Designed to meet Specification E.24/43, which called for an aeroplane capable of flying more than twice as fast as any that had previously flown in level flight.
The Miles company began work on the M.52 in 1943, at a time when knowledge of high-speed aerodynamics was strictly limited. As the project was masked in secrecy, Miles set up its own foundry for the production of the necessary metal components and also built a high-speed wind tunnel. The Miles M.52 used ultra-thin, bi-convex wings, flight tested on the Miles 'Gillette Falcon', and other advanced features such as an annular air intake, all-moving tailplane. A full-scale wooden mock-up of this unique high-speed wing design was built and tested on a Miles Falcon light aircraft in 1944.
The design featured a bullet-like fuselage of circular section, 1.5m in diameter, constructed of high-tensile steel with an alloy covering. The powerplant, a Power Jets W.2/700, was centrally mounted and fed by an annular air intake, the cockpit forming a centre cone. The whole cockpit cone, in which the pilot sat semi-reclined, could be detached in an emergency by firing small cordite charges; the pilot would then bale out normally when the capsule reached a lower altitude. The M.52 was fitted with biconvex section wings, mounted at mid-point on the fuselage. As design work progressed, various refinements were incorporated. Split flaps were fitted, together with an all-moving tailplane. The addition of rudimentary afterburners in the form of combustion cans situated at the rear of the engine duct was calculated to produce much greater thrust at supersonic speed.
The very thin wing section meant that the undercarriage had to be positioned to retract into the fuselage.
Detailed design work on the M.52 was 90 per cent complete by the beginning of 1946, and the jigs were ready for the assembly of three planned prototypes. No snags were envisaged in construction, and it was expected that the first M.52 would fly within six to eight months. Then, in February 1946, quite without warning, F.G.Miles received word from the Director General of Scientific Research at the Ministry of Aircraft Production, Sir Ben Lockspeiser, that all work on the M.52 project was to cease at once.
Secrecy surrounded the cancellation of the M.52, just as it had surrounded its design, and it was not until September 1946 that the British public were made aware that their aircraft industry had been within sight of flying the world's first supersonic aircraft. The stated reason behind the decision to cancel the M.52 was that it had already been decided, early in 1946, to carry out a supersonic research programme with the aid of unmanned models developed by Vickers Ltd, the department responsible was headed by Dr Barnes Wallis. Between May 1947 and October 1948 eight rocket-powered models were launched, only three of which were successful. In each failure (apart from the first attempted launch when the Mosquito launch aircraft got out of control in cloud and the model broke away) it was the rocket motor that failed, not the airframe.
Only a year after the M.52's cancellation was made public, Major Charles Yeager, US Air Force, had made history's first supersonic flight in the rocket-powered Bell X-1 research aircraft.
Engine: 1 x 2000 lb / 907kg Power Jets W.2/700 turbojet engine, with afterburning 4100 lb / 1860 kg st
Wingspan: 8.20 m / 26 ft 11 in
Length: 10.20 m / 33 ft 6 in
Design max take-off weight: 3715 kg / 8190 lb
Wing area: 143 sq.ft / 13.28 sq.m
Max design speed: 1,000 mph / 1,609 km/h) at 36,000 ft / 11,000 m
Ceiling: 15250 m / 50050 ft