The Hawker Hartbees (which is also widely described as the 'Hartebeeste' or 'Hartbeest') was based on the Hawker Audax army cooperation aircraft, with modifications to suit the South African Air Force. It should be noted that the name 'Hartbees' was the designation used on the aircraft drawings, contracts and production licence, which justifies its use here.
The Hartbees was procured against Specification 22/34, with four pattern aircraft being built by Hawker Aircraft Ltd (SAAF 801 to 804). The first two aircraft were standard machines, whereas 803 and 804 featured increased armour for the air crew. Power was provided by a 608 hp Rolls-Royce Kestrel VFP engine with the 'FP' referring to Full Power.
The first aircraft (SAAF 803) flew on 28th June 1935.
A South African manufacturing licence agreement was negotiated and a further 65 aircraft were subsequently built for the SAAF at the Roberts Heights Depot, near Pretoria. The first South African-built aircraft were completed in early 1937. Following successful trials, the type entered service from 1938, being flown by SAAF 11, 40 and 41 Sqns. These aircraft were initially based at Waterkloof Airfield, near Pretoria.
In mid-1940, the type was used operationally alongside the Hawker Hart, flying from Kenyan bases against Italian forces in Abyssinia. One notable action took the form of a mass attack on Italian troops on 11th June 1940.
Subsequently, the surviving aircraft were used for training duties in Southern Rhodesia and South Africa. The type continued in SAAF service until at least 1946.
A single example of the Hawker Hartbees (SAAF 851) is preserved at the Ditsong Museum of Military History, Saxonwold, Johannesburg.
|69 aircraft||4 built by Hawker Aircraft Ltd, the remaining 65 by SAAF Roberts Heights Depot, Pretoria.|
|Powerplants||One 608 hp Rolls-Royce Kestrel VFP engine|
|Span||37 ft 3 in|
|Maximum Weight||4,787 lb|
|Capacity and armament||Two crew; One forward firing 0.303in Vickers machine gun and one rear mounted self-defence Lewis gun. Provision for the under-wing carriage of miscellaneous stores, light bombs, water containers, etc.|
|Maximum Speed||176 mph at 6,000 ft|
|Endurance / Range||3 hr 10 min|
|Displayed at Ditsong Museum of Military History, Saxonwold, Johannesburg www.ditsong.org.za/en/?venue=national-museum-of-military-history|