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Boulton Paul P100 Ground Attack Aircraft

Boulton Paul P100 Copyright 2007 john Dell

The Boulton Paul P100 was an unbuilt project for a ground-attack aircraft to a draft Air Ministry specification (unnumbered) of March 1942. The P100 was the most advanced and unorthodox of the many designs the aircraft industry responded with. It had a canard - pusher layout to give the pilot the best possible view and would have had an armament of 40mm and 20mm cannons along with bombs and rockets. The performance specified by the Air Ministry was not that very high, only 280 mph was asked for, stressing the over-riding need was for the accuracy of delivery of its weapons. To protect the pilot from being shreaded by the pusher prop in the event of having to bale out a sprung arm acted as a crude ejection system to swing him clear, although it ejected him downwards! - Not a direction to be flung in when flying a low altitude hedge-hopping ground attack aircraft!  One would have to hope any stricken P100 would have had time to gain a bit of height before the pilot exited.

Boulton Paul themselves thought the P100 might have been too advanced to get into production and service by the time the 2nd Front started and they put forward a less advanced twin-boom layout (P99) and even a biplane (P101) which would have used two sets of Defiant wings to speed production.

In the end the RAF never adopted a dedicated ground-attack aircraft in World War II, instead using fighters such as the Typhoon, Hurricane and Spitfire in the role. This policy continued into the post-war period with Meteors, Vampires and Hunters all being used for ground -attack. Having waited so long for an aircraft specifically designed for ground-attack the RAF then suddenly got two at much the same time; the Harrier and Jaguar.

For years the policy of using rocket firing Typhoons for ground-attack was thought superior to the Soviets use of dedicated ground-attack aircraft with heavy anti-tank cannons. However reappraisals of the actual casualties to German armour caused by the Typhoons compared with Soviet Stormovik attacks and the use of 40mm cannon from Hurricanes in the Western Desert has led many to suggest that the RAF might have been better to adopt a gun armed design such as the P100.

Bearing in mind that if it had gone into production the P100 might not have got into service in time to see combat I've painted it in an ambiguous mode; you could interpret the picture as P100s attacking Panther tanks late in the war, but you could also see it as P100s practising on a range in Western Germany in the late 40's using the hulks of Panthers as targets.

Strangely, in the late 1980's British Aerospace designed an aircraft for close-air support and to shoot down enemy battlefield helicopters that was very close in layout to the BP P100, although much smaller. Called the P1233 SABA, (Small Agile Battlefield Aircraft)  it was powered by a turboprop rather than a piston engine. Like the P100 it never reached production. Perhaps if the P100 had been built it might have stayed in service through the Korean war and on into the early 1960s, like the US Douglas Skyraider. Maybe there would be a turboprop successor still flying with the RAF today?  You've got to admit such a weapons system would not be totally inappropriate for the some of todays modern conflicts.


The British Aerospace P1233 SABA project on Flightglobals archive

"British Secret Projects Fighters and Bombers 1935-1950" by Tony Butler

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