Lockheed Hudson

A-28 / A-29 / AT-18
Lockheed A-29 Hudson
Role Bomber, reconnaissance aircraft
Manufacturer Lockheed
Designer Clarence "Kelly" Johnson
First flight 10 December 1938
Introduction 1939
Primary users Royal Air Force
Royal Canadian Air Force
Royal Australian Air Force
United States Army Air Forces
Produced 1938–1943
Number built 2,941
Developed from Lockheed Model 14 Super Electra

The Lockheed Hudson was an American-built light bomber and coastal reconnaissance aircraft built initially for the Royal Air Force shortly before the outbreak of the Second World War and primarily operated by the RAF thereafter. The Hudson was the first significant aircraft construction contract for the Lockheed Aircraft Corporationthe initial RAF order for 200 Hudsons far surpassed any previous order the company had received.[1][2][3] The Hudson served throughout the war, mainly with Coastal Command but also in transport and training roles as well as delivering agents into occupied France. They were also used extensively with the Royal Canadian Air Force's anti-submarine squadrons and by the Royal Australian Air Force.

Design and development

Lockheed Hudson cockpit

In late 1937 Lockheed sent a cutaway drawing of the Model 14 to various publications, showing the new aircraft as a civilian aircraft and converted to a light bomber.[4] This attracted the interest of various air forces and in 1938, the British Purchasing Commission sought an American maritime patrol aircraft for the United Kingdom to support the Avro Anson. On 10 December 1938, Lockheed demonstrated a modified version of the Lockheed Model 14 Super Electra commercial airliner, which swiftly went into production as the Hudson Mk I.[5]

A total of 350 Mk I and 20 Mk II Hudsons were supplied (the Mk II had different propellers). These had two fixed Browning machine guns in the nose and two more in the Boulton Paul dorsal turret. The Hudson Mk III added one ventral and two beam machine guns and replaced the 1,100 hp Wright Cyclone 9-cylinder radials with 1,200 hp versions (428 produced).[6]

The Hudson Mk V (309 produced) and Mk VI (450 produced) were powered by the 1,200 hp Pratt & Whitney Twin Wasp 14-cylinder two-row radial. The RAF also obtained 380 Mk IIIA and 30 Mk IV Hudsons under the Lend-Lease programme.

Operational history

World War Two

By February 1939, RAF Hudsons began to be delivered, initially equipping No. 224 Squadron RAF at RAF Leuchars, Scotland in May 1939. By the start of the war in September, 78 Hudsons were in service.[7] Due to the United States' neutrality at that time, early series aircraft were flown to the Canada–US border, landed, and then towed on their wheels over the border into Canada by tractors or horse drawn teams, before then being flown to Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) airfields where they were then dismantled and "cocooned" for transport as deck cargo, by ship to Liverpool. The Hudsons were supplied without the Boulton Paul dorsal turret, which was installed on arrival in the United Kingdom.

Although later outclassed by larger bombers, the Hudson achieved some significant feats during the first half of the war. On 8 October 1939, over Jutland, a Hudson became the first Allied aircraft operating from the British Isles to shoot down an enemy aircraft[8] (earlier victories by a Fairey Battle on 20 September 1939 over Aachen and by Blackburn Skuas of the Fleet Air Arm on 26 September 1939 had been by aircraft based in France or on an aircraft carrier). Hudsons also provided top cover during the Battle of Dunkirk.

On 27 August 1941, a Hudson of No. 269 Squadron RAF, operating from Kaldadarnes, Iceland, attacked and damaged the German submarine U-570 causing the submarine's crew to display a white flag and surrender – the aircraft achieved the unusual distinction of capturing a naval vessel. The Germans were taken prisoner and the submarine taken under tow when Royal Navy ships subsequently arrived on the scene.[9] A PBO-1 Hudson of the United States Navy squadron VP-82 became the first US aircraft to destroy a German submarine,[10] when it sank U-656 southwest of Newfoundland on 1 March 1942. U-701 was destroyed on 7 July 1942 while running on the surface off Cape Hatteras by a Hudson of the 396th Bombardment Squadron (Medium), United States Army Air Forces (USAAF). A Hudson of No. 113 Squadron RCAF became the first aircraft of the RCAF's Eastern Air Command to sink a submarine, when Hudson 625 sank U-754 on 31 July 1942.[11]

A Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) Hudson was involved in the Canberra air disaster of 1940, in which three ministers of the Australian government were killed.

In 1941, the USAAF began operating the Hudson; the Twin Wasp-powered variant was designated the A-28 (82 acquired) and the Cyclone-powered variant was designated the A-29 (418 acquired). The US Navy operated 20 A-28s, redesignated the PBO-1. A further 300 were built as aircrew trainers, designated the AT-18.

