History of the de Havilland Vampire

Author/Artists: David Watkins


Fonthill Media


$40.00 MSRP from Casemate


Scott Van Aken

Notes: 384 pages, tons of photos, 6.75 x 9.75", paperback, ISBN 978-1-78155-616-0

As much as people living in the USA like to think they are the first at everything, such is not the case when it comes to turbine powered aircraft. Though the Germans were the first to develop and use the turbojet in combat, the end of the war pretty much halted development. The British, though a bit late to the show, were the ones who really lead in early jet development. Even today, they are a major player when it comes to engines. These have been license produced all over the world, including the USA and the Soviet Union. However, I'm getting a bit ahead of myself.

Early British jet engines were not the axial flow types as used by the Me-262 or Ar-234, but were the more reliable and simple centrifugal flow engines. This meant a rather 'fat' enclosure for the engine, be it a separate nacelle or fuselage. Both of the first operational British jets, the Meteor and Vampire used these types of engines. Hence the large nacelles on the Meteor and the wide fuselage on the Vampire.

Most Vampires were powered by the RR Goblin engine though some later versions used the more powerful Nene. However, the Nene required more air and this often meant a redesign of the airframe. Both French and Australian Vampires used the larger engine with adjustments needing to be made to the design to use this engine. The RAF variants and most exports used the older engine. As a note the Nene was copied and used in the MiG-15 and was the J-42 as used in USN F9F Panthers. There was little British use as they preferred the much better Avon axial flow engine developed soon after and used in the Hunter and other types.

The author has very much done his research on this one and it shows. There is an extensive section on the development of the aircraft and that includes the political issues the type faced. It should not be too surprising that the aircraft was not really desired as it was felt to be of little actual use. I mean, they had the Metor, so why another jet. Testing soon proved that the Vampire was, indeed, a useful aircraft. It was developed to carry ordnance and it was an excellent fighter, though a bit short legged as there wasn't a ton of room for fuel. The development of wing tanks helped to alleviate that.

We get a look at all the different variations built as well as the progression of equipment that was added to the airframe such as ejection seats and cockpit air conditioning. This includes the development of a two seat trainer, which ended up being the longest serving variant of the Vampire. The aircraft was quite an export success as well with hundreds serving with the usual British clients as well as other nations needing a capable jet fighter and ground attack aircraft.

The book is, as they say, profusely illustrated with all the images being in black and white save for one on the back cover. I'd have liked to have seen color plates and perhaps some profiles as well, but the book does not suffer from the lack. There are the usual interesting pilot stories that seem to be a requirement for aircraft histories and they add spice. This is not a quick read as it took me quite a while to read the whole things. However, it tells the best story of the Vampire I have ever read and is a book that all enthusiasts of the type or early jets should have on their shelves. Very much recommended.

December 2017

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