De Havilland Mosquito

De Havilland Mosquito
de Havilland Mosquito
RoleFighter-bomber, night fighter, photo-reconnaissance
First flightNovember 25, 1940
Entered service1941
ManufacturerDe Havilland, Airspeed, Percival, Standard Motors
Length40 ft 10 in12.44 m
Wingspan54 ft 2 in16.51 m
Height15 ft 3 in4.65 m
Wing area454 ft²42.18 m²
Empty14,300 lb6,496 kg
Loaded18,100 lb8,210 kg
Maximum takeoff20,000 lb9,070 kg
Engines2 x Rolls-Royce Merlin 21/23, 72 or 76 Vee-type
Power1,460 hp (21/23)
1,680 hp (72 or 76)
1089 kW
1,253 kW
Maximum speed370 mph595 km/h
Combat range1,400 miles2,253 km
Ferry range1,905 miles3,065 km
Service ceiling43,500 ft10,500 m
Rate of climb2,200 ft/min670 m/min
AvionicsAI Mk IV, VIII or X radar (NF variants)
Gee radio-navigation
(F & NF)
4 x 20 mm Hispano Mk I cannons
4 x .303 in (7.7 mm) Browning machine guns
57 mm cannon in nose (FB XVIII)
Bombs4,000 lb1,800 kg
Rockets8 x 60 lb (27 kg) rockets (Mk VI)

The de Havilland Mosquito ("the wooden wonder") was a military aircraft that excelled in a number of roles during World War II. It was a twin engine aircraft with the pilot and navigator sitting side-by-side. Unorthodox in design, it used a plywood structure of spruce and balsa when wood and fabric construction was considered outdated. It was powered by a pair of Rolls-Royce Merlin engines. The Mosquito was conceived as a fast day bomber that could outrun all contemporary fighters and hence dispensed with defensive armament; however, due to its speed, agility and its exceptional durability due to its wooden design, it was also used as a fighter. The fighter versions used a flat windshield to aid sighting, which cost about 15 MPH. Its various roles included tactical bomber, pathfinder, day or night fighter, fighter-bomber, intruder, maritime strike or photo-reconnaissance aircraft. It served with the Royal Air Force, RAAF, RCAF, RNZAF and USAAF.

One of the most daring uses of the Mosquito was Operation Jericho, the mission to destroy the walls and guard's quarters of Amiens prison to allow the escape of members of the French resistance. It also raided a Nazi rally in Berlin, giving the lie to the speaker's claim that such a mission was impossible.

Mosquitos flying with the Israeli Air Force saw action during the Suez Crisis of 1956.

The original Mosquito design dated from 1938 but it was not until March 1940 that there was sufficient interest in the aircraft for construction to commence. The Air Ministry was so hesitant that the project was conducted somewhat sub rosa until the spectacular demonstration flights. Three prototypes were built, each with a different configuration. The first to fly was the bomber prototype W4050 on November 25, 1940 followed by the night fighter model on May 15, 1941 and the photo-reconnaissance model on June 10, 1941. As of 2004 the original W4050 aircraft was undergoing complete restoration in the Mosquito Aircraft Museum in Hertfordshire, UK.

The photo-reconnaissance model became the basis for the PR Mk I Mosquito while the bomber model became the B Mk IV, of which 273 were built. The first operational sortie by a Mosquito was made by a PR Mk I on September 20, 1941. The Mk IV entered service in May 1942 with No. 105 Squadron.

The Mk IX was a high altitude bomber variant but the most numerous bomber version was the Mk XVI of which about 1,200 were built. The Mosquito bombers could carry a 4,000 lb (1,800 kg) "block-buster" bomb in their internal bomb bay. Mosquitos were widely used by the RAF Pathfinder Force which marked targets for night-time strategic bombing. Despite an initially high loss rate the Mosquito ended the war with the lowest loss rate of any aircraft in RAF Bomber Command service. The RAF found that when finally applied to bombing, it had proved 4.5 times cheaper than the Lancaster in terms of useful damage done, and they have never specified a defensive gun on a bomber since. Special Luftwaffe units formed to fight the Mosquito attacks were rather unsuccessful, and the Luftwaffe considered the Mosquito a superior implementation of their own "Schnellbomber" concept.

