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Review in this month's Aeroplane.
Hawker P.1103 & P.1121: Camm’s Last Fighter Projects
By Paul Martell-Mead and Barrie Hygate; Blue Envoy Press
(order via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org);
8½in x 11in (215mm x 280mm); softback; 64 pages, illustrated; £11.95 + p&p; ISBN 978-0-95619-515-9
HAWKER AIRCRAFT originated as a rebranded Sopwith Aviation, developing an unbroken series of successful fighter designs that could trace its ancestry back to before the First World War. This book describes Hawker’s efforts in the 1950s to produce projects that responded to RAF operational requirements OR.329, for an all-weather interceptor, and OR.339 for a long-range strike aircraft.
These contests were “won” by a Fairey project, killed off by Duncan Sandys’ infamous 1957 Defence White Paper, and the BAC TSR.2, cancelled owing to cost overruns in 1965. This reviewer (who worked in the Hawker project office for several months in 1956 and — after national service — from 1958 until 1978) regrets that this book does not throw a little more light on the little-known Fairey project.
Nevertheless, the book is well researched regarding the P.1121 and its avionics and armament. I was blown away by the amount of material unearthed, and the three-view drawings by Barrie Hygate are excellent. This day-today history was made possible by the authors gaining access to the so-called “Camm diaries”, previously alleged to have been lost in a fire.
As Hawker’s chief designer, Sir Sydney bore the responsibility for overseeing projects and approving them for submission to the Ministry (or to the Hawker board for private-venturing, as with the P.1127). Preliminary design was then in the hands of three project engineers — Ralph Hooper, John Fozard and Ron Williams. All were young, relatively inexperienced and impatiently ambitious. Each was (in my view) to demonstrate a special talent: Hooper for design development; Fozard for teaching aircraft design and Williams for preliminary design.
Hooper is now rightly honoured for his outstanding career as “the father of the P.1127/ Harrier” and subsequently for directing the development of the Hawk. Since Hooper is the only survivor of the trio, this book rests heavily on his version of events, possibly to the detriment of Fozard and Williams. His views may (understandably) be coloured by Camm’s well-known grudging approval of the P.1127.
This book arguably gives a wrong impression of Camm, indisputably the greatest fighter designer that Britain ever produced. Sir Sydney had a natural talent for design and a decades long track record of successes, a combination that his “young gentlemen of the project office” could only dream of.
It may be, as the book suggests, that the wartime Camm was difficult to work for. He may well have liked to “ham it up” in the drawing office as the outspoken designer-genius. If this was his way of inspiring great work, it succeeded. Nonetheless, quoting his sayings out of context is rather misleading. He was not the geriatric obstacle-to-progress portrayed here.
If anyone concludes that Camm had “lost it” in the 1950s, consider his 1960s reaction on seeing the first drawing of a tandem-seat version of the P.1127: “That thing will go ahead over my dead body!”. Sir Sydney was right, in both his forecast and his clear-headed assessment of a misconceived design.
Hawker P.1103 & P.1121 - Camm’s Last Fighter Projects by Paul Martel-Mead and Barrie Hygate.
This very well written book not only tells the story of these two projects in considerable detail based on diligent research into original documents and interviews with survivors from the period but also gives an insight into the workings of Camm, his Project Office, the Hawker and HSA management, the engine companies and the various Ministry departments involved. The reader feels that the writer, mainly Paul Martel-Mead, has a good technical grasp of his subject and an understanding of the company and government politics of the day. Long-lost photographs of the mock-up, intake model and prototype under construction have been included as have many original Hawker project drawings augmented by the nowadays essential artists impressions of what might have been.
Also, Barrie Hygate has contributed several clear general arrangement and cockpit drawings. The development problems of the de Havilland Gyron supersonic turbojet are described as are those of the alternative Olympus and Conway engines.
Closely related projects also covered are the P.1116, P.1122, P.1123 and the P.1129, the troubled gestation of the latter making fascinating reading. A comprehensive technical description of the P.1121, its avionics, engines and weapons are included and an appendix covers the wind tunnel models, intake models and systems test rigs. Model kits available on the market are described in another appendix. This handsome soft-cover book is published by Blue Envoy Press (ISBN 978-0-956195159) and with a cover price of £11.99 and is well worth every penny.
It's back! Less jaggy drawings, tweaked images and still has Maggie.
Sorry about the delay, I was milking the last of the work from the oil industry.