Miles M.52
1946
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Miles M.52

The Miles E.24/43, or M.52, was an extremely advanced project on which Miles Aircraft Ltd worked for three years until a high-level decision suspended further work. It was a decision which may well rank as one of the major tragedies of British aviation.

The Miles company began work on the M.52 in 1943, at a time when knowledge of high-speed aerodynamics was strictly limited. As the project was masked in secrecy, Miles set up its own foundry for the production of the necessary metal components and also built a high-speed wind tunnel. The design that gradually evolved featured a bullet-like fuselage of circular section, 1.5m in diameter, constructed of high-tensile steel with an alloy covering. The powerplant, a Power Jets W.2/700, was centrally mounted and fed by an annular air intake, the cockpit forming a centre cone. The whole cockpit cone, in which the pilot sat semi-reclined, could be detached in an emergency by firing small cordite charges; the pilot would then bale out normally when the capsule reached a lower altitude.

The M.52 was fitted with biconvex section wings, mounted at mid-point on the fuselage. A full-scale wooden mock-up of this unique high-speed wing design was built and tested on a Miles Falcon light aircraft in 1944. As design work progressed, various refinements were incorporated. Split flaps were fitted, together with an all-moving tailplane. The addition of rudimentary afterburners in the form of combustion cans situated at the rear of the engine duct was calculated to produce much greater thrust at supersonic speed. The undercarriage's position presented some headaches; the very thin wing section meant that the wheels had to be positioned to retract into the fuselage, a narrow-track arrangement which might cause landing problems.

Detailed design work on the M.52 was 90 per cent complete by the beginning of 1946, and the jigs were ready for the assembly of three planned prototypes. No snags were envisaged in construction, and it was expected that the first M.52 would fly within six to eight months. Then, in February 1946, quite without warning, F.G.Miles received word from the Director General of Scientific Research at the Ministry of Aircraft Production, Sir Ben Lockspeiser, that all work on the M.52 project was to cease at once. Secrecy surrounded the cancellation of the M.52, just as it had surrounded its design, and it was not until September 1946 that the British public were made aware that their aircraft industry had been within sight of flying the world's first supersonic aircraft, only to have the chance snatched away.

The stated reason behind the decision to cancel the M.52 was that it had already been decided, early in 1946, to carry out a supersonic research programme with the aid of unmanned models developed by Vickers Ltd. The department responsible was headed by Dr Barnes Wallis, designer of the special mines which had breached the Ruhr dams in 1943. Between May 1947 and October 1948 eight rocket-powered models were launched, only three of which were successful. In each failure (apart from the first attempted launch when the Mosquito launch aircraft got out of control in cloud and the model broke away) it was the rocket motor that failed, not the airframe. The irony was that most of the models were based on the design of the M.52, and the double irony was that, in the light of current knowledge, the full-size M.52 would almost certainly have been a success. Meanwhile, only a year after the M.52's cancellation was made public, Major Charles Yeager, US Air Force, had made history's first supersonic flight in the rocket-powered Bell X-1 research aircraft.

Robert Jackson "The Encyclopedia of Aircraft", 2004

Miles M.52


Specification 
 MODELM.52
 ENGINE1 x 907kg Power Jets W.2/700 turbojet engine
 WEIGHTS
    Take-off weight3715 kg8190 lb
 DIMENSIONS
    Wingspan8.20 m27 ft 11 in
    Length10.20 m33 ft 6 in
 PERFORMANCE
    Max. speed1609 km/h1000 mph
    Ceiling15250 m50050 ft

Comments
Faulk, 15.07.2014

STEPHEN ROUND, SHUT YOUR MOUTH ABOUT WINSTON CHURCHILL! The man literally saved us from Nazism and was far and away the greatest leader we've ever had! Or maybe you'd prefer Chamberlain had been PM for the entire war. Wholly British. Great guy.

No, sorry, but BARNES WALLIS killed the M.52 with his paranoia for the risk of human life. The government couldn't kiss his ass enough for his work in WW2 and he had British technology by the balls for at least 10 years after the war.

David beavor, 18.04.2014

reading the comments as the designer and builder of the only radio controlled model of m52 and having to do quite a bit of research`some of the comment miss the point of why the two aircraft were built. Many pilots were losing their lives and so M52twos were built, one 700 mph the other 1000mph. RT136 had a ten chamber ram jei around the outside of the jet pipe. This was known as an athodyde.

Stephen Round, 17.10.2013

The yanks would still be in the stone age - probably making cuckoo clocks like switzerland - if it wasn't for the avalanche of creative technological developments in Europe created by the two world wars

Churchill died an American Citizen - perhaps it was inevitable after all his mother was American .. and his father had been much less than a popular figure in this country. I do wonder just where we would be now if his mother had been English and he had been Our Prime Minister - working for us?

Gordon Clack, 11.04.2013

Of course, the reasons why the Americans did not let the UK (and Miles) have any info on supersonic research in exchange for the loads they took away from Woodley could have been because they did not have any!! They are masters at taking up and developing others' ideas, eg. the jet engine (GIVEN to them by the UK in 1943), rocket technology and swept wings from the Germans,variable-geometry as devised by Barnes Wallis, the angled-deck on carriers, VSTOL aircraft, need I go on?

