Hawker Hunter GA.11 WV382 “830” at East Midlands Aeropark

WV382 was built as an RAF Hunter F.4 in 1955 and  accepted in to the RAF on 15th August 1955 serving with No.67(F) Squadron. WV382 was transferred to the Royal Navy and converted to GA.11 status by Hawker Aircraft Ltd flying in it’s new guise from Dunsfold on 6th July 1962.

In the Fleet Air Arm it served with No.738NAS at Lossiemouth before moving to RNAS Brawdy in 1966. On 27th March 1969, the aircraft joined the Fleet Requirements Unit (FRU) at Hurn whereupon the aircraft received the code ‘830’ on the forward fuselage. In 1972 it transferred to RNAS Yeovilton where it was operated by the Air Direction Training Unit (ADTU). In 1972 the aircraft passed to the unit’s successor, FRADU.

The aircraft was withdrawn from service in 1976 and was held in storage until 1985 when it was moved to RNAS Lee-on-Solent where it become a training aid for the Air Engineering School. In 1988 it was put up for sale and registered as a derelict airframe.

East Midlands Aeropark acquired the aircraft in 2008 and was reassembled in 2009.

The following two photos of WV382 were taken on January 18th 2015.

Photos: Tony Wilkins


 

WV382 Hawker Hunter GA (2)

WV382 Hawker Hunter GA (1)

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Weapon File: Fairey Fireflash

Supermarine_Swift_with_Fireflash_missiles_1956

It has long been the belief that air-to-air missile technology was developed as a result of the increase in speed afforded to aircraft by jet technology. While this certainly spurred on the development of such weapons their genesis can be traced back to the need to destroy heavily armoured, well defended bombers quickly and out of range of the bomber’s own defensive weapons.

This requirement was dramatically highlighted in the Battle of Britain where it was found that the Royal Air Force’s fighter aircraft which were armed with .303 machine guns lacked the hitting power to bypass the German bomber’s protection such as self-sealing fuel tanks. The RAF’s answer was to install 20mm cannon armament which had a better punch and from then on nearly all RAF and Luftwaffe fighters featured some kind of cannon armament culminating in an all-cannon armament in the RAF’s fighters towards the end of the war typified by the Gloster Meteor jet fighter.

For the Luftwaffe the need to destroy well protected bombers quickly became more and more urgent as the war progressed. Fighting a combined force of RAF bombers at night and American bombers by day the Luftwaffe needed a weapon to allow high speed attacks on the formations. The Germans experimented with yet heavier armament using cannons in the 30mm to 40mm range but this became impractical. They therefore looked at ways of launching an explosive device against the bombers which would decimate them in a single pass. This resulted in the development of the first guided air-to-air missile, the Ruhrstahl X-4. This simple weapon was guided by its launch aircraft via a wire trailed behind it. The weapon was never tested in combat but the potential was obvious to all and this led to a number of experiments in to the concept by the victorious allies (it should be noted that while the X-4’s guidance method was not successful for air-to-air use it did lay the ground work for a number of successful anti-tank missiles that used wires for guidance such as MILAN and TOW).

The story of the RAF’s first air-to-air missile begins in 1947 when the British Air Ministry, anticipating a new generation of jet powered bombers capable of 600mph, issued a requirement for an air-to-air missile to arm Fighter Command’s aircraft in the 1950s. The result was the Red Hawk missile project but the weapon looked set to impose such performance limitations on the launch aircraft that, coupled with its complexity, by 1950 the RAF had deemed it impractical and lost interest.

In 1949 however the Ministry of Supply issued a requirement calling for a de-rated weapon that would not impose such a weight penalty and address some of the complex problems associated with it. Known briefly as Pink Hawk, in reference to its ancestor, the project then became known as Blue Sky and development was undertaken by Fairey Aviation. By that time Fairey Aviation’s weapons division was well established in the fairey fireflashdevelopment of guided weapons having begun research as far back as the closing stages of the war when they worked on developing guided weapons to use against Japanese Kamikaze aircraft. They had also undertaken development of multi-stage weapons culminating in the S.T.V.1 test vehicle that featured four boosters that could be separated in flight.

