Westland Wyvern

The Wyvern began as a Westland project for a naval strike fighter, with the engine located behind the pilot, driving a propeller in the nose via a long shaft that passed under the cockpit floor, similar to the Bell P-39.

This enabled the pilot to be located in a position that conferred the best possible visibility over the nose for carrier operations.

Official interest resulted in Air Ministry Specification N.11/44 for a long-range naval fighter using the 24-cylinder H-block Rolls-Royce Eagle 22 piston engine being issued to cover Westland’s design.

The specification also called for an airframe design that would be able to take a turboprop engine when a suitable unit was available.

There was a parallel specification for the Royal Air Force, F.13/44, for which Hawker submitted the competing P.1027, a development of the Tempest.

The RAF variant was cancelled, when in 1945 it was decided that all future fighter aircraft would be jet-powered.

The original design soon matured into the more conventional Westland W.34, with the 3,500 hp (2,610 kW) Eagle engine in the nose driving large contra-rotating propellers and the pilot sitting high in a humped fuselage to improve visibility.

The design was otherwise orthodox, with a low wing, tailwheel undercarriage and double-folding wings fitted with both Youngman flaps on the inner wing section and conventional flaps on the outer section.

The W.34 was to be armed with four Hispano 20 mm cannon in the wings and have the ability to carry a torpedo under the fuselage or a selection of bombs and rockets under the wings.

The prototype W.34; the Wyvern TF.1, first flew at Boscombe Down on 16 December 1946 with Westland’s test pilot Harald Penrose at the controls.

This aircraft was lost on 15 October 1947 when the propeller bearings failed in flight.

Westland’s assistant test pilot Sqn Ldr Peter Garner was killed attempting to make an emergency landing.

From prototype number three onwards, the aircraft were navalised and carried their intended armament.

At around this time, the Eagle engine was cancelled, and it was found that there were insufficient pre-production engines available to complete all the prototype and pre-production aircraft.

Specification N.12/45 was therefore issued for the Wyvern TF.2, to be powered by a turboprop engine: either the Rolls-Royce Clyde or the Armstrong Siddeley Python.

A single Clyde-powered prototype was ordered along with two with Pythons.

A Clyde-powered TF.2 first flew on 18 January 1949.

Both the piston-powered and turboprop versions shared many common components including wing and tail units, and essentially the same basic cockpit structure.

The flight was cut short to only three minutes when shortly after take-off, the cockpit filled with smoke from a fuel leak onto the exhaust ducting.

Clyde development was subsequently cancelled by Rolls-Royce after only 50 hours of flight time for the TF.2, and the aircraft was delivered to Napier & Son to be fitted with the Nomad turbo-compound engine.

The latter engine never materialised, however and this aircraft was used for crash barrier trials.

The first Python-powered TF.2 flew on 22 March 1949 and this aircraft introduced the ejection seat to the Wyvern.

Twenty TF.2s were completed to the Python design although after three years of testing what was then a revolutionary aircraft design, a myriad of detailed aerodynamic changes resulted.

The Python engine responded poorly to minor throttle adjustments, so control was exercised by running the engine at a constant speed and varying the pitch of the propellers.

The aircraft was declared ready for service in 1952, but never reached an operational squadron.

The definitive Wyvern model was the TF.4, later S.4.

Initially, 50 S.4s were ordered and were joined by the last 7 TF.2s, which were altered while still under construction.

S.4s reached limited shore-based frontline service in May 1953 with 813 Naval Air Squadron at RNAS Ford, replacing the somewhat similar Blackburn Firebrand.

Several second-line squadrons also received Wyverns around this time.

The Westland Wyvern was a British single-seat carrier-based multi-role strike Aircraft that served in the 1950s, seeing active service in the 1956 Suez Crisis.

Production Wyverns were powered by a turboprop engine driving large and distinctive contra-rotating propellers and could carry aerial torpedoes.


W.34 Wyvern

Six prototypes ordered in August 1944, with the first aircraft flown 12 December 1946.

Powered by the Rolls-Royce Eagle Mk 22 H-block, piston engine.

W.34 Wyvern TF.1

Pre-production aircraft ordered in June 1946, with only seven built of 20 contracted due to the cancellation of the Eagle power plant.

W.35 Wyvern TF.2

The original production version, powered by the Armstrong Siddeley Python turboprop in replacement of the discontinued Eagle piston powerplant seen on the W.34 prototypes.

Three prototypes were ordered in February 1946 with a production contract for 20 aircraft issued in September 1947.

Only nine production aircraft were built, and the remaining eleven were completed as S.4s.

In 1949, a prototype Westland Wyvern TF.2 on a test flight crashed into houses in Yeovil, resulting in the death of four people, including the pilot.

W.38 Wyvern T.3

Two-seat conversion trainer.

One prototype serial VZ739 was ordered in September 1948 and first flown in February 1950.

W.35 Wyvern TF.4

The definitive version.

50 were ordered in October 1948, 13 in December 1950, 13 in January 1951 and a final 11 in February 1951.

A total of 98 built (including 11 that had started as TF.2s).

The model was later redesignated as the S.4.



1 (2 in T.3)


42 ft 3 in (12.88 m)


44 ft 0 in (13.41 m) (folded 20 ft (6 m)


15 ft 9 in (4.80 m) (folded 20 ft (6 m)

Wing area

355 sq ft (33.0 m2)

Empty weight

15,600 lb (7,076 kg)

Gross weight

21,200 lb (9,616 kg)

Max take-off weight

24,550 lb (11,136 kg)


1 × Armstrong Siddeley Python turboprop engine, 3,560 hp (2,650 kW)


1,100 lbf (4.893 kN) residual thrust


4-bladed Rotol contra-rotating, 13 ft (4.0 m) diameter


Maximum speed

383 mph (616 km/h, 333 kn) at sea level,

380 mph (612 km/h) at 10,000 ft (3,048 m)


910 mi (1,460 km, 790 nmi)

Service ceiling

28,000 ft (8,500 m)

Rate of climb

2,350 ft/min (11.9 m/s)

Wing loading

59.7 lb/sq ft (291 kg/m2)


0.194 eshp/lb



4 × 20mm British Hispano Mk.V cannon, 2 in each wing


16 × RP-3 under wing rockets


1 × Mk.15 or Mk.17 torpedo


Up to 3,000 lb (1,361 kg) of bombs or mines.



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