Gloster Meteor

The Gloster Meteor was the first British jet fighter and the Allies’ only jet aircraft to engage in combat operations during the Second World War.

The Meteor’s development was heavily reliant on its ground-breaking turbojet engines, pioneered by Frank Whittle and his company, Power Jets Ltd.

Development of the aircraft began in 1940, although work on the engines had been under way since 1936.

The Meteor first flew in 1943 and commenced operations on 27 July 1944 with No. 616 Squadron RAF.

The Meteor was not a sophisticated aircraft in its aerodynamics but proved to be a successful combat fighter.

Gloster’s 1946 civil Meteor F.4 demonstrator G-AIDC was the first civilian-registered jet aircraft in the world. 

Several major variants of the Meteor incorporated technological advances during the 1940s and 1950s.

Thousands of Meteors were built to fly with the RAF and other air forces and remained in use for several decades.

The Meteor saw limited action in the Second World War.

Meteors of the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) fought in the Korean War.

Several other operators such as Argentina, Egypt and Israel flew Meteors in later regional conflicts.

Specialised variants of the Meteor were developed for use in photographic aerial reconnaissance and as night fighters.

The Meteor was also used for research and development purposes and to break several aviation records.

On 7 November 1945, the first official airspeed record by a jet aircraft was set by a Meteor F.3 at 606 miles per hour (975 km/h).

In 1946, this record was broken when a Meteor F.4 reached a speed of 616 miles per hour (991 km/h).

Other performance-related records were broken in categories including flight time endurance, rate of climb, and speed.

On 20 September 1945, a heavily modified Meteor I, powered by two Rolls-Royce Trent turbine engines driving propellers, became the first turboprop aircraft to fly.

On 10 February 1954, a specially adapted Gloster Meteor F8 Prone Pilot, which placed the pilot into a prone position to counteract inertial forces, took its first flight.

In the 1950s, the Meteor became increasingly obsolete as more nations developed 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 2018, two Meteors, G-JSMA and G-JWMA, remain in active service with the Martin-Baker company as ejection seat testbeds.

One further aircraft in the UK remains airworthy, as does another in Australia.

The first operational version of the Meteor, designated as the Meteor F.1, apart from the minor airframe refinements, was a straightforward ‘militarisation’ of the earlier F9/40 prototypes.

The dimensions of the standard Meteor F.1 were 41 ft 3 in (12.57 m) long with a span of 43 ft 0 in (13.11 m), with an empty weight of 8,140 lb (3,690 kg) and a maximum take-off weight of 13,795 lb (6,257 kg).

Despite the revolutionary turbojet propulsion used, the design of the Meteor was relatively orthodox and did not take advantage of many aerodynamic features used on other, later jet fighters, such as swept wings; the Meteor shared a broadly similar basic configuration to its German equivalent, the Messerschmitt Me 262, which was also aerodynamically conventional.

It was an all-metal aircraft with a tricycle undercarriage and conventional low, straight wings with mid-mounted turbojet engines and a high-mounted tailplane clear of the jet exhaust.

The Meteor F.1 exhibited some problematic flying characteristics typical of early jet aircraft; it suffered from stability problems at high transonic speeds, large trim changes, high stick forces and self-sustained yaw instability (snaking) caused by airflow separation over the thick tail surfaces.

The longer fuselage of the Meteor T.7, a two-seater trainer, significantly reduced the aerodynamic instability that the early Meteors were known for.

Later Meteor variants would see a large variety of changes from the initial Meteor F.1 introduced to service in 1944.

Much attention was given to raising the aircraft’s top speed, often by improving the airframe’s aerodynamic qualities, incorporating the latest engine developments, and increasing the strength of the airframe.

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 (12,000 m) within five minutes.


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 Metrovick 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 No. 616 Squadron RAF operational 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 Rotol 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 program 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 Gloster 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 oblique 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 (Australia, 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).

A prolific frontline fighter in the RAF during 1950–54, this variant was ordered by the RAAF, with which it saw action in the Korea War.

Gloster Meteor F8 Prone Pilot 

One-off experimental prone pilot F.8, WK935 modified by Armstrong Whitworth.

Meteor F.8 jet deflection testbed

One F.8 (RA490) modified with Rolls-Royce Nene engines cantilevered forward of the wings and “deflection boxes” to direct jet exhaust downwards for jet-lift.

Meteor FR.9

Fighter armed reconnaissance version of the F.8, first flown 23 March 1950, 126 built by Gloster 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 Refuelling 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 57mm cannon in the lower fuselage and tip tanks.

First flown 4 September 1950, only one was built.

Gloster CXP-1001

A single-engine version of the Meteor proposed by Gloster as a pursuit fighter for the Republic of China Air Force.

None were built.





44 ft 7 in (13.59 m)


37 ft 2 in (11.33 m)


13 ft 0 in (3.96 m)

Wing area

350 sq ft (33 m2)



EC (12.5)40/0640.



Empty weight

10,684 lb (4,846 kg)

Gross weight

15,700 lb (7,121 kg)


2 × Rolls-Royce Derwent 8 centrifugal flow turbojet engine

3,600 lbf (16 kN) thrust each


Maximum speed

600 mph (970 km/h, 520 kn) at 10,000 ft (3,000 m)

Maximum speed

Mach 0.82


600 mi (970 km, 520 nmi)

Service ceiling

43,000 ft (13,000 m)

Rate of climb

7,000 ft/min (36 m/s)

Time to altitude

30,000 ft (9,100 m) in 5 minutes

Wing loading

44.9 lb/sq ft (219 kg/m2)





4 × 20 mm Hispano MkV cannons


Provision for up to sixteen “60 lb” 3-inch rockets


Eight 5-inch HVAR rockets under outer wings


Two 1000 lb (454 kg) bombs

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