RAF Reconnaissance Aircraft
Part 2

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Photo Reconnaissance Mosquitoes

Back in 1938 Sidney Cotton had written a paper on the 'Future Requirement of Photographic Aircraft'. He could see the need for an aircraft, possibly with 2 engines with room for more that 2 cameras, a ceiling of at least 34,000 feet, with a top speed of 450 miles per hour and last but not least, a range of 1500 miles "In principle, the machine should always be faster that the fastest fighters in use" wrote Cotton.
It shows how the Air Ministry attached importance to photo reconnaissance when the first Mosquito off the production line was sent to 1 Photographic Reconnaissance Unit (PRU) at RAF Benson in July 1941. Also the Air Ministry had ordered that the first 20 Mosquitoes were to be photo reconnaissance versions.

The type of cameras installed depended on the type of mission being undertaken. The most widely used fit was a single K17 or K8AB fitted with a 12in lens mounted forward of the aircraft, a split vertical pair of F52 cameras mounted behind the wing and an F24 oblique camera mounted on the port side.
At first, the cameras mounts were made of steel, this was changed to wood as this reduce camera vibration and thus increased picture quality.
Another installation used was a split vertical pair of F52 mounted forward, 2 F52's and 1 F24 behind the wing. The split vertical cameras were installed so each camera was at slightly different angle, this would then give double the photographic coverage. To obtain stereo imagery coverage of a target area, each camera had to produce a run of images with an overlap of 60% between the frames.

The F52 36in focal length camera flying at a height of 35,000 feet would give a lateral coverage of 3 miles.

In the later versions of the Mosquito,  2 forward facing F24 14in cameras were fitted into dummy 50 gallon fuel drop tanks, these aircraft were used for low-level reconnaissance.

There were a number of variants of the photographic reconnaissance Mosquito
PR I, II, IV, VI, IX, XIV, 32 & 34

Mosquito PR I Mosquito PR IX

A total of only 10 PR I's were produced, because this aircraft had proven to so useful, a further 29 Mosquito B.IV bombers were converted to PR I standards and designated PR IV. They had increased fuel loads with tanks being fitted in the bomb-bay, giving them 700 gallons compared to the PR I's  540 gallons. Later some of the original PR Is had this conversion.

The first pressurised cabin version was the PR XVI, there were problems with the Perspex canopy suffered from frosting, this could be cleared with the early versions by opening a side window.

The PR 34 gave the photo reconnaissance Units everything they had every wished for, it was basically a PR XVI with the bomb bay made larger to take more fuel, also 200 gallon drop-tanks could be placed under each wing, in total, 1,256 gallons of fuel could be carried, with a top speed of 425 mph and a ceiling of 43,000 feet. 181 PR 34's were built, it was manly built for service in the Far East and a number were sent for the end of the war in the Pacific in August 1945.

Mosquito PR XVI Mosquito PR 34
Mosquito PR34 RAF Benson 1945
Mosquito PR 34 RAF Benson 1945

This profile of a Mosquito PR I based a RAF Benson
was produced by and is the copyright of Santo Russo

Photographic & Fighter Reconnaissance Hawker Hurricanes

In June 1941 No.2 PRU was formed at Heliopolis, Egypt and they were equipped with three locally converted Hurricane Mk Is to carry cameras, listed as PR Mk.1s. Serial W9116 carried three or four F.24 14" cameras set up as a fan in the rear fuselage, with its weapons removed, extra fuel could be carried in the wings. V7423 and V7428 both had fitted two 8" F.24 cameras. W9353 was replaced by W9116 after in was lost in late 1941 after it made a wheels up landing. The aircraft was captured by the Italians with the cameras and fuel tank layout investigated. The ultimate fate of this aircraft is not known. Later a number of Mk.Is, which were converted to Mk.II specs, along with other Mk.IIs they were equipped with cameras and listed as the PR Mk.II. These variants retained their Mk.IIA, IIB and IIC wings, however, on some, the weapons were removed from the wings so extra fuel tanks could be fitted. From this one variant three different roles were undertaken :-

Hawker Hurricane PR.1 Hurricane PR Mk.I  -  click to enlarge

Hawker Hurricane PR.1 W9116 Hurricane PR Mk.I W9116 of No.2 PRU - Click to enlarge

Tactical-Reconnaissance (TacR),Fighter-Reconnaissance (FR) and Photographic-Reconnaissance (PR).
The FR variant was usually fitted with a forward facing F.24 or with a cine camera mounted in the starboard wing root. The TacR version could be equipped with two obliquely mounted F.24 8" cameras in the rear fuselage. The PR Mk.IIB & IIC variants were like the PR Mk.I fitted could be fitted with up to four F.24 14" cameras in the rear fuselage and would operate mainly above 30,000ft.

Hawker Hurricane rearming
Rearming a Tac R Hurricane - click to enlarge

There were only a very small number of photo-recce Hurricanes produced, they did however undertake a vast amount of missions many in the Far East where more suitable aircraft for this type of tasking was lacking.
The reconnaissance Hurricanes' main negative aspect was to be its lack of range. Other reconnaissance aircraft like the Spitfire were more adaptable in this way. So as more suitable aircraft became available, like the PR Spitfire and Mosquito, the Hurricane was replaced.


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