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Hawker Horsley

The Hawker Horsley was a British single-engine biplane bomber of the 1920s.

It was the last all-wooden aircraft built by Hawker Aircraft and served as a medium day bomber and torpedo bomber with Britain’s Royal Air Force between 1926 and 1935, as well as the navies of Greece and Denmark.

A total of 124 Horsleys were built, including six aircraft for the Hellenic Naval Air Service and the two related Dantorps built for Denmark.

The Horsley (named after Sir Thomas Sopwith’s home of Horsley Towers) was originally designed to meet Air Ministry Specification 26/23 for a day bomber powered by a single Rolls-Royce Condor engine.

While the specification called for any production aircraft to be of metal construction, Hawker proposed to build the prototype of wooden construction, gradually switching to a metal structure during production.

This was acceptable to the Air Ministry, and an order for a single prototype was placed.

The first prototype was flown in March 1925, powered by a 650 hp (480 kW) engine, and was delivered to the Aeroplane and Armament Experimental Establishment at Martlesham Heath on 4 May 1925.

Meanwhile, the Air Ministry revised its requirements, producing Specification 23/25 which increased the required payload from one to two 500 lb (230 kg) bombs.

At the same time, it also issued Specification 24/25 for a torpedo bomber, required to carry a 2,150 lb (980 kg) torpedo.

The Horsley’s ability to cope with the increased loads required to meet these new specifications led to the design being favoured by the RAF, with an initial order of forty aircraft, consisting of ten wooden Mk Is and 30 Mk IIs of mixed metal and wood construction, being placed.

The Horsley was a large single-engined two-bay biplane.

It had a crew of two, comprising a pilot and a gunner/bomb-aimer/radio operator, who had a .303 in (7.7 mm) Lewis gun mounted in a Scarff ring in the rear cockpit and a prone position for bomb aiming.

The rear cockpit was also fitted with dual controls.

The payload included two 500 lb (230 kg) bombs, one 1,500 lb (680 kg) bomb or a torpedo weighing 2,800 lb (1,300 kg).

The structure was originally all wood, but before production was complete an all-metal structure was introduced, made in what became the famous Hawker system of metal construction.

The three methods of construction were designated: Horsley Mk I for the all-wooden aircraft, Horsley Mk II for the mixed material, and (unofficially) Horsley III for the all-metal aircraft.

Some aircraft were fitted with floats.

Two aircraft, known as the Hawker Dantorp and powered by Leopard II engines were sold to the Danish Government.

They had a slightly different fuselage, accommodating a third crew member. 

The Danes also purchased a licence to build a further ten aircraft at the Danish Naval Workshops (Orlogsvaerftet), but these were not built owing to a shortage of funds.

Production aircraft were powered by the Condor IIIA, but the Horsley was also much used as a flying testbed for other engines, including the Napier Lion, Rolls-Royce Buzzard, Rolls-Royce Eagle, the Armstrong Siddeley Leopard radial engine, the Junkers Jumo diesel engine and early versions of the Rolls-Royce Merlin.





38 ft 10 in (11.84 m)


56 ft 5+3⁄4 in (17.215 m)


13 ft 8 in (4.17 m)

Wing area

693 sq ft (64.4 m2)

Empty weight

4,760 lb (2,159 kg) (4,958 lb (2,249 kg) for torpedo bomber)

Gross weight

7,800 lb (3,538 kg) (9,270 lb (4,200 kg) for torpedo bomber)

Fuel capacity

230 imp gals (280 US gal; 1,000 L)


1 × Rolls Royce Condor IIIA water-cooled V12 engine,

665 hp (496 kW)


2-bladed Watts wooden propeller, 14 ft 6 in (4.42 m) diameter


Maximum speed

125 mph (201 km/h, 109 kn) at 6,000 ft (1,800 m)


900 mi (1,400 km, 780 nmi)


Approx 10 hr

Service ceiling

14,000 ft (4,300 m)

Time to altitude

14 min 20 s to 10,000 ft (3,000 m)



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

1 × rear-mounted .303 in (7.7 mm) Lewis Gun


1,500 lb (680 kg) bomb load or 1 × torpedo.



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