Horsa Glider

Airspeed's Glider was critical to the success of the Allied Forces during the D-Day landings.
Airspeed Horsa at Christchurch 1948 Airspeed Horsa at Christchurch 1948
The first two prototypes were built at Salisbury Hall (famously known as the birthplace of the DH Mosquito) and first flown (prototype DG597) from Fairey Aviation’s aerodrome at Harmondswoth on 12th September 1941, towed behind an Armstrong Whitworth Whitley.
Five additional prototypes were assembled and flown later at Airspeed, Portsmouth.
Allocated the designation AS.51, around 3,800 Horsa assault gliders were built, 695 of these at Christchurch, with the type also being widely subcontracted. Production of the AS51 Horsa I comprised 470 at Christchurch, 300 by Austin Motors and 1,461 by a production group coordinated by Harris Lebus Ltd.
The potential production of a further 400 being produced in India was investigated but abandoned as the cost of importing the necessary wood became cost-prohibitive.
Seating up to 30 troops, the Horsa was much bigger than its U.S. contemporary (the Waco CG-4A) which had a capacity of just 12.  Additionally, the Horsa had the flexibility to carry a Jeep of even a 6-pounder ant-tank gun.
By far the most famous sortie carried out by six Horsa Gliders was the delivery of the Paratroopers responsible for securing the bridge at Bénouville over the Caen Canal in Normandy (now known as Pegasus Bridge) during Operation Deadstick on the evening of 5th June 1944, the night before the D-Day landings.
The AS.53 Horsa Mk II was designed for vehicle carriage and featured a reinforced floor and a hinged nose section. The Horsa II also featured twin nosewheels and a modified towing strop attachment; all up weight for this version was increased to 15,750 lb. Production of the Horsa II comprised 65 by Austin Motors and 1,271 by Harris Lebus Ltd.
Airspeed Horsa Paratroopers boarding in 1942 Paratroopers boarding a Horsa Glider in 1942
Due to the dispersed manufacturing of the sub-components before final assembly at various RAF Maintainance Units around the UK, it is difficult to accurately identify a final production number but estimates of completed aircraft appear to be between 3,799 and 5,000 units.

Specification (Horsa 1)

Nil (Transport Glider)  
88 ft 0 in
Maximum Weight
15,500 lb Horsa I, 15,750 lb Horsa II
Pilot and 20-25 equipped troops
Maximum Tow Speed
150 mph
Glide Speed
100 mph

Number built

AS.51 Horsa 1
7 Prototype &
256 Production built (Minimum)
Production aircraft with cable attachment points on main landing gear                                                                                
AS.52 Horsa
Never built
Project design for bomb-carrying
AS.53 Horsa
Never built
Project - Never completed
AS.58 Horsa II Hinged nose, twin nose-wheel and modified towing strop


Horsa II
Museum of Army Flying, Middle Wallop, Hampshire, UK