|Top speed 224 km/h|
Length 10 m
First flight 1925
|Wingspan 15 m|
Manufacturer Vickers Limited
The Vickers Vespa was a British army cooperation biplane designed and built by Vickers Limited in the 1920s. While not adopted by Britain's Royal Air Force, small numbers were bought by the Irish Free State and Bolivia, the latter of which used the type during the Chaco War. One modified Vespa was used to set a world altitude record of 43,976 ft (13,407 m) in September 1932.
Design and development
The Vespa was designed by Vickers as a private venture to meet the requirements of Air Ministry Specification 30/24, the first prototype, the Vespa I being flown in September 1925. The Vespa, which was a single-engine biplane with a slim fuselage suspended between closely spaced and highly staggered two-bay wooden wings, was delivered for evaluation by the Royal Air Force, but crash landed owing to engine trouble on 24 June 1926 and was badly damaged. It was then rebuilt with steel, fabric-covered wings as the Vespa II, but this was unsuccessful in getting orders from the RAF.
It did, however, attract attention from Bolivia, which ordered six Vespa IIIs, an improved all metal version, in 1928, and the Irish Free State, which ordered four Vespa IVs in 1929 and a further four Vespa Vs in 1930.
The prototype Vespa was modified as the Vespa VI for demonstration to the Central Chinese government, but was not purchased, so was returned to Britain. It was rebuilt as the Vespa VII, with a supercharged Bristol Pegasus S engine for an attempt on the world altitude record, setting a record of 43,976 ft (13,407 m) on 16 September 1932.
Six Vespa IIIs were delivered to Bolivia in 1928, where they were mainly used as operational conversion aircraft, although they did see limited use in the Chaco War as reconnaissance and long-range bombers, these aircraft operating at low altitude rather than the high altitude that Bolivia's Vespas were optimised for. They remained in service until 1935.
The eight Irish Vespas remained in service for several years, operating from the Irish Air Corps base at Baldonnel, near Dublin, with the last being written off on 12 June 1940.
Specifications (Vespa V)
Data from Vickers Aircraft Since 1908