Described as a P-51 Mustang on steroids, the MB.5 was designed to Air Ministry specification F.18/39 for a Royal Air Force fighter to fly at more than 400mph as a replacement for both the Hurricane and Spitfire. After the first MB.3 fighter was lost in 1942, killing its pilot Valentine Baker, the second prototype was delayed. A modified MB.3 to be powered by a Rolls-Royce Griffon was planned, and was to be designated MB.4, but a full re-design was chosen.
The re-designed aircraft, used wings similar to those of the earlier MB.3, but now using a steel-tube fuselage. It was powered by a Rolls-Royce Griffon 83 V-12 liquid-cooled engine, which produced 2,340hp, which drove two-three blade contra-rotating propellers. It was to be armed with four 20mm cannon mounted in the wings, outboard of the wide-track undercarriage (chassis).
The MB.5 prototype R2496 first flew om May 23, 1944, its performance was outstanding, and the cockpit ergonomics were praised by the A&AEE, and also maintenance was made easy, as everything in the fuselage was easily accessible by the airframe having detachable panels.
Eric Brown (our greatest test pilot) said of the MB.5 "In my opinion, this is an outstanding aircraft, particularly when regarded in the light of the fact that it made its maiden flight as early as May 23, 1944." Eric Brown always said that the MB.5 should have gone into series production.
The MB.5 was a steady gun platform, and a very highly maneuverable to be a dog fighting platform. The MB.5's top speed was 460mph at 20,000ft, with a climb rate of 3,800ft a minute, with a service ceiling of 40,000ft, with a range calculated to be over 1,000 miles.
Bryan Greensted Chief Test Pilot of Rotol said of the type "It was a super ship to fly!" and "Earns the respect of everyone associated with it!"
The MB.5 made an appearance at the 1946 SBAC airshow at Farnborough flown by Polish Test Pilot Jan Zurakowski, and who said of the type "the MB.5 was the best airplane I have ever flown!" another pilot said of the MB.5 "steady flight behaviour, good control and an excellent view!" all the things you need in a fighter. The sole remaining MB.5, had its engine removed, and was used for training at RAF Wattisham in Suffolk, after it duty there, the airframe was scrapped and burned.
Sadly the MB.5 wasn't to go into series production (perhaps the best piston engined fighter the RAF never had). As a new technology was rearing its head, that of the turbojet. Ironically though, most of the aircraft used in the Korean War of 1950-1953 were piston-engined types (F-51, F4U-4, F4U-5, A-26, B-29), and the MB.5 would have suited the Korean environment.
|Martin Baker MB.3 plan view|
|Martin Baker MB.3|
|Martin Baker MB.5 plan view|