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Twin engined fighter not just Whirlwind

zen

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Edited title to accommodate participants and retain clarity.

It's a sad truth that Westland seems to both dawdle on this effort and is delayed in turn by other suppliers. Engines bring key among that delay.

As it was plans were in place to build 800 at Castle Bromwich.

But what if Westland had managed to get things moving faster?
Could we have seen that 800 aircraft built?
Would the Beaufighter have been worth it?
 
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Archibald

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Alas, while the Whirlwind was an astonishingly good "miracle" aircraft,
that result was obtained by
a) a tightly designed airframe
b) having little of no growth potential
c) and this included the doomed Kestrel engine
d) that had, too, no growth potential left - and had to clear the production line for Merlins and future engines.

Could the Whirlwind had been designed around a couple of Merlin II - right from the beginning ?

Alternatively, a modern-day Whirlwind replica with PT-6 turboprops and two M61 Vulcans in the nose would be completely awesome... :cool:
 

zen

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All good points.
I might add that Gloster G.39 seems an excellent alternative....especially with the Taurus.
And that Supermarine 320 series was designed around Merlin or Taurus. A direct competitor...
That Bristol's 153A was very much like the US Skyrocket....another potent design that fell by the wayside.

Now on this site the claim is made that Petters believed the fitting of Merlin was entirely possible. Not entirely believed it seems.

But Westland Whirlwind is the chosen aircraft and it's basically because of delays that the rest flows the way it does.
Speed them up, get that order and RR will not abandon a lucrative deal of 1600 Kestrel engines....
Or....shift the decisions to adopting the Merlin from the start.....
 

alertken

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So, let's pretend that on 12/4/39 we have the job of AM Wilfrid Freeman (WF), (wef 6/38) Air Council Air Member for Development and Production. (As AMRD wef 1/4/36) he had chosen Whirlwind as the cannon fighter, ITP 11/2/37. He had been instrumental 7/38 in saving Westland from bankruptcy, by encouraging shipyard John Brown (50%) and AEI Ltd (18.75%) to buy in. JBrown put in as MD E.Mensforth and WF promptly became aware of personality issues with WEW.Petter, scion of the (failed) founding family. Pain. Whirlwind first flight was 11/10/38. That was one reason he had saved WAL - he planned to order 800 from (the factory, to be CBAF, being built by/its prodn. then to be managed by) the Nuffield Orgn., though, when Nuffield was contracted to do so, 16/9/38, his Spec was "3,000 p.a airframes of the Spitfire type". D.Rogers,Shadow Factories,Helion,2016,Ap.V. But only one reason.

Westland was both busy and late with Spitfire wings. WF accepted that was Supermarine's fault, not WAL's and caused V-S MD Sir R McClean to be fired, 10/38. Vickers' boss Sir Charles Craven stepped up to correct relationships with WF's nominated suppliers, WAL wings flowed, so WF was confident to order 200 Whirlwinds from WAL, 1/39. But, as for 800 for CBAF...by 3/49 RR was swamped with setting up Crewe shadow factory to churn Merlins, and was assembling a "courageous" decision to accept (5/39) WF's invitation to build more in Glasgow. Exe, Peregrine, Vulture, bigger Merlins...all too hard.

BSA (Guns) Ltd had .303 Browning on the brink of cascade, with more capacity being dug for a troglodyte workforce. BMARC was way behind that with its Hispano cannon licence.
What then to put in CBAF? Sorted, proven, armed Spitfires at half the cost of scarcely-flown, dodgy engine, not-yet-armed, sometime Whirlwinds. The need is NOW! No brainer.
 
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zen

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So, let's pretend that on 12/4/39 we have the job of ACM Wilfrid Freeman (WF), (wef 6/38) Air Council Air Member for Development and Production. (As AMRD wef 1/4/36) he had chosen Whirlwind as the cannon fighter, ITP 11/2/37. He had been instrumental 7/38 in saving Westland from bankruptcy, by encouraging shipyard John Brown (50%) and AEI Ltd (18.75%) to buy in. JBrown put in as MD E.Mensforth and WF promptly became aware of personality issues with WEW.Petter, scion of the (failed) founding family. Pain. Whirlwind first flight was 11/10/38. That was one reason he had saved WAL - he planned to order 800 from (the factory, to be CBAF, being built by/its prodn. then to be managed by) the Nuffield Orgn., though, when Nuffield was contracted to do so, 16/9/38, his Spec was "3,000 p.a airframes of the Spitfire type". D.Rogers,Shadow Factories,Helion,2016,Ap.V. But only one reason.

