de Havilland Vampire F.1 (VF301) [@ Midland Air Museum]
Many pilots who nicknamed it the ‘aerial kiddy car’ viewed this small-unsophisticated aircraft, of relatively unusual design, with great fondness. The de Havilland Vampire was the second jet engined aircraft commissioned by the Royal Air Force during WW II. The Vampire was an exceptionally versatile aircraft, and it set many aviation firsts and records, being the first RAF fighter with a top speed of over 500 mph. Its naval variant, the Sea Vampire, was the first jet to take off from and land on an aircraft carrier, HMS Ocean, on 3rd December 1945 and in 1948 John “Cat Eyes” Cunningham set a new world altitude record of 59,446 ft. On July 14th 1948, Vampire F.3s of 54 Squadron became the first jet aircraft to fly across the Atlantic Ocean. They went via Stornoway, Iceland and Labrador to Montreal on the first leg of a goodwill tour of Canada and the US where they gave several formation aerobatic displays.
The RAF was interested in a simple, lightweight, single-engine jet fighter with an armament of four 20mm cannon, as defined in Specification E.6/41. A design team at de Havilland, under company chairman Sir Geoffrey de Havilland and featuring Chief Designer R.E. Bishop, came up with the twin-boom DH.100 design concept based on the Halford H.1 "Goblin" centrifugal flow engine [photographs below] (a Whittle derivative) then being developed by Frank Halford at de Havilland.
The Air Ministry liked the idea and placed an order for three prototypes in April 1942. Design work on the DH.100 Vampire began in May 1942, two years after the Meteor. Geoffrey de Havilland piloted the first test flight of prototype LZ548/G on 30th September 1943 from Hatfield just six months behind the Meteor. In the spring of 1944 the Vampire set the 500 mph record over a wide altitude range. Originally named the Spidercrab, the aircraft was entirely a de Havilland project and it utilised the company's extensive experience with using moulded plywood for aircraft construction, very reminiscent to that used on the Mosquito. The monocoque fuselage was built in two halves and from the nose back to just aft of the cockpit (the point at which the engine was attached) was a composite of a layer of balsawood between two layers of moulded plywood. Although wooden construction on a jet fighter may have seemed archaic, especially when many piston engine fighters’ of the day were being made of metal, the end result was very strong and (more importantly) very lightweight. It was the last time composite wood/metal construction was used in high performance military aircraft. It had conventional straight mid-wings and a single jet engine, placed in an egg-shaped, aluminium-surfaced fuselage, and exhausting in a straight line. To protect the rear control surfaces and reduce weight the designers used a distinctive tail with twin booms, similar to that of the Lockheed P-38 Lightning.
VF301 is the only F.1 Vampire left in the UK and the only one of two in the world. It served with 226 OCU, 595 and 631 Squadrons, 103 Flying Refresher School and 208 Advanced Flying School. Its operational duties ended in 1953 following an accident. Until the museum acquired it in 1973 it was the gate guardian at RAF Debden.
The first production F.1 Vampire, TG274, flew for the first time on 20th April 1945 with a square cut tail fin after modifications to the prototype to establish the best fin and rudder configuration. It was still being developed as a fighter when the war ended, the reason it never saw WW2 combat. The first aircraft were delivered to 247 Squadron from March 1946, later to 54 and 72 Squadrons in the same year and all in the interceptor role. It then entered service with the 2nd Tactical Air Force in Germany, replacing Typhoons, Tempests, and Mustangs in the close-support role, and with the British Auxiliary Air Force. English Electric Aircraft of Preston built most due to the pressures on de Havilland's production facilities which was busy with other types. From the 40th aircraft the Goblin 2 giving 3,100lb thrust was introduced together with auxiliary under-wing fuel tanks and from the 51st machine the type had a pressurized cockpit and bubble canopy (replacing the three-piece canopy). The pilot sat well forward, giving an excellent forward field of view. The windscreen was made of armour glass, with a glycol de-icer system. Armour plate was fitted to the back of the seat and an armour panel was fitted in front of the dashboard but no ejection seat. In total 228 were built, including four for evaluation by Switzerland and seventy aircraft (as J28As) for Sweden.
de Havilland Vampire F.3 (VT812) [@ RAF Hendon]
The Vampire F.2 was an F.1 airframe fitted with a Rolls-Royce Nene I turbojet [photographs - below] giving 4,500lbs thrust and did not enter service, with only three being built despite an original order for 60 from the RAF. Built to specification F.11/45 the version featured two small additional intakes mounted just behind the cockpit. The fourth conversion, with revised main intakes, served as the prototype for the Australian built F.30.
