Gloster Meteor (1944 - 1965)

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In the beginning....Meteor prototype DG202/G at Gaydon in 1969 and now preserved at Cosford (Author)

The Gloster Aircraft Company was responsible for building Britain's first jet aircraft, the G.40 built to specification E.28/39. First flight of the prototype, W4041, was from Cranwell on 15 May 1941. Before this date specification F.9/40 was issued calling for a twin-engined jet fighter. The specification was written around Gloster experience with the low-powered G.40 (one W.I engine of 860lbs thrust) and the company proceeded with development. An order for twelve aircraft (DG202-213) was received in February 1941. First flight was by the fifth, Halford H.1 engined, prototype DG206 at Cranwell on 5 March 1943. Gradually more prototypes were brought into the flight test programme and as problems were identified, so great effort was made to address them.

meteorFirst prototype DG202/G (IWM)

meteorThird prototype DG204/G with the low-slung Metro-Vick F.2 engines (IWM)

The first aircraft built to the Mark I (Type G.41) standard, DG210, flew on 12 January 1944. Twenty production machines, commencing EE210, were produced, twelve being issued to 616 Squadron at Culmhead in July. Armament was four 20mm Hispano Mk 5 cannon in the nose and the engine was the Welland series 1 of 1,700lbs thrust. The type was used to counter the V1 flying bombs, 616 Sqn moving to Manston for 'Diver' patrols. The first V1 was brought down on 4 August 1944. One flight was moved into Nijmegen in January 1945, although the Meteor was not to be flown over enemy territory. The Mark I was withdrawn at the end of January.

meteorFine flying shot of F Mk 1 EE212/G (IWM)

The Mark II was intended to be the first production aircraft, given prospective delivery problems with the W.2B/Welland engines of the Mark I. In the event the Halford H.1B Goblin was to be earmarked for the Vampire and the version flew in prototype form only.

Mark III/F Mark 3 The Mark III was generally similar to the Mark I but it incorporated numerous refinements, including a sliding canopy, increased fuel capacity and airframe strengthening. The first fifteen were fitted with the Welland, while the remainder of the total of 210 had the improved Derwent I of 2,000lb thrust. A ventral fuel tank was fitted. The Mark III began coming off the production lines in early 1945 and the first were issued to 616 Sqn then 504 Sqn. Both units were disbanded in August 1945 in common with all Auxiliary Air Force squadrons, although 616 was to be re-equipped with the F3 in 1949, after reformation. On 7 September 1946 Gp Capt E M Donaldson raised the world air speed record to 615.78 mph in specially modified EE549.
Service (post 1945) Fighter 1, 56, 63, 66, 74, 91, 92, 124, 222, 234, 245, 257, 263, 266, 500, 616 Training 205, 206, 208, 210 AFS; 1335 CU; 226, 229 OCU; 61 OTU Communications FCCS Other 541; CFE; CGS; CRD; ECFS; ETPS; RAE: 703 NAS

meteorAnonymous Mk III of 616 Sqn in continental white colour scheme early 1945

meteorEE464/DN-F of 124 Sqn

meteorEE337/051FD at RNAS Ford and which was used for carrier trials

Mark IV/F Mark 4 This variant evolved through the special Mark III designed to secure the world air speed record. The Mark IV employed the Derwent 5 of 3,500 lbs thrust with extended engine nacelles and in later models wings clipped from 43' to 37' 2". Top speed at sea level increased from 420 to 585 mph. The first squadron to equip with the Mark IV was No 92 and some aircraft of 245 Sqn were modified with probes for in-flight refuelling trials.
Service Fighter 1, 19, 41, 43, 56, 63, 64, 65, 66, 74, 92, 111, 222, 245, 257, 263, 266, 500, 504, 600, 609, 610, 611, 615, 616 Training 203, 205, 206, 207, 208, 209, 210, 215 AFS; 1335 CU; 101 FRS; 4, 8, 12 FTS; 226 OCU; RAFFC Communicationss 1, 12 GCF; FCCS; 2 FP; 2 FU Other 29, 85, 141, 264; AFDS; AIEU; 5 CAACU; CBE; CFE; CGS; CPE; DFLS; ECFS; EFS; ETPS; JCF; JCU; NGTE; RAE; RRE; TFU; TRE; WEE

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Mk IV VZ389 of Flight Refuelling Ltd on trials with Lincoln RA657

meteorRA444/A6-B of of 257 Sqn in natural metal finish

meteorAnother shot of RA444 (MoD)

FR Mark 5 The Mark 5 was built to capitalise on trials with camera installations on Mark III and IV aircraft. The prototype VT347 broke up in the air on its maiden flight, killing the pilot.

F Mark 6 The Mark 6 progressed no further than the drawing board. It was described as being the forerunner of the F Mark 8 with a tail assembly similar to that of the E.1/44.