Westland was both busy and late with Spitfire wings. WF accepted that was Supermarine's fault, not WAL's and caused V-S MD Sir R McClean to be fired, 10/38. Vickers' boss Sir Charles Craven stepped up to correct relationships with WF's nominated suppliers, WAL wings flowed, so WF was confident to order 200 Whirlwinds from WAL, 1/39. But, as for 800 for CBAF...by 3/49 RR was swamped with setting up Crewe shadow factory to churn Merlins, and was assembling a "courageous" decision to accept (5/39) WF's invitation to build more in Glasgow. Exe, Peregrine, Vulture, bigger Merlins...all too hard.

BSA (Guns) Ltd had .303 Browning on the brink of cascade, with more capacity being dug for a troglodyte workforce. BMARC was way behind that with its Hispano cannon licence.
What then to put in CBAF? Sorted, proven, armed Spitfires at half the cost of scarcely-flown, dodgy engine, not-yet-armed, sometime Whirlwinds. The need is NOW! No brainer.
All well and good and perhaps a fine post for the actual thread on the history of the Whirlwind. Which is where that belongs.

However......not really getting into the spirit of Alternative History is it?

Unless you are suggesting something without being explicit?
Are you suggesting that Spitfire wing production was the critical bottleneck here?
Or are you just suggesting an alternative Alternative such as those I've referred to above?

Relevant thread
 
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Archibald

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shipyard John Brown (50%) and AEI Ltd (18.75%) to buy in. JBrown put in as MD E.Mensforth and WF promptly became aware of personality issues with WEW.Petter, scion of the (failed) founding family. Pain.
Shipyard John Brown always hated me... for what ? I don't know ! He said "kill it before it grows..." So I shot the Whirlwind !

(runs for cover !)
 

alertken

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Westland wings. I am disputing the we wuz robbed of this type. It's another of UK Aero's myths. If the 1,000 Mk.IIA Spitfires had not emerged from CBAF, 27/6/40-21/7/41 AH might have been very different. Yeovil Whirlwinds were not opnl. until 12/40, a single Sqdn. If WF had put Whirlwinds into CBAF and Mk.IIA into, say V-A's Blackpool Agency, we would have had fewer Wellingtons from 8/40 and, I suggest, no Whirlwinds or Mk.IIA Spits then, either.

So, Yes, I am in Actual, not Alternative, Hist. So, to atone for my misdeed, try another of the myths - that V-A saved us in BoB by unblocking Nuffield's inadequacies at CBAF. No.

That miraculous first delivery, 27/6, V-A having displaced Nuffield by 21/5/40, was, shall we say, facilitated, by great chunks of structure in by road from Southampton.

Ministers and their policy-adviser professional officials in techno-Departments, like Aircraft Production, were reliant on industry-specific input from seconded seniors who knew what they were talking about. Beaverbrook inherited Sir Charles Craven, Vickers Ltd Main Board: Air Council Civil Member for Devt.&Prodn. 1/5/40, 14/5/40 Industrial Adviser to the Minister of A/c Prodn. and Chairman of the Air Supply Board (soon MAP Controller-General). It was only human for him to favour V-A over the Nuffield Orgn. The 17/5/40 fired Nuffield went on to do a fine job for his country - in War Office kit not within MAP's fief, and in the Civilian Repair Orgn. and in swarms of Tiger Moths, which were. No doubt, then, that he would have been able to produce Spitfires soon-ish. Air Minister Swinton had put these Wellingtons there, 10/37; Craven had persuaded Air Minister K.Wood to put them in (his) Agencies, 10/38.

If I were of a conspiratorial bent, I might surmise that Vickers did not wish their production engineering prowess to be easily compared to Nuffield's. Craven similarly kept AWA and Gloster out of Wellington (Rogers,Shadow,P.197 has A.M. 7/5/38 Plan for 74 in Whitley, 200 in Brockworth, before V-A) secured Management of Blackpool+Chester, asserting geodetics to be so distinctive as to be beyond, say, the auto firms. Air Minister Swinton had put them in AWA/GAC 10/37; Craven persuaded Minister K.Wood to put them in (his) Agencies, 10/38.
 
