fighter had remained in use even though it was largely obsolete. Gloster proposed a night fighter design to meet the Air Ministry specification for the Mosquito replacement, based on the two seater trainer, with the pilot in the front seat and the navigator in the rear. Once accepted however, the work passed to Armstrong Whitworth for both the detail design and production; the first prototype flew on 31 May 1950. Although based on the T.7 twin seater, it used the fuselage and tail of the F.8, and the longer wings of the F.3. An extended nose contained the AI Mk 10 (the 1940s Westinghouse SCR-720) Air Intercept radar. As a consequence the 20 mm cannons were moved into the wings, outboard of the engines. A ventral fuel tank and wing mounted drop tanks completed the Armstrong Whitworth Meteor NF.11.
Nos. 29, 141 and 85 Squadrons were given the NF.11 in 1951 and the aircraft was rolled out across the RAF until the final deliveries in 1955. A "tropicalised" version of the NF.11 for Middle East service was developed; first flying on 23 December 1952 as the NF.13. The aircraft equipped No. 219 Squadron RAF at Kabrit and No. 39 Squadron at Fayid, both in Egypt. The aircraft served during the Suez crisis and remained with No. 39 Squadron when they were withdrawn to Malta until 1958. The aircraft had a number of problems, notably the limited visibility through the heavily framed T.7 canopy made landings tricky and the external fuel tanks under the wings tended to break up when the wing cannon were fired. Gun harmonisation, normally set to about 400 yards, was poor due to flexing of the wings in flight. Belgium (24), Denmark (20), Australia (one) and France (41) were the foreign customers for the NF.11. Ex-RAF NF.13s were sold to Syria (six), Egypt (six) and Israel (six). An Israeli NF.13 was instrumental in Operation Tarnegol, successfully shooting down an Egyptian Ilyushin Il-14 carrying high-ranking members of the Egyptian Military on the eve of the Suez Crisis.
As radar technology developed, a new Meteor night fighter was developed to use the improved US-built APS-21 system. The NF.12 first flew on 21 April 1953. It was similar to the NF 11 but had a nose section 17 inches (43.2 cm) longer; the fin was enlarged to compensate for the greater keel area of the enlarged nose and to counter the airframe reaction to the "wig-wag" scan of the radar which affected the gunsighting, an anti-tramp motor operating on the rudder was fitted midway up the front leading edge of the fin. The NF.12 also had the new Rolls-Royce Derwent 9 engines and the wings were reinforced to handle the new engine. Deliveries of the NF.12 started in 1953, with the type entering squadron service in early 1954, equipping seven squadrons (Nos 85, 25, 152, 46, 72, 153 and 64); the aircraft was replaced over 1958–59.
The final Meteor night fighter was the NF.14. First flown on 23 October 1953, the NF.14 was based on the NF.12 but had an even longer nose, extended by a further 17 inches to accommodate new equipment, increasing the total length to 51 ft 4 in (15.65 m) and a larger bubble canopy to replace the framed T.7 version. Just 100 NF.14s were built; they first entered service in February 1954 beginning with No. 25 Squadron and were being replaced as early as 1956 with the Gloster Javelin. Overseas, they remained in service a little longer, serving with No. 60 Squadron at Tengah, Singapore until 1961. As the NF.14 was replaced, some 14 were converted to training aircraft as the NF(T).14 and given to No. 2 Air Navigation School on RAF Thorney Island where they served until 1965.