The Vampire F.3, which was built to specification F.3/47, was a long-range version with extra internal fuel capacity, under-wing tanks (resulting in an extended range of 730 to1,145 miles) and a de Havilland Goblin 2 turbojet. The tanks caused stability problems which were cured by lowering the tailplane, extending its chord and changing the shape of the fin and rudder. The prototype, TG275, which flew for the first time on 4th November 1945 but the variant did not enter service with 54 Squadron until April 1948. In total 222 were built by English Electric including eighty-five for the RCAF, four for Norway and twelve for Mexico. The type was also built under licence in India.
VT812 was built under contract by English Electric at Preston in 1947 and entered RAF service with 5 MU at RAF Kemble on the 24th November 1947. Allocated for service in the Middle East and Mediterranean area,VT812 was transferred to 32 Squadron in Cyprus on the 30th December 1948 as one of the replacements for the Spitfire FR.18s. The Vampires of 32 Squadron were the first RAF jet fighters to serve outside North West Europe and the first jet fighters to operate in the Mediterranean area. As a result of the re-equipping of 32 Squadron with the FB.5 variant, VT812 returned to the UK on the 5th July 1950 and was allocated to 614 (County of Glamorgan) Squadron RAuxAF who based at RAF Llandow, South Wales, as one of the replacements for the Spitfire F.22. Transferred to 601 (County of London) Squadron RAuxAF based at North Weald on the 14th January 1952 VT812 suffered an accident on the 4th April 1952. After repair VT812 was transferred to 602 (City of Glasgow) Squadron RAuXAF who were based at RAF Abbotsinch, Glasgow. When 602 Squadron retired its F.3 Vampires VT812 was flown for the last time on the 23rd November 1953 to 48 MU at Hawarden, Wales. Eventually VT812 was placed on display at 2 Recruit Centre, RAF Cardington, on the 18th May 1955 until 9th June 1964 when VT812 was transferred to RAF Colerne, Wiltshire, for display in 601 Squadron's colours (as shown above). Upon closure of RAF Colerne VT812 was transferred to RAF Cosford and finally arriving at RAF Hendon in 1978. From late 1997 to 2001 VT812 was the subject of a complete restoration.
The Nene-engined F.4 was to have been the production version of the F.2 and was developed into the F.30 and F.31 which was built under licence for the RAAF by the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation (CAC). The first of the 80 Australian built Vampires flew on 29th June 1949. The first 57 of the batch were designated F.30; early production had the elephant ear intakes on top, as with the F.2 prototypes, but this configuration led to high-speed handling problems and the auxiliary intakes were relocated to the belly, with early production modified accordingly. The last 23 of the batch, built in 1952 and 1953, featured clipped and stronger wings; they were designated FB.31. The last 28 F.30s built were converted to FB.31 specification in 1956. Two F.30s were converted to FB.32 standard with larger main engine intakes and an ejection seat but the program was then cancelled.
de Havilland Vampire FB.6 (J-1008) [@ de Havilland Aircraft Heritage Centre]
Capitalising on the Vampire's excellent handling qualities as a ground attack platform and the RAF's decision to use the Gloster Meteor as the primary aircraft in the air combat/interceptor role the Vampire FB.5, a ground attack version, was developed to replace the Tempest. It was widely exported as the FB.52, being supplied to ten different nations including Egypt, Finland, India (247 built under licence), Italy (195 built by Fiat and Macchi under licence), New Zealand, Norway, South Africa, Sweden and Venezuela. The wings were clipped back by 30cm and strengthened to enable the carriage of two 1,000 lb bombs or eight rockets while retaining the four 20 mm cannon. To compensate for the additional wing loading and to provide clearance a longer stroke undercarriage was fitted. The FB.5 retained the Goblin 2 engine and featured armour protection around the engine systems. Although an ejection seat was considered it was not fitted. The prototype, TG444, a converted F.1 first flew on 29th June 1948 and the first production aircraft was delivered to 54 Squadron the following year. The FB.5 was the definitive single-seat Vampire and, at its peak, 19 squadrons flew the FB.5 in Europe, the Middle East, and the Far East. The FB.5 performed strikes during the successful British campaign to suppress the insurgency in Malaya in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Some aircraft operated by OCUs were informally designated FB(T).5’s. English Electric built 857 at Preston together with 187 by de Havilland at Hatfield and Hawarden.
