Hawker Hart

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Hawker Hart
Missing image

Hawker Hart, flying example in Shuttleworth Collection
First flight1928
Entered service1930
Guns1 x 0.303 in (7.7 mm) Vickers machine-gun
1 x 0.303 in (7.7 mm) Lewis light machine-gun
BombsUpto 520 lb (236 kg) of bombs

The Hawker Hart was a two-seater biplane light-bomber of the Royal Air Force (RAF), which had a prominent role during the RAF's inter-war period. The Hart was designed during the 1920s by Sydney Camm and built by Hawker, more famous for designing the Hawker Harrier, Hawker Hunter and Hawker Hurricane.

In 1926, the Air Ministry stated a requirement for a high performance light-bomber, and which culminated in the choice of the Hawker Hart over other rivals due to it being far cheaper to maintain, a vital aspect to a programme during defence budget constraints that the British armed forces faced during the 1920s; the Hart also spawned a number of variants, including a naval version.

The Hart first flew in June 1928 and entered service with No. 33 Squadron in 1930. Over 900 Hart's of all types were built. It became the most widely used light-bomber of its time and the design would prove to be a successful one with a number of derivatives, including the Hawker Hind and Hector, being made. There were a number of Hart variants made, though only slight alterations were made. The Hart India was basically a tropicalised version of the aircraft; the Hart Special was also a tropicalised version, and was based on the Hawker Audax, a Hart variant, with desert equipment; a specialised Hart Trainer was also designed. Vickers built 114 of the latter model at Weybridge between 1931 and June 1936.

The Hart proved to be a successful export, seeing service with the Royal Egyptian Air Force, Royal Indian Air Force, Royal South African Air Force, Estonia, Southern Rhodesia, Sweden and Kingdom of Yugoslavia.

The Hart was armed with a single forward .303 cal. Vickers machine-gun and one rear .303 cal. Lewis light machine-gun; the Hart also had a capacity to carry 520 lb (235 kg) of bombs. The Hart had a single 525 hp (390 kW) Rolls-Royce Kestrel IB 12-cylinder V-type engine; a speed of 184 mph (296 km/h) and a range of over 400 miles (640 km). It was much faster than any of its contemporary fighters, an astonishing achievement considering it was a light-bomber, and had high manoeuvrability, making the Hart arguably one of the best biplanes ever produced for the Royal Air Force.

Demand for the bomber was such that 164 were built by Vickers at their Weybridge factory between 1931 and 1936 after that company's submission of a tender, alongside the trainers mentioned above.

Harts were deployed to the Middle East during the Abyssinian Crisis of 1935-36. The Hart saw extensive, and successful, service in the North-West Frontier, British India during the inter-war period. Though effectively obsolete compared to the United Kingdom's opposition at the start of the Second World War, the Hart saw service, mainly performing in the communications and training roles until being declared obsolete in 1943.


Variants of the Hart

The Hawker Audax was a Hart variant, designed for the army co-operation role, seeing much service in the British Empire. The first Audax flew in late 1931, and eventually, over 700 Audaxes were produced (including export). The Audax very similar to the Hart, though had some modifications, including a hook to pick up messages. The Audax was armed with a single .303 cal (7.7 mm) Lewis light-machine gun and a Vickers .303 cal. machine gun. The Audax was powered by a version of the Kestrel engine and had a max speed of 170 mph (270 km/h). A number of variants of the Audax were produced, including the Audax India, a tropicalised version of the Audax for service in India; the Audax Singapore for service there.

The Audax saw service with other air forces, including the Royal Indian Air Force, the South African Air Force, Iraq and South Rhodesia. The Audax saw limited service during the Second World War, seeing service in Africa on the Kenya-Abyssinia border, the latter of which had been occupied by Italy. The Audax also saw service in Iraq, at RAF Habbaniyah, west of Baghdhad, after the uprising there; influenced by Axis forces, but the Audax ended its service by 1945. A derivative of the Audax, the Hawker Hartbees, a light-bomber, was built for the South African Air Force with modifications made from the Audax. The aircraft saw action in East Africa during clashes against Italy who occupied Abyssinia.

The Hawker Demon was a fighter variant of the Hart light-bomber, and which the Air Ministry stated should be able to intercept the Hart. The intention was for the Demon to just be an interim fighter until the Hawker Fury, arguably the pinnacle of biplane fighter design, entered service. Over 200 of the Hawker Demon were built for the RAF. The Demon were powered by varying types of the Kestral engine. It had an armament of a single rear .303 cal (7.7 mm) Lewis light machine-gun with two .303 cal (7.7 mm) Vickers machine-guns in the front. A large amount of the Hawker Demon were fitted with an hydraulically powered turret in the rear, which had been tested on the Hawker Hart. The Hawker Demon was also sold to the Royal Australian Air Force. The Demon saw only brief second-line operations during the Second World War.

See Hawker Fury. Was a fighter based on the Hawker Hart light-bomber.

The Hawker Hardy was general-purpose variant of the Hawker Hart tropicalised for service in the Middle East, which included a variety of mdofications being made to the Hardy, though it retained the same armament as the original Hart. The Hardy saw some service during the Second World War, in Africa and the Middle East; the Hardy's performing a number of operations against Italian-occupied Abyssinia as-well as other areas of Africa. The Hardy also saw service with Southern Rhodesia.

See Hawker Hind. The Hind was a derivative of the Hart and was intended to replace it. The Hawker Hector was a variant of the Hind and was used in the army co-operation role. It saw only limited service during the Second World War.

The Hawker Osprey was the maritime carrier-borne version of the Hart, performing in the fighter and reconnaissance roles. The Osprey had a single Rolls-Royce Kestral II engine, and had a max speed of 168mph. Its armament consisted of a single forward .303 cal (7.7 mm) Vickers machine-gun and one .303 cal (7.7 mm) Lewis light machine-gun. The Osprey joined the Fleet Air Arm (FAA) in 1932, with just over 100 being built, and ended its career in 1944 after serving as a trainer for FAA pilots during her career in the Second World War. The Osprey was also sold to the Swedish Navy being used on the aircraft cruiser Gotland, which carried six Ospreys.

Specifications (variant described)

General characteristics

  • Crew:
  • Capacity:
  • Length: m ( ft)
  • Wingspan: m ( ft)
  • Height: m ( ft)
  • Wing area: m² ( ft²)
  • Empty: kg ( lb)
  • Loaded: kg ( lb)
  • Maximum takeoff: kg ( lb)
  • Powerplant: Engine type(s), kN (lbf) thrust or
  • Powerplant: Engine type(s), kW ( hp)


  • Maximum speed: km/h ( mph)
  • Range: km ( miles)
  • Service ceiling: m ( ft)
  • Rate of climb: m/min ( ft/min)
  • Wing loading: kg/m² ( lb/ft²)
  • Thrust/weight: or
  • Power/mass:

Squadrons the Hawker Hart operated with

Squadrons the Hawker Audax operated with

Squadrons the Hawker Demon operated with

  • Royal Australian Air Force

Squadrons the Hawker Hardy operated with

Squadrons the Hawker Hartbees operated with

Squadrons the Hawker Osprey operated with

sv:Hawker Hart


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