T Mark 7 The next version of the Meteor was designed in response to the obvious need for a trainer variant, especially given the significant overseas orders now being received. There was no official requirement and the prototype, G-AIDC (later G-AKPK), flew on 19 March 1948, nearly four years after the single seat fighter entered service. There was immediate official interest and specification T.1/47 was issued to cover the type. The trainer was based on the Mark IV but with the fuselage extended by 30 inches to accommodate the second seat. An extra fuel tank was fitted replacing ballast and there was also provision for underwing tanks. The canopy was heavily framed. The longer nose conferred added directional stability which was to have an impact on the design of later variants. Later production models were fitted with the Derwent 8 and the square-cut tail unit of the F Mark 8.
Service Trainer 202, 203, 205, 206, 207, 208, 209, 210, 211, 215 AFS; 1, 2 ANS; CFS; ECFS; 1689 FPPTF; 3, 4, 5, 8, 9, 10, 12, 211 FTS; 101, 102, 103, 105 FRS; 226, 228, 229, 231, 233, 237, 238 OCU; AWOCU; 32 OTU; RAFC; RAFFC All Meteor and some other squadrons had one or two T7s on charge including 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 11, 13, 14, 16, 19, 20, 23, 24, 25, 26, 28, 29, 32, 33, 34, 39, 41, 43, 45, 46, 54, 56, 60, 63, 64, 65, 66, 67, 68. 71, 72, 73, 74, 78, 79, 81, 85, 87, 89, 92, 93, 94, 96, 98, 111, 112, 118, 125, 130, 141, 145, 151, 152, 153, 185, 208, 213, 216, 219, 222, 234, 245, 247, 249, 256, 257, 263, 264, 266, 500, 501, 502, 504, 527, 540; 541, 600, 601, 602, 603, 604, 605, 607, 608, 609, 610, 611, 612, 613, 614, 615, 616 Communications 1, 2, 3, 11, 12, 13, 14, 25, 64, 81, 83, 205 GCF; 2 TAFCS; 41 GTPP; BCCF; BCCS; CCCF; FCCS; FECS; Levant CF; MECS; PCCS Aden Other AFDS; AMSDU; APS Acklington, Sylt; AWDS; BLEU; 3, 3/4, 5 CAACU; CAW; CFE; CGS; EAAS; ETPS; FETS; FTU; FWS; GWDS; IAM; ITF Nicosia, Shallufa, Tangmere, West Raynham, JCF; JCU; JTF; NGTE; 1 OFU; RAE; SCU; TAFC; TTF Nicosia; Seletar; 1574 TFF; TWU; 1 TWU Royal Navy 700Z, 702, 703, 728, 736, 759, 767, 771, 781, 806, 813

meteorT Mk 7 WA725/Y of 43/151 Sqns 1960

meteorMk 7 WA669 of 229 OCU at Chivenor 1972 (Author)

meteorLate Mk 7 VW413 with F Mk 8 type tail assembly

meteorNaval T Mk 7 WS103/709VL of the Station Flight Yeovilton

meteorTT Mk 7 WF787 of Coltishall TTF 1960

F Mark 8 The Mark 8 was the result of increasing the nose of the Mark IV by 30 inches to improve directional stability and add fuel capacity. Unfortunately expenditure of the ammunition, which was also moved forward, resulted in some loss of stability so a new tail unit was fitted. Further improvements included a retractable gunsight and Martin Baker ejection seat. 1,079 were built, making this the most popular version of Gloster's now ageing fighter. The last F8s in front-line service were withdrawn from 245 Sqn in April 1957; the unit had been equipped with Meteor fighters continuously since August 1945.
Service Fighter 1, 19, 34, 41, 43, 54, 56, 63, 64, 65, 66, 72, 74, 92, 111, 222, 245, 247, 257, 263, 500, 504, 600, 601, 604, 609, 610, 611, 615, 616 Training 203, 206, 209, 211 AFS; CFS; 4, 5, 8, 211 FTS; 226, 229, 233, 238 OCU; RAFFC Some non-F8 equipped fighter squadrons also had on charge one or two F8s, including 12, 23, 33, 45, 60, 79, 85, 89, 125, 141, 151, 152, 153, 208, 219, 501, 605, 608, 613 Communications FCCS; FECS; 11, 12, 13 GCF; Levant CF; AA Paris Other AFDS; AOS; 2 APS; AWDS; 5 CAACU; CAW; CFE; CGS; CSDE; CSE; DFLS; ETPS; FETS; FWS; NGTE; OFU; RAE; RRE; THUM Flt; TRE; TWU; 1 TWU

