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Hamilcar file photo [7037]

G.A.L. 49 Hamilcar

CountryUnited Kingdom
ManufacturerGeneral Aircraft Limited
Primary RoleGlider
Maiden Flight27 March 1942


ww2dbaseThe General Aircraft GAL 49 Hamilcar or Hamilcar Mk I was a large British military glider of the Second World War, which was capable of carrying seven tons of cargo, a light tank such as the Tetrarch or Locust, or two Universal Carriers. The design was named for a famous Carthaginian general and father of Hannibal.


ww2dbaseBritain's airborne forces were formed in June 1940 under the orders of the Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, in response to the German use of airborne forces during the Battle of France. When the use of airborne forces was examined, the War Office decided gliders would be an integral component of such a force; these would be used to transport glider-borne troops and heavy equipment, which by 1941 was to include artillery and some form of tank.

ww2dbaseGeneral Aircraft's GAL 49 first prototype flew on March 27, 1942 and led to the production of 410 aircraft under the designation Hamilcar I.

ww2dbaseThe Hamilcar was of all-wood construction apart from the control surfaces which were wood framed with fabric covering. Manufacturing was subcontracted to various companies with experience in woodworking, under the supervision of General Aircraft Ltd.

ww2dbaseIn configuration it was a high-wing monoplane so that the wing center section did not interfere with the loading of vehicles through its swing-open nose. For the same reason the crew of two were accommodated in a cockpit mounted on top of the fuselage, accessed via a ladder. It was fitted with tail-wheel landing gear, with oleo-pneumatic shock absorbers that could be deflated to bring the fuselage nose down for loading or unloading purposes. It also had skids beneath the fuselage for landing without the undercarriage.

ww2dbaseIt was the largest and heaviest of the transport gliders used by Allied forces during World War II, being capable of carrying up to 17,600 pounds (8,000 kilograms) of cargo, or two Tetrarch light tanks or two Universal Carriers. The load was strapped down in the fuselage and the tank crews traveled with it. It was also the first British glider to carry a tank into action and it was used with success in Operation Overlord (Normandy invasion).

ww2dbaseTowing aircraft could be the Stirling, Lancaster or Halifax bombers. Towing speed for the Hamilcar was 240 km/h and the maximum diving speed 300 km/h. On D-Day the Hamilcar gliders were towed by Halifax IIIs of 298 and 644 Squadrons, Royal Air Force lifting off from the Dorset airfield of Tarrant Rushton. Designated Operation Mallard it involved 30 Halifax-Hamilcar combinations taking off on 5 June 1944 at 2100 hours bound for Normandy, France.

ww2dbaseMark X

ww2dbaseThe Mark X Hamilcar was an experimental powered version designed in 1944. This was generally similar to the Hamilcar I apart from the installation of two 965 hp Bristol Mercury radial piston engines and their associated controls, instruments, and fuel storage. 100 were ordered, to be converted from production models of the Hamilcar I after the prototype was shown to be practical in a February 1945 test flight. A towing aircraft was still necessary for take-off at full load, but it could return under the power of its own engines.

ww2dbaseIntended for Pacific operations, only 22 had been completed when the end of hostilities with Japan caused the contract to be canceled and none saw action.

ww2dbaseSources: D-Day Tanks, Royal Air Force, Wikipedia.

Last Major Revision: Dec 2008


Mk I
ArmamentCarrying capacity of 7 tons of troops, equipment, and/or vehicles
Span33.53 m
Length20.73 m
Height6.17 m
Wing Area153.98 m²
Weight, Empty8,346 kg
Weight, Maximum16,329 kg
Speed, Maximum240 km/h


Hamilcar glider at rest, date unknownBritish Tetrarch light tank being unloaded from Hamilcar glider during training (as suggested by sandbags and lack of landing gear), date unknown
See all 9 photographs of G.A.L. 49 Hamilcar Glider

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G.A.L. 49 Hamilcar Glider Photo Gallery
Hamilcar glider at rest, date unknownBritish Tetrarch light tank being unloaded from Hamilcar glider during training (as suggested by sandbags and lack of landing gear), date unknown
See all 9 photographs of G.A.L. 49 Hamilcar Glider

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