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zen

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Westland wings. I am disputing the we wuz robbed of this type. It's another of UK Aero's myths. If the 1,000 Mk.IIA Spitfires had not emerged from CBAF, 27/6/40-21/7/41 AH might have been very different. Yeovil Whirlwinds were not opnl. until 12/40, a single Sqdn. If WF had put Whirlwinds into CBAF and Mk.IIA into, say V-A's Blackpool Agency, we would have had fewer Wellingtons from 8/40 and, I suggest, no Whirlwinds or Mk.IIA Spits then, either.

So, Yes, I am in Actual, not Alternative, Hist. So, to rectify my misdeed, try another of the myths - that V-A saved us in BoB by unblocking Nuffield's inadequacies at CBAF. No.

That miraculous first delivery, 27/6, V-A having displaced Nuffield by 21/5/40, was, shall we say, facilitated, by great chunks of structure in by road from Southampton.

Ministers and their policy-adviser professional officials in techno-Departments, like Aircraft Production, were reliant on industry-specific input from seconded seniors who knew what they were talking about. Beaverbrook inherited Sir Charles Craven, Vickers Ltd Main Board: Air Council Civil Member for Devt.&Prodn. 1/5/40, 14/5/40 Industrial Adviser to the Minister of A/c Prodn. and Chairman of the Air Supply Board (soon MAP Controller-General). It was only human for him to favour V-A over the Nuffield Orgn. The 17/5/40 fired Nuffield went on to do a fine job for his country - in War Office kit not within MAP's fief, and in the Civilian Repair Orgn. and in swarms of Tiger Moths, which were. No doubt then that he would have been able to produce Spitfires soon-ish.

If I were of a conspiratorial bent, I might surmise that Vickers did not wish their production engineering prowess to be easily compared to Nuffield's.
1. No one here is saying "we waz robbed" here. So your fighting a battle against a not present opponent. Bit of myopia, take your blinkers off and realise this isn't a road going from A to B.

2. Wings.....fine AH scenario. Lack of numbers of Whirlwinds, so who gets to supplement with what?
Supermarine?
Gloster?
You seem to be suggesting Vickers Supermarine? 320 series was proposed with cannon a second time and evolution led to lone pressurised twin Merlin.

Fund proven Spit wing Type 32? on twin Merlin Fighter supplement to WAL.
Whirlwind. Overtake by 1940 as RR drops Kestrel for Merlin. Cannon variant soon with simple swap out .303 by 8 wings for 4 by 20mm.
Alternatively fund Taurus version to overcome Merlin bottleneck/eggs in basket?

Or....just fund proven G.39 Gloster instead of Beaufighter? Taurus again.
 

Hood

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My money would be on the Gloster G.39 but again we have the same problems; its doubtful Gloster could mass produce even 400 of them and giving the job to Castle Bromwich seems to be the same bottlenecks and problems as the Whirlwind. Also, the Taurus was not a really a mass-production engine either, reliability wasn't great and even by April 1940 there were plans to replace it with imported Twin Wasps for the Beaufort.

Perhaps the truth is to get a good reliable twin-engined fighter we needed to sacrifice a twin-engine bomber type - luckily the Beaufighter was built from bomber bits so could fit the bill much easier.
 

zen

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Certainly the G.39 has a lot of attractions but it's process speaks of the debate over what a twin engined fighter was for...

Turret?
Long range?
Cannon?
Speed/climb?

In this the G.39 has the scope to meet any such criteria. Perhaps one might venture that it does so more effectively than the Whirlwind, which is a very tight as a design.
Though I wonder if that is Petter's usual predilection or the government?

Anyway, if G.39 was funded to production, could not the Hercules replace the Taurus?
Arguably one might fund G.39 instead of Whirlwind, leaving WAL with Spitfire wings.......
If so G.39 has to go into mass production by early '40 to permit Gloster design staff to be liberated for jet fighter work from '41.
Bristol's capacity would be eaten up by Beauforts.
 
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zen

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Archibald

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Fact is that a lot of Whirlwind competitors look pretty good, too. The Supermarine 313, Bristol 153A, and Gloster G.39, would have been worth some production. Yet the Beaufighter and Mosquito were excellent machines, too, so maybe there was no room for them.
 