The first production night fighter Mosquitos were designated the NF Mk II and 466 were built with the first entering service with No. 157 Squadron in January 1942, replacing the Douglas A-20 Havoc. They were armed with four 20 mm Hispano cannons mounted in the lower front fuselage and four .303 in (7.7 mm) Browning machine guns in the nose as well as an AI Mk IV radar.

Ninety-seven NF Mk IIs were upgraded with a centrimetric AI Mk VIII radar and these were designated the NF Mk XIIy. The NF Mk XIII, of which 270 were built, was the production equivalent of the Mk XII conversions. They also dispensed with the machine guns in the nose. The other night fighter variants were the Mk XV, Mk XVII (converted Mk IIs), Mk XIX and Mk 30. The latter three marks mounted the US-built AI Mk X radar. Post-war, two more night fighter versions were developed, the NF Mk 36, powered by the Merlin 113 engine, and the NF Mk 38 using the British-built AI Mk IX radar. To warn German night fighters that they were being tracked by these radars, the Germans introduced Naxos ZR radar detectors.

Mosquito night intruders were also fitted with a device called "Serrate" to allow them to track down German night fighters from their Lichtenstein B/C and SN2 radar emissions, as well as a device named "Perfectos" that tracked German IFF.

The most numerous Mosquito variant was the FB Mk VI fighter-bomber of which 2,718 were built. Originally converted from a Mk II, the Mk VI first flew in February 1943. Designed for a fighter-bomber role, the Mk VI could carry two 250 lb (113 kg) or one 500 lb (227 kg) bomb in the internal bomb bay as well as two more bombs under the wings. From early 1944, Coastal Command operated Mk VIs armed with eight 60 lb (27 kg) rockets to carry out anti-shipping strikes.

Other fighter-bomber variants were the FB Mk XVIII (Tsetse) of which 27 were made by converting Mk VIs. These were fitted with a Molins 57 mm cannon, a 6 pounder (2.7 kg), 7 cwt (356 kg) anti-tank gun modified with an auto-loader to allow both semi- or fully-automatic fire, in the nose, along with two .303 in (7.7 mm) sighting machine guns. The FB Mk 26 and FB Mk 40, based on the Mk VI, were built in Canada and Australia and were powered by Packard-built Merlin engines.

The Mosquito was also built as a trainer; 348 of the T Mk III were built for the RAF and Fleet Air Arm. De Havilland Australia built 22 T Mk 43 trainers, similar to the Mk III.

De Havilland produced a carrier-borne variant to meet the Royal Navy's specification N.15/44. This resulted in 50 of the TR Mk 33 which featured folding wings, a nose thimble radome and fuselage hardpoints for mounting torpedoes. The navy also operated the TT Mk 39 for target towing. The RAF's target tug version was the TT Mk 35 which were in fact the last aircraft to remain in operational service, finally being retired in 1956.

Total Mosquito production was 7,781 of which 6,710 were built during the war. De Havilland accounted for 5,007 aircraft built in three factories in the United Kingdom. Mosquitos were also built by Airspeed Ltd, Percival Aircraft Company and Standard Motors. The Canadian and Australian arms of de Havilland produced 1,134 and 212 aircraft respectively. Mosquito movement from Canada to the war front was unreliable, as a small fraction of the aircraft would mysteriously explode in transit over the mid-Atlantic. The cause for this auto-explosion was never found. The last Mosquito was completed in November 1950; a NF Mk 38 built at Chester.

Missing image
A 1943 advertisement for DE HAVILLAND taken from 'Flight & Aircraft Engineer' magazine

Related content
Related development None
Similar aircraft Bristol Beaufighter - Westland Whirlwind - Junkers Ju 88
Designation series

DH.93 - DH.94 - DH.95 - DH.98 - DH.100 - DH.103 - DH.104

Related lists List of aircraft of the RAF - List of bomber aircraft

Lists of Aircraft | Aircraft manufacturers | Aircraft engines | Aircraft engine manufacturers

Airports | Airlines | Air forces | Aircraft weapons | Missiles | Timeline of aviation

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