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Vickers Vildebeest

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The Vickers VildebeestTemplate:Ref label 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 a light bomber, torpedo bomber and in the army cooperation roles. While 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.

Design and development


Designed against Air Ministry Specification 24/25 for the RAF, for a land-based torpedo bomber to replace the Hawker Horsley, the prototype Vildebeest, the Vickers Type 132, was first flown in April 1928, powered by a Bristol Jupiter VIII radial engine.[1] After initial evaluation, the Vildebeest was shortlisted for evaluation with the Blackburn Beagle and Handley Page Hare. As the Jupiter VIII was prone to vibration, a second prototype, the Vickers Type 204[2] was fitted with a Armstrong Siddeley Panther engine, and after further testing, the Vickers design was confirmed as the winner of the contest.[3] Engines problems continued, however, which were solved by fitting a new version of the Jupiter, which later became known as the Bristol Pegasus.[4]

The Vildebeest had an all-metal, fabric-covered airframe, with single-bay unstaggered wings. An initial production order was placed in 1931 for nine aircraft, with the first production aircraft flying in September 1932.[4] More production followed, with major production being of the Vildebeest III version, which added a third crewmember, with 150 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, maximum speed increasing to 156 mph (251 km/h) and rate of climb to 840 ft/min (4.3 m/s).[5] The Perseus had overheating problems, and was unsuitable for tropical service,[6] and production was limited to 18 aircraft, which served with the home based squadrons.[7]


In 1931, Vickers designed as a private venture a General Purpose version of the Vildebeest to replace the RAF's Westland Wapitis and Fairey IIIFs, supporting the Army in the Middle East. Successful trials were conducted in the Middle East, Sudan and East Africa with a converted Vildebeest I in the General Purpose role during 1932-33, and Specification 16/34 was drawn up around the modified Vildebeest, which was named the Vickers Vincent. Differences from the Vildebeest were minimal, with the torpedo equipment replaced by provision for an auxiliary fuel tank instead. It had a three man crew, and was powered by a 660 hp (490 kW) Bristol Pegasus IIM3.[8] Between 1934 and 1936, 197 Vincents were built for the RAF or converted from Vildebeests.[9]

Operational history

United Kingdom

The Vildebeest was purchased in moderately large numbers by the Royal Air Force from 1931 and used as a torpedo bomber. It entered service with No. 100 Squadron at RAF Donibristle in Scotland in October 1932, replacing the Hawker Horsley.[10] Four front line torpedo-bomber squadrons were equipped with the Vildebeest, two at Singapore (100 Squadron, which moved from the United Kingdom in 1933 and 36 Squadron, which replaced its Horsleys in 1935), and two more in the United Kingdom.[11]

The Vincent entered service with No. 84 Squadron RAF at Shaibah, Iraq in December 1934, re-equipping General Purpose squadrons throughout the Middle East and Africa.[12] By 1937, it equipped six squadrons in Iraq, Aden Kenya, Sudan and Egypt.[13]

On the outbreak of the Second World War, 101 Vildebeests were still in service with the RAF. The two British based squadrons flew coastal patrol and convoy escort missions until being replaced by the Bristol Beaufort in 1940.[14] The two Singapore-based squadrons still awaited Beauforts, however, when Japan invaded Malaya in December 1941, and the now obsolete biplanes were forced to be deployed against the Japanese attackers, attempting unsuccessfully to torpedo a Japanese cruiser off Kota Bharu on 8 December.[7][15]

The Vildebeests continued to attack the Japanese as their forces advanced down Malaya, sustaining heavy losses from Japanese fighters, particularly when no fighter cover could be provided. On 26 January 1942, the Japanese landed at Endau, 250 miles from Singapore, and 12 Vildebeests of 101 and 36 Squadrons were sent to attack the landings, and despite an escort of Brewster Buffalo and Hawker Hurricane fighters lost five Vildebeests. The attack was repeated later that day by eight Vildebeests of 36 Squadron together with three Fairey Albacores, resulting in six more Vildebeests and two Albacores being shot down.[16][7][17] The surviving Vildebeests were withdrawn to Java on 31 January, and attacked another Japanese landing force off Rembang, claiming eight ships sunk, but sustaining further losses. The final two Vildebeests of 36 Squadron attempted to escape to Burma on 6 March, but were lost over Sumatra. The last Vildebeests in RAF service, operated by 273 Squadron at Ceylon were also retired in March 1942.[7][18]

