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Hawker
P.1081

A development of the P.1052 with a straight-through jet pipe and swept tail surfaces.
Hawker P1081 conversion at Kingston The sole Hawker P.1081, VX279, was the heavily modified second P.1052.
 
The P.1052 was essentially a research aircraft built by Hawker Aircraft Limited and sometimes referred to as the 'Australian Fighter'.
 
By early 1950, the two Hawker P.1052s (essentially research aircraft developed from the P.1040/Sea Hawk and described separately) had undergone extensive flight testing. It was then proposed to further modify the second P.1052 (VX279) to satisfy an Australian enquiry for an operational version of the swept-wing fighter.
 
Accordingly, it was returned to the Hawker factory at Kingston where its entire aft fuselage was removed and replaced with a completely new section with a straight-through jet pipe. This replaced the P.1052’s bifurcated twin jet pipes, just aft of the wing’s trailing edge. It was accompanied by a new fin and tailplane with fully swept surfaces and the modified aircraft was given the designation Hawker P.1081.
 
It had been originally intended to fit this new prototype (now designated P.1081) with a Rolls-Royce RB.44 Tay turbojet engine (not to be confused with the same company’s later RB.183 Tay turbofan), a development of the Nene. However, owing to delays in Tay testing, a Nene was fitted instead and the aircraft was rolled out in its modified form in the early summer of 1950.
 
On 19th June that year, Hawker Test Pilot Sqn Ldr Trevor 'Wimpey' Wade took the P.1081 aloft for its first flight, before flying it to the Brussels Aero Show in Belgium four days later and where it aroused much public interest.
 
Hawker P1081 Farnborough 1950 The shape of things to come — the P.1081 at the Farnborough display in July 1950.
 
The P.1081’s Test Programme continued throughout 1950 during which announcements were made by the British press that the type was to be produced in both Australia and the UK. Ultimately however, these plans came to naught.
 
As trials continued, additional modifications were made including the incorporation of a tailplane of increased span, a broader-chord rudder and boundary-layer 'fences' on the wings to improve airflow.
 
Hawker P1081 final configuration The shapely P.1081 in its final configuration, with wing-fences.
 
In November 1950, Hawker was ordered to stop work on the project and the second prototype was handed over to the Royal Aircraft Establishment (RAE) for further handling trials.
 
On 3rd April 1951, Wade was at the controls of the P.1081 when an emergency occurred during a high-speed run. The pilot released the cockpit canopy at 9,000ft and finally ejected from the aircraft at around 2,000ft.

Sadly, the full ejection process was unsuccessful and Wade was killed when he failed to separate  from the seat which landed in a field near Lewes in Sussex, some 850 yards from the main wreckage of the aircraft.
 
The design was subsequently abandoned and no further examples were built. Nevertheless, the P.1081 had yielded much information which was to prove useful in the development of one of Hawker’s most successful designs - the P.1067 Hawker Hunter.
 
Hawker P1081 side air to air final config This air-to-air photograph of the P.1081 shows ithe fine lines that carried over to the later Hunter.

Number built

One only, a significant modification of the second Hawker P.1052, VX279.

Specification

Powerplant One 5,000lb-thrust Rolls-Royce Nene RN.2 turbojet engine
Span 31ft 6in
Maximum weight 14,480lb
Capacity Single pilot only
Maximum speed 695 mph at sea level; Mach 0·89 at 36,000ft

Survivors

Nil, VX279 was destroyed in an accident in April 1951.

Other information