The Vampire began as an experimental aircraft, unlike the Gloster Meteor which was always specified for production. Under specification E.6/41, design work on the DH-100 began at the de Havilland works at Hatfield in mid-1942, two years after the Meteor.
Originally named the "Spider Crab," the aircraft was entirely a de Havilland project, exploiting the company's extensive experience in using moulded plywood for aircraft construction, as used in the Mosquito bomber. It was the last time composite wood and metal construction was used in high performance military aircraft. It had conventional straight mid-wings and a single jet engine placed in an egg-shaped, aluminium-surfaced fuselage exhausting in a straight line. To reduce the losses caused by a long jetpipe the designers used the distinctive tail with twin booms, similar to that of the Lockheed P-38.
Geoffrey de Havilland Jr, the de Havilland chief test pilot and son of the company's president, test flew prototype LZ548/G on its maiden flight 20 September 1943 from Hatfield. The flight took place only six months following the Meteor's maiden flight. The first Vampire flight had been delayed due to the need to send the sole remaining flight engine to Lockheed to replace one destroyed in ground engine runs in the prototype XP-80. The production Vampire Mk I did not fly until April 1945 with most built by English Electric Aircraft due to the pressures on de Havilland's production facilities, busy with other types. Although eagerly taken into service by the RAF, it was still being developed at war's end, consequently the Vampire never saw combat in the Second World War. A total of 3,269 Vampires were built in the UK, and about 1,100 in other countries although there is some uncertainty about the numbers built in Italy. There were 15 versions, e.g. a twin seated night fighter, trainer and carrier-based aircraft.
It was used by some 31 air forces. Of the major Western powers, Germany, Spain and the US were the only ones not to use the aircraft type. Operational historyRAF service
The Vampire was first powered by a Halford H1 (later renamed the "Goblin") producing 2,100 lbf (9.3 kN) of thrust, designed by Frank B Halford and built by de Havilland. The engine was a centrifugal-flow type, a design soon superseded post-war by the slimmer axial-flow units. Initially, the Goblin gave the aircraft a disappointingly limited range, a common problem with all the early jets. Later marks were distinguished by greatly increased fuel capacities. As designs improved the engine was often upgraded. Later Mk Is used the Goblin II; the F 3 onwards used the Goblin III. Certain marks were test-beds for the Rolls-Royce Nene but did not enter production. An unusual characteristic of the low positioning of the engine meant that a Vampire could not remain on idle for longer than a certain time because it would melt the tarmac on which it stood.
In postwar service, the RAF employed the Gloster Meteor as an interceptor and the Vampire as a ground-attack fighter-bomber (although their roles probably should have been reversed). The first prototype of the "Vampire Fighter-Bomber Mk 5 (FB 5)," modified from a Vampire F 3, carried out its initial flight on 23 June 1948. The FB 5 retained the Goblin 2 engine of the F 3, but featured armor protection around engine systems, wings clipped back by 30 centimeters (1 foot), and longer-stroke main gear to handle greater takeoff weights and provide clearance for stores/weapons load (an external tank or 225 kilogram (500 pound) bomb outboard on each wing, and eight "3 inch" rocket projectiles ("RPs") stacked in pairs on four attachments inboard of the booms). Although an ejection seat was considered, it was not fitted.
At its peak, 19 RAF squadrons flew the FB 5 in Europe, the Middle East and the Far East. The FB 5 undertook attack missions during the successful British campaign to suppress the insurgency in Malaya in the late 1940s and early 1950s. The RAF eventually relegated the Vampire to advanced training roles in the mid-1950s and the type was generally out of RAF service by the end of the decade.
The Mk 5 was navalised as the Sea Vampire, the first Royal Navy jet aircraft. The navy had been very impressed with the aircraft since 3 December 1945, when a Vampire carried out the flying trials on the carrier HMS Ocean. The RAF's Mk 5 was altered to extend the aircraft's role from a fighter to a ground-attack aircraft, the wings being clipped, strengthened and fitted with hard-points for bombs or rockets. The Mk 5 (FB 5) fighter-bomber became the most numerous variant with 473 aircraft produced.