While the Vincent had started to be replaced by more modern aircraft such as the Vickers Wellesley and Bristol Blenheim bombers, 84 remained in service with the RAF on the outbreak of the Second World War.[12] Vincents were used for bombing missions against Italian forces in the East African Campaign, and for coastal patrols from Aden, one attacking the Italian submarine Galileo Galilei, forcing it to surrender.[13] Other Vincents bombed Iraqi forces during the Anglo-Iraqi War of 1941.[19] The last front line Vincents retired in January 1943, with the type continuing in second line service (which included pesticide spraying against Locusts in Iran) until 1944.[13]


The Vildebeest was ordered by Spain in 1934 and licence production of 27 Vildebeest was undertaken in Spain by CASA most receiving the Hispano-Suiza HS 600 inline engine, though some other engines were also used. Around 20 survived to fight on the Republican side of the Spanish Civil War, some equipped with floats. A Vildebeest was the first victim of Francoist ace Joaquin Garcia-Morato.[20]

New Zealand

12 Vildebeests were purchased by the Royal New Zealand Air Force in 1935 for coastal defence, with a further 27 acquired from RAF stocks in 1940-41.[21] In addition, 60 or 62 of these machines, (depending on source), were passed on to the RNZAF.[13][21]

Kiwi Vildebeests were also used for photo mapping. A few were used for maritime patrols against German surface raiders, and Japanese submarines, (a handful were based in Fiji in December 1941), but the main war time role of the New Zealand aircraft was as particularly unwieldy pilot trainers, until replaced by North American Harvards in 1942.


Vildebeest Mark I (Vickers Type 244)
Initial production version, a two-seat torpedo-bomber powered by a 600 hp (448 kW) Bristol Pegasus IM3 engine.[22] 22 built for the RAF between 1922 and 1933.[23]
Vildebeest Mark II (Vickers Type 258)
Modified version with more powerful (635 hp (474 kW)) Pegasus IIM3 engine.[22] 30 built for RAF and delivered 1933.[24]
Vildebeest Mark III (Vickers Type 267)
Three seat torpedo-bomber. 150 built for RAF, delivered 1935-36. Twelve Type 277 with folding wings and the ability to carry drop tanks new built for RNZAF, with 15 ex-RAF aircraft (including one converted Mark II) diverted to RNZAF later.[24]
Vildebeest Mark IV (Vickers Type 286)
Two seat version powered by 825 hp (615 kW) Bristol Perseus engine.[22]. Eighteen built for RAF, 12 of which were sold to New Zealand.[24]
Vickers Type 245 Vildebeest
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.[25]
Vincent (Vickers Type 266)
Three seat General Purpose version for RAF. Pegasus IIIM3 engine.[26] 197 built new or converted.[9]




A Vildebeest/Vincent composite airframe is being restored by the Royal New Zealand Air Force Museum at Wigram from the substantially complete remains of Vildebeest Mark III NZ102, but incorporating parts identified as coming from Vildebeest NZ105 and Vincents NZ355 and 357.[21] A Vincent (NZ311) has nearly completed restoration to static display by the Subritzky family near Auckland, New Zealand. A Spanish Vildebeest is rumoured to have survived.