In mid-1950 the Ministry of Supply were presented with Fairey’s proposal for a beam-riding weapon incorporating two jettisonable rocket boosters to power it to the target. The weapon was small enough to be carried by nearly all jet nightfighters of the period such as the Gloster Meteor. This was necessary as the weapon required a radar equipped launch aircraft to guide it. The Ministry of Supply were sufficiently interested to order a development batch of weapons for firing trials and the weapon was later renamed Fireflash although the blanket term for the trials remained Blue Sky. At the same time the Ministry of Supply also gave the go ahead for De Havilland’s missile project, the infra-red guided Blue Jay, which eventually became the Firestreak.

Fireflash was a two stage missile consisting of the main weapon flanked by two rocket boosters. The weapon itself was essentially an unpowered, fireflash missile meteorguided dart and relied on the boosters to accelerate it to its optimal speed of around Mach 2. This took the boosters approximately 1.5 seconds to achieve after which they were jettisoned allowing the main weapon to continue on to the target. The two rocket boosters were solid fuelled and attached to the dart by a U-shaped separation device that consisted of a tube housing two cylinder mounted pistons. A 0.06lb cordite charge would power the pistons forward when a pressure switch detected that the boosters had extinguished their fuel thus separating the boosters from the main weapon. Stabilising fins on the boosters prevented them from tumbling upon separation which greatly reduced the risk to the aircraft.

The dart itself featured cruciform wings along its centre of gravity and was steered to the target via four steering rudders at the tail positioned at 45 degrees in relation to these wings. The warhead was located near the nose of the dart and was triggered by an early proximity fuse mounted just ahead of it. The guidance systems were located in the rear of the missile ahead of the steering servos that controlled the rudders.

Fireflash was guided to the target via a process known as “beam riding” which was a common guidance system for early air-to-air and surface-to-air missiles. The concept works by having the launch aircraft direct a narrow beam of radar energy at the target which in the case of Fireflash was achieved by synchronising the radar beam to the aircraft’s gun sight. The pilot would aim at the target using the gunsight and then launch the Fireflash keeping the target aircraft in the gunsight throughout the entire engagement. Receivers in the rear of the missile determined the strength of the radar beam in the longitudinal and lateral axis and issue corrections to the rudders in the tail of the dart. The stronger the radar signal the weapon detected then the more it was on course. The entire assembly was designed to rotate immediately after launch so as to offset any asymmetrical thrust produced by one of the boosters producing more thrust than the other which also kept the weapon roughly within the guidance beam.

Gloster Meteor Fireflash NF.11

Test launches of the weapon began in the summer of 1951 using a modified Armstrong-Whitworth (Gloster) Meteor NF.11 fitted with a distinguishable “bump” on the nose that housed the radar beam antenna. The guidance radar on the Meteor and subsequently any other aircraft to be armed with the weapon was an X band system using a helical scan dish meaning the scanner rotated at a slight angle rather than transition from side to side as in a search radar for example.

The first firings were carried out by Fairey Aviation employees I. R. Ryall, acting as pilot, and P. H. Clark, acting as observer. The target aircraft were often Fairey Firefly drones and the early missiles lacked the warhead until the guidance system had been properly tested. Once satisfied that the missile wasn’t about to fly off in to some populated area live firings began shortly afterwards. The RAF were sufficiently interested to keep funding the weapon’s development but De Havilland’s Firestreak project was closing the gap on the lead Fairey was enjoying at the time. Testing of the weapon was proving remarkably trouble free and as 1955 dawned the RAF commissioned the No 6 Joint Services Trials Unit at RAF Valley to continue developing the weapon and perhaps more importantly develop operating principles for RAF use of guided weapons.

Talks now centred on a production contract with the RAF and Fairey requested a minimum order of 1,000 rounds to take in to consideration operational usage and to make the weapon financially viable. It was at this point however that the RAF began to rethink the whole project. Fairey must have known that there were clouds gathering over the project as well for most of their test pilots were combat veterans themselves and had already recognised the weapon’s obvious limitations.

Fairey Firefly Gloster Meteor Fireflash missile

Fireflash shooting down a Fairey Firefly drone

Despite its accuracy, Fireflash was a comparatively short ranged weapon. The unpowered dart, the very “business end” of the weapon, had a maximum range in the region of 2.2 miles (3.5km) whereas De Havilland’s Firestreak was promising a range of 4 miles (6.4km). Assembling the weapon was a tricky and time consuming process that, unless it was already assembled, increased an aircraft’s turnaround time during missions.

