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British fighters 1950-65


By Sakhal

The outbreak of the Korean War along with the fears that it could become a more extended conflict, accelerated the reequipment programs of the aviation in the West and the East. In United Kingdom, two new fighters, the Hawker Hunter and the Supermarine Swift, replaced the Meteor in the aerial defense role; their prototypes flew, respectively, the 20th July and the 1st August 1951, and the Fighter Command ordered these aircraft to enter production with maximum priority. However, the Swift resulted inadequate for its original high-altitude interception role, because it was prone to "seizures" during turns and to the emission of external flames at high altitude, due to the pressure of wind bursts that entered through the air intakes when firing the cannon. Later it was adapted to the roles of low-altitude interception and reconnaissance, equipping two squadrons in Germany with the designation Swift FR 5. The Hunter F 1, which entered service in the early 1954, also suffered certain problems in the engine in the high-altitude shooting trials, being made in consequence some modifications in the turbojet engine Rolls-Royce Avon. This, along with an increase in fuel capacity and provisions for carrying fuel tanks under the wings, allowed the Hunter to replace little by little the F-86E Sabre - built by Canadair, who had supplied it to the Royal Air Force as a provisional aircraft - in the squadrons based in Germany of the 2nd Tactical Air Force. The Hunter F 2 and F 5 were versions propelled by an engine Armstrong Siddeley Sapphire. In 1953, Hawker equipped the new version F 6, which flew for the first time in January 1954, with the engine Avon 203 of 4536 kilograms of thrust. Deliveries started in 1956, being equipped later with the F 6 fifteen squadrons of the Fighter Command. The Hunter FGA 9 - Fighter Ground Attack version 9 - was a development of the F 6 improved for ground attack. In a career that encompasses a quarter of century, the Hunter equipped 30 fighter squadrons in the Royal Air Force, apart from many other units in foreign air forces. The total number of units produced of the Hunter, including the two-seat trainers T 7, reached 1972, being remodeled later about 500 of them to be sold abroad.

British fighters 1950-65

Hawker Hunter F 6. Type: single-seat fighter; propulsion plant: one Rolls-Royce Avon 100 with 4756 kilograms of thrust; speed: 1150 kilometers/hour at 10970 meters of altitude; wingspan: 10.22 meters; length: 13.95 meters; weight: 7973 kilograms; armament: four ADEN 30-millimeter cannons; up to 3400 kg of weapons load.

