de Havilland Sea Venom FAW.21 (XG613)

de Havilland Sea Venom FAW.21 (XG613)  [@ RAF Duxford]

The Royal Navy expressed an interest in the Venom NF.2 as a replacement for the de Havilland Sea Hornet (a development of the Mosquito).  By performing carrier "touch and go" approaches the NF.2 prototype, WP227, which flew for the first time on 22nd August 1950 was evaluated by the Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm (FAA) to determine its suitability for carrier operations.  The first Sea Venom NF.20 flew on 19th April 1951 and was similar to the NF.2 but featured strengthening for the catapult operation and an arresting hook.  The second prototype added long-stroke landing gear and featured the tailfin arrangement of the Venom NF.3 while the third added wings that hydraulically folded straight up outboard of the wing fences.  The first production Sea Venom FAW.20 flew in March 1953 and entered FAA service in 1954.   The Sea Venom became the FAA's first all weather radar equipped fighter and later Sea Venom's became also the first Royal Navy aircraft to be equipped with air-to-air missiles.  Similar to the Venom NF.2A it featured the Ghost 103 engine, AI.10 radar and a clear-view canopy which was modified to allow it to be jettisoned underwater but no powered control surfaces.   In total 52 FAW.20s were built by de Havilland.

XG613 was delivered on the 16th February 1956 and was used for development work during all its operational career; including handling trials with drop tanks and testing catapult arresting gear.  It arrived at Duxford in 1972 having spent the previous two years on display at the Shuttleworth collection. 

de Havilland Sea Venom FAW.21/FAW.22 (WW145)

de Havilland Sea Venom FAW.21/FAW.22 (WW145)  [@ RAF East Fortune]

The FAW.21 flew for the first time on 22nd April 1954 with production ceasing in 1957.   It featured a Ghost 104 engine, AI.21 radar, a canopy with a bulged top to improve headroom, powered control surfaces, non skid brakes, and inflatable seat packs to assist in underwater escapes.   The tail-plane extensions outboard of the tailfins were deleted.  The last 68 of the 168 built by de Havilland were fitted with Martin Baker Mark 4A ejection seats.

 de Havilland Sea Venom FAW.21/FAW.22 (WW145)de Havilland Sea Venom FAW.21/FAW.22 (WW145)

de Havilland Sea Venom FAW.21/FAW.22 (WW145)  [@ RAF East Fortune]

As production of the FAW.21 came to an end the FAW.22 followed on.  Between 1957 and 1958 39 were built by de Havilland.  The type was fitted with AI.22 radar and powered by a Ghost 105 power plant.  Latter on many FAW.22s was fitted with Fairey Firestreak heat-seeking air-to-air missiles making them the first FAA machines with guided AAM armament.  In 1958 7 FAW.21's and 7 FAW.22's were modified to ECM standard for the Electronic Counter Measures role, designated ECM.21 and ECM.22 respectively, the ECM equipment replaced the cannon.  831 Squadron was the only operational squadron and from 1963 it was shore based at RAF Watton and it was disbanded in 1966.

WW145 was delivered to the Fleet Air Arm in March 1955 as an FAW.21 and was later modified to FAW.22 standard by fitting the more powerful Ghost 105 engine. It carries the code "680" on the fuselage while the "LM" on its tail denotes its base as Lossiemouth in Morayshire. It was donated to the Royal Scottish Museum at East Fortune in 1972.

de Havilland Sea Venom FAW.22 (WW217)

de Havilland Sea Venom FAW.21/FAW.22 (WW217)  [@ Newark Air Museum]

FAW.53 was the export version of the Sea Venom and 39 were built for the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) and replaced the Hawker Sea Fury.  It entered RAN service in 1956 and operated off the aircraft carrier HMAS Melbourne.  They were taken out of first-line service in 1967 and replaced by the Douglas A-4 Skyhawk.

WW217 was originally delivered to the Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm on the 15th August 1955 as a FAW.21 but was later converted to FAW.22 standard.  After being placed in store the aircraft eventually found itself with the South Wales Aircraft Preservation Society at Cardiff Airport before arriving at Newark in late 1983.  It is displayed in the colours of 890 Squadron.

Fighting off stiff competition from other manufactures Société nationale des constructions aéronautiques du sud-est (Sud-Est) built the Aquilon under licence for the French Navy.  The first Aquilon 20 flew on the 20th February 1952 and was one of 4 FAW.20s built by de Havilland but assembled by Sud-Est.  A single Aquilon 201 prototype, with short landing gear, was the first to be built in France.  The first production variant was the 202 and flew for the first time on 25th March 1954.  It had long-stroke landing gear, Martin Baker N4 ejection seats and was powered by a Fiat built Ghost engine.  In addition it included US AN/APQ-65 radar, air conditioning, a backward-sliding canopy, instead of the clamshell canopy of other Vampire/Venom two-seaters but the 4 Hispano cannon were retained.  In total 75 Aquilon 202 were built by Sud-Est.  Following on was the 203 a single seat variant which featured US AN/APQ-94 and radio-guided AAMs.  A total of 40 Aquilon 203s were built.  The 204 was an unarmed dual-control variant of which 15(?) were built.  Between 1958 and 1960 the Aquilons were gradually taken out of service.

de Havilland Sea Venom FAW.22 (XG730)

de Havilland Sea Venom FAW.22 (XG730)  [@ de Havilland Aircraft Heritage Centre]

In total the Royal Navy obtained a total of 256 Sea Venoms.  Like their RAF counterparts the Sea Venoms saw action during the Suez campaign of 1956 by operating from HMS ALBION and HMS EAGLE in the ground attack role.  The Venom was a very successful export design and so a modernised Sea Venom variant, the DH.116, with swept wings and upgraded radar was considered but this project was cancelled as the Royal Navy believed that any replacement needed two engines.

XG730 was delivered to 894 Squadron of the Fleet Air Arm on the 29th August 1957.