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Meteor F Mk 8 WH364/U of 85 Sqn 1968 (Author)

meteorF Mk 8 WA992/D of 43 Sqn

F(TT) Mark 8 This was a simple conversion of the F8 with a towing lug fitted on the ventral tank. The arrangement was first tried on VZ438 and many F8s were subsequently converted.
Service Target towing 1, 29, 85; 26 APC Nicosia; APS Acklington, Sylt; 5 CAACU; 229 OCU (79); 1 TWU; 1574 TTF (Changi); Gibraltar TTF; Malta TTS; Biggin Hill, Church Fenton, Coltishall, Duxford, Geilenkirchen, Horsham St Faith, Leuchars, Linton on Ouse, North Weald, Odiham, Ouston, Stradishall, Tangmere, Waterbeach, Wattisham, West Malling, Wymeswold SFs

meteorF(TT) Mk 8 WH286 of 229 OCU

T Mark 8 and FB Mark 8 The T designation was apparently applied to a number of F8s which were modified as advanced trainers. The FB designation was informally applied to F8s equipped to carry two 1,000lb bombs underwing.

FR Mark 9 To provide a tactical reconnaissance platofrm the Mark 9 was based on the F8 but with a new nose retaining the four cannon of the fighter but incorporating glazed panels either side of the nose and with a remotely controlled F.24 camera. Heating was provided by hot air bled from the starboard engine. The prototype flew on 22 March 1950 and 126 were produced, serving with the RAF from 1951 to 1957.
Service Fighter reconnaisance 2, 79, 208, 541; FR Flt Aden Training 226, 237 OCU Communications 187; 2 GCF Other 8; CFE; CSDE; RAE

meteorFR Mk 9 VZ611/B-Z of 2 Sqn

PR Mark 10 The Mark 10 was designed to replace the Spitfire IX and XIX. In relation to earlier Meteors the design was a hybrid utilising the long wing span of the earlier Mark III (for high altitude work), the F8 fuselage mated to a Mark IV tail unit and with the FR9 nose. Armament was deleted and two additional cameras located in the rear fuselage. The type was a contemporary of the FR9 and the two versions were complementary although both types served with 541 Sqn.
Service Photo-reconnaisance 2, 13, 81, 541 Training 231, 237 OCU; RAFFC Communications 2 GCF Other CSDE; NGTE; RAE

meteorPR Mk 10 WB165 of 81 Sqn

NF Mark 11 The Type G.47 Mark 11 was the first night fighter version of the Meteor and was designed to specification F.24/48 for a two seat, twin engined, night fighter capable of intercepting contemporary bombers. Armstrong Whitworth, who had built a number of Meteors under sub-contract, were contracted to design and develop the new version, experiments at the TRE having confirmed that the Meteor airframe would suit the purpose. The prototype was a converted T7, VW413, but the first true NF11 built as such was WA546 which first flew on 31 May 1950. The lengthened nose contained an AI Mark 10 (SCR 720) radar and the four 20mm cannon were rehoused in the wing just outboard of the engine nacelles. The version retained the heavily-framed canopy of the T7. The Meteor NF11 entered service with 29 Sqn at Tangmere in May 1951 and finally departed front-lone service when 5 Sqn became operational on the Javelin in June 1960.
Service Night-fighter 5, 11, 29, 46; 68, 85, 87, 96, 125, 141, 151, 219, 256, 264 Training 226, 228 OCU; RAFFC Calibration 527 Communications 81 GCS; 83 GCF; 2 TAFCS Other AFEE; AWDS; CFE; CSDE; ETPS; 6 JSTU; RAE; RRE; TRE

meteorWM223/U of 151 Sqn around 1957

NF Mark 12 The Mark 12 was a development of the NF11 with an American APS 21 radar which necessitated an increase in fuselage length of 17". To counter the extra length the fin was faired at the junction with the tailplane.
Service Night-fighter 25, 29, 46, 64, 72, 85, 152, 153 Training 228, 238 OCU; AWOCU Other CFE; CSE; FWS

meteorNF Mk 12 WS720 of 153 Sqn at Horsham St Faith 1957

NF Mark 13 This was a tropicalised version of the NF11, 40 being built for use in the Middle East. The NF13 had larger engine nacelles, a cold air unit and modified radio.
Service Night-fighter 39, 219 Other 213; CSE; RAFFC; RRE

meteorWM321 with 219 Sqn

NF Mark 14 The Mark 14 was the final night-fighter variant. It differed from the NF12 in having a completely transparent, electrically operated, cockpit canopy. In common with the other nocturnal Meteors no ejection seats were fitted.
Service Night-fighter 25, 33, 46, 60, 64, 72, 85, 96, 152, 153, 213, 264 Training 228, 238 OCU; AWOCU; 2 ANS; RAFFC Calibration 527 Communications FCCS; 12, 13 GCF; 2 TAFCS Other CFE; NAWCU; NFLS; TRE

