The Hawker Audax was an army- co-operation aircraft based very heavily on the Hawker Hart light bomber. So closely related were the two aircraft that a Hawker Hart had been used as the prototype. A small number of changes were needed to equip the Audax for its new role. These including the installation of a long exhaust pipe, designed to reduce the impact of glare on the pilot, and the addition of a message pick-up hoop under the fuselage.
The Audax was produced in large numbers, with 625 ordered for the RAF alone. The first production Audax made its first flight on 29 December 1931 and the aircraft entered service with No. 4 Squadron in February 1931. Production continued until 1937. Well over half (453) of the 625 Audaxes were produced by sub-contractors, amongst the Bristol, Gloster, A.V. Roe and Westland.
The Audax was the main army co-operation aircraft in RAF service from 1932 until its replacement by the Westland Lysander in 1937-8. The Audax was then used for second line duties, amongst them advanced training and communication duties in Britain.
The number of aircraft produced meant that the Audax remained in use in India and the Middle East well into the Second World War. In Egypt a small number were used by Nos. 173 and 267 squadrons for local communication and transport duties, only being replaced in 1942. Further south No. 237 Squadron had used the Audax in operations on the Kenyan-Ethiopian border between the Italian declaration of war in June 1940 and September 1940 when the squadron concentrated on the Hawker Hardy. Finally in the Middle East, a number of Audaxes were allocated to No. 52 Squadron in Iraq between July 1941 and January 1942. However No. 52 Squadron had no aircrew, and so the aircraft were flown by pilots of No. 31 Squadron, providing local reconnaissance.
The Audax saw most active service in India. The RAF in India had been stripped of many modern aircraft during the first two years of the war, leaving it very vulnerable after the Japanese entry into the war in December 1941. Two squadrons (Nos. 5 and 146) were even forced to use the Audax as single seat fighters, before receiving the Curtiss Mohawk in early 1942. No. 28 squadron retained a number of Audaxes during the Japanese advance through Burma.
The final squadrons to use the Audax were Nos.1 and 3 of the Indian Air Force. No. 3 Squadron used the Audax to fly patrols over the North West Frontier between October 1941 and September 1943. Most remarkably, No. 1 Squadron used the Audax in its original role, as an army co-operation aircraft, for four months between September 1943 and January 1944.
Engine: Rolls-Royce Kestrel IB
Max Speed: 170mph at 2,400ft
Endurance: 3 hours 30 minutes
Span: 37ft 3in
Length: 29ft 7in
Armament: Two 0.303in machine guns, one forward firing and one in aft cockpit.
Bomb load: Four 20lb bombs or two 112lb supply containers under wings.