Armstrong Whitworth Atlas

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

Armstrong Whitworth Atlas
Class Aircraft
Type Fighter
Manufacturer Armstrong Whitworth
Production Period 1925 - 1938
Origin United Kingdom - UK (Great Britain)
Country Name Origin Year
United Kingdom - UK (Great Britain) 1925
Country Name Operational Year Retirement Year
United Kingdom - UK (Great Britain) View
ManufacturerName Production From Production To Quantity
Armstrong Whitworth 1925 1938 478 View

The Armstrong Whitworth Atlas was designed by a team led by John Lloyd, chief designer of Armstrong Whitworth Aircraft, as a replacement for the DH.9A and Bristol Fighter as an army co-operation aircraft for the RAF, in parallel with the related aircraft, the Ajax and Aries. The Atlas was intended to meet the requirements of Specification 20/25.

The prototype Atlas (G-EBLK) was built as a private venture, first flying on 10 May 1925. 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.

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.

The first batch of 37 aircraft were ordered in 1927, entering service with 13 Squadron RAF and 26 Squadron in that year. Once the initial handling problems had been solved by the fitting of slats, the Atlas proved well suited to the army cooperation role, serving both at home and overseas, with 208 squadron, being the first squadron to operate Atlases outside Britain, replacing Bristol fighters at Heliopolis, Egypt in 1930. 

Atlas were also used for communications duties and as advanced trainers, with 175 dual-control models built. 

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. It was also replaced in the advanced trainer role in 1935, by the Hawker Hart Trainer. 

Four civil registered Atlas trainers were used by Air Service Training Ltd for advanced and reserve flying training. They were scrapped in 1938.

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

General characteristics

  • Crew: Two
  • Length: 28 ft 6.5 in (m)
  • Wingspan: 39 ft 6.5 in (m)
  • Height: 10 ft 6 in (m)
  • Wing area: 391 ft (m)
  • Airfoil: RAF 28
  • Empty weight: 2,550 lb (1,160 kg)
  • Loaded weight: 4,020 lb (1827 kg)
  • Powerplant: 1 x Armstrong Siddeley Jaguar IVC 14 cylinder radial engine, 450 hp (336 kW)


  • Maximum speed: 123 knots (142 mph, 229 km/h)
  • Cruise speed: knots (mph, km/h)
  • Range: 348 nm (400 mi, 644 km)
  • Service ceiling 16,800 ft (5,120 m)
  • Climb to 5,000ft (1,500m): 5 min 30 sec
  • Endurance: 3 hours 25 min


  • One forward firing .303 (7.7mm) Vickers machinegun and one .303 Lewis machinegun on Scarff ring in rear cockpit
  • Up to four 112 lb (50 kg) bombs under wings

End notes