meteorNF Mk 14 WS775 of 85 Sqn

NF(T) Mark 14 The designation was applied when redundant aircraft had their radars removed and replaced by UHF radio for navigation training.
Service Training 1, 2 ANS

meteorWS774/D of 2 ANS

U Mark 15 The drone designation was applied to conversions of redundant F4 aircraft. The work was undertaken by Flight Refuelling Ltd and some 92 airframes were converted starting with RA421 which first flew in its new guise on 11 March 1955.
Service Target drone RAE: 728B NAS

meteorU Mk 15 RA420 of the RAE

U Mark 16 The Mark 16 was the conversion of F8 aircraft to drone configuration, also undertaken by FRL. Some 150 airframes were converted. The designation was later changed to D Mark 16 to avoid confusion with the utility designation.
Service Target drone RAE: 728B NAS

meteorD Mk 16 WH453 of DTEO (Author)

The designations U Mark 17, U Mark 18 and U Mark 19 may have been reserved for intended drone conversions of the NF11, 12 and 14. However, there would have been a gap to the Mark 20 since that version was intially intended for Naval use and given a high designation accordingly. The designation T Mark 17 has been informally applied to the two modified T7s flown by Martin Baker on ejection seat research.

meteorMartin Baker's WL419 (Author)

TT Mark 20 This was yet another conversion, this time of the NF11 for target-towing duties. The radar was removed to compensate for the weight of an ML Aviation G type winch above the port wing, between the fuselage and the engine nacelle. VHF radio was replaced by a UHF set. 49 conversions were completed by ML Aviation and the type served with the RAF and Royal Navy.
Service Target-towing 3, 3/4, 5 CAACU; 1574 TTF; TTF Seletar, Kai Tak: 700, 728 NAS

meteorTT Mk 20 WD767 with drogue deployed

U Mark 21 This was the final Meteor variant apart from numerous trials aircaft. (The Meteor proved to be a remarkably robust aeroplane used for a wide range of development work.) Eight F Mk 8 airframes were prepared by FRL as drones and shipped to Australia for re-assembly by Fairey Aviation. Further kits were supplied for local production and 22 F Mk 8s were converted. The type differed from the U16 in detail only.
Service Target drone WRE

meteorU Mk 21 A77-193 of the WRE

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TT Mk 20 WM167 preserved as NF Mk 11 M of 141 Sqn (Author)

Specification and production

Mark Role Engine Thrust Weight

lbs

Speed

mph

Numbers
I Fighter 2 Welland 1,700 11,755 420 20
II Fighter 2 Goblin 2,700 11,755 1
III Fighter 2 Derwent I 3,500 14,460 520 210
IV Fighter 2 Derwent 5 3,500 14,460 585 465
FR5 Fighter recce 2 Derwent 5 3,500 14,460 1
F6 Fighter 2 Derwent 7 not built
T7 Trainer 2 Derwent 8 3,500 17,600 585 642
F8 Fighter 2 Derwent 8 3,500 19,065 592 1,079
T8 Adv trainer 2 Derwent 8 3,500 19,065 592
F(TT)8 Target tug 2 Derwent 8 3,500 19,065 590
FR9 Fighter recce 2 Derwent 8 3,500 15,770 592 126
PR10 Photo recce 2 Derwent 8 3,500 15,400 541 59
NF11 Night fighter 2 Derwent 8 3,700 19,790 541 338
NF12 Night fighter 2 Derwent 9 3,800 20,380 541 100
NF13 Night fighter 2 Derwent 8 3,700 20,490 541 40
NF14 Night fighter 2 Derwent 8 3,700 20,444 576 100
NF(T)14 Nav trainer 2 Derwent 8 3,700 20,000 576
U15 Target drone 2 Derwent 5 3,500 14,250 585 92*
U16 Target drone 2 Derwent 8 3,700 19,000 590 150+
D16 Target drone U16 redesignated
T17 Ej seat test 2 Derwent 8 3,500 2#
TT20 Target tug 2 Derwent 8 3,700 19,750 541 49~
U21 Target drone 2 Derwent 8 3,500 22+

Notes

* F4 conversions

+ F8 conversions

# T7 conversions

~ NF11 conversions

Further reading

Andrews, C F Gloster Meteor F.8, The (Profile 12) Profile Publications, Leatherhead, 1966

Bowyer, C Gloster Meteor Ian Allan, Shepperton, 1985

Partridge, J J Gloster Meteor F.IV, The (Profile 78) Profile Publications, Leatherhead, 1966

Philpott, B Meteor Patrick Stephens, Wellingborough, 1986

Shacklady, E Gloster Meteor, The Macdonald, London, 1962