J-1008 is an ex Swiss Air Force aircraft.
de Havilland/Sud-Est Mistral SE.535 (No 4) [@ Musée de l'Air et de l'Espace, Paris - Le Bourget]
One of the biggest overseas Vampire users was France. After receiving a number of ex-RAF F.1s and FB.5s, the French Armee de l'Air (AdA) obtained a set of licence-built FB.5s, known as FB.51s, from the Society Nationale de Constructions Aeronautiques de Sud-Est. Sud-Est built 67 FB.51s using British supplied components with the first flying on 27th January 1950. These were followed by 120 French built FB.51s which were powered by Hispano built Goblin engines and the first flew on 21st December 1950. Following on was the FB.53 or as designated by Sud-Est the SE.530 "Mistral". Powered by the Hispano built Nene 102 the first prototype flew on 1st April 1951 and included a number of changes including larger main inlets to ensure adequate airflow, increased fuel capacity and cabin pressurization. The production variant, of which 93 were built, was the SE.532 powered by the Nene 102B engine and it entered service in December 1951. It looked very much like an FB.5, except for the noticeably wider engine intakes and no fuselage boundary-layer plates in front of the intakes. Powered by the Nene 104 the SE.535 followed on. This variant included an ejection seat, retrofitted to the SE.532s, and 150 were built. The last Mistral was delivered in March 1954 with the last being withdrawn from service in 1961.
It appears that No 4 Mistral is a composite aircraft restored from both No 2 and No 4. No 2 entered the Musée de l'Air et de l'Espace in 1962 in poor condition and No 4 followed on in 1963. Since the restoration of No. 4 the No. 02 aircraft seems to have disappeared. In the photograph No 4 is displayed in 7th Escadre markings.
After the purchase of the four F.1s for evaluation purposes the Swiss placed an order for the FB.6. A single test FB.5 aircraft, TG433, was fitted with the Goblin 3 power-plant and tested prior to the order, 85 were built by de Havilland and a further 100 were licence-produced in the Federal Aircraft Factory at Emmen in Switzerland using engines also built under licence from de Havilland by Sulzer Brothers at Winterthur. Unusually the designation FB.6 was retained for an export type. The Swiss liked the Vampire and its stable-mate the Venom so much that they kept them in service for much longer than anticipated, eventually retiring them in 1990 after a service life of almost 38 years! To achieve this, the Swiss extensively improved, modified, strengthened and refurbished their Vampires.
Like the FB.6 ,the FB.7 was powered by the Goblin 3 but it was not produced for the RAF instead it was developed into the FB.50 for the export market.
de Havilland Vampire T.11 (XD593) [@ Newark Air Museum]
The FB.8 was the precursor to the Type 112 Venom, a single F.1 conversion (TG278) was fitted in 1949 with the new H.2 or "Ghost" engine turbojet while retaining the Vampire wing while a second FB.5 had a new "thin" wing added as well. The program proved successful, but the changes were so drastic that the decision was made to give the aircraft the new name of Venom and so the next single-seat Vampire was the FB.9. The FB.9 was a tropicalized version of the FB.5, with an air-conditioned cockpit (the air-conditioning unit in the right wing root) and was used by the RAF, RNZAF, SAAF, RRAF and India. The FB.9 looked much like an FB.5 except for the modified right engine inlet to feed the air-conditioning unit and, like the FB.5; it was powered with by Goblin 2 engine. Goblin 3 power-plants were fitted to 16 FB.9s and exported to Rhodesia. FB.9s replaced FB.5s in the Middle East and Asia beginning in 1952 and they were used to fight nationalist insurgents in Nigeria. The FB.9 was the last single-seat Vampire to be built and from 1951 to 1953 de Havilland built 224; while English Electric built 42 and 51 were built by Fairey Aviation at Ringway.
