Armstrong Whitworth Ara

The Armstrong Whitworth Ara was an unsuccessful British single-seat biplane fighter aircraft of the First World War built by Armstrong Whitworth.

Role Fighter
National origin United Kingdom
Manufacturer Armstrong-Whitworth
Designer Fred Murphy
First flight 1919
Status Prototype
Number built 2

Design and development

In early 1918, the British Air Ministry wrote RAF Specification Type 1 for a single-seat fighter to replace the Sopwith Snipe. The specified engine was the ABC Dragonfly, a new radial engine which had been ordered into production based on promised performance before any testing had been carried out. To meet this specification, Armstrong Whitworth's chief designer, Fred Murphy, produced the Armstrong Whitworth Ara, three prototypes being ordered.[1]

The Ara was a two-bay biplane. It had a square fuselage, the engine was covered in a pointed cowling, but with the cylinder heads exposed. The upper wing was low to give the pilot a better upwards view.[2]

As with the other fighters built to meet the Type 1 specification, the Dragonfly engine proved to be the Ara's undoing, demonstrating hopeless reliability. Two of the three prototypes were completed, the first flying in mid-1919. The Ara was abandoned towards the end of the year when Armstrong Whitworth closed down its aircraft department.[3][4]


Data from War Planes of the First World War:Volume One: Fighters [5]

General characteristics

  • Crew: 1
  • Length: 20 ft 3 in (6.17 m)
  • Wingspan: 27 ft 5 in (8.36 m)
  • Height: 7 ft 10 in (2.39 m)
  • Wing area: 257 sq ft (23.9 m2)
  • Empty weight: 1,320 lb (599 kg)
  • Gross weight: 1,930 lb (875 kg)
  • Powerplant: 1 × ABC Dragonfly I nine-cylinder radial engine, 320 hp (240 kW)


  • Maximum speed: 150 mph (240 km/h, 130 kn) at sea level
  • Endurance: 3 hr 15 min
  • Service ceiling: 28,000 ft (8,500 m)
  • Time to altitude: 4 min 30 s to 10,000 ft (3,000 m)


See also

Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era


  1. Bruce 1965, p.20.
  2. Taylor 1990, p.48.
  3. Mason 1992, p.148.
  4. Note: Armstrong Whitworth purchased the engineering company Siddeley-Deasy in 1920, splitting off its aircraft department to form the Sir W. G. Armstrong Whitworth Aircraft Company.
  5. Bruce 1965, p. 22.


  • Bruce, J.M. (1965). War Planes of the First World War:Volume One: Fighters. London: Macdonald.
  • Mason, Francis K. (1992). British Fighters since 1912. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 1-55750-082-7.
  • Taylor, Michael J. H. (1990). Jane's Fighting Aircraft of World War I. London: Studio Editions. p. 49.
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