The Hunter were the last purely diurnal fighters of the Royal Air Force. At the end of the 1950s, they shared the task of the aerial defense of the United Kingdom with the Gloster Javelin, developed to replace the nocturnal versions of the Meteor, the Vampire and the Venom, which had equipped the squadrons of the Royal Air Force during the first part of the decade. The construction of the prototype of the Javelin, the Gloster GA 5 - which was the first twin-engine delta-wing turbojet aircraft in the world and a radical design on its time -, started in April 1949; the aircraft flew for the first time the 26th November 1951, propelled by two engines Armstrong Siddeley Sapphire. In the inaugural flight appeared a serious problem of vibrations in the vertical rudder, which delayed the following flight trials until modifications were done. Later, the 29th June 1952, the prototype lost the two horizontal rudders and resulted destroyed during the emergency landing, in Boscombe Down. The test pilot, Lieutenant Colonel George Medal, was later condecorated for retrieving the black box from the flaming remainings of the aircraft. Tests continued with the second prototype, which flew the 21st August 1952, but this aircraft resulted destroyed as well, the 11th June 1953, due to a stall. Meanwhile, another three prototypes had been ordered: the third one flew the 7th March 1953 and had as armament a 30-millimeter cannon; the fourth one had wings with modified shape and the fifth one, which flew the 20th July 1954, was ready for production with the British onboard radar Mk 17. The new aircraft, the Javelin FAW 1 - Fighter All Weather version 1 -, entered production for the Royal Air Force with priority. The first series aircraft flew the 22nd July 1954; deliveries to the 46th Squadron based in Odiham started in February 1956. Also the 87th Squadron was equipped with the Javelin FAW 1; this squadron was part of the 2nd Tactical Wing in Germany. In October 1955, appeared a new version, the Javelin FAW 2; this was similar to the FAW 1, apart from its radar - which was the APQ43 of American design - and avionics; later it would replace the former series model in the 56th Squadron. The next in the assembly line was the FAW 4, whose prototype had been the FAW 1 number 41, fitted with an all-moving vertical tail plane. This variant entered service with the 141st Squadron in the early 1957 and, except by the tail plane, it was esentially similar to the FAW 1. More advanced that year, the 51st Squadron received the first aircraft Javelin FAW 5, which had a modified wing structure and increased fuel capacity; in 1958, the Javelin FAW 6 - which was basically an FAW 5 with the same radar than the FAW 2 - entered service with the 89th Squadron. In November 1956, the formidable combat potential of the Javelin was further increased with the apparition of the FAW 7, equipped with engines Sapphire ASSa7R that developed 5579 kilograms of trust with postcombustion, in comparison with the 3765 kilograms developed by the Sapphire ASSa6 used in previous versions. The Javelin FAW 7 incorporated as well structural modifications and increased fuel capacity; it was armed with two ADEN 30-millimeter cannons and four Firestreak air-to-air missiles. It entered service with the 33rd Squadron based in Leeming, in July 1958. The FAW 8, which flew the 9th May 1958, was externally similar to the FAW 7; it incorporated the American radar APQ43, a simplified afterburner, a Sperry automatic pilot, inclined leading edges in the wings and damping for pitch and roll. The FAW 8 was the last series model, being completed the last aircraft in June 1960, but there was a series of FAW 7 that were reconverted into FAW 8 - but equipped with British onboard radar -, denominated FAW 9.

British fighters 1950-65

Gloster Javelin FAW 8. Type: two-seat all-weather fighter; propulsion plant: two Bristol Siddeley Sapphire 203/204 with 4983 kilograms of thrust each; speed: 1118 kilometers/hour at 3000 meters of altitude; wingspan: 15.84 meters; length: 17.14 meters; weight: 17214 kilograms; armament: two ADEN 30-millimeter cannons and four Firestreak air-to-air missiles.

Naval fighters

Despite the mistrust of the British Admiralty towards the usage of turbojet aircraft in the late 1940s, some more farsighted members from the high staff of the fleet continued insisting in the development of carrier-based turbojet aircraft. The idea of a naval turbojet fighter fitted with swept wings was considered almost an insanity, but a design of a turbojet aircraft with straight wings raised much less suspicions. Since both the Meteor and the Vampire resulted inadequate for diverse reasons, the Admiralty looked towards a totally new model, the vickers-Supermarine E 10/44, which in principle had been offered to the Royal Air Force as a ground-based aircraft. But the Royal Air Force had decided to go with the Meteor and the Vampire, for these had better characteristics; for such reason Supermarine offered a navalized version to the Admiralty, who redacted the specification E 1/45 around it. The prototype - in its naval version - flew for the first time the 15th June 1947, entering production as the Vickers-Supermarine Attacker, to later enter service with the Royal Navy in 1951. An order of 60 aircraft Attacker was made, and these served with two naval aviation squadrons; in 1952-53 were delivered another 36 exemplars to the Pakistan Air Force. The Attacker combined an axial-flow turbojet engine and straight wings adapted from the last version of the piston-engine fighter Supermarine Spitfire. Thanks to this aircraft, the Royal Navy could study the operative problems created by turbojet fighters in that time. In 1953, the Attacker was followed in the Royal Navy by the more advanced Hawker Sea Hawk, which had started its life as a prototype of a ground-based single-seat interceptor. The Admiralty evaluated the model and found it adequate for naval operations; its forked exhaust tube freed space in the rear fuselage to allocate a large fuel tank, granting so a good operational range. The first prototype of the Sea Hawk flew the 2nd September 1947; the aircraft entered production as the Sea Hawk F 1, fitted with an engine Rolls-Royce Nene. The Sea Hawk was the first turbojet aircraft built by Hawker; it combined a centrifugal-flow turbojet engine and straight wings, giving as a result an agile and maneuverable aircraft. Since Hawker was very committed building the diurnal fighter Hawker Hunter for the Royal Air Force, it was entrusted to the Armstrong Whitworth Aircraft the production of the Sea Hawk F 2, which introduced power-boosted aileron controls, in order to avoid excessive strain to the pilots. Later versions of the Sea Hawk - which ended in the FGA 6 - had reinforced wings to be able to carry bombs, rockets or droppable fuel tanks. The Sea Hawk were delivered to the squadrons of the Fleet Aviation in 1953. Three years later, six squadrons entered action with this aircraft during the Suez Crisis, performing many ground-strike operations against Egyptian airfields during the first days of the campaign. The Sea Hawk served as well in the naval aviation of Holland, West Germany and India.

