The Boulton Paul P.96 was a series of designs for a night fighter produced in response to Air Ministry Specification F.18/40, for a two-seat aircraft armed with six 20mm cannon.
Specification F.18/40 was issued in August 1940, at a time when the RAF lacked any really potent night fighters. The Boulton Paul Defiant at least had spare space, and the lack of forward firings wasn't so serious at night. The Blenheim fighter also had enough space, but proved to be rather too slow. The Bristol Beaufighter showed more promise, but didn't reach operational squadrons until September 1940.
F.18/40 called for a two-seat aircraft, with a top speed of 400mph at 20,000ft, three hours endurance at 15,000ft, a service ceiling of 35,000ft and armed with six 20mm cannon or four 20mm cannon and six machine guns.
Boulton Paul produced a series of related designs in response to F.18/40. Three different engines were offered - the Napier Sabre, Rolls-Royce Griffon and Bristol Centaurus. A series of different armament options were suggested, each matched to all three engines. In one form the P.96 resembled a souped-up Defiant, with the same gun turret but also carrying two or four fixed forward firing cannon in the wings. A second option was for six wing mounted cannon, no turret, and a long glazed cockpit canopy.
Estimated performance figures for the Griffon powered version were 367mph with the turret or 389mph without, and for the Sabre powered version 392mph with turret and 415mph without turret. Work on the P.96 stopped after the Air Ministry decided to go for a twin engined design instead, leading to the Boulton Paul P.97.