DWG

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RR will not abandon a lucrative deal of 1600 Kestrel engines....
Ah, but Beaverbrook might.
But Beaverbrook had no say until May 1940, in the spirit of Alternative History production could have been well underway by then
Agreed, but if we still face the panic that lead to Beaverbrook's Merlin focus, then Whirlwind/Kestrel has the disadvantage of needing two engines per set of wings in the air, which isn't true for Spitfire and Hurricane. The potential for de-prioritizing the Whirlwind definitely exists, even if it has more of a foot in the door than in OTL. AH doesn't get a complete pass on problems, a realistic assessment has to look at the sources of friction that won't go away, and Beaverbrook is one of them.
 
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zen

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However it all depends. If Castle Bromwich is ramping up production for 800 aircraft. It's no longer so trivial to stop and change things for Spitfire production.

Refinement questions...
1. IF Whirlwind THEN ? Development or abandonment?
IF Development THEN
Merlin or Peregrine?
New Wing?
2. IF G.39 THEN Taurus or Hercules?
IF Taurus THEN?
Instead of Whirlwind.
Development eats into jet fighter?

3. IF Type 320? (Forget precise number) THEN Taurus or Merlin?
IF Merlin THEN instead of Whirlwind/ Spitfire at Castle Bromwich.
4. IF Type 153A THEN instead of?
 
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Archibald

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Wasn't Castle Bromwich (broom witch ? lmao) turned to ashes and cinders by the LW during the BoB... ? or was it another Supermarine plant ? (the one with their heavy bomber protype)
 

EwenS

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It was the Supermarine Southampton works where production was stopped by bombing during BoB. Production was moved to airfields in the surrounding area.
 

zen

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I had a long look at the potential and specifications of a WW2 fast, long-range multi-role British twin here: http://quarryhs.co.uk/WW2plane.htm
Oh that is rather close to my thinking.

I do ponder the problematic success of the Beaufort/Beaufighter and Mosquito and how they influenced thinking.
A successful twin fighter of multirole capability instead would exert it's own influence on future thinking. As would a success for Gloster or Westland.

In this the Hornet is too late, the Meteor is also too late and then hampered by it's obvious conservatism.
While the Canberra reinforced this preference and perhaps prejudice.
It's thus no surprise we end up having OR.339 and the TSR.2...
While delay and constant rewrites take a radical late 40's jet designs and see them enter service so late they are eclipsed and viewed as behind the times.

When perhaps what we needed was more effort behind twin multirole fighters post-war. Which rather suggests something had to exist during if not pre-war to change perceptions.

But if conditions are changed. Then thinking is changed.
 

Hood

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I had a long look at the potential and specifications of a WW2 fast, long-range multi-role British twin here: http://quarryhs.co.uk/WW2plane.htm
Oh that is rather close to my thinking.

I do ponder the problematic success of the Beaufort/Beaufighter and Mosquito and how they influenced thinking.
A successful twin fighter of multirole capability instead would exert it's own influence on future thinking. As would a success for Gloster or Westland.

In this the Hornet is too late, the Meteor is also too late and then hampered by it's obvious conservatism.
While the Canberra reinforced this preference and perhaps prejudice.
It's thus no surprise we end up having OR.339 and the TSR.2...
While delay and constant rewrites take a radical late 40's jet designs and see them enter service so late they are eclipsed and viewed as behind the times.

When perhaps what we needed was more effort behind twin multirole fighters post-war. Which rather suggests something had to exist during if not pre-war to change perceptions.

But if conditions are changed. Then thinking is changed.
This is very true. The single-seat twin-engined fighter was a very small niche for the RAF.
Beyond the F.18/37 types the majority were twin-seaters for niche roles:
F.11/37 - turret fighter
F.6/39 - two-seater with 4x 20mm, led to Vickers 414 with 40mm nose turret and morphed into high-altitude Vickers 432
F.4/40 - two-seater high-altitude, led to the Welkin which emerged as a single-seater but had been originally designed as a two-seater (the Mk.2 reverting to that).
F.18/40 - two-seater with 6x 20mm (and later a dorsal turret)
Even the PV Miles M.22 series morphed into larger 2-seat versions.
The Mosquito and Beaufort were again two-seaters, but both having bomber origins were probably larger than needed for a single-seat fighter so amply suited the NF role with AI and other fighter-bomber strike roles.
That just leaves the Hornet which began life in late 1942 as an escort fighter for the Pacific war.