British fighters 1950-65

Supermarine Type 392 Attacker. Type: single-seat naval fighter; propulsion plant: one Rolls-Royce Nene with 2265 kilograms of thrust; speed: 965 kilometers/hour; wingspan: 11.25 meters; length: 11.43 meters; weight: 5118 kilograms; armament: four Hispano-Suiza 20-millimeter cannons; up to 907 kilograms of weapons load.

British fighters 1950-65

Hawker Sea Hawk FGA. Type: single-seat naval fighter-bomber; propulsion plant: one Rolls-Royce Nene with 2355 kilograms of thrust; speed: 900 kilometers/hour at 10970 meters of altitude; wingspan: 11.90 meters; length: 12.12 meters; weight: 6244 kilograms; armament: four Hispano-Suiza 20-millimeter cannons; up to 907 kilograms of weapons load.

There were another two naval attack fighters that also entered action during the Suez Crisis in 1956. In 1950 the Royal Navy had evaluated the Venom NF 2 of the Royal Air Force as a possible carrier-based aircraft, ordering three navalized prototypes. The first of them, the De Havilland Sea Venom NF 20, flew the 19th April 1951, being made the deck tests in the HMS Illustrious. 50 aircraft Sea Venom FAW 20 were built, entering service in July 1955. Actually the NF 20 had been preceded by an all-weather fighter variant, the FAW 21, which entered service in May 1955, being equipped with it four squadrons; three of them effectuated attacks with their cannons upon Egyptian airfields in the area of the Suez Canal during the first week of February 1956. There were another two squadrons equipped with the Sea Venom FAW 22, which was fitted with a more powerful engine De Havilland Ghost. In 1955, were delivered to the Australian Navy 39 aircraft Sea Venom FAW 53, with which four squadrons were equipped; this aircraft was produced under license in France for their naval aviation, where it was called Aquilon. The two units that employed it rendered extensive services in ground-strike missions in Algeria. The third attack fighter of the fleet that took part in the campaign of Suez was the Westland Wyvern, which was an unique aircraft, for it was the first turboprop combat aircraft in the world and also the first one entering service in a squadron. Projected according to the specification 11/44, for a naval attack fighter capable of operating either from a carrier or from land, initially the Wyvern was fitted with the piston engine Rolls-Royce Eagle; however, the high staff of the fleet decided to focus the future development around the turboprop engine Armstrong Siddeley Python. The first aircraft with engine Python flew the 22nd March 1949; the model entered operative service with the 813rd Squadron in September 1953, being then equipped with it another three squadrons. The Wyvern was a large aircraft and with its turboprop engine it could not compete against a turbojet fighter; in the operations in Suez - in which two of them were lost -, it was seen that it was vulnerable to anti-aircraft artillery, and in the mid 1958 it was retired from first line service. In total 127 aircraft Wyvern were built.

British fighters 1950-65

De Havilland Sea Venom. Type: two-seat all-weather naval fighter-bomber; propulsion plant: one De Havilland Ghost with 2038 kilograms of thrust; speed: 965 kilometers/hour; wingspan: 12.67 meters; length: 9.55 meters; weight: 6976 kilograms; armament: four Hispano-Suiza 20-millimeter cannons; up to 907 kilograms of weapons load.

