Vickers Experimental
Fighters

A series of experimental fighters including the Vickers Types 123, 141 Scout, 143 Bolivian Scout, 151 Jockey, 161 F.29/37 COW-Gun, 177 Scout and 279 Venom.
Vickers Experimental Type 123 Scout 1926 G-EBNQ The Hispano Suiza-powered Vickers Type 123 G-EBNQ of 1926.
 
Vickers Aviation as a company is better-known for bombers and civil and military transport aircraft than for fighters. However, they also produced a number of fighter designs from the mid-1920s to the mid-1930s, either as private ventures, or as funded prototypes for evaluation against official Specifications. This page presents information relating to seven single-engine fighter projects, all of which failed to achieve large scale production. Each aircraft is presented with a photograph and short description, with specification tables for all the types following the main text.
 
Vickers Type 123
The Vickers Type 123 (G-EBNQ) was built as a private venture and was a single seat, single bay biplane designed a 480 hp 12-cylinder Hispano Suiza T52 engine. The aircraft was of all-metal construction, with fabric covered surfaces and the engine drove an all-metal propeller.
 
When first flown on 9th November 1926, the type demonstrated excellent speed and altitude performance. It was developed into the Vickers Type 141, following the installation of a Rolls-Royce FXI engine.
 
Vickers Type 141 Scout
Vickers Experimental Type 141 Scout 1927 The Vickers Type 141 Scout was the Type 123 fitted with a Rolls-Royce FXIS engine.
 
The Vickers Type 141 Scout was created from the Type 123 airframe, adapted to fit the Rolls-Royce FXI engine. The main external changes were a squared-off nose, the removal of the prop spinner and the fitment of a retractable, rectangular radiator in the lower front fuselage near the wing leading edge.
 
It was tested at Martlesham Heath in January 1928, along with several other single-seat fighter candidates demonstrating light controls, a top speed of 174 mph and a good speed range.
 
On return to Vickers, the aircraft was returned to the civil register (G-EBNQ) and fitted with a more rounded fin and rudder.
 
In its final form, it competed against Specification 21/26 for a Fleet Fighter with a modified undercarriage and arrester gear and fitted with a supercharged F.XIS engine with a chin radiator. The dihedral of the lower wing was also increased to five degrees.
 
After sea trials it was returned to Vickers, who entered it as the 'scratch machine' in the 1929 King’s Cup Air Race, from which it was forced to retire mid-race.
 
The Type 141 was developed into the Type 143 land-based fighter and then into the Type 177 intended for shipboard use.
 
Vickers Type 143 Bolivian Scout
Vickers Experimental Type 143 Bolivian Scout 1929 Six examples of the Vickers Type 143 were delivered to Bolivia, powered by the Jupiter VIA engine.
 
The country of Bolivia, which had recently purchased the Vickers Vespa III in 1929, also ordered six single-seat fighters based on the Type 141 but powered by the 450 hp Bristol Jupiter VIA, the same engine as fitted to the Vespa aircraft.
 
Although developed from the Type 141, the Type 143 was visually quite different with a radial engine, split-axle undercarriage and a new streamlined fuselage to suit the radial engine.
 
The aircraft was flown on 11th June 1929 and was the first Vickers type to be flown by their newly appointed chief Test pilot Joseph 'Mutt' Summers.
 
The six aircraft were delivered to Bolivia from January 1930 and proved to be very popular with their pilots.
 
Vickers Type 177 Scout
Vickers Experimental Type 177 1930 The Vickers Type 177 was a private venture naval fighter development of the Type 143.
 
This aircraft originally began construction as a seventh type based on the Vickers Type 143 airframe.
 
The partially complete aircraft was modified to become a private venture prototype for a single seat shipboard fighter, designated the Vickers Type 177. This prototype flew for the first time on 26th November 1929 before undergoing trials at Martlesham from February 1930. During the trials it suffered an engine failure at 20,000 ft although it was landed in a field with minimal damage.
 
In June 1930, it underwent ship trials on board HMS Furious but it (together with its competitors) was not judged suitable for a production order.
 
The type 177 was the last single-seat tractor biplane aircraft to be built by Vickers.
 
Vickers Type 151 Jockey
Vickers Experimental Type 151 171 Jockey The Vickers Jockey J9122 in its Type 171 configuration with Jupiter VIF engine and Townend ring.
 
Known unofficially as the Vickers 'Jockey', the Type 171 was built to compete against Specification F.20/27 which (in modern parlance) sought a ‘point defence interceptor' required to climb rapidly to engage formations of enemy bombers passing overhead at up to 20,000 ft and travelling at around 150 mph. As might be expected, speed, climb rate and manoeuvrability were needed as well as an unobstructed pilot’s view which was seen to be of primary importance.
 
The Jockey (J9122) was built as a cantilever low-wing monoplane with a rectangular wing planform, powered initially be an un-cowled Bristol Mercury IIA engine.
 
Initial trials revealed vibration and a lack of rigidity in the rear fuselage although this was cured after Barnes Wallace redesigned the internal braciing.  The aircraft was also later fitted with a Townend ring, this being retained when it was re-engined with a Bristol Jupiter VIIF engine in January 1932. Wheel spats were also fitted and in this form it was redesignated the Vickers Type 171.
 
In June 1932 during testing at Woodbridge (Suffolk), the aircraft entered a flat spin from which it failed to recover. Fortunately, the pilot was able to bale out without injury, although the aircraft was destroyed.
 
