de Havilland Vampire D100

de Havilland Vampire D100

The success of the Gloster Meteor led to De Havilland being approached to design and build an airframe for the Halford H1 turbojet engine (later to become the DH Goblin). 

Designated as the DH99 (initially named the ‘Spider Crab’) it was an all-metal design which was considered to be hugely experimental in its unorthodox arrangement of twin rear booms mounted behind a moulded, egg-shaped wood / aluminium fuselage and one single engine.  The relative low power of the early jet engines normally called for twin installations but Halfords engine proved to be extremely efficient, making single engine fighters a real possibility.

In order to maximise the efficiency of this new technology and to respond to Ministry recommendations, the design was modified into a mixed wood and metal construction which was re-designated DH100 Vampire.

The prototype DH100 (LZ548/G) was first flown on 20th September 1943 at Hatfield by Geoffery de Havilland Junior (son of the founder), albeit some 6 months after the Meteor, having been delayed by engine availability.

The first production DH Vampire (F.1) was actually produced by English Electric at Warton due to the production pressures and a lack of capacity at Hatfield.  Despite finally arriving after the end of the Second World War, the Vampire was eagerly awaited and became the second British jet fighter to see service with the RAF.  It was given the honour of leading the VE-Day flypast over London. 

The DH Vampire was the first RAF aircraft to be able to exceed 500 mph and its distinctive shape, with twin tail-boom and pod-like fuselage, made it instantly recognisable in the air and from the ground.

The main production version however, was to be the DH Vampire FB.5 fighter bomber (a modified DH Vampire F.3) and this variant was also be the basis for many of the export versions.  Separate night fighter and trainer models were produced as the DH113 and DH115 respectively (See seperate pages).

A number of DH100 Vampires were also modified for shipboard use such as the DH Sea Vampire and on 3rd December 1945, Captain Eric ‘Winkle’ Brown completed the first successful landing and take-off of a jet fighter from the Carrier HMS Ocean.  It was also the Royal Navy’s first jet fighter.

The type was very successful in the export market, providing many air forces with their first experience of jet fighter operations and around 30 air forces were ultimately to operate the type.  

Some fifty DH Vampire F1, F2 and FB variants were purchased by the Royal Australian Air Force in 1946 and although the majority were built with Goblin engines, the second aircraft was actually built with a Rolls-Royce Nene power-plant.

An experimental version of the DH Vampire featured an extended wingspan and a DH Ghost engine and it was this aircraft that was to set a World Altitude record of 59,446 ft in March 1948.  Later that year, 6 DH Vampire F3’s became the first jet fighters to fly across the Atlantic for an ‘RAF Goodwill Tour of Canada’.

By the time production finally ended, 3,269 Vampires had been built in England and a further 1,067 built under licence abroad. The Vampre remained as a front-line fighter for the RAF until 1953, after which it was retained only in the pilot training and refresher role.


Elsewhere, the aircraft had surprisingly longevity with large numbers still in service in several air forces in the 1980s. The Swiss Air Force was the last Vampire user, retiring their sizeable fleet of DH Vampire FB.6s and T.55s from active service as late as 1990.


The DH100 Vampire finally retired from RAF service in 1966, being replaced by the Hawker Hunter and Gloster Javelin.  

There are large numbers of airworthy aircraft still flying today, predominantly due to its simple design and relatively easy maintenance.  

In addition, there are over a hundred aircraft kept in superb condition and on display at museums around the world.


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