Supermarine  Attacker F.1 (WA473)

Supermarine  Attacker F.1 (WA473)  [@ Fleet Air Arm Museum]

Supermarine developed a laminar flow wing to improve the high speed capability of the Spitfire towards the end of WW2.  The laminar flow wing proved to be a success and so Supermarine proceeded to design a jet to meet Specification E.10/44 for a land based fighter for the RAF.  The Specification called for an interim aircraft to replace the Gloster Meteor whilst Gloster worked on Specification E.1/44 (intended to be an improvement on the Meteor).  The E.1/44 project was cancelled, as was the E.10/44 project, when the capability of the Meteor refinements exceeded expectations.

Supermarine  Attacker F.1 (WA473)

Supermarine  Attacker F.1 (WA473)  [@ Fleet Air Arm Museum]

NeneWith the RAF’s decision to adopt the Gloster Meteor and the de Havilland Vampire, both of which had a better performance, Supermarine offered a naval version to the Admiralty who wrote Specification E1/45 around it.  The resulting aircraft became the Attacker F.1 and was the Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm first jet fighter.

The prototype Attacker first few on the 17th June 1947, three years after the Meteor had made its first flight, and was in operational service with the Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm (FAA) from August 1951 to 1954.  It remained in service with the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve (RNVR) until 1956.

The F.1s was powered by a single Rolls Royce Nene 101 turbojet engine and the F.1s armament consisted of four Hispano 20 mm cannons, with 125 rounds per gun.  The tail-wheel undercarriage, a legacy from its Spitfire/Spiteful lineage, made the Attacker difficult to land on carriers and it was soon superseded by the Hawker Sea Hawk and de Havilland Sea Venom without seeing any combat action.

 As a result of the experience gained from Whittle engines by Rolls Royce the Nene [photograph - right], when developed in late 1944, became the most powerful engine in the world.  Although it was used to power a number of experimental aircraft which achieved world “firsts” its main use was restricted to the FAA’s fighter aircraft.  The engine was developed and manufactured in the USA, Russia China, France, Canada and Australia. 

WA473 was delivered to the Royal Navy’s FAA on the 25th July 1951 and is the only surviving Supermarine Attacker.  On the 17th August 1951 WA473 was sent to RNAS Culdrose RDU and allocated to 800NAS on the 4th October 1951.  From the 22nd April 1952 WA473 served on board HMS Eagle with 800NAS.  WA473 went on to serve with 702NAS, the Naval Jet Evaluation and Training Unit, at RNAS Culdrose, 736NAS at Culdrose and with 736NAS at RNAS Lossiemouth.   Withdrawn from front line service on the 30th August 1954 and sent to RNAS Ford.   Mounted on a pole at RNAS Abbotsinch in 803NAS markings on the 16th June 1958 and given Gate Guardian duties until the 5th September 1963 when WA473 was removed from its pole and delivered to the FAA museum.

Supermarine  Attacker F.1 (WA473)

Supermarine  Attacker F.1 (WA473)  [@ Fleet Air Arm Museum]

The FB.1 variant was built for the Fleet Air Arm as a fighter-bomber which differed little from the F.1 except that it was expected to operate as a ground attack aircraft.   The third, and last, variant was the FB.2 which introduced a new Rolls Royce Nene engine and modifications to its structure.  The Supermarine Attacker now had eight under-wing pylons which could carry two 1,000 lb bombs or eight unguided rockets.

Sixty Attackers were ordered and served with two Fleet Air Arm squadrons, the first being 800 Naval Air Squadron; a further thirty-six were supplied to the Pakistan Air Force in 1952-53 and remained in service until the 1960s.