Gloster Gladiator
1934
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Gloster Gladiator

An improved version of the high-performance Gauntlet, the Gladiator represented the pinnacle of biplane development in Britain. With the Gloster SS.37, H. P. Folland endeavoured to satisfy the requirement of the Air Ministry's F.7/30 specification which the Gauntlet had failed to meet - although this latter aircraft was undoubtedly the best offering of the British aircraft industry at that time. However the Gauntlet's maximum speed was some 32km/h below the F.7/30 requirement, which also called for an offensive armament of four machine-guns.

Clearly the Gauntlet represented a close approach to the requirement and Folland decided that aerodynamic improvements of the basic Gauntlet fuselage (together with installation of a more powerful engine) should prove adequate for the Gloster design to be ordered into production. It had been intimated by the Air Ministry that submissions for the F.7/30 requirement which were powered by the new Rolls-Royce Goshawk evaporative-cooled engine would receive favourable consideration. This meant that of the seven other contenders for this contract, five were designed to utilise the Goshawk. When this engine failed, it eliminated most of Gloster's competitors. Folland, however, pinned his hopes on the Bristol Mercury ME.30 radial which was then promising a power output of some 521.6kW. But it was not available when the prototype SS.37 was nearing completion and the first flight, on 12 September 1934, was made with a 395kW Mercury IV.

Early tests, following the prototype's first flight, showed that the target maximum speed was in sight. On 1 July 1935 the Air Ministry ordered 23 aircraft, as Gladiators, one going to Greece. These were powered by the 618.5kW Bristol Mercury IX. Other improvements included an enclosed cockpit with a sliding canopy and a redesigned tail unit.

Gladiators first entered service with No 72 Squadron in early 1937. But despite the aura of glamour and invincibility which always seems to be associated with these aircraft, it is an undeniable fact that they were virtually outdated at that time - a biplane in a monoplane era. The early Gladiator I were followed by an improved Gladiator II in 1938 powered by the Bristol Mercury VIIIA engine. Other improvements comprised the addition of a battery and electric starter and the inclusion of a full blind-flying instrument panel.

Production also included 60 Sea Gladiators for the FAA. Generally similar to the Gladiator II, they differed by being equipped for catapult launch and deck landing - although not intended for operational use from carriers - and carried an inflatable dinghy in a fairing beneath the lower wing centre-section. Of the total 747 Gladiators which were built, almost 30% were exported, serving with the armed forces of Belgium, China, Finland, Greece, Iraq, Irish Republic, Latvia, Lithuania, Portugal, Norway and Sweden. In addition some aircraft transferred from the RAF operated with Egyptian and South African forces.

When World War II started the Gladiator - which at the peak of its deployment was flown by 29 home and 11 overseas squadrons - had largely been superseded. Nevertheless many remained in RAF service until early 1945 and were the last biplane fighters to serve with both the RAF and Royal Navy.

Many of the stirring stories of Gladiator operations must be regarded as apocryphal: in truth it was the courage of its pilots rather than its ability as a fighter which notched up its successes. But it cannot be denied that the Gladiator was a classic biplane with superb handling characteristics. The 'communications' Gladiator of one RAF station had an almost unbelieveable performance in the hands of the unit's chief flying instructor. Time and again he could produce an impeccable and accurate side-slip landing, a demonstration not only of his skill, but of the controllability and manoeuvrability of this beautiful aeroplane.

Gloster Sea Gladiator


Specification 
 CREW1
 ENGINE1 x Brist. "Mercury IX", 620kW
 WEIGHTS
    Take-off weight1680 kg3704 lb
 DIMENSIONS
    Wingspan9.8 m32 ft 2 in
    Length8.4 m28 ft 7 in
    Height3.2 m11 ft 6 in
    Wing area30.0 m2322.92 sq ft
 PERFORMANCE
    Max. speed480 km/h298 mph
    Ceiling7500 m24600 ft

3-View 
Gloster GladiatorA three-view drawing (1670 x 1317)

Comments
Barry, 19.03.2012

"Faith, Hope and Charity" was a myth. There was a flight of Gladiators (possibly Sea Gladiators)which provided the only aeriel defense of Malta at the time. The number was greater than 3 but serviceability of the aircraft, or lack of it, possibly gave rise to the beleif that there was only three. There was no doubt that parts of different aeroplanes were moved from one to the other just to maitain some sort of airborne capability. The names were only applied after the battle was over. Without doubt whatever resources were available gave a remarkable account of themselves and this obsolescent sturdy little fighter did the best it could against some pretty formidable opposition.

loulou, 21.06.2011

I live in Arizona, USA and there are few choices of good books on those subjests here,but I keep looking and hopefully will find what I want someday

, 21.06.2011

Gloster Gladiator

Klaatu, 08.06.2011

Check out "Faith, Hope and Charity" by Kenneth Poolman, copyright 2004 by Crecy Press, for the incredible story of how three outdated Gloster Gladiator fighter planes fought the entire Italian Air Force over Malta in 1940.

leo rudnicki, 29.04.2009

For glorious Gladiator combat, search "Pat" Pattle.

CHINESE PILOT, 11.04.2009

THE Gloster Gladiator ALSO USED IN THE CHINESE AIRFORCE TO FIGHT AGAINST THE EVIL JAPS.

Ali Duncan, 23.08.2008

I saw this book advertised on the Foyles website in London. There is an aviation specialist there (charing cross road), but as I now live back up here in Scotland, I can't actually rememberm the name of the place. Have to say I just adore the Gladiator. Imagine an ultralight version with a Rotec 9 cylinder radial in it. Stuff dreams are made of (mine anyway)

Gloster Aircraft Company
Contributor(s):
Derek N. James (author)
Format:
Hardback , 250mm, 176pp
Publication date:
01 Dec 1999
Publisher:
NPI Media Group
ISBN-13:
9780752417004
ISBN-10:
0752417002

EMBER, 18.12.2007

IT'S KIND OF FUNNY. OVER MALTA THREE GLADIATORS (FAITH, HOPE, & CHARITY) WERE THE ENTIRE AIR FORCE. IT'S ALSO KIND OF CUTE BECAUSE THEY WOULD CHASE THOSE BIG SM.79s. IMAGEIN THAT, A BIG AIRPLANE GETTING SCARED SHITLESS BY A LITTEL BIPLANE.

Admin, 22.04.2007

Hmmm... Arizona...
Is ordering "Gloster Aircraft Since 1917" by Derek N. James not an option in the USA ?
I live in Estonia and the only problem is I'm not rich enough to order all those books abvailable through Internet :)

Frank Stillson, 22.04.2007

Hi, I am an aviation historian who loves older aircraft especially from the 1930's. I think the Gloster Gladiator is the finist aircraft of that biplane era. I would love to get a good book on this aircraft or even all of the aircraft produced by Gloster. I live in Arizona, USA and there are few choices of good books on those subjests here
but I keep looking and hopefully will find what I want someday

Frank Stillson

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