The biggest criticism however centred on its method of guidance. On the one hand it proved quite reliable and was largely immune to physical countermeasures such as chaff since the pilot could keep the target in his gunsight and therefore re-establish contact quickly after the chaff had dropped away. However the weapon required what is known in military circles as a “cooperative target” meaning a target that offered the most ideal positioning for a shot which in this case was directly head of the launch aircraft flying straight and level. This was not so much of a problem for an attack on a lumbering bomber or transport aircraft but against a tight turning fighter it was useless. Also, the fact that the launch aircraft had to keep aiming at the target also left it very vulnerable to attack from another aircraft. De Havilland’s Firestreak, which was infra-red guided, had none of these problems.

Intensive trials of the Fireflash continued on but no full-scale production order was ever given and by the time No 6 Joint Services Trials Unit was redesignated No 1 Guided Weapons Development Squadron in 1957 flying 10 modified Supermarine Swift F7s to carry the missile the project was effectively dead. Instead the unit was now tasked with using the weapon to continue developing the operating principles for guided air-to-air 11713487_10153537915142845_1383701414_nweapons that would then be implemented on future weapons. There were efforts to save the project by its supporters who wanted it adopted for the high altitude bomber interception role but anything the Fireflash could do Firestreak (right) could do better and the last units were withdrawn in 1958.

A cynic might say that Fireflash was something of a failure however this ignores the important contribution it made to the RAF and the British weapons technology effort at large. Fireflash has the distinction of being the first British air-to-air guided missile to be fired, the first guided air-to-air weapon fielded by the RAF (albeit in a trials role) and perhaps most significantly gave the RAF valuable experience in handling such weapons. It therefore paved the way for future weapons from Firestreak and Red Top up to today’s AIM-132 ASRAAM and Meteor.

SPECIFICATIONS

  • Wingspan : 2.34ft
  • Length : 9.31ft
  • Launch Weight : 330lbs
  • Speed : Mach 2 (2436 mph)
  • Range : 2.2 miles
  • Number Built : 300
  • Life Span : 1951 – 1958

RAF Movie – High Flight (1957)

High Flight RAF Hawker Hunter 1957

High Flight takes its name after a poem written by Pilot Officer John Gillespie Magee, Jr., an American aviator who flew for the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) who lost his life in 1941 over RAF Cranwell where the film is set. Excuse the cynicism but there is something apt about that, for this film appealed more to American audiences than it did British who largely dismissed this film.

The story revolves around a new cadet to RAF Cranwell named Tony Winchester (played by Kenneth Haigh). Winchester is forever making a nuisance of himself as he believes his own skills as a pilot means he is exempt from the same rules as everyone else. Normally this would get him thrown out of the RAF but his senior instructor has history with Winchester’s father who was killed during the war and so a lot of his antics end up getting tolerated. In the end a team is put together to display the Hawker Hunter at the Farnborough air show and Winchester must learn to put his ego aside and work with the others in his unit.

This film, like a lot of contemporary American movies, prefers to look glitzy than realistic with all the flight scenes while playing on the myths of military life. It has all the excitement young boys dreaming of flying in the RAF would have in the 50s but this results in a movie that feels detached from reality. Winchester would be thrown out of the service in his first scene when he lands his personal plane at Cranwell without permission and almost colliding with a De Havilland Vampire but is kept on!

The flying sequences are brilliantly filmed however. There is logic in the progression from Provost basic trainers up to Vampires and then on to Hawker Hunters. There is also a fascinating scene where the cadets are flying in a Vickers Varsity navigation trainer but the rest of the movie is then just high-jinks and light heartedness all of which contrast to what is supposed to be a serious undertone regarding the instructor and Winchester’s father.

Give it a try. There is some enjoyment to be had out of it but fans of The Dambusters may be a bit disappointed.

Hawker Hunter T.8

Hunter T.8 2

Hunter T.8 (FRADU-Hunters.co.uk)

SPECIFICATION (T.8/B/C)

  • Role: Two-seat advanced trainer
  • Powerplant: Rolls-Royce Avon 122 (7,550lbs dry thrust)
  • Max Speed: 694mph
  • Service Ceiling: 47,000ft
  • Ferry Range: 1900miles (with external tanks)
  • Wingspan: 33ft 8in
  • Length: 48ft 10in
  • Height: 13ft 2in

Up until 1939 the Royal Navy’s Fleet Air Arm (FAA) were subservient to the Royal Air Force and as such nearly the entire inventory of FAA aircraft were simply naval versions of the RAF’s own aircraft. Upon gaining independence from the RAF the FAA was finally able to stipulate its own requirements for aircraft and the British military aviation industry branched off in to two sectors – land based for the RAF and carrier based for the FAA. There were of course exceptions and the most notable being the Hawker Sea Hurricane, the Supermarine Seafire and De Havilland’s early jets such as the Vampire and Venom but these were seen as stop-gaps until the resources became available to develop entirely new aircraft.

