RAF coastal defence and torpedo bomber, also operated by Spain and New Zealand.
Vickers Vildebeest N230 Prototype Brooklands Vickers Vildebeest prototype N230 at Brooklands with Jupiter VIII engine.
The Vickers Vildebeest was developed to meet the requirements of Specification 25/25 which called for a Coastal Defence aircraft, capable of day bombing and torpedo operations. A single prototype (N230) was built as the Type 132, powered by a 460 hp Bristol Jupiter VIII and flew for the first time at Brooklands in April 1928.
The Vildebeest was a large single-bay biplane with unstaggered wings of rectangular planform. The pilot was located well-forward under the leading edge of the upper wing, with a gunner’s cockpit aft of the wing trailing edge whilst Handley Page automatic slats were fitted ahead of the ailerons on the upper wing.
The Vildebeest prototype was sent for trials at Martlesham Heath in September 1928, where it was found to have excellent handling and was recommended for production. It did, however, suffer from engine overheating and vibration and consequently Vickers decided to build a second prototype, initially powered by an Armstrong Siddeley Panther IIA engine.
This aircraft (O-1) also encountered similar problems with engine cooling but it was retained as a company demonstrator.
Vickers Vildebeest prototype N230 G-ABGE The prototype Vildebeest with Jupiter XI engine, registered G-ABGE for the 1930 Paris Air Show
Having been selected for production, the search for a satisfactory powerplant continued with the prototype (recorded as a Type 214 and now registered G-ABGE for display and demonstration purposes) being tested with a Jupiter XF engine, with a Townend ring and then later with a 600hp Jupiter XFBM engine.
This latter engine, which used a mineral oil lubricant, proved to be the solution to the previous cooling and vibration issues.
Vickers Vildebeest N230 VII Floatplane O-3 Felixstowe The prototype Vildebeest as O-3 with Hispano Suiza 12Lbr engine and Supermarine floats.
In 1930, the prototype was re-engined yet again with a 600hp water-cooled Hispano Suiza 12Lbr engine, carrying the registration marking O-3 and designated Type 216.
The aircraft was tested on floats made by Supermarine and it was demonstrated to the Spanish Authorities at Hythe in Kent. This resulted in it being selected for the Spanish Republican Navy and a licence was negotiated for the production of 25 aircraft (T1 – T25) by CASA in Spain. The Hispano Suiza powered variant was given the Vickers designation of Type 216 although it was also known as the Vildebeest Series VII. The Spanish-built aircraft were designated Type 245, Series IX.
Vickers Vildebeest Series IX Spanish-built T-1 T-1 is the first of 25 Hispano Suiza powered Vildebeest Series IX to be built in Spain.
In 1932, the Spanish decided to purchase the original prototype. It was initially flown with an incorrect registration (EC-WLL) but this was later corrected (to EC-WII). One further aircraft was built in Spain, made up from parts supplied from Weybridge.
Vickers Vildebeest Srs IX N230 EC-WLL should be EC-WII The prototype Vildebeest was sold to Spain as EC-WLL (although the intended marks were EC-WII)..
The first production batch of nine Vildebeest Mk I aircraft for the RAF were ordered in 1931 to Specification 22/31 using an engine now designated the Pegasus IM3.
The first production aircraft (S1707) was flown for the first time on 5th September 1932 and a second batch of 13 Vildebeest MkIs followed (K2810 to K2822).
One aircraft (S1714) was modified to become the prototype Vickers Vincent general purpose biplane, which is described separately elsewhere on this website
Vickers Vildebeest Mk I K2822 A fine air-to-air photograph of Vickers Vildebeest I K2822 carrying a torpedo.
Next to enter RAF service were 30 Vildebeest Mk II (K2916 to K2945), fitted with the 635hp Pegasus IIM3 engine. These aircraft were delivered to 100 Sqn from July 1933, this being the only Squadron that operated this version.
From December 1933, 100Sqn were based in Singapore, later receiving Vildebeest Mk IIIs to replace the Mk IIs.
Vickers Vildebeest Mk II K2916 first aircraft 1933 K2916, seen here in 1933, was the first of thirty Vickers Vildebeest Mk II built.
One Vildebeest II was converted to compete in the Air Ministry TSR competition (Specifications S.9/30 and M.1/30).
This aircraft was modified with a 660hp Pegasus IIIM3 engine in a long chord cowling. It was first flown at Brooklands in 1933 (as O-7) before being given a civilian registration (G-ACYY) and designated by Vickers designation as the Type 252 Vildebeest Series XI.
Vickers Vildebeest Mk II to TSR spec G-ACYV G-ACYV was a Vildebeest II converted to compete for the TSR contract as the Vickers Type 252.
The most widely used version was the Vildebeest Mk III and introduced a third crew member in an enlarged rear cockpit.
A total of 162 Vildebeest Mk III were built, 12 of which had folding wings and were supplied to the Royal New Zealand Air Force. In due course, a further 28 aircraft which were surplus to RAF requirements, were also transferred to the RNZAF.
Vickers Vildebeest Mk III NZ101 first NZ aircraft NZ101 was the first of 12 Vildebeest Mk III to be supplied to the Royal New Zealand Air Force.
The final RAF model, of which only 18 were built was the Vildebeest Mk IV. These were fitted with an 825hp Bristol Perseus VIII in a long-chord cowling, driving a variable pitch propeller.
These aircraft were delivered during 1937, serving with 22 Sqn and 42 Sqn in the UK.
Vickers Vildebeest Mk IV proto N4164 N4164 was the first of eighteen Vickers Vildebeest Mk IV powered by the Bristol Perseus.
Singapore-based aircraft took part in combat operations following the Japanese invasion of Malaya although they suffered considerable losses. By February 1942, the ten surviving aircraft withdrew to Java, from which a successful torpedo attack on a Japanese convoy was made on 28th February. The final two aircraft sought to escape to Burma on 6th March but both were lost following crashes in Sumatra.

Variants & Numbers

Two: N230 (later G-ABGE, O-3, EC-WLL), and O-1
Mark I
22 aircraft Pegasus IM3
Mark II
30 aircraft Pegasus IIM3
Mark III
162 aircraft, third crew member. 150 for RAF, 12 for RNZAF
Mark IV
18 aircraft, two crew, Bristol Perseus VIII engine
Series IX
25 built in Spain by CASA plus one assembled in Spain from British parts.
Total built
260 aircraft

Specification (Vildebeest III & IV)

Vildebeest Mk III
Vildebeest Mk IV
One 635 hp Bristol Pegasus IIM.3
One 825 hp Bristol Perseus VIII
49 ft 0 in
Maximum Weight
8,500 lb
Capacity and armament
Pilot, gunner and observer; One fixed forward-firing Vickers machine gun, one Lewis gun fired from rear cockpit, one 2,000lb 18 inch torpedo, or 1,100lb bombs.
As Mk III except crew reduced to pilot and gunner only
Maximum Speed
143 mph
156 mph at 5,000 ft
Cruising Speed
122 mph
133 mph
1,250 miles (maximum)
1,625 miles (maximum)


No examples of the Vickers Vildebeest survive.

Other information