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World War II: Gloster Meteor

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World War II: Gloster Meteor

Gloster Meteor

Photograph Source: Public Domain

Gloster Meteor (Meteor F Mk 8):

General

  • Length: 44 ft., 7 in.
  • Wingspan: 37 ft., 2 in.
  • Height: 13 ft.
  • Wing Area: 350 sq. ft.
  • Empty Weight: 10,684 lbs.
  • Loaded Weight: 15,700 lbs.
  • Crew: 1
  • Number Built: 3,947

    Performance

    • Power Plant:2 × Rolls-Royce Derwent 8 turbojets, 3,500 lbf each
    • Range: 600 miles
    • Max Speed: 600 mph
    • Ceiling: 43,000 ft.

    Armament

    • Guns: 4 × 20 mm Hispano-Suiza HS.404 cannons
    • Rockets: up to sixteen 60 lb. 3 in. rockets under wings

  • Gloster Meteor - Design & Development:

    Design of the Gloster Meteor began in 1940 when Gloster's chief designer, George Carter, began developing concepts for a twin-engine jet fighter. On February 7, 1941, the company received an order for twelve jet fighter prototypes under the Royal Air Force's Specification F9/40 (jet-powered interceptor). Moving forward, Gloster test flew its single-engine E.28/39 on May 15. This was the first flight by a British jet. Assessing the results from the E.38/39, Gloster decided to move forward with a twin-engine design. This was largely due to the low power of early jet engines.

    Building around this concept, Carter's team created an all-metal, single-seat aircraft with a high tailplane to keep the horizontal tailplanes above the jet exhaust. Resting on a tricycle undercarriage, the design possessed conventional straight wings with the engines mounted in streamlined nacelles mid-wing. The cockpit was located forward with a framed glass canopy. For armament, the type possessed four 20 mm cannon mounted in the nose as well as the ability to carry sixteen 3-in. rockets. Initially named "Thunderbolt," the name was changed to Meteor to prevent confusion with the Republic P-47 Thunderbolt.

    The first prototype to fly took off on May 5, 1943 and was powered by two De Havilland Halford H-1 (Goblin) engines. Prototype testing continued through the year as various engines were tried in the aircraft. Moving to production in early 1944, the Meteor F.1 was powered by twin Whittle W.2B/23C (Rolls-Royce Welland) engines. In the course of the development process, prototypes were also used by the Royal Navy to test carrier suitability as well as sent to the United States for assessment by the US Army Air Forces. In return, the USAAF sent an YP-49 Airacomet to the RAF for testing.

    Becoming Operational:

    The first batch of 20 Meteors were delivered to the RAF on June 1, 1944. Assigned to No. 616 Squadron, the aircraft replaced the squadron's M.VII Supermarine Spitfires. Moving through conversion training, No. 616 Squadron moved to RAF Manston and began flying sorties to counter the V-1 threat. Commencing operations on July 27, they downed 14 flying bombs while assigned to this task. That December, the squadron transitioned to the improved Meteor F.3 which had improved speed and better pilot visibility.

    Moved to the Continent in January 1945, the Meteor largely flew ground attack and reconnaissance missions. Though it never encountered its German counterpart, the Messerschmitt Me 262, Meteors were often mistaken for the enemy jet by Allied forces. As a result, Meteors were painted in an all-white configuration for ease of identification. Before the end of the war, the type destroyed 46 German aircraft, all on the ground. With the end of World War II, development of the Meteor continued. Becoming the RAF's primary fighter, the Meteor F.4 was introduced in 1946 and was powered by two Rolls-Royce Derwent 5 engines.

    Refining the Meteor:

    In addition to the chance in powerplant, the F.4 saw the airframe strengthened and the cockit pressurized. Produced in large numbers, the F.4 was widely exported. To support Meteor operations, a trainer variant, the T-7, entered service in 1949. In an effort to keep the Meteor on par with new fighters, Gloster continued to improve the design and introduced the definitive F.8 model in August 1949. Featuring Derwent 8 engines, the F.8's fuselage was lengthened and the tail structure redesigned. The variant, which also included a Martin Baker ejection seat, became the backbone of Fighter Command in the early 1950s.

    Korea:

    In the course of the Meteor's evolution, Gloster also introduced night fighter and reconnaissance versions of the aircraft. The Meteor F.8 saw extensive combat service with Australian forces during the Korean War. Though inferior to the newer swept-wing MiG-15 and North American F-86 Sabre, the Meteor performed well in a ground support role. In the course of the conflict, the Meteor downed six MiGs and destroyed over 1,500 vehicles and 3,500 buildings for a loss of 30 aircraft. By the mid-1950s, the Meteor was phased out of British service with the arrival of the Supermarine Swift and Hawker Hunter.

    Other Users:

    Meteors continued to remain in the RAF inventory until the 1980s, but in secondary roles such as target tugs. During the course of its production run, 3,947 Meteors were built with many being exported. Other users of the aircraft included Denmark, the Netherlands, Belgium, Israel, Egypt, Brazil, Argentina, and Ecuador. During the 1956 Suez Crisis, Israeli Meteors downed two Egyptian De Havilland Vampires. Meteors of various types remained in frontline service with some air forces as late as the 1970s and 1980s.

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