Following Japanese attacks on Malaya, Hudsons from No. 1 Squadron RAAF became the first aircraft to make an attack in the Pacific War, sinking a Japanese transport ship, the Awazisan Maru, off Kota Bharu at 0118h local time, an hour before the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Skilled and experienced pilots found that the Hudson had an exceptional manoeuvrability for a twin-engined aircraft, especially a tight turning circle if either engine was briefly feathered. Saburō Sakai, who would become among the highest-scoring Japanese aces of the war, praised the fighting abilities of a lone, outnumbered Hudson Mk IIIA crew from No. 32 Squadron RAAF on 22 July 1942.[12][13] Hudson A16201 (bu. no. 41-36979) was intercepted over Buna, New Guinea by nine Mitsubishi A6M Zeroes of the Tainan Kaigun Kōkūtai led by Sakai, who reported that their opponent made many sharp and unexpected turns, engaging the Zero pilots in a turning dogfight for at least 10 minutes. It was only after Sakai himself scored hits on the (rear/upper) gun position that he was able to down the Hudson; its crew was killed. The Japanese pilots were so impressed by their enemy that, after the war's end, Sakai asked Australian researchers to identify the pilot and in 1997 wrote to the Australian government, recommending that Pilot Officer Warren Cowan be "posthumously awarded your country's highest military decoration".[12] Similarly, on 23 November 1942, the crew of a No. 3 Squadron, Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) Hudson Mk IIIA, NZ2049,[14] (41-46465) after spotting an enemy convoy near Vella Lavella, was engaged by three Japanese floatplane fighters. After skilled evasive manoeuvring at an altitude of less than 50 feet (15 metres), by the Hudson's captain, Flying Officer George Gudsell,[15] the crew returned with no casualties to Henderson Field, Guadalcanal.

Hudsons were also operated by RAF Special Duties squadrons for clandestine operations; No. 161 Squadron in Europe and No. 357 Squadron in Burma.


Hudson III, ex RAAF, operated by Adastra Aerial Surveys 1953-1972

Postwar, numbers of Hudsons were sold by the military for civil operation as airliners and survey aircraft. In Australia, East-West Airlines of Tamworth, New South Wales (NSW), operated four Hudsons on scheduled services from Tamworth to many towns in NSW and Queensland between 1950 and 1955.[16] Adastra Aerial Surveys based at Sydney's Mascot Airport operated seven L-414s between 1950 and 1972 on air taxi, survey and photographic flights.[17]

A total of 2,941 Hudsons were built.[18]

The type formed the basis for development of the Lockheed Ventura resulting in them being withdrawn from front line service from 1944, though many survived the war to be used as civil transports, primarily in Australia and a single example was briefly used as an airline crew trainer in New Zealand.


A Hudson I from 11 Squadron, RCAF.
A Hudson Mk V of No. 48 Squadron RAF, in early 1942.
Model 414
Company designation for the military A-28 / A-29 and Hudson variants.
Hudson I
Production aircraft for the Royal Air Force (RAF); 351 built and 50 for the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF).
Hudson II
As the Mk I but with spinnerless constant speed propellers; 20 built for the RAF and 50 for the RAAF.
Hudson III
Production aircraft with retractable ventral gun position; 428 built.
Hudson IIIA
Lend-lease variants of the A-29 and A-29A aircraft; 800 built.
Hudson IV
As Mk II with ventral gun removed; 30 built and RAAF Mk I and IIs were converted to this standard.
Hudson IVA
52 A-28s delivered to the RAAF.
Hudson V
Mk III with two 1,200 hp (890 kW) Pratt & Whitney R-1830-S3C4-G Twin Wasp engines; 409 built.
Hudson VI
A-28As under lend-lease; 450 built.
US Military powered by two 1,050 hp (780 kW) R-1830-45 engines; 52 delivered to Australia as Hudson IVA.
A-28 with convertible interiors as troop transports; 450 delivered to RAF as Hudson VI; 27 units passed to the Brazilian Air Force
A-28 powered by two 1,200 hp (890 kW) R-1830-87 engines; 416 built for the RAF, 153 diverted to United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) as the RA-29 and 20 to the United States Navy (USN) as the PBO-1
A-29 with convertible interiors as troop transports; 384 to the RAF as Hudson IIIA, some retained by USAAF as the RA-29A.
24 repossessed A-29s converted for photo-survey.
A US Navy PBO-1 from VP-82 at Argentia, 1942.
Gunnery trainer version of the A-29 powered by two R-1820-87 engines, 217 built.
Navigational trainer version with dorsal turret removed, 83 built.
Provisional designation changed to A-29A.
Twenty former RAF Hudson IIIAs repossessed for use by Patrol Squadron 82 (VP-82) of the USN