In the post war period the FAA operated a plethora of jet powered combat types ranging from the relatively simple Supermarine Attacker up to the powerful De Havilland Sea Vixen with plans on the horizon for the even more sophisticated Blackburn Buccaneer and McDonnell Douglas Phantom. The problem was that the training infrastructure in place for the FAA was falling behind the frontline aircraft and so the gap between the lead-in fighter trainers such as the Hawker Fury and the operational conversion units was rapidly growing.

Therefore in the mid-to-late 1950s the FAA looked at options to acquire a new and more capable advanced trainer to plug the gap. After evaluating several options the FAA decided that it would reverse its policy on acquiring jets designed specifically for them and acquire the training version of the RAF’s superlative Hawker Hunter, the Hunter T.7, but tailored to their needs. This produced the Hunter T.8 and this in turn spawned several sub-variants.

Hawker Hunter T.8

In outlining its requirement for the Hunter the FAA decided against making the Hunter carrier-capable as this would increase development (and subsequently unit) costs but the aircraft would have to train FAA pilots in the delicate and dangerous art of carrier landings. To do this a series of arrestor wires could be stretched across the runway at a shore based training station to simulate a carrier deck allowing the pilots to practice making carrier approaches. In order to catch the wire the Hunter T.8 was fitted with a tail hook but this was not strong enough to bring the aircraft to a full halt. It would simply pull on the arrestor wire to allow a ground instructor to grade the landing by the student pilot.

As well as training pilots how to land on a carrier the Hunters were also employed as lead-in fighter trainers teaching pilots the skills necessary for basic air-to-air and air-to-ground combat before moving on to a conversion unit where these skills would be built upon depending on the aircraft and role they would undertake operationally. The first unit to receive the Hunter T.8 was No.726 NAS based at RNAS Lossiemouth. A total of 35 Hunter T.8s were built or converted from ex-RAF Hunter F.4s and served with No.726 NAS and No.764 NAS.

Hunter T.8B

The Blackburn Buccaneer S.1 offered a whole new dimension to the Fleet Air Arm’s ability to fly low and fast but the lack of a dedicated trainer version meant that the FAA turned to the Hunter to fill the gap. Four aircraft were converted to act as trainers for the Buccaneer and featured among other Buccaneer systems a TACAN navigation suite. The new variant was designated the Hunter T.8B and remained in service until the Buccaneer S.2 was withdrawn in 1978 but the RAF would later adopt a similar aircraft for the same role when they inherited the navy’s Buccaneer force.

Hawker Hunter T.8C

Ten of the ex-RAF Hunter F.4s converted to T.8 standard in the early 1960s were fitted with TACAN navigation suites. A tactical air navigation system, commonly referred to by the acronym TACAN, is a navigation system used by military aircraft. It provides the aircrew with a bearing and distance in relation to a ground- or ship-based station. These aircraft were delivered to No.759 NAS at RNAS Brawdy in North Wales and received the peculiar designation of T.8C and were used to train pilots preparing to join a Scimitar or Sea Vixen (later Phantom FG.1) squadron where using these systems were an integral part of flying. A number of observers were also trained in the system’s use.

Later Service

Hunter T.8

As the Royal Navy began scaling back its carrier force such a large training organization was no longer needed and so the three squadrons were disbanded and their personnel and aircraft amalgamated in to a single training squadron based at RNAS Yeovilton under the banner of No.899 NAS. For a very brief time this was the Royal Navy’s only operational fast jet unit between the retirement of HMS Ark Royal and the delivery of the first Sea Harrier FRS.1s.

As well as traditional training tasks the Hunter T.8/8Cs also acted as adversaries for the Royal Navy’s surface fleet training naval gunners and surface-to-air missile (SAM) operators in acquiring high speed low level attack jets. For this role the aircraft were modified with a Harley light in the nose that made the aircraft more visible to new gunners. Once the gunners became more proficient the light would be turned off to provide a more realistic target. This training would prove invaluable during the 1982 Falklands Conflict particularly during the landings at San Carlos.

Between the late 1970s and early 1980s the Hunters were slowly passed to the civilian operated Fleet Requirements and Direction Unit (FRADU) who continued to use them in the target role for surface ships. They were eventually replaced by British Aerospace Hawks.

