Hawker Sea Hawk F.2 (WF259) [@ RAF East Fortune]
The Sea Hawk started life as the P.1040 (based upon the P.1035 design concept which considered how to apply the then new jet-engine technology to the Sea Fury design), a prototype single-seat land-based interceptor intended for the Royal Air Force. Little interest was shown by the RAF in the design because it offered insufficient advance over the jet fighters already in service, such as the Gloster Meteor and de Havilland Vampire. Facing a massive cancellations of orders for their prop fighters the P.1040 was offered to the Admiralty in 1945 as the P.1046, a fleet support fighter.
The Admiralty evaluated the design and found it suitable for naval
operations, its bifurcated exhaust ducts exited the airframe directly
behind the trailing edge of each wing, giving the appearance of a twin
engined aircraft, leaving the rear fuselage free to house a large
fuel tank and so provide a wide combat radius.
The P.1040 prototype (VP401), renamed the Hawker N.7/46 after the naval specification, flew on 2nd September 1947 but the complete Navy prototype, VP413 equipped with folding wings, catapult spools and full armament, did not fly until 31st August 1948. Carrier trials occurred aboard HMS Illustrious in late 1948. The third prototype first flew on the 17th October 1949 and was essentially a fully-functional production prototype with a longer arresting hook, provisions for rocket assisted take-off gear (RATOG) and attachment points for drop tanks.
On 1st August 1949 the Royal Navy successfully entered VP401 in the National Air Races beating a Vampire F.3. Later on VP401 was fitted with an auxiliary rocket engine to become the Hawker P.1072, the first British rocket-powered aircraft. A third prototype, VP413, joined a specially-prepared Vampire F.21 in testing the feasibility of operating without an undercarriage using a rubberised deck system. Another spin-off from the P.1040 design would later become the extremely successful Hawker Hunter.
Delivered on the 11th March 1954 WF259 served with 736 NAS, Lossiemouth Station Flight, and as an instructional airframe before retirement at the museum on the 10th July 1972. The squadron number and tail letter shown in the photograph on this aircraft are fictitious.
WF143 was the first production F.1 (35 built by Hawker, 95 by Armstrong Whitworth) and flew for the first time on the 14th November 1951 but unlike its rival, the Supermarine Attacker (the first jet to enter service with the Fleet Air Arm); the Sea Hawk had a tricycle undercarriage rather than a tail-wheel, making it easier to land on carriers. Powered by a Rolls Royce Nene 101 turbojet the type entered service with 806 NAS in March 1953, first based at Brawdy, then to HMS Eagle.
Hawker Sea Hawk FB.3 (WM913) [@ Newark Air Museum]
As Hawkers were heavily committed to producing the Hunter day fighter for the RAF the Sea Hawk production was handed over to Armstrong Whitworth Aircraft of Coventry who first produced the F.2 (40 built). This variant was fitted with power-boosted ailerons to reduce the tendency for the ailerons to go into oscillation, as noticed on the F.1, as well as other small modifications.
By strengthening the wing structure a fighter-bomber, the FB.3 (116 built), variant was developed which first flew in March 1954. Following on was a fighter ground-attack variant, the FGA.4 (97 built), which had an increased weapons capability and first flew in August 1954.
Delivered on the 6th May 1954 WM913 served with 806 Squadron at Yeovilton in 1955 and subsequently served with 895, 700 and 736 Squadrons of the Fleet Air Arm. Built by Armstrong Whitworth WM913 retired to the School of Aircraft Handling at RNAS Culdrose. Moving on from there to become the gate guard at RNAS Sealand, with the handing over of that base to the RAF, WM913 was loaned to the Sea Cadets and then finally loaned to the museum during 1984.
Hawker Sea Hawk FGA.4 (WV856) [@ Fleet Air Arm Museum]
During the early 1950s it was becoming very clear that the centrifugal flow engine design, based on the original Frank Whittle design, was a technology that had power limitations and that the axial flow engine was the way forward. However, by replacing the Nene 101 power-plant with the updated Nene 103 the FB.5 (50 built, but some FB.4s were re-engined) variant followed. The increase in power was too small to noticeably increase the aircraft's top speed but it did provide an additional margin of safety for flight-deck operations.
