The de Havilland Mosquito, Night Fighter


The de Havilland Mosquito was an all wooden framed  twin engined aircraft built primarily in England  during World War II.  It’s  roles were varied.  It was used as a Light Bomber, Fighter-bomber, Night Fighter, Maritime Strike Aircraft and Photo Recon Aircraft.

It was also adapted through various variants for day time low to Medium altitude tactical Bomber, and Pathfinder.  The British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC) used the Mosquito as a high speed flying between England and neutral countries, sometimes through enemy airspace, with high value cargoes.

They could carry one passenger, seated in the “bomb bay”.  I wouldn’t t think this would offer much of a view. unless the bomb bay doors were opened, then the thrill of a lifetime for a few minutes.

In 1941, the first of many Mosquito variants were produced.  The Mosquito was the fastest operational aircraft in the world at that time.   It’s first role was an unarmed high-speed photo-recon aircraft.  The first Mosquito bomber entered  Royal Air Force (RAF) in November of 1941.

The Mosquito saw service from mid 1942-to Mid-1943 in missions against factories, railways and other strategic targets in Germany.  In June of 1943, they were formed into a unit called the Light Night Strike Force as pathfinders for the “Heavies” such as Lancasters.

The Mosquito could deliver a 4,000 “block buster bomb” to a designed target.  Their role as a night fighter started in in 1942, as they intercepted Luftwaffe raids over England.   The very versatile Mosquito was also used as a “strike aircraft” in preparation for “D-Day” also known as Operation Overlord in 1944.

The Mosquito flew with the RAF, Royal Canadian Air Force, Royal Australian Air Force and the United States Army Air Force.  There were 7,731 (all models and variants) produced from 1940-1950.

Design and Development

In September of 1936, the British Air Ministry put out a request for a twin-engine medium bomber that was capable of carrying a 3,000 lbs bomb load 3,000 miles with a maximum speed of 275 mph at 15,000 feet and being able to carry 4,000 lbs at a shorter distance (various distances were specified).

The chief Designer of Handley-Page put forth a concept oaf a fast unarmed bomber capable of carrying the required 3,000 lbs bomb load and exceed the required speed by 25 miles an hour to 300 mph.  It also include a construction of  steel tube frame and a composite of spruce and plywood.  This put the idea of a wood composite fast bomber into the minds of  the Air ministry.

Geoffrey de Havilland who had built the Albatross believed that this proposal could be satisfied and  be exceeded by the steel tube and wood composite aircraft.

On 07 July 1938, de Havilland wrote to the Air Mionstrstry about this concept, arguing that should war come, Britain could have a shortage of aluminum and other military materials.

Much to the surprise of the Air Ministry, they found the the strength to weight ratio exceeded light alloys or steel, although inferior in tension strength.

On 08 October 1938 de Havilland proposed a design of a 3 man crew with Rolls-Royce Merlin X engines and to protruding defense turrets.  The aircraft would be fast and maneuverable able to outrun the fastest (at the time) enemy aircraft as well as dodge flak.

The military thinking at the time was for well-armed heavy bombers.  In the meeting with de Havilland and the Air MInistry, de Havilland was asked to help produce wings for other bombers as a subcontractor.

de Havilland kept working on the unarmed light bomber design now called DH-98.  After much discussion and compromise the Air Ministry agreed to a mock-up of a recon (reconnaissance) light bomber with a top speed of 397 mph at 23,000 carrying a 1,000lb bomb load.

It would use 2 Rolls-Royce Merlin 21 engines with arange 1,480 miles and a ceiling of 32,000 ft.  From that design the Air Ministry requested a variant  from the original Photo Recon plan for a long range fighter armed with four 20 mm cannons and 4 .303 machine guns in the nose.

The Dh-98 now became the Mosquito.  After testing begin of the Mosquito, several minor problems which were resolved and reworking a not so minor buffeting problem at speeds over 250 mph.

