The Hawker Woodcock was the first single-seat fighter aircraft to be produced by H.G. Hawker Engineering Company and it clearly showed the influence of Sopwith Aviation on its design. Sopwith had been a leading aircraft manufacturer during World War One but suffered severe financial difficulties as the conflict came to an end. T.O.M. Sopwith took the designs and patents with him when he joined forces with Harry Hawker to create H.G. Hawker Engineering and the company went on to huge success during the inter-war years.
Despite being designed to 1922 Air Ministry Specification 25/22 which called for an 'All-Metal Single-Seater High-Performance Landplane', the Woodcock was of wooden construction with fabric covering with the first prototype being a product of Hawker’s Chief Designer Captain B. Thompson.
The prototype Woodcock I (J6987) incorporated 'two-bay' wings (with two sets of interplane struts on each wing) and an Armstrong Siddeley Jaguar engine. It made its maiden flight, in the hands of test pilot F.P. Raynham in March 1923. Its performance was disappointing however and the type was extensively remodelled by former Sopwith Chief Draughtsman W.G. Carter when he replaced Thompson as Hawker’s Chief Designer in early 1923.
Carter’s modified Woodcock II had single-bay wings, a Bristol Jupiter IV engine and a revised fin-and-rudder arrangement. The prototype Mk II (J6988) first flew in August 1923 and showed immediate improvements over the Woodcock I.
After further evaluation during 1924, the Woodcock II was put into production at Hawker’s Canbury Park Road factory in Kingston.
The Woodcock II entered RAF service in May 1925 when the type replaced No 3 (Fighter) Sqn’s Sopwith Snipes at Upavon in Wiltshire. The unit was being tasked with night fighter duties for which the new Hawker type was eminently suited. The only other unit to operate the Woodcock was No 17 Sqn, who were also a night fighter squadron and they received their examples in March 1926.
A total of 61 Woodcock IIs were delivered to the RAF. Initially, the type suffered structural problems which resulted in a number of serious accidents although a modification programme resolved these issues. The aircraft soon became popular with its pilots and was a regular sight at public events whilst in service.
One aircraft (J7974) was experimentally flown with fixed leading edge slots on both upper and lower wings. When tested at RAE Farnborough these allowed the landing speed to be reduced by about 8 mph or around 15% which reduced accidents and decreased undercarriage damage.
No export variants of the Woodcock were developed and the type had a comparatively short RAF career. It served with Nos 3 and 17 Sqns from 1925 through to its retirement from frontline service in 1928. Several remained on strength however and were flown regularly until the mid-1930s.
Variants & Numbers
|Woodcock I||One prototype only J6987. Fitted with one 360 hp Armstrong Siddeley Jaguar II 14-cylinder two-row radial engine. Two-bay wings.|
|Woodcock II||One prototype, J6988 and 63 production aircraft built. Fitted with one 380 hp Bristol Jupiter IV engine. Single-bay wings and modified tail surfaces|
Specification (Woodcock II)
|Powerplant||One 380 hp nine-cylinder air-cooled Bristol Jupiter IV radial engine|
|Capacity and Armament||Single pilot; Two forward-firing synchronised Vickers guns mounted on forward fuselage, 750 rounds per gun|
|Maximum speed||141 mph at sea level|
|Cruising speed||103 mph|