Saying that, single-seat twin-engined fighters in WW2 are pretty rare beyond the P-38, Whirlwind and Fw 189. I guess it just proved more cost-effective to make the most of the increased airframe size and performance to add an extra man to do more things. The three aircraft listed were all designed as interceptors, as engines improved traditional single-engined fighters offered superior rates of climb by the early 1940s - indeed two of the three were attempts to get good interceptors using smaller V-12s, the P-38 of course had supercharged goodies.

I would say that the Whirlwind's obvious benefit (especially with Peregrines) was for lower-altitude operations. They served well on Rhubarbs during 1941. For the BoB they offered firepower but would probably have been suited more as anti-bomber fighters than mixing it with 109s. The Beaufighter/Mossie were still needed for NF with AI. As a fighter-bomber it could have excelled, its range would have made it ideal in the Med campaigns (even better with drop tanks), imagine a squadron of these on Malta in 1941-42? But saying that for the kind of maritime interdiction campaigns carried out the Beaufighter carried a hefty gun load and could take torpedoes and bombs, which the Whirlwind could not match.
Also, from 1943 the Typhoon is also a busted high-altitude wash-out that got stuck down in the weeds as a fighter bomber. With 800+ Whirlwinds (probably much less with attrition etc. but perhaps more if production had continued), what happens? Does MAP salvage the Tornado/Typhoon saga by pushing the Whirlwind aside? Issue Typhoon to Army Co-Operation squadrons instead of early P-51 Mustang Mk.Is and keep Whirlwind as the main fighter bomber?

Whirlwind with Merlin a whole different ball game, probably means no Hornet as long as Whirlwind proves it has growth potential to store more fuel. Even so I would probably on balance rather have those Merlins in Mosquitos which offer a far wider range of possible uses and roles.

G.39 with Hercules is probably good, means the end of the Beaufighter but then it might prove just as useful.
 
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robunos

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Wasn't Castle Bromwich (broom witch ? lmao) turned to ashes and cinders by the LW during the BoB... ? or was it another Supermarine plant ? (the one with their heavy bomber protype)
As EwenS states, it was the southampton factory that was bombed. The CBAF (Castle Bromwich Aircraft Factory) was government operated and still survives today . . . It's now the Jaguar Cars assembly plant, across the road, what was the airfield is now a housing estate. On the other corner is the famous 'Spitfire Island' . . .


As to Castle Bromwich, it was originally 'Castle Broomwich', the village by the castle ( though where the castle was, I have no idea ) where the broom (gorse) bushes grew. Hence also West Bromwich, the village to the west where the broom (gorse) bushes grew. It is also believed by some that Birmingham was originally named just Bromwich, before William the Conqueror gave the lands to Simon de Bermingham . . .

cheers,
Robin.
 

JFC Fuller

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The Whirlwind as conceived was a Fighter Command cannon armed single seat day interceptor, it just happened to have two smaller engines rather than one medium (Merlin) or large (Sabre). As built, due to the limitations of its engines and probably some aerodynamic quirks, it ended up being a great low-level fighter bomber. For some of the same reasons, essentially the Typhoon before the Typhoon. That is about as 'multirole' as it was ever going to get, the single seat day fighter requirement having rendered its airframe too small to perform any other meaningful role beyond photographic reconnaissance. The Beaufighter and Mosquito are closer to the German Zestorer concept in execution, true two-seaters with much larger airframes.

I suspect the Whirlwind's enduring popularity relates to its sheer beauty and, by 1940 standards, very modern appearance. The view of the RAF seems to have been consistent, it had great armament and the potential to be faster than comparable single engine fighters but was much more expensive and less agile (requiring different tactics) than the single engine types. Without a compelling specific role that could not be performed by a single-engine type it didn't really stand a chance of surviving in the production programme.

Petter absolutely offered a Merlin XX powered Whirlwind, the letter to Sholto Douglas making the offer survives in the National Archives. Nobody has found a drawing of the proposal but the written descriptions (undercarriage retraction problems solved and shortened four bladed propellers) suggest it would have been minimal change to the proposed Mk.II outside of the engine nacelles/undercarriage bays. Petter thought it would do 410mph, have a ceiling of 37,000ft and a range of 800 miles. Whether it would have achieved these characteristics is open for debate, I do wonder whether it would have been very fast in a straight line but even less agile than the Peregrine version.
 
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