Miles M.20

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Miles M.20.jpg
Second prototype of the Miles M.20
RoleLightweight fighter
Manufacturer Miles Aircraft
DesignerWalter G. Capley
First flight15 September 1940
Primary users Royal Air Force (intended)
Fleet Air Arm (intended)
Number built2 prototypes
Developed from Miles Master

The Miles M.20 was a Second World War fighter developed by Miles Aircraft in 1940. It was designed as a simple and quick-to-build "emergency fighter" alternative to the Royal Air Force's Spitfires and Hurricanes should their production become disrupted by bombing expected in the anticipated German invasion of England. Due to dispersal of manufacturing, the Luftwaffe's bombing of the Spitfire and Hurricane factories did not seriously affect production, the M.20 proved unnecessary and the design was not pursued.

World War II 1939–1945 global war

World War II, also known as the Second World War, was a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. The vast majority of the world's countries—including all the great powers—eventually formed two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. A state of total war emerged, directly involving more than 100 million people from over 30 countries. The major participants threw their entire economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities behind the war effort, blurring the distinction between civilian and military resources. World War II was the deadliest conflict in human history, marked by 50 to 85 million fatalities, most of whom were civilians in the Soviet Union and China. It included massacres, the genocide of the Holocaust, strategic bombing, premeditated death from starvation and disease, and the only use of nuclear weapons in war.

Fighter aircraft Military aircraft designed primarily for air-to-air combat against other aircraft

A fighter aircraft is a military aircraft designed primarily for air-to-air combat against other aircraft, as opposed to bombers and attack aircraft, whose main mission is to attack ground targets. The hallmarks of a fighter are its speed, maneuverability, and small size relative to other combat aircraft.

Miles was the name used to market the aircraft of British engineer Frederick George Miles, who, with his wife Blossom and his brother George Herbert Miles, designed numerous light civil and military aircraft and a range of curious prototypes. The name "Miles" is associated with two distinct companies that Miles was involved in, and is also affiliated with several designs produced before there was a company trading under the Miles name.


Design and development

At the outbreak of the Second World War in September 1939, Miles Aircraft began work on a single-engined fighter to supplement the RAF's Spitfires and Hurricanes. A wooden mock-up of the design, the M20/1, was inspected by Sir Kingsley Wood, the Secretary of State for Air, but no orders followed. [1] Following the outbreak of the Battle of Britain in July 1940, the Royal Air Force was faced with a potential shortage of fighters. To meet the Luftwaffe threat, the Air Ministry commissioned Miles to design a simple easy-to-build fighter to specification F.19/40. This became the Miles M.20/2. Nine weeks and two days later the first prototype flew. [2] [3]

Kingsley Wood British politician

Sir Howard Kingsley Wood was an English Conservative politician. The son of a Wesleyan Methodist minister, he qualified as a solicitor, and successfully specialised in industrial insurance. He became a member of the London County Council and then a Member of Parliament.

Secretary of State for Air cabinet level British position

The Secretary of State for Air was a cabinet-level British position. The person holding this position was in charge of the Air Ministry. It was created on 10 January 1919 to manage the Royal Air Force. In 1946, the three posts of Secretary of State for War, First Lord of the Admiralty, and Secretary of State for Air became formally subordinated to that of Minister of Defence, which had itself been created in 1940 for the co-ordination of defence and security issues. On 1 April 1964, the Air Ministry was incorporated into the newly-created united Ministry of Defence, and the position of Secretary of State for Air was abolished.

Battle of Britain Air campaign between Germany and the United Kingdom during the Second World War

The Battle of Britain was a military campaign of the Second World War, in which the Royal Air Force (RAF) defended the United Kingdom (UK) against large-scale attacks by Nazi Germany's air force, the Luftwaffe. It has been described as the first major military campaign fought entirely by air forces. The British officially recognise the battle's duration as being from 10 July until 31 October 1940, which overlaps the period of large-scale night attacks known as The Blitz, that lasted from 7 September 1940 to 11 May 1941. German historians do not accept this subdivision and regard the battle as a single campaign lasting from July 1940 to June 1941, including the Blitz.

To reduce production time the M.20 employed all-wood construction and used many parts from the earlier Miles Master trainer, lacked hydraulics, and had spatted fixed landing gear. The fixed undercarriage freed space and payload sufficient for twelve .303 Browning machine guns and 5000 rounds, and 154 Imperial gallons (700 litres) of fuel (double the range and ammunition capacity of the Hawker Hurricane and Supermarine Spitfire). [4] The M.20 was fitted with a bubble canopy for improved 360-degree vision.

Miles Master

The Miles M.9 Master was a British two-seat monoplane advanced trainer built by Miles Aircraft Ltd for the Royal Air Force and Fleet Air Arm during the Second World War. It went through a number of variants according to engine availability and was even modified as an emergency fighter during the Battle of Britain. It was a fast, strong and fully aerobatic aircraft which served as an excellent introduction to the high performance British fighter aircraft of the day: the Spitfire and Hurricane.

Aircraft fairing

An aircraft fairing is a structure whose primary function is to produce a smooth outline and reduce drag.