British fighters 1950-65

Westland Wyvern. Type: single-seat naval fighter-bomber; propulsion plant: one Armstrong Siddeley Python with 3560 horsepower; speed: 612 kilometers/hour at 3000 meters of altitude; wingspan: 13.41 meters; length: 12.88 meters; weight: 9616 kilograms; armament: four Hispano-Suiza 20-millimeter cannons; up to 1361 kilograms of weapons load.

The Supermarine Scimitar was the final product of a long development process that dated back from 1945 and from the Supermarine 505, a project for a carrier-based fighter that was revised several times, successively turning into the types 508, 525 and 529. The project finally took shape in the type 544, the first of the three prototypes that flew the 20th January 1956. The Fleet Aviation ordered the production of this aircraft as the Scimitar F 1; the first series aircraft flew the 11th January 1957, propelled by two turbojet engines Rolls-Royce Avon. The Scimitar was the first swept-wing fighter employed by the Royal Navy, the first one to reach supersonic speed - during a brief swooping - and the first one designed to carry nuclear weapons. Its high performance constituted a decisive step ahead in respect of the Sea Hawk, the aircraft on which the Scimitar was based, being rather similar in appearance both aircraft, despite the structural modifications - from straight flight surfaces to swept flight surfaces and from one engine to two engines -. The Scimitar entered service with the 803rd Squadron in June 1958; there were another three squadrons that received later this model, but the original order of 100 aircraft had been reduced to 76 in the meantime. In 1962, the Scimitar was modified to be able to carry the Bullpup air-to-surface missile and its firepower was increased with the possibility of carrying four 30-millimeter cannons. The Scimitar would be replaced in the Fleet Aviation by the Blackburn Buccaneer, being retired from firstline units in the late 1966. A bit later than the Scimitar came the powerful De Havilland Sea Vixen, an aircraft that had its origin in the DH 110, which had competed with the Gloster Javelin in the contest for the new all-weather fighter of the Royal Air Force. Initially, the interest of the Admiralty for the DH 110 was rather lukewarm, being cancelled an order of four prototypes in 1949; but the project was resurrected in 1953, being continued the development with a new contract. Test flights continued with the second prototype of the DH 110, that had been left in reserve - suffering some structural modifications in the meantime - after crashing the first prototype in Farnborough in September 1952, incident that had caused the DH 110 to lose the contest against the Javelin. The tests aboard carriers were effectuated in 1956, with a seminavalized preproduction aircraft DH 110; the first totally navalized aircraft, with folding wings and engines Rolls-Royce Avon 208, flew the 20th March 1957. Its denomination was FAW 20; that same year it was officially called Sea Vixen, with the denomination FAW 1. The first operative squadron formed with the Sea Vixen was the 892nd, which served actively in the early 1960s against the rebel forces of the Radfan, in Yemen, and during the confrontation of Indonesia and Malaysia. Later, there were two more squadrons that received the FAW 1. In 1961, two aircraft Sea Vixen were modified to have additional fuel storage by extending the tail booms above the wings, protruding them before the wing leading edges; these aircraft served as prototypes for the variant FAW 2, which was delivered to the operative squadrons in 1965. From 1968, the Sea Vixen started to be discontinued, because the Fleet Aviation started to receive the first units of an aircraft that had revolutionized the spectrum of the aerial combat: the McDonnell F-4 Phantom.

British fighters 1950-65

De Havilland Sea Vixen FAW 1. Type: two-seat naval fighter; propulsion plant: two Rolls-Royce Avon with 3397 kilograms of thrust each; speed: 965 kilometers/hour; wingspan: 15.54 meters; length: 15.84 meters; weight: 13500 kilograms; armament: four ADEN 30-millimeter cannons (never installed); four Firestreak or Red Top air-to-air missiles.

Categories: Aviation - Cold War - 20th Century - [General] - [General]

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Website: Military History

Article submitted: 2014-12-06


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