Australia's F.8s saw extensive service during the Korean War with No. 77 Squadron RAAF, part of British Commonwealth Forces Korea, and had personnel from other Commonwealth air forces attached to it. The squadron had arrived in Korea equipped with piston engine aircraft, the F-51D Mustangs. In order to match the threat posed by Communist MiG-15 jet fighters, it was decided to reequip the squadron with Meteors. Jet conversion training was conducted at Iwakuni, Japan, after which the squadron returned to the Korean theatre in April 1951 with about 30 Meteor F.8s and T.7s. The squadron moved to Kimpo Air Base in June, and was declared combat ready the following month. Other aircraft, such as the F-86 Sabre and the Hawker Hunter, were considered but were determined to be unavailable; the Meteor proved to be considerably inferior in combat against the MiG-15 in several respects, including speed and maneuverability at high altitude. On 29 July 1951, 77 Squadron began operating their Meteors on combat missions. The squadron had mainly been trained in the ground attack role, and had difficulties when assigned to bomber escort duty at sub optimum altitudes. On 29 August 1951, eight Meteors were on escort duty in "MiG Alley" when they were engaged by six MiG-15s; one Meteor was lost and two damaged, and 77 Squadron did not officially destroy any enemy aircraft on this occasion.[N 2] On 27 October, the squadron achieved its first probable followed by two probables six days later. On 1 December, during a clash between 12 Meteors and some 40 MiG-15s, the squadron had its first two confirmed victories: Flying Officer Bruce Gogerly made the first kill; however, in the course of the engagement a total of four Meteors were also destroyed.
At the end of 1951, 77 Squadron and its Meteors were assigned to ground attack duties due to their favourable low-level performance and sturdy construction. In February 1952, over a thousand sorties were flown in the ground attack role; these sorties continued until May 1952, when 77 Squadron switched to fighter sweep operations. The last encounter between the Meteor and the MiG-15 was in March 1953, during which a Meteor piloted by Sergeant John Hale recorded a victory. By the end of the conflict, the squadron had flown 4,836 missions, destroying six MiG-15s, over 3,500 structures and some 1,500 vehicles. About 30 Meteors were lost to enemy action in Korea—the vast majority had been shot down by anti-aircraft fire while serving in a ground attack capacity.
In 1955, Australia began replacing the Meteor with the domestically produced CAC Sabre, relegating the type to training and secondary duties within the RAAF. A number of Meteors would be assigned to the Citizen Air Force, others were configured as pilotless drone aircraft and target towers. No. 75 Squadron RAAF was the last squadron to operate the Meteor; notably, it had operated a three-unit aerobatic team, named "The Meteorites".
Argentina became the first overseas operator of the Meteor, ordering 100 F Mk.4s in May 1947. This made Argentina's the second air force in the Americas to operate jets. The Argentine Meteors first saw combat during the 16 June 1955 rebellion when, in an attempt to kill Juan Perón, rebel-flown aircraft bombed the Casa Rosada. A loyalist Meteor shot down a rebel AT-6, while another strafed rebel-held Ezeiza airport. The rebels seized Morón Air Base, base of the Meteors, and flew the captured aircraft in several attacks against loyalist forces and the Casa Rosada before the rebellion was defeated by day's end. A second revolt, the Revolución Libertadora broke out on 16 September 1955, with, again, both sides operating the Meteor. The rebels seized three Meteors. Government Meteors flew strafing attacks against the rebel held destroyers Rioja and Cervantes, and several landing ships near Rio Santiago on 16 September and attacking Pajas Blancas airport near the city of Córdoba, damaging several Avro Lincoln bombers. The rebel flown Meteors were used to attack loyalist forces attacking Córdoba, losing one of their number on 19 September to an engine failure caused by use of automobile petrol instead of Jet fuel.
The acquisition of North American F-86 Sabres in 1960 allowed the remaining Meteors to be transferred to the ground attack role, with the aircraft being fitted with bomb pylons and rocket rails and discarding the bare metal colour scheme for a camouflage scheme. Argentine Meteors were used to attack rebels during attempted uprisings in September 1962 and April 1963, with the type being withdrawn from service in 1970.
Although Egypt's first order was placed in 1948, the rising tension in the region led to the imposition of a series of arms embargoes. Twelve F Mk.4s were eventually delivered between October 1949 and May 1950, along with three T Mk.7s. Twenty-four F Mk.8s were ordered in 1949, but this order was stopped by an embargo. A further order for 12 ex-RAF F.8s was placed in December 1952, of which four were delivered before the order was cancelled, with the final eight being delivered in 1955, along with three more T Mk.7s. and six NF Mk.13s, all ex-RAF aircraft.
