The Hawker Hawfinch was one of a number of fighter aircraft designed to replace the Armstrong Whitworth Siskin and Gloster Gamecock, but it lost out to the Bristol Bulldog and never entered production. The Hawfinch was designed in response to Air Ministry specification F.9/26, which was issued to Hawkers in April 1926. The Hawfinch as first built was a two-bay biplane with staggered wings, armed with two synchronised Vickers guns and powered by a Bristol Jupiter VI radial engine. It was built using Hawker's metal construction system, which used a tubular steel frame and dumb-bell wing spars.
Nine different prototypes were built in response to F.9/26, amongst them the Boulton-Paul Partridge, Gloster S.S.19, Armstrong Whitworth A.W.XVI and Bristol Bulldog. The Hawfinch was the first to be completed, making its maiden flight in March 1927. It was delivered to Martlesham Heath in July 1927, well before the other contestants were ready. As a result there was time to carry out a series of deck landings on the carrier HMS Furious, providing Sydney Camm with valuable data that he later used on the Hawker Hoopoe and Nimrod.
The competitive trials eventually began, and by early 1928 the Hawfinch and the Bulldog had emerged as the main contenders, with very similar performance figures and handling. Eventually the production contract was given to the Bristol Bulldog, partly because it had a very slightly higher top speed and partly because Hawkers already had contracts to produce the Woodcock and Horsley, and the Air Ministry was aware of the need to keep as many aircraft companies in business as possible.
By the time this decision was made Hawkers was already working on the Hawker Fury. The prototype Hawfinch was used for a series of experiments, starting with the replacement of its two bay wings with shorter one bay wings which increased the aircraft's performance. It was also given a twin-float undercarriage at one stage. From 1929 to 1933 it was used for experiments on low-speed handling, before returning to Martlesham Heath in November 1933 for more handling trials.
Statistics for version with two bay wings and wheels unless stated otherwise.
Engine: Bristol Jupiter VII nine-cylinder radial engine
Wing span: 33ft 6in with two bay wings, 31ft 3in with one bay wings
Length: 23ft 8in (with wheels)
Height: 9ft 4in (with wheels)
Empty Weight: 1,925lb
Loaded Weight: 2,910lb
Max Speed: 171mph at 9,840ft
Climb: 7min 40sec to 10,000ft
Service Ceiling: 24,000ft
Armament: Two fixed forward firing Vickers guns
Bomb-load: Four 20lb bombs on racks under the wings