Hunter T.8M

Hawker Hunter T.8M

Hunter T.8 (FRADU-Hunters.co.uk)

One of the most well-known naval variants of the Hunter in FAA service were the small number of Hunter T.8Ms. The introduction of the Sea Harrier FRS.1 brought with it new problems regarding training of aircrew. It was a totally new form of air operations and the navy’s version was different still being fitted with the large Blue Fox radar. The FAA used two seat Harriers to train their pilots how to fly the aircraft but these lacked the weapon system and it would have been impractical to develop a Harrier trainer with the radar.

Therefore the decision was taken to fit the radar and its accompanying systems to a handful of Hunter T.8s to train the Sea Harrier pilots how to use the weapon system operationally. This produced arguably the most attractive version of the Hunter and many viewed it as a taste of the potential the aircraft had in the late fifties had development continued. The trainee pilot could fly the Hunter T.8M almost exactly like the Sea Harrier FRS.1 bar of course the V/STOL capability and this meant that the aircraft could theoretically have a wartime role of rear guard air defence. As well as the Blue Fox radar the aircraft was wired to carry an AIM-9L Sidewinder acquisition training round to simulate firing the live weapon.

Despite the success of the aircraft no new variant was developed to train FAA pilots on the Sea Harrier FA.2 with its far more sophisticated Blue Vixen radar. Instead the FAA adopted a combination of flight time in the two seat Harrier trainer and ground tuition.

Forgotten Aircraft: Supermarine Swift

Swift-800-profile4Sqn

(wp.scn.ru)

Given the success of the Spitfire in World War II many people had high hopes for Supermarine in the post war years that they could follow up this success but with a jet powered design. The Swift can trace its origins to the Type 510 which first flew in 1948 and after a series of redesigns the first true Swift F.1 was ordered in to production in 1951 at the height of the Korean War. Experience in Korea against the MiG-15 had shown the Swift would struggle with its unreliable engine and it’s troublesome handling. In fact it would not have even entered production in its F.1 guise had it not been for the government’s insistence that a British swept wing jet fighter be put in to service as soon as possible.

swiftfr5

Efforts were made to address these problems in the succeeding versions. The F.2 featured an additional pair of ADEN guns bringing the total to four but this exacerbated the problems further with the weapons’ additional weight. To give the engine more guts compared to the MiG-15 a primitive afterburner was fitted to the Rolls-Royce Avon engine producing the F.3. This was never adopted operationally but served as an instructional airframe for ground crews to gain experience with afterburner technology. The afterburner equipped Swift F.4 did enter operational service with the RAF and featured a number of improvements but the aircraft’s handling was still quite lacklustre especially at high altitudes.

swift_courtBy 1957 the concept of using the Swift as a fighter was falling out of favour especially as the Hawker Hunter (an aircraft ordered in to production as a fail-safe against the Swift which everyone wrongly assumed would be superior) was proving a far more vice-less and more capable design. Therefore the aircraft’s nose was lengthened to accommodate cameras giving birth to the Swift FR.5 tactical reconnaissance aircraft. Many would argue that this version exonerated the design as it proved quite adept in the role and is best remembered for it even winning a major NATO reconnaissance competition in 1959 against aircraft from every member nation. The FR.5 equipped three squadrons in RAF Germany in preparation for a Soviet advance across the Rhine.

Two further variants were built but neither entered frontline service. One was an unarmed reconnaissance version designated PR.6 but was cancelled because of development problems with the engine. Perhaps the most optimistic variant was the Swift F.7 which featured an air intercept radar in the nose and was armed with four Fairey Fireflash air-to-air missiles. Neither the F.7 nor the Fireflash entered service but both went a long way to developing the technology that would lead to the Firestreak and Red Top missiles.

Supermarine_Swift_with_Fireflash_missiles_1956

Swift armed with Fireflash missiles

This was never a great aircraft and will forever sit in the shadow of the near-universally loved Hawker Hunter. It did provide a useful low level reconnaissance capability however and would lay the foundation for a number of more successful ventures in aerospace defence technology. It did make a brief cameo in the 1954 British film Conflict of Wings where it visits an air base in Norfolk that is the setting for the movie. The pilot of the Swift openly mocks the home squadrons De Havilland Vampires calling them antiques compared to his new mount. The last aircraft served as ground instructional airframes in the early 70s.

(SOURCE: Aviastar.org)

(SOURCE: Aviastar.org)