Some of these aircraft took part in the fighting during the Suez crisis of 1956, flying ground attack missions against Israeli forces, while an Egyptian NF.13 claimed to have damaged an RAF Vickers Valiant bomber. Anglo-French attacks resulted in a number of the Egyptian aircraft being destroyed on the ground.
Meteors were the fledgling Syrian airforce's first jets, acquiring 25 of them between 1952 and 1956. Although the British where willing to supply aircraft they did not supply combat training or radar. As Syria became more aligned with Nasser and Egypt all support for training was pulled and Syrian pilots began training with their Egyptian counterparts. During the canal crisis the RAF began Canberra reconnaissance flights over Syria launched from Cyprus. Still lacking radar, the Syrians had developed a ground spotter network that reported information by telephone in an attempt to intercept these flights. On 6 November 1956 Syrian Meteors acting on this information shot down a Canberra reconnaissance flight over Homs. In 1957 Syria began to replace its Meteors with Mig 17s from the Soviet Union.
French Air Force involvement with the Meteor began in 1948, when the first of two F Mk.IVs arrived for evaluation. In 1953 France ordered 41 NF Mk.11s and 11 T Mk.7s. Thirty-two of the NF Mk.11 replaced the Mosquito night fighter with the Escadre de Chasse (EC) 30, while the remaining nine went to the Centre d’Essais en Vol (Flight Test Centre), where they were used as equipment testbeds.
The night fighters were replaced in 1957–1958, but the CEV aircraft remained in use until the late 1980s, and were later joined by two NF Mk.13s and two NF Mk.14s. One detachment from EC 30 saw combat in Algeria in 1957, operating from Bone. The test aircraft were used in a wide variety of experiments, including radar and missile tests and during the development of Concorde.
In the early 1950s the United States was unwilling to sell F-86 Sabre aircraft to Israel. Having sold Meteors to their neighbours, the British were willing to sell Israel a limited number of aircraft, at least partly in an attempt to maintain a balance of power in the region.
In 1953 Israel received four T Mk.7s and 11 F Mk.8s, all brand new aircraft. The F Mk.8s were modified to carry American HVAR rockets but were otherwise identical to RAF aircraft. A second batch of seven refurbished FR Mk.9s and two more T Mk.7s was delivered in 1955. Finally, in 1956 Israel received six NF Mk.13s, three before and three after the Suez crisis. Five more T Mk.7s were later purchased, converted from ex-Belgian F Mk.4s but were given the Mk.8 tail.
The Mk.8s remained in front line service until 1956, and were then used as training aircraft. The NF Mk.13s remained in use until 1964. During the Suez crisis when the Israelis realised that the Meteor was outclassed by the Egyptian MiG-15s, avoided using them as pure fighter aircraft.
Late in 1945, two F.3 Meteors were modified for an attempt on the world air speed record. On 7 November 1945 at Herne Bay in Kent, UK, Group Captain Hugh "Willie" Wilson set the first official air speed record by a jet aircraft of 606 miles per hour (975 km/h) TAS.
In 1946, Group Captain Edward "Teddy" Donaldson broke this record with a speed of 616 mph (991 km/h) TAS, in EE549, a Meteor F.4. Test pilot Roland Beamont had previously taken the same aircraft to its compressibility limit at 632 mph (1,017 km/h), but not under official record conditions, and outside its official safety limits.
In 1947, Sqn Ldr Janusz Żurakowski set an international speed record: London-Copenhagen-London, 4–5 April 1950 in a production standard F.8 (VZ468). The Danes were suitably impressed and purchased the type soon after.
Another "claim to fame" was the Meteor's ability to perform the "Żurabatic Cartwheel", a new aerobatics manoeuvre, named after the Gloster acting Chief Test Pilot, first accomplished in the Gloster Meteor G-7-1 G-AMCJ prototype at the 1951 Farnborough Air Show where the Meteor, due to its unique location of widely set engines could have individual engines throttled back and forward to achieve a seemingly stationary vertical cartwheel. Many Meteor pilots went on to "prove their mettle" by attempting the same feat.