Two Australian Lockheed Hudsons in 1940
Hudson in the RNZAF Museum.
 New Zealand
 South Africa
 United Kingdom
 United States
Lockheed Hudson Mk IIIA (T9422) at the North Atlantic Aviation Museum, Gander, Newfoundland

Civil operators

 Trinidad and Tobago
 United Kingdom


Hudson Mk III at Point Cook (2008).
A Hudson Bomber converted for passenger use after the Second World War and flown by East-West Airlines; it is restored as a Hudson Mk III and is currently located at the Temora Aviation Museum
RAAF Hudsons can be found at the Temora Aviation Museum, the Australian War Memorial and the RAAF Museum. The ex-RAAF Hudsons, and the example in the RAF Museum, had previously been converted for aerial survey use and flown by ADASTRA Air Surveys.[19]
One complete and several partial Hudsons also exist in Canada. A Lockheed Hudson Mk IIIA (T9422) after years mounted on a pedestal near Washington Street, is on outdoor display at the North Atlantic Aviation Museum, Gander, Newfoundland.
New Zealand
Former Royal New Zealand Air Force Hudsons which saw service during the Second World War in the South Pacific are on display at the Royal New Zealand Air Force Museum and Ferrymead Heritage Park in Christchurch and the Museum of Transport and Technology in Auckland.
United Kingdom
A Hudson in Royal Australian Air Force colours is preserved in the Royal Air Force Museum at Hendon.

Specifications (Hudson Mk I)

Data from

General characteristics



Notable appearances in media

See also

Related development
Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era
Related lists



  1. Herman 2012, pp. 11, 85, 86.
  2. Parker 2013, pp. 59, 71.
  3. Borth 1945, p. 244.
  4. "New Transport Plane Can Be Converted To Bomber" Popular Science Monthly, November 1937
  5. "British Buy Dual Purpose War Planes." Popular Science, August 1939.
  6. Parker 2013, p. 71.
  7. Kightly 2015, p. 80.
  8. "Collections: Lockheed Hudson IIIA." RAF Museum. Retrieved: 15 October 2014.
  9. Thomas, Andrew. "Icelandic Hunters - No 269 Squadron Royal Air Force." Aviation News, 24 May 2001. Retrieved: 15 October 2014.
  10. Swanborough and Bowers 1976, p. 505.
  11. Douglas 1986, p. 520.
  12. 1 2 "Australian Story: Enemy Lines". ABC-TV, 2002. Retrieved: 30 April 2014.
  13. Birkett, Gordon. "RAAF A16 Lockheed Hudson Mk.I/Mk.II/Mk.III/Mk.IIIA/Mk.IV/MK.IVA". ADF-Serials, 2013. Retrieved: 30 April 2014.
  14. "RNZAF Lockheed Hudson Survivors." Cambridge Air Force, 2008. Retrieved: 15 July 2010.
  15. "A Veteran's Advice." rsa.org.nz. Retrieved: 15 July 2010.
  16. Marson 2001, p. 110.
  17. Marson 2001, p. 76.
  18. Francillon 1987, pp. 148, 501–502.
  19. 1 2 "Lockheed Hudson." Adastra Aerial Surveys. Retrieved: 15 October 2014.
  20. "Above & Beyond." CBC.ca. Retrieved: 15 July 2010.


  • Borth, Christy. Masters of Mass Production. Indianapolis, Indiana: Bobbs-Merrill Co., 1945.
  • Douglas, W.A.B. The Creation of a National Air Force. Toronto, Ontario, Canada: University of Toronto Press, 1986. ISBN 978-0-80202-584-5.
  • Francillon, René. Lockheed Aircraft since 1913. London: Putnam, 1987. ISBN 0-85177-805-4.
  • Herman, Arthur. Freedom's Forge: How American Business Produced Victory in World War II. New York: Random House, 2012. ISBN 978-1-4000-6964-4.
  • Kightly, James."Database: Lockheed Hudson". Aeroplane, Vol. 43, No. 10, October 2015. pp. 73–88.
  • Marson, Peter J. The Lockheed Twins. Tonbridge, Kent, UK: Air-Britain (Historians) Ltd, 2001. ISBN 0-85130-284-X.
  • Parker, Dana T. Building Victory: Aircraft Manufacturing in the Los Angeles Area in World War II. Cypress, California: Amazon Digital Services, Inc., 2013. ISBN 978-0-9897906-0-4.
  • Swanborough, Gordon and Peter M. Bowers. United States Navy Aircraft since 1911. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press, 1976. ISBN 0-87021-792-5.
  • Vincent, David. The RAAF Hudson Story: Book One Highbury, South Australia: David Vincent, 1999. ISBN 0-9596052-2-3
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