Hawker Hart

The Hawker Hart was one of the most significant RAF aircraft of the early 1930s. It had been designed to satisfy Air Ministry specification 12.26, which called for a light day bomber capable of reaching 160mph. The resulting aircraft had a top speed of 184mph, and could outpace every RAF fighter in service when it first appeared, including the Bristol Bulldog II, which had a top speed of 178mph.

The key to the success of the Hawker Hart was the Rolls Royce F.XIB inline engine (better known as the Kestrel). This engine combined a very small frontage with what at the time was an impressive 525 hp (the Bristol Jupiter used in the Bulldog II provided 490hp). This engine allowed Sydney Camm at Hawker to produce a sleekly streamlined aircraft, with a distinctive pointed nose seen in six of the seven aircraft in the Hart family. 

The prototype Hart first flew in June 1928. At this date the fastest fighter in RAF service was the Gloster Gamecock, which could only reach 153 mph. Even the upcoming Bulldog would be slower than this new bomber. The new bomber entered squadron service in January 1930 with No.33 Squadron, and immediately presented the RAF with a serious problem. In the 1931 annual air exercises the only aircraft capable of intercepting the Hawker Hart was another Hawker Hart.

The appearance of the Hart made the RAF realise that it urgently needed faster fighter aircraft. In the short term this helped speed up development of the Hawker Fury, the first RAF fighter to reach 200mph. In the long term the developments that began in the early 1930s would lead to the first generation of monoplane fighters, the Hawker Hurricane and the Supermarine Spitfire.

The Hart itself remained in front line service with the RAF for most of the 1930s. However, by 1938 it had been withdrawn from front line service in Britain. A number of Harts remained in use in the Middle East in 1939, seeing limited active service in 1940, before being replaced by more modern aircraft that were themselves being replaced in Britain, such as the Bristol Blenheim I. The Hart remained in use with the South African Air Force as late as 1943, performing communication duties. By the time production ended over 1,000 Harts had been produced.

The basic design of the Hart proved to be remarkably adaptable. During the 1930s Hawker produced six more aircraft based on the Hart. 1931 saw the appearance of the Hawker Demon, a two seat fighter based on the Hart. The Audax (1932), Hardy (1935) and Hector (1937) were army co-operation aircraft. The Osprey (1932) was a naval spotter and reconnaissance aircraft produced for the Fleet Air Arm. The Hart itself was replaced by the Hind (1935-6), distinguished mainly by its more powerful engine.






Light Bomber






Army co-operation



Naval spotter


1935 (Iraq)

Army co-operation



Light Bomber



Army co-operation

Engine: Rolls-Royce Kestrel IB or X
Horsepower: 525 or 510
Max Speed: 184mph at 5,000ft
Ceiling: 21,350 ft
Range: 470 miles
Span: 37ft 3in
Length: 29ft 4in
Armament: Two 0.303in machine guns, one forward firing and one in aft cockpit.
Bomb load: 520lb

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (2 May 2007), Hawker Hart, http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_hawker_hart.html

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