Delivered to RNAY Belfast on the 15th December 1954 as a FGA.4, WV856 in 1955 served with 806 NAS onboard HMS Centaur and in 1956 with 898 NAS at RNAS Brawdy. WV856 was transferred on the 27th February 1957 to RNAY Fleetlands for conversion to FGA.6 standard. After the fitting of the Nene 103 engine WV56 was posted to 806 NAS at RNAS Lossiemouth on the 21st April 1958. Before final retirement at the museum in 1967 WV856 served with 781 NAS at RNAS Lee on Solent before a short transfer to the Royal Aircraft Establishment in late 1966.
Hawker Sea Hawk FB.5 (WM969) [@ RAF Duxford]
The series culminated in the FGA.6. Essentially an FGA.4 with a strengthened wing to accommodate additional bombs, rockets or drop tanks but powered by the Nene 103 engine. In total 101 were built, 86 from new and 15 converted from a mix of FB.3s and FGA.4s.
WM969 was delivered to the Fleet Air Arm on the 28th July 1954 and served with 898, 811 and 806 NAS before transfer in 1958 to second line duties with the Fleet Requirements Unit (FRU, later FRADU - formed in 1951 the Fleet Requirements Unit; based at Hurn, employed civilian pilots using Fleet Air Arm aircraft to provide (initially) target aircraft for the training of Royal Navy radar operators). Transferred on the 14th May 1964 to RNAS Culdrose for instructional airframe duties before final retirement to RAF Duxford.
All Sea Hawks were in service by the mid-1950s and eventually over 500 was built. In 1956 the type saw action with six squadrons (800, 802, 804, 810, 897 and 899 NAS, aircraft were embarked on the carriers HMS Albion, HMS Bulwark and HMS Eagle) during the Suez crisis, carrying out many ground attack operations against Egyptian airfields during the early days of the air campaign. The Sea Hawks delivered the weapons that the RAF's new Hawker Hunters (based at Cyprus) did not have the range to deliver.
For front line service the FAA began phasing out the Sea Hawk in 1958 and replacing them with the Supermarine Scimitar and de Havilland Sea Vixen but they remained in second line service until the mid-1960s. By 1960 the Sea Hawk had been completely removed from first-line service. The last operational Royal Navy Sea Hawks were the "black" Fleet Requirements Unit at Hurn that retired the type in 1969.
Hawker Sea Hawk FGA.6 (WV797) [@ Midland Air Museum]
From 1956 Sea Hawks also served with the Royal Netherlands Navy, the Federal German Naval Air Arm and the Indian Navy. The F.50 was a ground-attack variant which was similar to the FGA 6 but fitted with a Philips UHF radio. 22 aircraft were in service with the RNN between 1957 and 1964. The F.100 (32 built) was a strike fighter variant and again similar to the FGA 6 but fitted with a taller fin and rudder while the F.101 (32 built) was a night fighter- reconnaissance variant (as the F.100 but fitted with a search radar in an under-wing pod) for the Bundesmarine. India received a mix of 7 new FGA.6s and 7 converted FB.3s (ex FAA) in 1961 and later received 22 additional airframes which was a mixture of refurbished FGA.4s and FGA.6s. When the German Sea Hawks retired they too were acquired by the Indian Navy. The Indian Navy would continue to operate Sea Hawks until the early 1980s and eventually replaced them with Sea Harriers. Interestingly on the 4th March 1976 Cdr. Peter Debras of the Indian Navy had the misfortune to launch off the INS Vikrant when the catapult malfunctioned. The aircraft ditched in to the sea ahead of the carrier and sank. Unable to stop or turn the carrier passed over the sinking aircraft and Debras waited in his seat until the carrier had passed before ejecting. He survived and set a world record for the deepest underwater ejection!
Delivered by Armstrong Whitworth on the 30th September 1954, WV797 served with 787, 899, 898 and 738 NAS before going to Sydenham to become an instructional airframe. Later WV797 spent some time at Halton and Culdrose before retirement to the museum. In the photograph WV797 is displayed in Suez colours - the yellow and black stripes were to aid recognition of friendly forces.
Hawker Sea Hawk FGA.6 (WV865) [@ Luftwaffenmuseum der Bundeswehr, Berlin]
WV865 was delivered to the Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm on the 14th January 1955 and transferred to the School of Aircraft Handling (SAH), later known as the School of Flight Deck Operations (SFDO), based at RNAS Culdrose (also known as HMS Seahawk), Cornwall, and assigned the serial number A2554. During October 1999 WV865 entered the Luftwaffen Museum.