Gloster Gamecock operated by the Finnish Air Force
Role Fighter aircraft
National origin United Kingdom
Manufacturer Gloster
First flight 22 February 1925
Status Retired from service
Primary users Royal Air Force
Finnish Air Force
Number built 108
Developed from Gloster Grebe
Variants Nakajima A1N

The Gloster Gamecock was a biplane fighter designed and produced by the British aircraft manufacturer Gloster.

The Gamecock was a development of the earlier Grebe Mk III, an early interwar fighter procured by the Royal Air Force (RAF). Work on the type commenced in 1924 as a response to Air Ministry Specification 37/23. The principal difference between the two aircraft was the adoption of the Bristol Jupiter radial engine for the Gamecock. in the place of the somewhat unreliable Armstrong Siddeley Jaguar. Various structural improvements were made to the fuselage, the armament was also revised to include internally-mounted machine guns. On 22 February 1925, the prototype Gamecock performed its maiden flight.

Evaluation flights at RAF Martlesham Heath resulted in considerable praise for the aircraft; few changes were made as a result. During September 1925, the Air Ministry placed an initial order for 30 production aircraft to fulfil Specification 18/25. Further orders would quickly follow; the first production Gamecock flew in March 1926 and was delivered two months later. While the type was often praised for its manoeuvrability and speed, it suffered a high rate of accidents in service, leading to a relatively brief flying career with the RAF. The aircraft served considerably longer with the Finnish Air Force; it was produced under licence for the service under the local name Kukko and saw action during the Winter War of 1939–1940 against the Soviet Union.


The origins of the Gamecock can be found in the earlier Gloster Grebe. During the mid-1920s, this fighter had proven itself to be relatively popular amongst the pilots of the Royal Air Force (RAF), which typically praised it for its high maximum speed for the era and its manoeuvrability.[1] It was recognised that the Grebe also had some shortcomings, even in its later models. A prominent failing was the unsatisfactory performance of the Armstrong Siddeley Jaguar engine, which had developed a reputation with ground crews for its poor reliability as well as being difficult to service. Gloster became keenly interested in the replacement of the Jaguar with another engine and took an interest in the promising Bristol Jupiter radial engine that could deliver similar performance to the Jaguar while lighter and considerably less complex.[1]

During the summer of 1924, the Air Ministry issued Specification 37/23, which was tailored around the development of a Jupiter-powered version of the Grebe.[1] Gloster commenced work on the project immediately thereafter. Gloster's design team, headed by Henry Folland, had also identified numerous improvements, typically relating to the aircraft's structure, that could be made. The fuselage was composed almost completely out of wood, although steel tie-rods were used for internal bracing, as well as a combination of aluminium and asbestos for a fireproof bulkhead at the back of the engine bay.[2] One of the more distinctive changes on the new aircraft was the adoption of internally-mounted machine guns in place of the Grebe's external armament arrangement along the top of the fuselage.[3]

Less than six months after the specification, Gloster had completed construction of the prototype, J7497, which was fitted with the Jupiter IV engine; by this time, orders for a further two prototypes had been ordered. On 20 February 1925, it was delivered to RAF Martlesham Heath to commence a comprehensive evaluation; its maiden flight was performed two days later.[4] Within weeks of its arrival, the prototype's Grebe-style unbalanced rudder was replaced by a redesigned horn-balanced counterpart. It was determined to possess excellent manoeuvrability, in part due to its engine being placed so close to the aircraft's centre of gravity, and the trials were considered to be a clear success.[3]

By July 1925, in excess of 50 flying hours had been attained with the first prototype; no major changes were made at this stage of the aircraft's development as no major flaws or concerns were reported.[5] Having been sufficiently convinced, in September 1925, the Air Ministry placed an initial order for 30 production aircraft to meet Specification 18/25, which were given the name Gamecock; these were to be powered by the improved Jupiter VI engine, as fitted to the third prototype. During March 1926, the first production aircraft performed its maiden flight; delivered of the type commenced two months later.[6] During July 1926, a second order from the Air Ministry for 40 more Gamecocks was received by Gloster; in November of that same year, another 18 aircraft were also ordered.[6]

Operational history

During May 1926, the Gamecock I entered service with 23 Squadron at RAF Henlow; this squadron would also be the last of the six RAF squadrons operating the fighter, flying its examples up until July 1931.[7] 3 Squadron and 17 Squadron operated Gamecocks that had been modified for these squadron's night interception duties. The type acquired a particularly attractive reputation amongst the general public for the aerobatic displays that would often be performed at air shows and other major public events during the latter half of the 1920s.[8]

