Role Army cooperation aircraft
Manufacturer Armstrong Whitworth
First flight 10 May 1925
Introduction 1927
Retired 1935(RAF), 1942(RCAF)
Primary users Royal Air Force
Royal Canadian Air Force
Produced 1927 - 1933
Number built 478

The Armstrong Whitworth Atlas was a British single-engine biplane designed and built by Armstrong Whitworth Aircraft. It served as an army co-operation aircraft for the Royal Air Force (RAF) in the 1920s and 1930s. It was the first purpose-designed aircraft of the army co-operation type to serve with the RAF.


The Armstrong Whitworth Atlas was designed by a team led by John Lloyd, chief designer of Armstrong Whitworth Aircraft, as a private venture,[1] to replace the DH.9A and Bristol Fighter as an army co-operation aircraft for the RAF,[2] in parallel with a very closely related design, the Armstrong Whitworth Ajax, intended for more general purpose roles.[3] While the two types were private ventures, relevant Air Ministry requirements included Specification 8/24, 30/24 and 20/25.[4]

The prototype Atlas (G-EBLK) was built as a private venture, first flying on 10 May 1925.[5] It was delivered to the Aeroplane and Armament Experimental Establishment (A & AEE), Martlesham Heath, where it was evaluated against the Bristol Boarhound, de Havilland Hyena, Vickers Vespa, and Short Chamois. It proved superior in performance and handling and was recommended for production.

While the performance was generally good, the prototype could not be sideslipped steeply, and this resulted in a redesign where sweptback metal wings, with differing wing section, were fitted. When tested again, the Atlas was found to have lost its good handling, having dangerous stall characteristics. The Atlas had already been ordered for service, however, and suffered a number of accidents during takeoff and landing in the first few months of operation until modified with automatic slats and increased sweepback. This cured the poor handling.[6] The production Atlas had a steel tube fuselage with fabric covering with single-bay swept metal wings. It could be fitted with a hook under the fuselage to pick up messages and could carry a 460 lb (210 kg) bombload under the wings.

Operational history

Atlas picking up a message

The first batch of 37 aircraft were ordered in 1927, entering service with 13 Squadron RAF and 26 Squadron in that year.[5] Once the initial handling problems had been solved by the fitting of slats, the Atlas proved well suited for army co-operation, in use at home and overseas, with 208 squadron, being the first squadron to operate Atlases outside Britain, replacing Bristol fighters at Heliopolis, Egypt in 1930.[7] Atlases were also used for communications duties[7] and as advanced trainers, with 175 dual-control models built.[8] The Atlas continued in service in the army co-operations role until replaced with the Hawker Audax, a variant of the Hawker Hart, with the last operational squadron, 208, re-equipping in 1935.[8] It was also replaced in the advanced trainer role in 1935 by the Hawker Hart Trainer.[7] Four civil registered Atlas trainers were used by Air Service Training Ltd for advanced and reserve flying training. They were scrapped in 1938.[9]


Armstrong Whitworth Aries
Armstrong Whitworth Atlas II photo from L'Aerophile July 1932



 United Kingdom


 United Kingdom

Specifications (Atlas I)

Armstrong Whitworth Atlas II 3-view drawing from L'Aerophile July 1932

Data from The British Bomber since 1914.[8]

General characteristics



See also

Related lists



  1. ^ Williams Aeroplane Monthly September 1989, p. 538
  2. ^ Mason 1994, pp. 169–170
  3. ^ Tapper 1988, p. 152
  4. ^ Mason 1994, pp. 170–171, 203
  5. ^ a b c Mason 1994, p. 170
  6. ^ Mason 1994, pp. 170–171
  7. ^ a b c Thetford 1957, p. 24
  8. ^ a b c d Mason 1994, p. 171.
  9. ^ Jackson 1974, p. 321
  10. ^ Jackson 1974, p. 322
  11. ^ "Armstrong - Whitworth "Atlas"". Hellenic Air Force. Retrieved 6 March 2016.
  12. ^ Kostenuk & Griffin 1977, p. 23
  13. ^ a b Kostenuk & Griffin 1977, p. 255
  14. ^ Thetford 1957, p. 25