Landing gear aircraft part which supports the aircraft while not in the air

Landing gear is the undercarriage of an aircraft or spacecraft and may be used for either takeoff or landing. For aircraft it is generally both. It was also formerly called alighting gear by some manufacturers, such as the Glenn L. Martin Company.

In line with a design philosophy emphasising simplicity, speed and re-using available components, the engine was a Rolls-Royce Merlin XX "power egg" identical to those used on Merlin-powered Avro Lancasters and Bristol Beaufighters. This conferred flight performance that fell between those of Britain's two frontline fighters.

Rolls-Royce Merlin aircraft engine family by Rolls-Royce

The Rolls-Royce Merlin is a British liquid-cooled V-12 piston aero engine of 27-litres capacity. Rolls-Royce designed the engine and first ran it in 1933 as a private venture. Initially known as the PV-12, it was later called Merlin following the company convention of naming its piston aero engines after birds of prey.

Avro Lancaster Heavy bomber aircraft of World War II

The Avro Lancaster is a British four-engined Second World War heavy bomber. It was designed and manufactured by Avro as a contemporary of the Handley Page Halifax, both bombers having been developed to the same specification, as well as the Short Stirling, all three aircraft being four-engined heavy bombers adopted by the Royal Air Force (RAF) during the same wartime era.

Bristol Beaufighter heavy fighter aircraft

The Bristol Type 156 Beaufighter is a multi-role aircraft developed during the Second World War by the Bristol Aeroplane Company in the United Kingdom. It was originally conceived as a heavy fighter variant of the Bristol Beaufort torpedo bomber. The Beaufighter proved to be an effective night fighter, which came into service with the Royal Air Force (RAF) during the Battle of Britain, its large size allowing it to carry heavy armament and early airborne interception radar without major performance penalties.

Testing and evaluation

15 Miles M-20 Single Seat Fighter (15216625303).jpg

The first prototype, with the B-class serial U-9 first flew on 15 September 1940, [5] and was tested at the A & AEE under the military serial number AX834 against Specification F.19/40. Armed with eight .303 Browning machine guns like the Hurricane, the M.20 prototype was faster than the Hurricane but slower than Spitfire types then in production, but carried more ammunition and had greater range than either. As the Luftwaffe had been defeated over Britain, the need for the M.20 had vanished and the design was abandoned without entering production. The first prototype was scrapped at Woodley.

United Kingdom aircraft test serials are used to externally identify aircraft flown within the United Kingdom without a full Certificate of Airworthiness. They can be used for testing experimental and prototype aircraft or modifications, pre-delivery flights for foreign customers and are sometimes referred to as "B" class markings.

The Aeroplane and Armament Experimental Establishment (A&AEE) was a research facility for British military aviation from 1918 to 1992.

Woodley, Berkshire town in Wokingham, United Kindom

Woodley is a town and civil parish in Berkshire, England. It is the largest suburb of Reading, situated 4 miles (6.4 km) east of the town centre and is joined to the neighbouring large suburb of Earley, 2 miles (3.2 km) to the west, and 5 miles (8.0 km) from the historic market town of Wokingham. Nearby are the villages of Sonning, Twyford, Winnersh, Hurst and Charvil.

A second prototype, U-0228 (later DR616) was built to Specification N.1/41 for a Fleet Air Arm shipboard fighter, equipped with an arrestor hook and catapult launch points. It first flew on 8 April 1941. [6] This variant could be launched by catapult aircraft merchant ships which lacked flight decks so the aircraft were to be ditched after their mission, and to facilitate this the undercarriage could be jettisoned. However, obsolete Hurricanes were modified to fill this role, which rendered a shipboard variant of the M.20 unnecessary. Consequently, this prototype was also scrapped.

Fleet Air Arm aviation branch of the British Royal Navy

The Fleet Air Arm (FAA) is one of the five fighting arms of the Royal Navy. and is responsible for the operation of naval aircraft. The Fleet Air Arm recently started operating the F-35 Lightning II in a Maritime Strike Role, the AW159 Wildcat and AW101 Merlin in both Commando and Anti-Submarine roles, and the BAE Hawk. Helicopters such as the Lynx and Westland Wasp were previously deployed on smaller vessels since 1964, taking over the roles once performed by biplanes such as the Fairey Swordfish.

CAM ship

CAM ships were World War II-era British merchant ships used in convoys as an emergency stop-gap until sufficient escort carriers became available. CAM ship is an acronym for catapult aircraft merchant ship.

Specifications (M.20/4)

Miles M.20 3-view.svg

Data fromThe British Fighter since 1912 [7]

General characteristics



See also

Related development

Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era

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  1. Brown Aeroplane Monthly April 1976, p. 207.
  2. Bridgeman 1946, p. 133.
  3. Brown Aeroplane Monthly April 1976, pp. 207–208.
  4. Mondey, David (1982). Hamlyn Concise Guide to British Aircraft of World War II. Chancellor Press. p. 170. ISBN   1-85152-668-4.
  5. Jarrett 1992, p.55.
  6. Jarrett 1992, p. 57.
  7. Mason 1992, pp. 292–293.


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  • Brown, Don. "Last-ditch defender". Aeroplane Monthly, Vol. 4, No. 4, April 1976, pp. 207–211.
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  • Green, William. Warplanes of the Second World War, Fighters, Vol. 2. London: Macdonald, 1961.
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