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Lockheed Hudson

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Lockheed Hudson Mk V

The Lockheed Hudson was an American-built light bomber and coastal reconnaissance aircraft built initially for the Royal Air Force shortly before the outbreak of the Second World War and primarily operated by the RAF thereafter. The Hudson was the first significant aircraft construction contract for the Lockheed Aircraft Corporation—the initial RAF order for 200 Hudsons far surpassed any previous order the company had received. The Hudson served throughout the war, mainly with Coastal Command but also in transport and training roles as well as delivering agents into occupied France.

Design and development

In 1938, the British sought an American maritime patrol aircraft to support the Avro Anson. On 10 December 1938, Lockheed demonstrated a modified version of the Lockheed Model 14 Super Electra commercial airliner as the Hudson Mk I, which swiftly went into production. By February 1939, Hudsons began to be delivered, initially equipping No. 224 Squadron RAF at Leuchars, Scotland in May 1939. By the start of the war in September, 78 Hudsons were in service.

A total of 350 Mk I and 20 Mk II Hudsons were supplied (the Mk II had different propellers). These had two fixed Browning machine guns in the nose and two more in a Boulton Paul dorsal turret. The Hudson Mk III added one ventral and two beam machine guns and replaced the 1,100 hp Wright Cyclone 9-cylinder radials with 1,200 hp versions (428 produced).

The Hudson Mk V (309 produced) and Mk VI (450 produced) were powered by the 1,200 hp Pratt & Whitney Twin Wasp 14-cylinder two-row radial. The RAF also obtained 380 Mk IIIA and 30 Mk IV Hudsons under the Lend-Lease programme.

Operational history

Two Australian Lockheed Hudsons in 1940

The Hudson achieved some significant feats during the war. On 8 October 1939, over Jutland, a Hudson became the first RAF aircraft to shoot down a German aircraft. (The accolade of the first British aircraft to shoot down a German plane went to the Blackburn Skua of the Fleet Air Arm on 26 September 1939.) They operated as fighters during the Battle of Dunkirk. A PBO-1 Hudson of USN squadron VP-82 became the first US aircraft to destroy a German submarine when it sank U-656 southwest of Newfoundland on 1 March 1942.

Hudsons were operated by RAF Special Duties squadrons for clandestine operations; No. 161 Squadron in Europe and No. 357 Squadron in Burma. They were used as patrol bombers in the Pacific war by the USN and also the RNZAF and RAAF. They also became the first plane to fire a shot in the Pacific Campaign by sinking a Japanese navy transport ship, the IJN Awajisan Maru, just off the coast of Kota Bharu, an hour before Pearl Harbour.

In 1941, the USAAF began operating the Hudson; the Twin Wasp-powered variant was designated the A-28 (82 acquired) and the Cyclone-powered variant was designated the A-29 (418 acquired). The US Navy operated 20 A-28s, redesignated the PBO-1. A further 300 were built as aircrew trainers, designated the AT-18.

A total of 2,584 Hudsons were built. They began to be withdrawn from frontline service in 1944.

The type formed the basis for development of the Lockheed Ventura.



A Hudson Bomber converted for passenger use after the Second World War and flown by East West Airlines; it is restored as a Hudson Mk III and is currently located at the Temora Aviation Museum

Former Royal New Zealand Air Force Hudsons which saw service during the Second World War in the South Pacific are on display at the Royal New Zealand Air Force Museum and Ferrymead Heritage Park in Christchurch and the Museum of Transport and Technology in Auckland. A Hudson in Royal Australian Air Force colours is preserved in the Royal Air Force Museum at Hendon. RAAF Hudsons can be found at the Temora Aviation Museum [1], the Australian War Memorial and the RAAF Museum. Other ex-RNZAF and RAAF machines are in private hands. One aircraft, in Australia, was converted for passenger use and flown by East West Airlines. One complete and several partial Hudsons also exist in Canada. A Lockheed Hudson Mk IIIA (T9422) after years mounted on a pedestal near Washington Street, is on outdoor display at the North Atlantic Aviation Museum, Gander, Newfoundland, Canada.

Popular culture

  • The Lockheed Hudson features prominently in the Captains of the Clouds (1942). The film starred James Cagney and Dennis Morgan as Canadian bush pilots who do their part in the Second World War as ferry pilots, bringing Hudsons to Britain.
  • Above and Beyond (2006) Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) four-hour mini series was inspired by the true story of the Atlantic Ferry Organization, recounting the daring plan to deliver aircraft across the North Atlantic to the beleaguered Royal Air Force. The Lockheed Hudson is the primary aircraft portrayed in the mini series in the form of a real life example and numerous CGI Hudsons. [2]

Specifications (Hudson Mk I)

General characteristics

  • Crew: 6
  • Length: 44 ft 4 in (13.51 m)
  • Wingspan: 65 ft 6 in (19.96 m)
  • Height: 11 ft 10 in (3.62 m)
  • Wing area: 551 ft² (51.2 m²)
  • Empty weight: 12,000 lb (5,400 kg)
  • Loaded weight: 17,500 lb (7,930 kg)
  • Max takeoff weight: 18,500 lb (8,390 kg)
  • Powerplant:Wright Cyclone 9-cylinder radial engines, 1,100 hp (820 kW) each



Related content

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Comparable aircraft

Designation sequence

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