Continued modifications took place and a test comparison with the Spitfire, the Mosquito had advanced to a speed of 392 mph at 22,000 ft, the Spitfiere peaked out at 360 mph 19,600 ft.

In October the Mosquito test model returned to the factory and was outfitted with Rolls-Royce Mer 61 engines having two-speed and two-stage superchargers.  The first flight on the revised test model  produced a top speed of 428 28,500 feet.

The most produced variant of the original DH-98 design was the de Havilland Fighter-Bomber Mark 6 which was powered by 2 Rolls Royce Merlin Mark 23 or 25 engines driving three-bladed de Havilland hydromatic propellers.

This aircraft had four Browning .303 machine guns and four Hispano 20 mm cannons.  It could carry up to 2,000 lbs bomb load.

Operational History

The Mosquito in a very versatile role was used as a medium bomber, recon aircraft, tactical strike, anti-submarine, shipping attacker and night fighter.

On 19 September 1941, the Mosquito went on it’s first mission, that was a Photo Recon.  The details were and apparently still are  classified even today.  All that is known,  it flew somewhere at an altitude around 20,000 ft. and returned to some base , presumably in England.

The first Mosquito Mark B4 bombers went operational in November of 1941.  They conducted daylight low level attacks against industrial targets in occupied Netherlands,  Norway, France and Northern and Western Germany.

Germany still controlled the airspace over those countries as it was the excellent handling of the Mosquito that overcame the Focke-Wulf Fw-190 and flak attack.

On 30 January 1943 two Mosquito squadrons attacked the Berlin broadcasting station while Reichsmarschall Hermann Goering  was making a speech on the 10 anniversary of Nazi take-over.

The raid knocked the transmitter off the air causing much concern over Luftwaffe air superiority.  Goring said:

  • “In 1940 I could at least fly as far as Glascow in most of my aircraft, but not now!  It made me furious when I see the Mosquito.  I turn green and yellow with envy.  The British who can afford aluminum better than we can,  knock together a beautiful wooden aircraft that every piano factory over there is building and they give it speed that they now have increased yet again.  What do you make of that?  There is nothing the British do not have.  They have the geniuses and we have the nincompoops.After the war is over I’m going to give the British,  a radio set–then at least I’ll own something that worked.”

The Mosquito bomber variant begin its mission as a pathfinder leading the heavey RAF bombers to target.  Since it could  carry up to 4,00 o lb load including the “blockbuster” bomb, it was used on it’s own mission over Berlin.  On continual night raids it flew missions for 36 consecutive nights.

The Mosquito also proved to be a very capable night fighter.  Some of the most successful RAF pilots flew this variant.  Wing Commander Branse Burbridge and 21 victories and Wing Commander John Cunningham had 19 victories in a Mosquito Night Fighter.

The Mosquito flew it’ last mission on 21 May 1945 on a hunt for any German submarines that might still be active.  Although this aircraft had a “small” sounding name is packed quite a wallop.

                          Mosquito over Berlin

Where you can see the Mosquito

The largest collection of surviving Mosquito are in England at the de Havilland Aircraft Heritage Centre including the first prototype.

KA114 Military Aviation Museum Virginia Beach, Virginia

PZ474  Lewis Air Legends San Antonio, Texas

RS700 Bomber Command Center Museum of Canada Alberta, Canada

RS709 National Museum of the United Air Force Dayton, Ohio

This is Just a Partial List of the Mosquito on Display. Check With Your Local Air Museum for More Information.

Tech Specs for the Mosquito

Wingspan:     54 ft 2 in 

Length:           41 ft 2 in 

Height:            17 ft 5 in 

Weight:           13,356 lbs (empty)  18,649 (Max Take-Off Weight)

Max Speed:     318 mph at 21,400

Ceiling:            29,000 ft 

Range:             782mi  (combat)

Engine:           2//Rolls-Royce Merlin 21 or 23 liquid colled V-13 In-line engine rated at 1,480 hp                                 

Crew:               2 /Pilot navigator/ radar operator.


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