Two-seat Vampire trainer.
The final Vampire was the T 11 trainer. First flown in 1950, over 600 were produced in both air force and naval models. The trainer remained in service with the RAF until 1966.
Vampires in Canada
An F Mk 1 version began operating on an evaluation basis in Canada at the Winter Experimental Establishment in Edmonton in 1946. The F 3 was chosen as one of two types of operational fighters for the Royal Canadian Air Force and was first flown in Canada on 17 January 1948 where it went into service as a training aircraft at Central Flying School at RCAF Station Trenton. With 86 in total, the F 3 was the first jet fighter to enter RCAF service in any significant numbers. It served to introduce fighter pilots not only to jet flying, but also to cockpit pressurization and the tricycle landing gear. The "Vamp" was a popular aircraft, easy to fly and considered a bit of a "hot rod." It served in both operational and air reserve units until retirement in the late 1950s.
Vampires in Finland
D.H.100 Vampire Mk 52 "VA-7" KoskueThe Finnish Air Force received six FB 52 Vampires in 1953. The model was nicknamed "Vamppi" in Finnish service. An additional nine twin-seat T 55s were purchased in 1955. The aircraft were initially assigned to 2nd Wing at Pori, but were transferred to 1st Wing at Tikkakoski at the end of the 1950s. The last Finnish Vampire was decommissioned in 1965.
Vampires in Sweden
The Swedish Air Force purchased its first batch of 70 FB 1 Vampires in 1946, looking for a jet to replace the P-51D Mustangs and the outdated J 22s of its fighter force. The aircraft was designated J 28A and was assigned to the F 13 air wing at Norrköping. It provided such good service that it was selected as the backbone of the fighter force. A total of 310 of the more modern FB 50, designated J 28B, were purchased in 1949. The last one was delivered in 1952, after which all piston-engined fighters were decommissioned. In addition, a total of 57 two-seater DH 115 Vampire called J 28C were used for training.
The Swedish Vampire fighters were retired in 1956 and replaced with J 29 (SAAB Tunnan) and J 34 (Hawker Hunter). The trainers remained in service well into the 1960s. The last Vampire was retired in 1968. (All Vampire warbirds being flown in Sweden today originate from the Swiss Air Force.)
Vampires in Rhodesia
The Rhodesian Air Force acquired Vampire FB9 fighters and Vampire FB11 trainers in the early 1950s, its first jet aircraft. More were supplied by South Africa in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Rhodesia operated Vampires until the end of the bush war in 1979. They were eventually replaced by the BAe Hawk 60 in the early 1980s. After 30 years service they were the last Vampires used on operations anywhere in the world. RecordsThe Vampire was an exceptionally versatile aircraft, setting many aviation firsts and records, being the first RAF fighter with a top speed exceeding 500 mph. Piloted by Captain Eric "Winkle" Brown, a Sea Vampire was the first jet to take off from and land on an aircraft carrier and in 1948, John Cunningham set a new world altitude record of 59,446 ft (18,119 m). On 14 July 1948, Vampire F 3s of No. 54 Squadron RAF became the first jet aircraft to fly across the Atlantic Ocean. They went via Stornoway in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland, Keflavik in Iceland, and Goose Bay at Labrador, before going on to Montreal to start the RAF’s annual goodwill tour of Canada and the US where they gave several formation aerobatic displays.
At the same time, USAF Col. David C. Schilling was leading a group of F-80 Shooting Stars flying to Fürstenfeldbruck Air Base in Germany to relieve a unit based there. There were conflicting reports later regarding competition between the RAF and USAF to be the first to fly the Atlantic. One report said the USAF squadron delayed completion of its movement to allow the Vampires to be "the first jets across the Atlantic". Another said that the Vampire pilots celebrated “winning the race against the rival F-80s”.