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Vickers Vildebeest

The Vickers Vildebeest and the similar Vickers Vincent were two very large two- to three-seat single-engine British biplanes designed and built by Vickers and used as light bombers, torpedo bombers and in army cooperation roles.

First flown in 1928, it remained in service at the start of the Second World War, with the last Vildebeests flying against Japanese forces over Singapore and Java in 1942.

Designed against Air Ministry Specification 24/25 for the Royal Air Force (RAF), for a land-based torpedo bomber to replace the Hawker Horsley, the prototype Vildebeest, an all-metal fuselage aircraft with single-bay unstaggered fabric-covered wings and tail, was first flown in April 1928 as the Vickers Type 132, powered by a Bristol Jupiter VIII radial engine.

After initial evaluation, the Vildebeest was shortlisted for comparison with the Blackburn Beagle and Handley Page Hare.

As the Jupiter VIII was prone to vibration, a second prototype, the Vickers Type 204 was fitted with an Armstrong Siddeley Panther IIA engine and after further testing, the Vickers design was confirmed as the winner of the contest, but engine problems persisted until the type was tested with a new version of the Jupiter, which later became known as the Bristol Pegasus. 

An initial production order was placed in 1931 for nine aircraft, with the first production aircraft flying in September 1932.

Further production ensued, with an improved version fitted with a 635 hp (474 kW) Pegasus IIM3 entering service but after only 30 examples had been produced the Air Ministry requested a modification (Specification 15/34) which added a third crew position, thus creating the Vildebeest Mk III, of which 150 examples being built for the RAF.

The Mark IV introduced the much more powerful 825 hp (615 kW) Bristol Perseus sleeve valve radial engine enclosed in a NACA cowling which significantly improved performance, increasing maximum speed to 156 mph (251 km/h) and rate of climb to 840 ft/min (4.3 m/s). 

In this version, the Perseus had overheating problems and was deemed unsuitable for tropical service with production limited to 18 aircraft, all of which served with the home-based squadrons.


Type 132

Prototype built at Weybridge with a Jupiter VII engine.

Type 192

Prototype modified as a Series II with a Jupiter XF engine.

Type 194

Prototype modified as a Series III with a Jupiter XIF engine.

Type 204

Second private venture prototype as Series IV later to Air Ministry

Type 209

Prototype modified as a Series V with a Jupiter XIF engine.

Type 214

Prototype modified as a Series VI with a Jupiter XFBM engine.

Type 216

Prototype Series VII modified with a Hispano-Suiza 12Lbr engine and flown with floats.

Type 217

Second prototype to have been modified to Series VII but not converted.

Vildebeest Mark I Type 244

Initial production version, a two-seat torpedo-bomber powered by a 600 hp (448 kW) Bristol Pegasus IM3 engine.

22 built for the RAF between 1922 and 1933.

Vildebeest Mark II Type 258

Variant with more powerful (635 hp (474 kW)) Pegasus IIM3 engine.

30 built for RAF and delivered 1933.

Vildebeest Mark III Type 267

Three seat torpedo-bomber.

150 built for RAF, delivered 1935–36.

15 ex-RAF aircraft (including one converted Mark II) diverted to RNZAF later.

Type 277

Twelve aircraft with folding wings and the ability to carry drop tanks for RNZAF delivered in 1935.

Vildebeest Mark IV Type 286 

Two seat version powered by 825 hp (615 kW) Bristol Perseus engine.

Eighteen built for RAF, 12 of which were sold to New Zealand.

Type 245 Vildebeest Series IX

Torpedo bomber for Spanish Navy, powered by 600 hp (448 kW) Hispano-Suiza 12L water cooled V-12 engine.

First prototype Vildebeest modified to this standard and flew in this form in June 1930, with 26 licence built in addition to the prototype.

Type 263

One Vildebeest I modified with a Pegasus 1M3 engine.

Vincent Type 266

Three-seat General Purpose version for RAF.

Pegasus IIIM3 engine.

197 built new or converted.





36 ft 8 in (11.18 m)


49 ft 0 in (14.94 m)


14 ft 8 in (4.47 m)

Wing area

728 sq ft (67.6 m2)

Empty weight

4,773 lb (2,165 kg)

Gross weight

8,500 lb (3,856 kg)


1 × Bristol Pegasus II-M3,

Nine-cylinder air-cooled radial engine,

635 hp (474 kW)


Maximum speed

143 mph (230 km/h, 124 kn)


1,250 mi (2,010 km, 1,090 nmi) at 122 mph (106 kn; 196 km/h)

Service ceiling

19,000 ft (5,800 m)

(Absolute ceiling)

Rate of climb

630 ft/min (3.2 m/s) 7.5 min to 5,000 ft (1,500 m)



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


1 × flexible, rearward-firing .303 in (7.7 mm) Lewis Gun


1,100 lb (500 kg) of bombs or 1 × 18 in (457 mm) torpedo.


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