The Redux Rocket


Andrew Thomas tells the story of the fastest piston-engined fighter to serve in the RAF – the elegant de Havilland Hornet

De Havilland DH.103 Hornet

Flt Lt Paddy Harbison was one of the first pilots from 64 Squadron to convert to the Hornet. He went solo on May 22, 1946. AVM W HARBISON

The genesis of the Hornet was in 1942 with its manufacturer undertaking a self-funded study shortly after the arrival of World War Two in the Far East. Given the performance and success of its Mosquito, it suggested a single-seat streamlined concept featuring increased range to combat the Japanese among the far-flung islands of the South Pacific. Working closely with Roll-Royce (which developed a variant of its famed Merlin engine with a smaller frontal area), de Havilland revealed its proposed aircraft to the Ministry of Aircraft Production in January 1943, at its Hatfield facility in Hertfordshire. Having seen the design, the Air Ministry formally wrote Specification F.12/43 around the manufacturer’s blueprint which, although resembling its renowned predecessor, was an entirely new machine.


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