Specifications (Vildebeest III)

Data from Vickers Aircraft since 1908[27]

General characteristics

  • Crew: three, pilot, navigator, and observer
  • Length: 36 ft 8 in (11.18 m)
  • Wingspan: 49 ft 0 in (14.94 m)
  • Height: 14 ft 8 in (4.47 m)
  • Wing area: 728 ft² (67.7 m²)
  • Empty weight: 4,773 lb (2,170 kg)
  • Loaded weight: 8,500 lb (3,864 kg)
  • Powerplant:Bristol Pegasus II-M3 air-cooled radial engine, 635 hp (474 kW)



  • Guns: 1 × fixed, forward-firing .303 in (7.7 mm) Vickers machine gun and 1 × flexible, rearward-firing .303 in (7.7 mm) Lewis Gun
  • Bombs: 1,100 lb (500 kg) of bombs or 1 × 18 in (457 mm) torpedo

See also

Comparable aircraft

Related lists


Template:Note labelWhile the official name was Vildebeest (the Afrikaans spelling of Wildebeest), it was often mis-spelled, particularly with an additional e (i.e. Vildebeeste) after a spelling mistake in official correspondance.[28]

  1. Mason 1994, p.200.
  2. Jarrett Aeroplane Monthly February 1995, p.18.
  3. Mason 1994, pp.200-201.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Mason 1994, p.201.
  5. Andrews and Morgan 1988, p.285.
  6. Jarrett Aeroplane Monthly February 1995, pp.19-20.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 Mason 1994, p.202.
  8. Mason 1994, pp.256-257.
  9. 9.0 9.1 Andrews and Morgan 1988, p.289.
  10. Thetford Aeroplane Monthly April 1995, p.37.
  11. Thetford Aeroplane Monthly April 1995, p.42.
  12. 12.0 12.1 Thetford Aeroplane Monthly March 1995, p.20.
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 13.3 Thetford Aeroplane Monthly March 1995, p.22.
  14. Thetford Aeroplane Monthly April 1995, p.38.
  15. Richards and Saunders 1954, p.20.
  16. Richards and Saunders 1954, p.37.
  17. Flight 28 October 1955, pp.675-676.
  18. Thetford Aeroplane Monthly April 1995, pp.38-39.
  19. Mason 1994, p.257.
  20. Zhirohov, Mihail. "Joaquin Garcia-Morato - Best Ace of Spanish Civil War". WW II Ace Stories. 7 September 2007. Retrieved 1 July 2009.
  21. 21.0 21.1 21.2 "Vickers Type 277 Vildebeest MkIII". Air Force Museum of New Zealand. Retrieved 25 June 2009.
  22. 22.0 22.1 22.2 Jarrett Aeroplane Monthly February 2005, p.19.
  23. Andrews and Morgan 1988, pp.516-517.
  24. 24.0 24.1 24.2 Andrews and Morgan 1988, p.517.
  25. Andrews and Morgan 1988, pp.279, 517-518.
  26. Jarrett Aeroplane Monthly February 2005, pp.20-21.
  27. Andrews and Morgan 1988, p.290.
  28. Andrews and Morgan 1988, pp.273-274.


  • Andrews, C F (1988). Vickers Aircraft since 1908. London: Putnam. ISBN 0 85177 815 1. 
  • Jarrett, Philip (February 1995). "By Day and By Night: Vildebeest and Vincent". Aeroplane Monthly Vol 23 No 2 (Issue 262): pp.16-22. ISSN 0143-7240. 
  • Mason, Francis K (1994). The British Bomber since 1914. London: Putnam Aeronautical Books. ISBN 0 85177 861 5. 
  • (28 October 1955) "No. 100 Squadron". Flight: pp.673-676, 678. 
  • Richards, Denis; Hilary St. G. Saunders (1954). Royal Air Force 1939-1945: Volume II The Fight Avails. London: Her Majesty's Stationary Office. 
  • Thetford, Owen (March 1995). "By Day and By Night: Vincents in Service". Aeroplane Monthly Vol 23 No 3 (Issue 263): pp.18-22. ISSN 0143-7240. 
  • Thetford, Owen (April 1995). "By Day and By Night:Vildebeests in Service". Aeroplane Monthly Vol 23 No 4 (Issue 264): pp.36-42. ISSN 0143-7240. 

External links

Template:Vickers aircraft

cs:Vickers Vincent de:Vickers Vildebeest fr:Vickers Vildebeest pl:Vickers Vildebeest ru:Vickers Vildebeest

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License.
It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Vickers Vildebeest".