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Martin Baker MB-1 & MB-2

The Martin-Baker MB 2 was a British private-venture fighter prototype based on a simple basic structure that had been developed in the earlier MB 1 civil aircraft.

Only one airframe was used in making the prototype, the 1st use of the airframe was labelled as the MB-1 (not to be confused with the civil model MB-1 which was lost in a fire in 1938), this was easy to identify as having a stubby tail, on paper it was labelled the MB-2.

The second modification of the airframe was the MB-2, this had a higher tail compared to the 1st airframe.

Although briefly evaluated as a fighter by the Royal Air Force, the MB 2 was limited in design potential and never entered series production.

James Martin, broadly responding to Specification F.5/34 for a fighter using an air-cooled engine for hot climates, designed a fighter using the simple basic structure employed and developed in his earlier MB 1.

Constructed of steel tubing, the MB 2 incorporated many detailed improvements which further simplified production as well as repair and maintenance.

Powered by a special Napier Dagger III HIM 24-cylinder H-type engine of 805 nominal bhp, but capable of operation at 13 lb boost to give over 1,000 hp for take-off, driving a fixed-pitch, two-blade propeller, the MB 2 was capable of 300+ mph (480 km/h) speeds “on paper.”

The undercarriage was fixed but cleanly faired in two trouser-type fairings, the port one carrying the oil-cooler. 

A retractable undercarriage to improve performance was “in the works” when the design was abandoned.

The fuselage lines were square cut and exceptionally clean, with almost constant depth from nose to tail.

An unusual feature, at that time, was that the fuselage was slightly longer than the wingspan, a feature retained in later Martin-Baker designs, which contributed to good stability and control in yaw.

One of the hallmarks of Martin-Baker designs was the simple but efficient installation of main systems.

The clean and orderly cockpit was set well back, allowing a good view downwards behind the wing.

A crash post was fitted, which automatically extended to minimise structure damage and injury to the pilot in the event of a nose-over landing.

A small, tapered tailplane was mounted on the top of the fuselage well forward of the stern post, while the fin and rudder combination were roughly triangular inside elevation.

This arrangement placed most of the effective rudder area below the tailplane, thus providing an adequate balance to the keel surface and assuring good recovery from spins.

In initial MB 2 configurations, there was a stubby fin, and the rudder was mounted on the fuselage, but lateral stability was unsatisfactory, with the taller fin added later.

The MB 2 was first flown by Captain Valentine Baker at Harwell on 3 August 1938 and initially tested with markings MB-1.

The Aeroplane publication stated, “In spite of its fixed undercarriage, the MB 2 had a performance as good as that of contemporary fighters and a capacity for quick and cheap production by the simplicity of its structure and easy assembly”.

Repair and maintenance were also simple, and these factors might have influenced the authorities towards putting the MB 2 into production when the country’s fighter strength was disproportionately low.

The MB 2 was subsequently acquired by the Air Ministry in June 1939 as P9594 and returned to A&AEE for a second assessment after modifications were made to tail control surfaces.

The MB 2 also spent some time at the Air Fighting Development Unit (AFDU), RAF Northolt, before returning to Martin-Baker late in 1939, where it still survived in December 1941, although probably flown little or not at all after the outbreak of war.

Around this time Martin was considering various other ideas, both for complete aircraft and for certain components.

The aircraft designs included a twin-engined 12-gun fighter and a twin-engined multi-seat transport, both featuring the finless layout of the early MB 2 airframe.

In the fighter design, the trailing edge of the engine nacelles provided additional vertical control surfaces, and also incorporated the patented ducting system evolved by Martin to reduce drag caused by the engine exhaust.

The most promising of the concepts became the MB 3 which would eventually spawn the superlative MB 5 prototype.

Only a single aircraft was built.





34 ft 9 in (10.59 m)


34 ft 0 in (10.36 m)


9 ft 9 in (2.97 m)

Wing area

212 sq ft (19.7 m2)

Gross weight

5,537 lb (2,512 kg)


1 × Napier Dagger III H-24 air-cooled piston engine,

1,000 hp (750 kW)


2-bladed fixed-pitch wooden propeller,

10 ft 6 in (3.20 m) diameter


Maximum speed

305 mph (491 km/h, 265 kn)

Service ceiling

29,000 ft (8,800 m)

Rate of climb

2,200 ft/min (11 m/s)

Wing loading

26.1 lb/sq ft (127 kg/m2)


0.18 hp/lb (0.30 kW/kg)



8 × 0.303-inch M1919 Browning machine guns.



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