Pilots typically regarded the Gamecock as being an enjoyable aircraft to fly while also being a good gun platform.[8] It was also known for a relatively high number accidents, which was a contributing factor towards its relatively brief service life with the RAF – of the 90 operated by the service, 22 were lost in landing or spin accidents, often involving structural failure. The Gamecock also shared the earlier Grebe's undesirable tendency for flutter.[8] To reduce this problem, Gloster tested alterations to improve the aircraft's flying qualities. The improved Gamecock II was introduced in 1928 with a longer upper wing and a modified tail unit, amongst other refinements.[9]

Gamecock II fitted with outward-leaning struts in 1927

Gloster promoted the type to overseas operators and the Finnish Air Force had shown interest in the Gamecock I, resulting in an aerial demonstration being performed over Helsinki on 25 March 1927.[10] The following year, the Gamecock II won a Finnish government contest, leading to a licensing arrangement being made with Gloster, along with an order for a pattern aircraft.[11] Licensed production of the Gamecock, known locally as the Kukko (Finnish language for "rooster"), commenced at the Finnish National Aircraft Factory in 1929. The Kukko was in frontline service with the Finnish Air Force throughout the 1930s, although the type was progressively relegated to training duties towards the end of the decade.[12]

Finnish Kukkos saw combat during the Winter War of 1939–1940 against the Soviet Union. In perhaps the type's highest profile engagement, a Kukko captured a Soviet Ilyushin DB-3 bomber. On 29 January 1940, the fighter had strafed a pair of Soviet DB-3s when they landed on Finnish soil (which they mistook for Estonia) to transfer fuel from one plane to the other. The strafed crews hurried into the one plane which had enough fuel remaining and escaped, leaving the DB-3 behind to be captured by the Finns.[13] At least one Kukko remained operational with the Finnish Air Force up until September 1944, at which point the last example was scrapped.[14]


A Gamecock at RAF Hendon, 1931
Prototype to Air Ministry Specification 37/23 powered by a Jupiter IV engine and first flown in February 1925.
Prototype with Jupiter IV engine.
Prototype with Jupiter VI engine.
Gamecock Mk I
Production single-seat fighter aircraft for the RAF, 90 built.[15]
Gamecock Mk II
Single-seat fighter aircraft with revised wing and tail. One new-built for RAF with another Mk I converted to Mk II standard.[16] There were three exported to Finland in 1928, with a further 15 built under licence in Finland from 1929–1930 as the Kukko. The type remained in Finnish service until 1944.[17]
Gamecock Mk III
One RAF Gamecock Mk II modified with lengthened fuselage for spin trials.[18]
A carrier-based version of the Gamecock produced as a private venture. Manufactured under licence for the Imperial Japanese Navy as the Nakajima A1N; about 150 were operated from 1929 to 1935 and saw combat during the Shanghai incident in 1932.[19]


Fuselage wreck at Finnish Aviation Museum
 United Kingdom


Specifications (Mk. I)

Gloster Gamecock II 3-view drawing from L'Air, 15 August 1927

Data from The Era-Ending Gamecock[22]

General characteristics


145 mph (126 kn; 233 km/h) at 10,000 ft (3,048 m)


See also

Related development

Related lists



  1. ^ a b c James 1971, p. 110.
  2. ^ James 1971, p. 111.
  3. ^ a b James 1971, p. 112.
  4. ^ James 1971, pp. 111-112.
  5. ^ James 1971, pp. 112–113.
  6. ^ a b James 1971, p. 113.
  7. ^ "Aircraft of the Month: Gloster Gamecock". Tangmere Military Aviation Museum. September 2008. Retrieved 15 May 2015.
  8. ^ a b c James 1971, p. 115.
  9. ^ James 1971, pp. 115–119.
  10. ^ James 1971, p. 120.
  11. ^ James 1971, pp. 120–121.
  12. ^ James 1971, p. 121.
  13. ^ Keskinen, Stenman, Niska: "Venäläiset pommittajat /Soviet bombers".
  14. ^ James 1971, p. 122.
  15. ^ James 1971, p. 350.
  16. ^ James 1971, p. 119.
  17. ^ James 1971, pp. 121-122.
  18. ^ James 1971, p. 118.
  19. ^ Gustavsson, Håkan. "Nakajima (A1N) Type 3". Håkans Aviation page. Retrieved 15 May 2015.
  20. ^ a b c Green and Swanborough 1983, p. 62.
  21. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Lumsden and Thetford 1993, p. 113.
  22. ^ Green and Swanborough 1983, p. 7.
  23. ^ Thetford 1957, p. 223.
  24. ^ Taylor 1989, p. 421.