Despite this accident, the design was further developed and re-emerged as the Vickers Type 279 Venom (initially known as the Jockey II) which was designed against Specification F.5/34.
 
Vickers Type 161 COW-Gun Fighter
Vickers Experimental Type 161 COW J9566 The unconventional Vickers Type 161 was designed around its 37mm Coventry Ordnance Works cannon.
 
The Vickers Type 161 (J9566) is one of several unconventional designs produced in response to Specification F.29/27.
 
This also sought a 'point defence interceptor' designed around the powerful COW 37mm (Coventry Ordnance Works) cannon. The gun was designed to fire upwards into the enemy aircraft and thus a steady gun platform was an important element of the requirements. The Type 161 configuration was almost a throw-back to the First World War Vickers Gunbus being a single seat biplane of pusher configuration.
 
Despite its unusual appearance, the machine flew well (after some initial problems with yaw stability) and firing the gun produced no unusual effects on the aircraft or its performance. Power was provided by a Bristol Jupiter VIIF radial and the aircraft made its first flight on 21st January 1931.
 
Official trials took place in September 1931 and the type was well received by the service pilots that flew it.
However, no production order was ever received and the type remains a curiosity as the value of high calibre cannon armament for an interceptor fighter became readily apparent during the Second World War.
 
Vickers Type 279 Venom
Vickers Experimental Type 279 Venom PV0-10 The Type 279 Venom 8-gun fighter PVO-10 was overshadowed by the Hurricane and Spitfire.
 
The Venom was a private venture design based on an updated Vickers Jockey produced against the requirements of Specification F.5/34 which was the first British fighter specification that sought an eight-machine-gun armament. The new design was in effect a Vickers Jockey with increased power (625hp Bristol Aquila AE-3S engine), increased armament, a closed cockpit and a retractable undercarriage.
 
The Venom carried PV (Private Venture) markings (PVO-10) and it made its first flight on 17th June 1936, almost three months after the first flight of the prototype Spitfire.
 
Being late in the field and under-powered when compared with both the Spitfire and the Hurricane, there was little prospect of a production order. Despite this the aircraft was subject to both manufacturer’s and official trials where it showed a very creditable performance and superior manoeuvrability in terms of roll rate and turn radius. It was scrapped in 1939 as Britain geared-up for wartime production of both fighters and bombers.

Variants & Numbers

Type 123
One only: G-EBNQ, later Type 141
Type 141
One Only: G-EBNQ modified to compete against Specification N.21/26
Type 143 Bolivian Scout
Six aircraft evolved from Type 141 with Jupiter VIA engine and new fuselage
Type 177
One only: modification of seventh Type 143 for shipboard use
Type 151 Jockey
One only: J9122 to compete against F.20/27. Modified with Jupiter VIIF as Type 171 and destroyed during spin trials in June 1932
Type 161 COW Gun Fighter
One only: J9566 to F.29/27
Type 279 Venom
One only: PVO-10 private venture to F.5/34
Total production
Eleven aircraft: six Type 143 and five other individual prototypes
 

Specifications

Type 123

Powerplant
One 480 hp Hispano Suiza T52 engine
Span
34 ft 0 in
Maximum Weight
3,300 lb
Capacity & Armament
Pilot only, two Vickers machine guns
Maximum Speed
149 mph at 10,000 ft
Range
-
 

Type 141

Powerplant
One 500 hp Rolls-Royce FXIS engine
Span
34 ft 0 in
Maximum Weight
3,700 lb
Capacity & Armament
Pilot only, two Vickers machine guns
Maximum Speed
177 mph at 10,000 ft
Range
-
 
 

Type 143 Bolivian Scout

Powerplant
One 450 hp Bristol Jupiter VIA engine
Span
34 ft 0 in
Maximum Weight
3,120 lb
Capacity & Armament
Pilot only, two Vickers machine guns
Maximum Speed
150 mph at 11,500 ft
Range
-
 
 

Type 177 F.21/26

Powerplant
One 540 hp Bristol Jupiter XFS engine
Span
34 ft 3 in
Maximum Weight
4,050 lb
Capacity
Pilot only
Maximum Speed
190 mph at 13,120 ft
Range
470 miles at 175 mph at 15,000 ft
 
 

Type 151 and 171 Jockey

                               
Type 151
Type 171
Powerplant
One 480 hp Bristol Mercury IIA engine
One 530 Bristol Jupiter VIIF
Span
32 ft 6 in
32 ft 6 in
Maximum Weight
3,080 lb
3,161 lb
Capacity
Pilot only, two synchronised Vickers machine guns
Maximum Speed
207 mph at 9,500 ft
218 mph at 10,000 ft
Range
-
 
 
 

Type 161 COW-Gun Fighter

Powerplant
One 540 hp Bristol Jupiter VIIF engine
Span
32 ft 0 in
Maximum Weight
3,350 lb
Capacity
Pilot only, one 37mm Coventry Ordnance Works gun with 50 rounds
Maximum Speed
185 mph at 10,000 ft
Range
-
 
 

Type 279 Venom

Powerplant
One 625 hp Bristol Aquila engine
Span
32 ft 9 in
Maximum Weight
4.156 lb
Capacity
Pilot only, eight 0.303in machine guns with 300 rounds per gun
Maximum Speed
312 mph at 16,250 ft
Range
-
 

Survivors

There are no surviving examples of any of these experimental fighter designs.

Other information

www.brooklandsmuseum.com