At the end of the Second World War the standard RAF night fighter was the de Havilland Mosquito. This aircraft had performed brilliantly against the Luftwaffe, but was quickly being outclassed by the post-war jet bombers. It was clear that a new jet powered night fighter would be needed to counter the new threat.
The long term replacement for the Mosquito night fighter was the Gloster Javelin. Work on that aircraft began to specification F.44/46 of January 1947, but the requirements kept changing, resulting in a new specification in June 1948 (F.4/48), delaying the first flight of the prototype until November 1951 and that of the first production aircraft until July 1954. It was obvious early in this process that the new night fighter would not appear quickly, and so work began on modifying the existing Gloster Meteor to act as an interim night fighter.
Gloster was part of the Hawker Siddeley Aircraft Group. The Gloster company was busy working on the Javelin, and so responsibility for the Meteor night fighter was passed to the Armstrong Whitworth design team, led by H.R. Watson, another part of the same group. On 12 February 1949 specification F.24/47 and Operational Requirement OR.265 were issued to cover the new fighter, which was to cover the gap before the arrival of the Javelin.
Because the new aircraft needed a crew of two, the design was based on the T.Mk.7. It was given the high tailplane of the F.Mk.8 and the long wings of the PR.Mk.10. The canopy was redesigned and the cockpit was pressurised. A new bulbous nose was added, containing the Mk 10 AI radar (The RAF designation for the American SCR-720B radar). Power was provided by two Derwent 8 engines, each providing 3,700lbs of thrust. There was no longer room in the nose for the cannon, and so they were moved to the wings, just outboard of the nacelles.
The first early prototype for the NF Mk.11, a modified T.Mk.7, made its maiden flight on 28 January 1949, with the older tail. It made its maiden flight with the new tail on 8 April 1949. The first true prototype took to the air on 31 May 1950, while the first production aircraft flew on 19 October 1950. Service deliveries began on 20 August 1951, when No.29 Squadron at Tangmere received the first aircraft.
The Meteor NF Mk.11 became the standard RAF night fighter, until replaced by the NF.13. It was a capable night fighter, but not a brilliant one. It just about had the speed required to catch possible enemy bombers. However the heavily framed two-man cockpit canopy made night landings difficult, and the under wing fuel tanks were prone to collapse at high speed or when the cannon fired. The NF Mk.11 was sold in small numbers to Belgium, Denmark and France.
Engine: Two Rolls-Royce Derwent 8 engines
Thrust: 3,700lb/ 16.4kN each
Gross Weight: 16,542lb
Maximum level speed at sea level: 580mph
Maximum level speed at 30,000ft: 547mph
Rate of climb at sea level: 4,800ft
Cruise Range at normal load: 860 miles
Armament: Four 20mm cannon in wings