On 7 August 1949, the Meteor III, EE397, on loan from the RAF and flown by Flight Refuelling Ltd (FRL) test pilot Patrick Hornidge, took off from Tarrant Rushton and, refuelled 10 times by the Lancaster tanker, remained airborne for 12 hours and 3 minutes, receiving 2,352 gallons of fuel from the tanker in ten tanker contacts and flying an overall distance of 3,600 miles (5,800 km), achieving a new jet endurance record.
Meteor F.8 WA820 was adapted during 1948 to take two Armstrong Siddeley Sapphire turbojets, and from Moreton Valence, on August 31, 1951, established a time-to-height climb record. The pilot was Flt Lt Tom Prickett, of Armstrong Siddeley. A height of 9,843 ft was reached in 1 min 16 sec, 19,685 ft in 1 min 50 sec, 29,500 ft in 2 min 29 sec, and 39,370 ft in 3 min 7 sec. Air Service Training Ltd were responsible for the conversion.
- Gloster F.9/40
- Prototypes, eight built:
- DG202/G powered by two Rover W2B jet engines, first flown 24 July 1943.
- DG203/G powered by two Power Jets W2/500 engines, first flown 9 November 1943.
- DG204/G powered by two Metrovik F2 axial jet engines, unlike the other F.9/40s the engines were mounted under the wing, first flown 13 November 1943.
- DG205/G powered by two Rover W2B/23 jet engines, first flown 12 June 1943.
- DG206/G powered by two Halford H1 jet engines, the first to fly on 5 March 1943.
- DG207/G powered by two Halford H1 jet engines, first flown 24 July 1945, became the prototype F.2 variant.
- DG208/G powered by two Rover W2B/23 engines, first flown 20 January 1944.
- DG209/G powered by two Rover W2B/27 engines, first flown 18 April 1944.
- Meteor F.1
- First production aircraft built between 1943 and 1944, 20 built.
- Meteor F.1, Trent turboprop
- One-off engine test bed, converted from former operation F.1 serial number EE227, for the Rolls-Royce Trent turboprop engine making it the world's first turboprop-powered aircraft. The undercarriage was lengthened to give ground clearance for the initial 7 ft 7 inch Rotoal airscrews. First flying in September 1945, it was not shown publicly until June 1946. It was found that separate controls for thrust and constant speed units required a lot of skill to manage. It was then flown with higher engine thrust and smaller propellers to enable development of a combined control system. The development programme was complete by 1948.
- Meteor F.2
- Alternative engined version with two Halford H1s – one of the F.9/40s was used as prototype and trials by de Haviland, did not enter production.
- Meteor F.3
- Derwent I powered, with sliding canopy. First flown 11 September 1944, 210 built (first 15 were Welland-powered).
- Meteor F.4
- Derwent 5 powered with strengthened fuselage, 489 built by Glosters and 46 by Armstrong Whitworth for the Royal Air Force. The F.4 was also exported to Argentina (50 aircraft), Belgium (48 aircraft), Denmark (20 aircraft), Egypt (12 aircraft), Netherlands (38 aircraft).
- Meteor FR.5
- One-off fighter reconnaissance version of the F.4. Fitted with vertical cameras in the nose instead of the four cannon and with obliques cameras in the fuselage. Destroyed on maiden flight, 15 June 1949.
- Meteor F.6
- Proposed swept-wing variant of the F.4, not built.
- Meteor T.7
- Two-seat trainer variant of the F.4, company prototype first flew 19 March 1948, 640 production aircraft for the Royal Air Force and the Royal Navy (43) and 72 for export (Belgium, Brazil, Denmark, Egypt, France, Israel, Netherlands). Avions Fairey modified 20 Belgian Air Force F.4s to T.7 standard.
- Meteor F.8
- Greatly improved from the F.4. Longer fuselage, greater fuel capacity, standard ejection seat and modified tail (derived from the E.1/44). This variant was a prolific frontline fighter in RAF squadron service, 1950–54.
