Vickers 57 Virginia I / 115 Virginia VIII
Designed to meet the requirements of Air Ministry Specification 1/21, two aircraft were ordered initially, designated Virginia I and Virginia II. The former was the first to fly (on 24 November 1922), powered by two 335kW Napier Lion engines. It was basically an enlarged version of the Vickers Vimy, but had its Napier Lion engines mounted on the lower wings and enclosed in rectangular nacelles. Construction was mainly of wood and fabric with a fairly extensive amount of wire bracing. The second Virginia differed by having close-fitting engine cowlings; a Lamblin cooling radiator mounted between the landing-gear legs; a lengthened nose to provide more room for the bomb-aimer and, for the same reason, a slight decrease in intended bomb load; and a variable-incidence tailplane which could be adjusted in flight.
The Virginia prototype first flew in November 1922 but initially both the Virginias were unstable in flight, leading to modifications which included dihedral on both wings instead of on the lower wing only, introduction of larger rudders, an additional fin, and resiting of the engines further forward.
The first production contract was for two Virginia Mk.III aircraft, generally similar to the Virginia II but provided with dual controls and changes in armament. Like the earlier prototypes, these were subsequently modified to later standards. Four additional aircraft were ordered in 1923. Power plant comprised two 349kW Napier Lion Series II engines. Again, these aircraft were later updated, being fitted with metal wings, and ended their lives as Mk.Xs.
The type began to enter service as the Virginia Mk III, replacing the Vimy bombers of Nos 7 and 58 Squadrons, the first of eight regular and two auxiliary squadrons to operate the type.
The two Virginia Mk.IVs differed in electrical equipment and bomb load. First major production version (22 built) was the Mk.V, which had a third rudder, first test-flown on a Mk.IV aircraft; otherwise these aircraft were generally similar to the Mk.III. They were modified subsequently to later marks. The Mks III to VI had dihedral on the lower wings and unswept outer wings. Interestingly, Vimys were still being delivered at this time.
The Virginia Mk.VI (25 built) was the first production version to include dihedral on both upper and lower wings as standard; design of the wing-folding mechanism was improved. It was followed by 11 Mk.VIIs, which introduced still further changes to improve stability - including introduction of Frise ailerons and sweepback on both wings. These represented such an improvement in flight characteristics that many earlier aircraft were modified subsequently to this Mk.VII standard.
To provide adequate defence for these large and comparatively slow bombers there had been a number of experiments to locate gunners in 'fighting tops' - nacelles attached to the trailing edge of the upper wing. Apart from the aerodynamic problems, the gunners suffered from the cold and it was decided to introduce instead a gunner's position at the tail-end of the fuselage. This involved not only modification of the rear fuselage but increased tailplane span and a leng-thened nose to maintain good stability. These aircraft (eight built) became designated Mk.IX and some earlier aircraft were converted subsequently to this standard. Final version was the Mk.X, which introduced a metal structure with fabric covering and introduced leading-edge slats and a tailwheel in place of the, original skid (50 built). A large number of earlier aircraft were converted to include the more powerful engines, hydraulic wheel brakes, landing lights, and auto pilot which distinguished this, the last of the series.
Total production of the Virginia series was 124, the type finally replaced as a bomber by the Heyford and Whitley in 1937, surviving aircraft being relegated to parachute training for four more years.
Virginia Mk X
Type: four-seat heavy night bomber
Powerplant: 2 x Napier Lion V, 425kW (570 hp)
Span: 26.72m (87ft 8in)
Length: 18.97m (62ft 2.75 in)
Height: 5.54 m / 18 ft 2 in
Wing area: 202.34 sq.m / 2177.97 sq ft
Armament: 3 x 7.7-mm (0.303-in) machine-guns
Bombload: 1452 kg (3,200 lb) internal
Empty weight: 4377 kg / 9650 lb
Max T/O weight: 7983 kg (17,600 lb)
Max speed: 174 km/h / 108 mph at 4,920ft
Operational range: 985 miles / 1585 km
Ceiling: 4725 m / 15500 ft