Gloster Meteor (Reconnaissance Variants)

PR10

Despite the pace at which jet technology progressed in the immediate post-war years the RAF’s first jet fighter, the Gloster Meteor, remained quite a potent aircraft until the dawn of the 1950s when swept wing fighters took centre stage rendering it obsolete. With the vast majority of the world’s fighter aircraft still piston powered or subsonic jets, the Meteor with its relatively high speed and altitude performance was a logical platform for a reconnaissance aircraft to replace the wartime Supermarine Spitfire and De Havilland Mosquito reconnaissance aircraft.

There were several attempts to fit cameras in to the early variants of the Meteor but most of these came to nothing. One of the more promising was the Meteor FR.5 based on the Meteor F.4 but despite a prototype being built it was not pursued because advances in foreign jet technology were about to make the F.4 inadequate. However in 1948 the Meteor F.8 emerged powered by two Derwent 8 engines each producing 3,500lbs of thrust which gave the aircraft sufficient power to comfortably reach speeds in excess of 600mph and it was this airframe that was chosen as the basis for the first reconnaissance Meteor.


Meteor FR.9

Meteor FR9

The Meteor FR.9 was a minimum change approach to the requirement for a reconnaissance Meteor. A new nose section was designed that featured three observation windows (forward, port oblique and starboard oblique) for a single Williamson F24 camera. The F.24 was a proven reconnaissance system having been used operationally in the war by the Spitfires the Meteor was replacing. The camera was most effective in the low altitude role as its 5″ x 5″ format didn’t allow for the production of detailed enough photographs of wide areas as is required with the high altitude role. With only one camera onboard the Meteor’s F24 had to be ground aligned to the relevant window before take-off and this necessitated an extra amount of planning for missions to ensure that when the aircraft overflew the target the correct window was facing the area of interest.

Other than the camera installation the FR.9 was essentially a Meteor F.8 going as far as to retain the fighter’s four Hispano V 20mm cannons (these were sometimes faired over and the ammunition removed to squeeze an extra few miles an hour out of the aircraft). Just how similar the two versions were was highlighted by the Israelis who acquired a handful of second hand FR.9s and removed the camera equipment and windows to make more F.8s. The first of 126 Meteor FR.9s flew on the 22nd March 1950 and deliveries began in July of that year to No.208 Squadron based in Egypt protecting the Suez Canal. Meteor FR.9s primarily served in West Germany however in the low level reconnaissance role before being completely replaced by Supermarine Swifts by 1961.

  • Powerplant: 2x Derwent 8 (3,500lbs thrust each)
  • Max Speed: 592mph
  • Service Ceiling: 43,000ft
  • Length: 44ft 7in (13.59m)
  • Wingspan: 37ft 2in (11.32m)
  • Armament: 4x 20mm Hispano V cannons

Meteor PR.10

meteor_pr10_1a

The next chapter in the story of the reconnaissance Meteors was the high altitude PR.10. Like the FR.9 the PR.10 was based on the Meteor F.8 but differed in two key areas; it was fitted with the longer span wings of the Meteor F.3 while the tail unit was taken from the Meteor F.4. Both of these features were included to improve high altitude performance and stability while the more powerful Meteor F.8’s Derwent 8 engines were retained as was the F.24 camera installation of the Meteor FR.9 making the PR.10 the Frankenstein of the Gloster Meteor family. In an effort to lighten the aircraft as much as possible to gain the maximum altitude the guns were deleted and the aircraft were unpainted save for the national markings and serial numbers (a fully painted MD-80 airliner for example has a staggering 155lbs of paint on it). All these efforts resulted in the PR.10 being able to achieve an altitude in excess of 47,000ft compared to the F.8/FR.9’s service ceiling of 43,000ft.

As the F.24 camera was more suited to low-to-medium level operations the Meteor PR.10 had two F.52 cameras in the rear fuselage for high altitude work. These were positioned in the ventral position to cover large areas below the aircraft and for this purpose produced larger photographs (8.5″x 7″) than the F.24 despite having a similar working mechanism.

Squadron deliveries of the PR.10 began in December 1950 and production totalled 59 airframes. In 1951 the aircraft were first flown in West Germany and during this time the aircraft took part in a number of provocative cross border flights that were only stopped when the Soviets began deploying the MiG-19 “Farmer” to intercept them. Even after this development the Meteor PR.10s continued to fly at the very edge of the border between East and West Germany photographing Warsaw Pact forces on the other side of the Iron Curtain until they were replaced by the superlative Canberra PR.9 in 1961.

  • Powerplant: 2x Derwent 8 (3,500lbs thrust each)
  • Max Speed: 541mph
  • Service Ceiling: 47,000ft
  • Length: 44ft 7in (13.59m)
  • Wingspan: 39ft 11in (12.18m)
  • Armament: None
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9 responses to “Gloster Meteor (Reconnaissance Variants)

  1. Pingback: Defence of the Realm – Royal Air Force | Defence of the Realm

  2. Pingback: Gloster Meteor F.8 vs. Dassault Ouragon | Defence of the Realm

  3. Pingback: SITREP – Gloster Meteor pages updated | Defence of the Realm

  4. Pingback: Gloster Meteor F.8 | Defence of the Realm

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