- Meteor F.8 Prone Pilot
- One-off experimental prone pilot F.8, WK935 modified by Armstrong Whitworth.
- Meteor FR.9
- Fighter armed reconnaissance version of the F.8, first flown 23 March 1950, 126 built by Glosters for the Royal Air Force. Former RAF aircraft were later sold to Ecuador, Israel and Syria.
- Meteor PR.10
- Photo reconnaissance version of the F.8, first flown 29 March 1950, 59 built for the Royal Air Force.
- Meteor NF.11
- Night Fighter variant with Airborne Interception (AI) radar designed and built by Armstrong Whitworth, three prototypes followed by 311 production aircraft for the Royal Air Force and 20 for the Royal Danish Air Force.
- Meteor NF.12
- Longer nosed version of the NF.11 with American AN/APS-21 radar, this was balanced by a slightly larger fin, first flown on 21 April 1953, 100 built by Armstrong Whitworth.
- Meteor NF.13
- Tropicalised version of the NF.11 to replace the Mosquito NF.36 for service with 39 Squadron in Malta and Cyprus and 219 Squadron based in Egypt. The first of 40 production aircraft built by Armstrong Whitworth was first flown on 21 December 1952. Former Royal Air Force aircraft were later sold to Egypt (6 aircraft), France (2 aircraft), Israel (6 aircraft) and Syria (6 aircraft).
- Meteor NF.14
- NF.11 with new two-piece blown canopy rather than the heavy-framed version. It also had a longer nose giving a length of 51 ft 4 in. Prototype modified from an NF.11 was first flown 23 October 1953 and was followed by 100 production aircraft built by Armstrong Whitworth for the Royal Air Force.
- Meteor U.15
- Target drone conversion of the F.4, 92 modified by Flight Refuelling Ltd.
- Meteor U.16
- Target drone conversion of the F.8, 108 modified by Flight Refuelling.
- Meteor TT.20
- High speed target towing conversion of the NF.11 for the Royal Navy by Armstrong Whitworth, 20 former Royal Air Force NF.11s were modified. Four additional conversions of four NF.11s of Royal Danish Air Force, after conversion these were flown by civil operators on behalf of the Danish military.
- Meteor U.21
- Target drone conversion of the F.8 for the Royal Australian Air Force by Flight Refuelling, some aircraft modified in Australia by Fairey Aviation of Australasia using Flight Refueling supplied modification kits.
- Ground Attack Fighter
- Also known as the Reaper, it was a F.8 modified by Gloster as a private venture ground attack fighter. The modification allowed the carriage of external Rocket-Assisted Take-Off Gear (RATOG), added a ventral cannon and tip tanks. First flown 4 September 1950, only one was built.
- Argentine Air Force ordered 100 F.4s in May 1947, comprising 50 ex-RAF aircraft and 50 newly built. Deliveries started in July that year, the Meteor remaining in service until 1970, when the last examples were replaced by Dassault Mirage IIIs.
- Royal Australian Air Force operated 104 aircraft from 1946 to 1947 (1× F.3) and 1951 to 1963 (94× F.8, 9× T.7, 1× NF.11).
- Belgian Air Force received 40 aircraft of F.4 variant, 43 of T.7 variant, 240 of F.8 variant and 24 aircraft of NF.11 variant.
- Biafran Air Force purchased two Meteor NF 14s through a cover company. One crashed during a ferry flight between Madeira and Cape Verde, while the second was abandoned at Bissau, Portuguese Guinea. An attempt to purchase a further two ex-Danish target tugs via a German intermediary was discovered by the Bundesnachrichtendienst, the West German intelligence service, and stopped by grounding the aircraft.
- Brazilian Air Force received 62 aircraft in F.8 and TF.7 variants.
- Royal Canadian Air Force — from 1945 to 1950, one Meteor III and Meteor T.7 were used for tests and evaluation by the RCAF.
