As preparations were being made in late 1945 to start work on construction of the Hawker P.1040 (prototype Sea Hawk – described separately) Hawker proposed a 'swept-wing rocket-powered' version for high-speed aerodynamic research.
Air Ministry Specification E.38/46 was duly issued in March 1947, calling for two flying prototypes of a swept-wing version of the N.7/46 (a design which would evolve into the Sea Hawk naval jet fighter) and a third static test airframe. The requirement for a rocket powerplant was removed but this was to be revisited later with the P.1072 (also described separately).
The purpose of the P.1052, as it was designated, was to acquire 'further knowledge of (wing) sweepback and its associated control and stability problems'.
To this end, an essentially standard N.7/46 airframe, minus armament but with the same Rolls-Royce Nene turbojet engine, was mated to a pair of wings swept back 35° at quarter-chord.
The tailplane, however, remained unswept.
Hawker test pilot Trevor “Wimpey” Wade at the controls of the first P.1052, VX272.
The first P.1052 (VX272) was built at Hawker’s Richmond Road factory in Kingston and it was then transported by road to Boscombe Down during November 1948.
After preliminary taxying trials, the aircraft made its maiden flight in the hands of Hawker test pilot Trevor 'Wimpey' Wade on the 19th November 1948.
The same pilot was at the controls for the first flight of the second prototype (VX279) on 13th April 1949.
Exactly one month later, Wade set a new London - Paris point-to-point record in a P.1052 with the 220-mile flight taking just 21 minutes 28 seconds, an average speed of 618 mph.
The second P.1052 to fly, VX279, shows off its swept wings to good effect.
In June 1949, VX272 went to the Royal Aircraft Establishment at Farnborough, where it suffered damage during a forced landing that September as a result of a fuel pump failure. The aircraft was repaired and strengthened by reinforcement of the wing spars.
In the meantime, it had been decided to modify VX279 to incorporate a new rear fuselage with swept tail surfaces, and a straight-through jet pipe, to accommodate a Rolls-Royce Tay turbojet engine. With these modifications VX279 would become the sole P.1081 (described separately).
The first prototype P.1052 suffered several more accidents during 1950–51 before it was eventually fitted with an arrester hook and a Sea Hawk undercarriage. Successful deck-landing trials aboard HMS Eagle were subsequently completed in May 1952.
Hawker P.1052 VX272 completed deck-landing trials aboard HMS Eagle in May 1952.
The aircraft then returned to the Royal Aircraft Establishment where it remained until its final forced landing in September 1953.
Thereafter it was used as a ground instructional airframe until 1964 when it became part of the nascent RAF Museum.
It was subsequently transferred in 1990 to the Fleet Air Arm Museum at Yeovilton on a 'permanent loan basis' where sadly it has been kept in storage ever since.