Gordon Clack, 09.04.2013

At the time of the M-52's development, there was a so-called
bi-lateral "agreement" between the UK and the US to share all knowledge and research data into supersonic flight. Reps from Bell and the USAF visited Woodley where they were shown everything and given all the data they wanted. Away they went with all of Miles data and experience but it was then discovered that an Act of Congress forbade giving away sensitive data to another country! Surprise, surprise! Shortly afterwards the Bell X-1 flew super-sonically for the first time and one only needs to look at it to see its heritage. The M-52 and Winkle Brown could have done this is if our then government had not been so wimpish or was it put under unknown pressure as a later one was with TSR-2?

Gordon Clack, 09.04.2013

At the time of the M-52's development, there was a so-called
bi-lateral "agreement" between the UK and the US to share all knowledge and research data into supersonic flight. Reps from Bell and the USAF visited Woodley where they were shown everything and given all the data they wanted. Away they went with all of Miles data and experience but it was then discovered that an Act of Congress forbade giving away sensitive data to another country! Surprise, surprise! Shortly afterwards the Bell X-1 flew super-sonically for the first time and one only needs to look at it to see its heritage. The M-52 and Winkle Brown could have done this is if our then government had not been so wimpish or was it put under unknown pressure as a later one was with TSR-2?

Kevin Granville, 28.09.2011

I was priveledged to know the Navy Test pilot that was allotted to fly the M52. He was none other than Captain Eric "Winkle" Brown, arguably the greatest of British test pilots. He talks about the cancellation of the M52 in his book "Wings on my Sleeve". Read it it's brilliant.

Dennis Oldham of Milton Keynes, 24.06.2011

Isn't it strange that a masterpiece of British genius should wind up looking strangely like the Bell X-1!!!!

M G Shore, 24.01.2011

All plans and specifications for the M52 were sent to the USA under exchange of information agreements this information was passed on to Bell Aircraft. Bell-X1 fusalarge shape and proportons are almos identical as is the thin wing. Bell claimed the use of the elevator trim as an all flying tail was their idea?

John Burdett, 24.11.2010

Hmmmm reminds me of another political decision to get rid of the CF105 Arrow. Missiles (Bomarc) produced in the USA would take care of all Canada's needs. Ha !

Harvey Harrison, 12.03.2010

It was the labour government of Clement Attlee that cancelled the M52. Nothing complicated about it since those people and their successors were nothing more than Soviet stooges. These are the characters that started the nationalisation of British industry Soviet style. What better way to debilitate the Soviet's enemies than recruit and brainwash a bunch of British boneheads in high positions to do theor dirty work? I wonder why people still vote for Socialist governments in the UK. After all their main agenda that of Soviet stooges can no longer be fulfilled but they can still do a lot of harm.

Ali Duncan, 26.08.2009

I just watched a tv prog about the Horten 228, which was a wooden swept wing twin engined jet flying wing, possessing a reduced radar signature of about eighty percent compared to a 'standard aircraft'. This aircraft, it was suggested, was to fulfill a design brief of stealth in conjunction with high speed, but not specifically to break the sound barrier. The americans have the original 228, and also fly other flying wing designs by the Horten brothers, with Northrop being the most influenced of the American manufacturers. It flew in Germany and to Dieppe, where it took ship for the states. A mockup has been built by the Northrop Grumman development team following the construction principles of the original, and found to have the radar signature as found above.It typifies the American Borg like tendency to copy good stuff, their assimilation of the same, and capacity to improve upon it. The valkyrie was way ahead of its time, as was the f111.

paul scott, 18.08.2009

Yes, another crap piece of British diplomacy. The sharing of information, where the UK 'shares' its technical data with the USA - yet the latter welches on the deal in not passing anything back. The all-flying tail WAS invented by Miles, the M52 mock-up/radio controlled model was tested but failed to respond to the radio signal - but was about a 1/3 scale model (It disappeared out to sea where it was flown). Its speed though was registered at about 750mph - faster than anything at the time (Except V2's etc - remember this was a small jet and it took the Bell X-1 a rocket motor to get the record). Apparent reason was that the 'Ministry' felt it would be dangerous for pilots to test a full-scale straight-winged 'plane. Especially as (German) research had shown 'swept wing' technology was the only way to avoid disaster/faster speeds. A shame for miles and Britain.

Ivor Thomas, 18.02.2009

I came across an interesting piece of information a few days ago on the Miles M-52 and in particular the all flying tailplane which Yeager maintains was a great secret. In fact there was a three page article on the M-52 published in Flight magazine (British equivalent to Aviation Week in the USA)published on Oct 3rd. 1946, which details the airplane including a three view, and has a discussion on the all flying tailplane on the M-52 and some of the reasons for it. So it was public knowledge at least a year before the Bell X-1 when supersonic. Again, a great pity the airplane was cancelled.

David Plummer, 08.02.2009

Where did the dimensional specifications come from? (The fuselage length in the 'specs' is longer than the same dimension given in some other sources.)

martin jones, 30.12.2008

Not about this aircraft but about the first through the sound barrier.
Do a google and search for George Welch.

tony, 17.11.2008

This is the first example of the british governments distroying aicraft industry in UK, it went on to cancel the TSR2, the supersonic "harrier" and many more,

yes the Miles m52 would have done it, infact 2 test models where flown, the first blew up but the second managed mach 1.5 before flying out to see and was lost.

peter james, 07.09.2008

It's a pity that politics,the usa and shortsightedness prevented this project feeling air under it's wings.Has any one built flying model or considered full scale build?

Aero-Fox, 14.03.2008

It's interesting, the British could have, and would have beat the United States to the sound-barrier if it hadn't been for a few factors...shame it didn't happen...
I read there was a German supersonic project during the war, involving an ultra-swept flying-wing design, but it didn't get past a glider mockup before cancellation.

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