- Royal Danish Air Force — 20 F.4/F.8, 20× NF.11 and 6× T.7 in service from 1949 to 1962, replaced by 30 Hunter Mk 51 since 1956.
- Royal Egyptian Air Force — used 12 F.4, 12 F.8 and 6 NF.13 since 1950, some of them saw action during Suez Crisis in 1956, replaced by MiG-15bis.
- Luftwaffe – Meteor TT.20 target towing aircraft.
- Royal Netherlands Air Force — 60× F.4 used 1948—1957, along with 160× F.8 1950—1959, replaced by Hawker Hunter.
- Dutch Naval Aviation Service
- Royal New Zealand Air Force
- No. 14 Squadron RNZAF in Cyprus, operated two Meteor T.7 aircraft hired from the RAF.
- Various squadrons, one F.3 used for pilot jet conversion training, then trade training airframe.
- South African Air Force – Meteor F.3 aircraft, in service from 1946 to 1949.
- United States Army Air Forces tested one aircraft and returned it to UK after tests.
- Svensk Flygtjänst AB Three Meteor T.7 and four Meteor T.T.20 for target towing between 1955 and 1974.
- DERA Llanbedr
- Martin-Baker Aircraft Company
- Flight Refuelling Ltd (FRL) were lent the RAF Meteor III EE397 for use in probe-and-drogue trials. This aircraft set a world jet endurance record of 12 hours and 3 minutes on 7 August 1949
Although many Meteors survive in museums, collections and on pylons in public spaces, only five remain airworthy. Four of these are in the United Kingdom, two Meteor T.7/F.8 Hybrids used by Martin-Baker as ejector seat test aircraft "WA638" & "WL419", a privately owned former RAF NF.11 (G-LOSM) based at Coventry (where it was built) and a recently restored RAF T7 (WA591) also at Coventry. A former RAF F.8 flies in Australia with the Temora Aviation Museum with Royal Australian Air Force markings as 'A77-851'
Specifications (Meteor F.8)
- Crew: 1
- Length: 44 ft 7 in (13.59 m)
- Wingspan: 37 ft 2 in (11.32 m)
- Height: 13 ft 0 in (3.96 m)
- Wing area: 350 ft² (32.52 m²)
- Empty weight: 10,684 lb (4,846 kg)
- Loaded weight: 15,700 lb (7,121 kg)
- Powerplant: 2 × Rolls-Royce Derwent 8 turbojets, 3,500 lbf (15.6 kN) each
- Maximum speed: 600 mph (522 knots, 965 km/h, Mach 0.82) at 10,000 ft (3,050 m)
- Range: 600 mi (522 nmi, 965 km)
- Service ceiling: 43,000 ft (13,100 m)
- Rate of climb: 7,000 ft/min (35.6 m/s)
- Wing loading: 44.9 lb/ft² (149 kg/m²)
- Thrust/weight: 0.45
- Time to altitude: 5.0 min to 30,000 ft (9,145 m)
- Guns: 4 × 20 mm British Hispano cannons
- Rockets: Provision for up to sixteen "60lb" 3 in rockets or eight 5 in HVAR rockets. under outer wings
- Bombs: two 1000 lb (454 kg) bombs
Notable appearances in media
- Alekseyev I-21
- de Havilland Vampire
- Lockheed P-80 Shooting Star
- Messerschmitt Me 262
- Nakajima J9Y
- List of World War II jet aircraft
- List of aircraft of World War II
- Gloster E.28/39
- Heinkel He 178
- "The Night It Rained Meteors" article is written by former RAF pilot and world helicopter aerobatic champion Dennis Kenyon.
- According to anecdotal accounts, Warrant Officer Ron Guthrie did destroy a MiG-15 in this engagement. He was shot down during the same dogfight and captured by communist ground forces. It has been reported that, during interrogation, two Soviet pilots, through an interpreter, told Guthrie that he had downed a MiG-15. He survived internment and was released on 3 September 1953.
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- Pavelec 2007, pp. 168–169.
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<ref>tag; name "Gloster1987-253" defined multiple times with different content
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