There are very few war machines that can accurately be called beautiful, but the de Havilland Mosquito is defiantly one of them. Sleek, yet seemingly surging with barely restrained power, the Mosquito really does look the business.
But, did the Mosquito walk the walk? Let's find out.
What was the de Havilland Mosquito?
The de Havilland Mosquito had twin piston engines, fixed shoulder-mounted wings, and a primarily wood and canvas construction. It was a twin-seater, multirole aircraft designed and built initially for use by the Royal Air Force during WW2. Considered by many to be one of the best aircraft of the period, the de Havilland Mosquito was also one of the fastest aircraft ever developed before the advent of the jet engine.
Nicknamed the "Wooden Wonder", among other names, it was initially conceived of as a fast unarmed bomber. After proving its worth early on in the war, the Mosquito was later armed and armored or otherwise adapted and modified into a number of variants, depending on requirements.
From night-fighting roles to surgical bombing strikes, the Mosquito saw action in most theatres of the war. Some were even used as a fast transport for carrying high-value cargo or passengers.
The Mosquito also proved to be incredibly versatile and would be used for many special raids. These included but were not limited to the famous Operation Jericho (the attack on Amiens Prison in early 1944 intended to release Allied prisoners), precision attacks against military intelligence, security, and police facilities (such as Gestapo headquarters).
Another famous operation successfully completed by the Mosquito included the attack on the main Berlin broadcasting station on January 30th, 1943. This date was the 10th anniversary of the Nazis' seizure of power, and Mosquitos successfully conducted the attack at the same time Hermann Göring was speaking - taking his speech off the air.
The Mosquito was first inducted into the RAF in 1941 and would serve for the entirety of the war and continue to be used right up to the early-1960s. This aircraft was exported to various other air forces around the world, including the Royal Australian Air Force, the Royal Canadian Air Force, and even the United States Air Force.
The jet-powered English Electric Canberra would eventually replace the Mosquito, but it would cement its place in aviation history for all time.
What are the vital statistics of the de Havilland Mosquito?
First flight: November 15th, 1940
Official introduction: November 15th, 1941
Retired: May 1963
Since there are many variants of the Mosquito, we'll provide the specifications for the most common, the FB Mk VI (circa 2,305 built). This was a fighter-bomber-intruder variant and is probably the most well recognized.
Top speed: 378 mph (608 kph)
Crew: 2 (one Pilot, one Navigator/Bombardier)
Maximum weight: 22,300 lb (10,100 kg)
Service ceiling: 26,000 ft (7,900 m)
Range: 1,120 miles (1,800 km)
Wingspan: 54 feet and 2 inches (16.51 m)
Length: 41 ft 2 in (12.55 m)
Propulsion: Two 1,390 hp (1,037 kW) at 3,000 rpm Rolls-Royce Merlin 22/23, two 1,460 hp Merlin 21, or two 1,610 hp (1,201 kW) Rolls-Royce Merlin 25 engines
Armaments: 4 machine guns and 4 cannons (nose-mounted), 2 x 250 lb bombs carried internally, and underwing carriage of up to 2 x 500 lb bombs. It could be fitted with underwing rocket projectiles or drop tanks instead of an external bomb carriage.
How good was the de Havilland Mosquito?
In short, it was a superb aircraft from the off. Fast, sleek, and capable of carrying heavy ordinance and guns/cannons, the Mosquito built up a healthy kill ratio.
It was so fast that it effectively outclassed many frontline fighters (Allied or Axis) the day it was introduced. For just over 2 years, its prototype enjoyed being the fastest craft in the air, with a recorded top speed of 439 mph. However, no operational Mosquito ever reached such heady speeds.
It was faster than most early variants of other famous aircraft like the Supermarine Spitfire until later variants either matched or surpassed it before the introduction of jets.
Are there any Mosquito planes still flying?
Since the Mosquito was such a capable and reliable aircraft, and large numbers of them were built, you might be wondering if any are still air-worthy? Well, as it turns out, there are around 30 surviving aircraft today, a handful of which can still take to the air.
To date, those that can still take to the air include: -
KA114 - Located in Virginia Beach, USA, this aircraft was built by de Havilland Canada for the Royal Canadian Air Force in 1944. After the war, a farmer acquired the aircraft and then a series of museums. She was restored to flying condition in 2012.
PZ474 - Located in Sacramento, California, this aircraft was originally built for and delivered to the Royal New Zealand Air Force. After completing its service, the aircraft passed through a series of private owners and was restored to flying condition in 2019.
TV959 - Currently located in Paul Allen's Flying Heritage and Combat Armor Museum in Everett, Washington (currently closed), this aircraft was built for the RAF in 1945. After the war, this aircraft was one of several used for the critically acclaimed war film 633 Squadron, after which the Imperial War Museum acquired it. Around 2003, she was sent to New Zealand to make it airworthy, then transferred to her current location.
VR796 - Currently located in Vancouver, Canada, this Mosquito served as an Air Service Aircraft for most of her early days. After passing through various private owners, she was eventually restored to flying condition.
Why is the Mosquito never part of WW2 flyovers?
After the jubilations of the recent Her Majesty the Queen Elizabeth II's Platinum Jubilee, you might be wondering why Mosquitos never feature in the WW2 "Battle of Britain" flypast displays? This is for various reasons, but mainly because the Mosquito wasn't brought into active service until after the Battle of Britain in October of 1940.
But, even if it had, there are currently no airworthy de Havilland Mosquitos in the United Kingdom that could be called up to take part. While it would be plausible to ship some of the ones above over, this added logistical complication tends to put organizers off.
However, Mosquitos can and are regular features of WW2-themed flyovers in the United States, Canada, and other parts of the world.
Arguably one of the finest aircraft ever built, the Mosquito would rightfully earn its place in military history. Despite that, only a handful can still fly, but hopefully, this will change in the coming decades.