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The Douglas Havoc I (Night Fighter) was one of a series attempts to make use of the relatively large number of French DB-7s which arrived in Britain after the collapse of France in June 1940. A small number of early DB-7s had been turned into Boston I bombers, and were being used as training aircraft. Late production DB-7s, given the designation Boston II, used a more powerful engine, with a two stage supercharger, and were too useful to be kept back as trainers, but still lacked the range to act effectively as bombers from British bases.
It was decided to convert the Boston IIs into night fighters with the name Havoc. Two main versions were produced – the Havoc I (Intruder) and the Havoc I (Night Fighter). Both were produced by the Burtonwood Aircraft Repair Depot at Liverpool.
The Havoc I (Night Fighter) retained the four fixed forward firing 0.303in machine guns just behind and below the original glazed nose, and was also given a new unglazed nose which contained four 0.303in machine guns, giving it eight fixed forward firing guns. The nose also contained the transmitter for the AI Mark IV radar. It carried a crew of two – the pilot and the radar operator, who was positioned in the rear gunner’s position. No rear firing guns were installed, and no bombs were carried.
The Havoc I (Night Fighter) was used by No.85 Squadron. The squadron received its first Havocs in February 1941, and flew its first Havoc sortie on 7 April. Two days later the squadron scored its first confirmed victory with the new fighter. No.85 Squadron continued to operate the Havoc I (Night Fighter) until the end of 1941, alongside the Havoc II (Night Fighter) from July.
Twenty one Havoc I (Night Fighters) were later converted into Havoc I (Turbinlites). This concept, developed by Wing Commander W. Helmore, saw all of the guns removed and replaced with a new nose containing a powerful Helmore/ GEC searchlight. The idea was that the Turbinlite and radar equipped aircraft would guide a pair of fighter aircraft onto a German intruder, allowing it to be shot down. Eventually ten squadrons were equipped with Turbinlite Havocs and Bostons, but they failed to achieve any real success.
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