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Hawker Hart

The Hawker Hart was a British two-seater biplane light bomber aircraft of the Royal Air Force.

It was designed during the 1920s by Sydney Camm.

The Hart was a prominent British aircraft in the inter-war period but was obsolete and already side-lined for newer monoplane aircraft designs by the start of the Second World War, playing only minor roles in the conflict before being retired.

In 1926, the Air Ministry stated a requirement for a two-seat high-performance light day-bomber, to be of all-metal construction and with a maximum speed of 160 mph (258 km/h).

Designs were tendered by Hawker, Avro and de Havilland.

Fairey, who had sold a squadron’s worth of its wooden Fox bomber in 1925, was not at first invited to tender to the specification and was sent a copy of the specification only after protesting to the Chief of the Air Staff, Hugh Trenchard.

Hawker’s design was a single-bay biplane powered by a Rolls-Royce F.XI water-cooled V12 engine (the engine that later became known as the Rolls-Royce Kestrel).

It had, as the specification required, a metal structure, with a fuselage structure of steel-tube covered by aluminium panels and fabric, with the wings having steel spars and duralumin ribs, covered in fabric.

The crew of two sat in individual tandem cockpits, with the pilot sitting under the wing trailing edge, and operating a single .303 in (7.7 mm) Vickers machine gun mounted on the port side of the cockpit.

The observer sat behind the pilot and was armed with a single Lewis gun on a ring mount, while for bomb-aiming, he lay prone under the pilot’s seat.

Up to 520 pounds (240 kg) of bombs could be carried under the aircraft’s wings.

J9052, the prototype Hart, first flew in June 1928, being delivered to the Aeroplane and Armament Experimental Establishment at RAF Martlesham Heath on 8 September.

It demonstrated good performance and handling, reaching 176 mph (283 km/h) in level flight and 282 miles per hour (454 km/h) in a vertical dive.

The competition culminated in the choice of the Hawker Hart in April 1929.

The de Havilland Hound was rejected due to handling problems during landing and because of its part-wooden primary structure.

While the Avro Antelope demonstrated similar performance and good handling, the Hart was preferred as it was far cheaper to maintain, a vital aspect to a program during defence budget constraints that the British armed forces faced during the 1920s.

The Fairey Fox IIM (which despite the name was a new aircraft), delayed by Fairey’s late start on the design compared to the other competitors, only flew for the first time on 25 October 1929, long after the Hart had been selected.

A total of 992 aircraft were built as Harts. 

It became the most widely used light bomber of its time and the design would prove to be a successful one with a number of derivatives, including the Hawker Hind and Hector.

There were a number of Hart variants, though only slight alterations were made to the design.

The Hart India was a tropical version, the Hart Special was a tropical Hawker Audax, a Hart variant with desert equipment; a specialised Hart Trainer was also built which dispensed with the gunner’s ring.

Vickers built 114 of the latter models at Weybridge between 1931 and June 1936.

The production Hart Day bomber had a 525 hp (390 kW) Rolls-Royce Kestrel IB 12-cylinder V-type engine; a speed of 184 mph (296 km/h) and a range of 470 mi (757 km). 

It was faster than most contemporary fighters, an astonishing achievement considering it was a light bomber.

It also enjoyed excellent manoeuvrability, making the Hart one of the most effective biplane bombers ever produced for the Royal Air Force.

In particular, it was faster than the Bristol Bulldog, which had recently entered service as the RAF’s front-line fighter.

This disparity in performance led the RAF to gradually replace the Bulldog with the Hawker Fury.

Demand was such that production was spread out among a wide selection of aircraft companies.

Of the 962 built in the United Kingdom, Hawker produced 234, Armstrong Whitworth 456, Gloster 46, Vickers 226 and 42 were produced in Sweden under licence by ASJA who built 18, Götaverken who built three and the Central Workshops of the Air Force (CVM) who built 21. 

1004 Harts were produced.



Hart I

Two-seat light bomber aircraft for the RAF.

525 hp Kestrel IB engine.


Two-seat single-engined light bomber aircraft for the RAF, powered by a 525 hp Rolls-Royce Kestrel IB, or a 510 hp Kestrel X (DR) piston engine.

Hart (India)

Tropicalised version for the RAF, used by RAF in the Northwest Frontier of India, with larger radiator and extra equipment.

Hart (C)

Two-seat unarmed communications aircraft for the RAF, a small number were used by No. 24 Squadron RAF: eight built.

Hart Trainer (Interim)

Hart light bombers converted into training aircraft.

Two built.

Hart Trainer

Two-seat dual-control trainer aircraft, with reduced sweepback on top wings to compensate for movement in centre of gravity caused by removal of military equipment.

Hart Fighter

Two-seat fighter version for the RAF used by No. 23 Squadron RAF, with Kestrel IIS.

Later redesignated as the Demon; six built.

Hart (Special)

Tropicalised version for the RAF, used by the RAF in the Middle East.

Based on Audax airframe with desert equipment, and de-rated Kestrel X engine.

Hart (Testbeds)

Several Harts were used as engine test beds, including G-ABMR and G-ABTN which were used to test several variants of Kestrel engines.

K2434 was used by Napier to test the Napier Dagger I, II and III.

K3036 was used by Rolls-Royce to test the Merlin C and E, complete with a ventral radiator.

Estonian Hart

Export version for Estonia, equipped with an interchangeable wheel or float undercarriage; eight built.

Swedish Hart

Light bomber for Swedish Air Force.

Four Hawker-built pattern aircraft, powered by a Bristol Pegasus IM2 radial piston engine were delivered in 1934.

Following successful evaluation, 42 were built under licence in Sweden by AB Götaverken of Göteborg, powered by a Swedish-built NOHAB Pegasus IU2.





29 ft 4 in (8.94 m)


37 ft 3 in (11.35 m)


10 ft 5 in (3.18 m)

Wing area

349.5 sq ft (32.47 m2)


RAF 28

Empty weight

2,530 lb (1,148 kg)

Max take-off weight

4,596 lb (2,085 kg)

Fuel capacity

83 imp gals (100 US gal; 380 L)


1 × Rolls-Royce Kestrel IB water-cooled V12 engine,

525 hp (391 kW)


Maximum speed

185 mph (298 km/h, 161 kn) at 13,000 ft (4,000 m)

Stall speed

45 mph (72 km/h, 39 kn)


430 mi (690 km, 370 nmi)

Service ceiling

22,800 ft (6,900 m)

Time to altitude

8 min 30 s to 10,000 ft (3,000 m)



1 × synchronised forward firing .303 in (7.7 mm) Vickers machine gun,

1 × .303 in (7.7 mm) Lewis Gun on Scarff ring in rear cockpit.


Up to 520 lb (240 kg) bombs under wings.



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