“It could be argued that no airplane amassed as remarkable a combat record in so short a time as did the Mosquito.”
— Stephan Wilkinson,
Aviation History Magazine.
Speed – Once it gets to altitude, the Mosquito can outrun most contemporary fighters, particularly after dropping its bombs.
Agility – The Mosquito handles and performs so well, it is easy to forget you are flying a bomber.
Defense – Without defensive guns, the Mosquito must rely on its speed to evade enemy planes.
The idea of having a bomber that was fast enough to outrun fighter opposition was not a new one and in most cases was not a successful idea. The lone except to this rule in WWII was the deHavilland Mosquito “Mossie”, a plane that is revered for both its aesthetic lines and its war record.
The Mosquito’s genesis can be traced back to a 1936 Air Ministry specification calling for a bomber with a range of 3,000 miles, a payload of 4,000 lbs. and a cruise speed of 275 mph. Of course, aircraft engines weren’t powerful enough then to fulfill this requirement and deHavilland’s entry fell short by 15 mph.
By September 1939 the Air Ministry and deHavilland compromised on a specification calling for a reconnaissance/bomber weighing less than 20,000 lbs with a ceiling of 32,100 feet and a top speed of 397 mph. Work on the design for the DH 98, as the model was called, began in earnest. However, with the fall of France in 1940, all efforts were geared towards defense of the home islands and the Mosquito was shelved.
However, being made primarily of wood and thus not having an impact on production of existing plane designs, the company was allowed to continue development of the air frame. Finally, on November 25, 1940, the first prototype, bearing a bright yellow paint job, made its maiden flight.
Despite being designed as a bomber, the prototype was tested for the reconnaissance role. The plane’s agility and performance sparked interest in using the Mosquito as a heavy fighter. The original production order for fifty bombers was thus amended to be ten Mosquito I photo-recon planes, thirty Mosquito II night fighters and ten Mosquito IV bombers. The Mosquito III designation was reserved for a dual-control training version to be produced sometime in the future.
One problem that was discovered during the initial production run was excessive tail buffeting caused by disturbed airflow over the engine nacelles. Therefore, in the subsequent production runs, the nacelles were lengthened so that they extended beyond the trailing edge of the wing. The ten Mk.IV bombers produced under the original production run were thus designated as “Series I”, while subsequent Mk.IVs were designated “Series II” aircraft.
Originally designed to carry four 250 lb. bombs, it was found that four 500 lb bombs could be fit into the bomb bay if they had their stabilizing fins shortened. The first Mosquito raid took place on May 31, 1942, when four Mk.IVs made an attack on Cologne the day after the first “thousand bomber” raid. The Mosquito soon gained a reputation for making high-speed, precision attacks on high-value targets.