Variant NF.10, in all seventy-five were built by de Havilland, was originally built as a private venture night fighter equipped with the AI Mark 10 radar. The fuselage was widened and lengthened to accommodate pilot and navigator and the tailplane was extended beyond the fins and rudders to compensate. The prototype, G-5-2, first flew on 28th August 1949 and pending the delivery of the Meteor night fighters the type served with three UK based units, the first being 25 Squadron in July 1951. Although a sound aircraft and generally well-liked by its crew it was only an interim solution. Although it could easily catch piston bombers like the Lincoln and the Boeing B-29 it was difficult for it to hunt down jet aircraft like the Canberra and so they only remained in frontline service until 1954. The NF(T).10 was a conversion of the NF.10 for navigator training. The radar was removed and replaced with Rebecca 3 and Gee 3 navigational aids. In addition, the canopy was replaced with the type fitted to the Venom NF.2. In all thirty-six NF.10 were converted to this type after their retirement and remained in service until 1959. The NF.54 was an export variant of the NF.10. A total of 14 were built for Italy and delivered in 1952/1953; a total of 30 retired NF.10s were also refurbished to the NF.54 configuration for India, with deliveries running from 1954 to 1958.
XD593 was delivered to the RAF on 5th October 1954. During its operational career XD593 served with 4 FTS at Worksop, 5 FTS at Oakington and the Central Flying School at RAF Little Rissington. The aircraft arrived at the museum in early 1973.
de Havilland Vampire T.11 (XJ772) [@ de Havilland Aircraft Heritage Centre]
The T.11 was a two-seat trainer which replaced the Meteor T.7 during the middle 1950’s. Like the T.7 it was initially built as a private venture to which specification T.111 was issued by the RAF at a later date. Based upon the NF.10 it had a redesigned dual controls cockpit to give slightly less cramped conditions and the seats (still no ejection seats) were not staggered. The 144th T.11 introduced a clamshell canopy giving a much better field of view, plus a new tailfin that featured a long dorsal extension, and twin Martin-Baker Mark 3B ejection seats (earlier models were retrofitted to the same standard). The T.11 was powered by the Goblin 33 engine, which was essentially a Goblin 3, modified to provide air bleed from the engine compressor for cabin pressurization; the Goblin 3 itself drove an external blower for that purpose. The prototype, G-5-7 /WW456, first flew on 15th November 1950 and a total of 537 were delivered, 507 built by de Havilland at Christchurch, Hatfield and Hawarden and 30 by Fairey Aviation at Ringway. Most operational units employed one or two, but the type was notable for introducing jet training before qualification. It flew with the RAF Training Command until 1962 when it was replaced by the Folland Gnat T.1. A few T.11s remained in RAF service in various roles until 1967.
XJ772 was an ex-RAF T.11 that was sold to the Royal Norwegian Air Force as PX-G XJ772.
de Havilland Vampire T.11 (XD596) [@ Solent Sky Museum]
Essentially the T.11 was combat capable, retaining the four cannon armament, though usually only two were fitted, as well as the capability to carry external stores. The T.22 was the Royal Navy’s equivalent of the RAF's T.11. Similar in most respects; it did not have an arrestor hook (therefore not carrier capable), but did have various minor equipment changes. The type served in the training and communications roles. Seventy three were built by de Havilland at Christchurch, Hatfield and Hawarden during 1952 to 1955. All T.22s were eventually of the latter T.11 standard and it served with the Royal Navy into the early 1960s before retirement. Most were phased out, however a few passed on to other air arms and a few were used as hacks up to about 1970.
XD596 was built by de Havilland's at Hatfield and delivered to the RAF on the 23rd September 1954. Its service career with the RAF included flying with the 4 Flying Training School (FTS), 7 FTS, 5 FTS, the Central Navigation and Control School and the Central Air Traffic Control School at RAF Shawbury before being retired as an instructional airframe in 1967. In 1972 XD596 was passed to Testwood Detached Flight of 424 (Southampton) Sqn ATC where it remained until 1986. Following refurbishment by members of the squadron XD596 was delivered to the museum in 1993.
de Havilland Vampire T.11 (XH292) [@ Koninklijk Leger Museum, Brussels]
An export version of the T.11 was produced as the T.55. A total of 220 were built de Havilland for foreign customers, including nine for the Swiss Air Force. In addition, the Swiss built 30 T.55s under license (between 1953 to 1967), while India built 60; some of the Indian T.55s were converted to a photo-reconnaissance configuration and re-designated PR.55. 35 T.33 were built for the RAAF to early T.11 standard between 1952 and 1955. These were later upgraded by CAC in Australia to late T.11 standard and re-designated T.33A. 5 T.34 were built for the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) to T.22 standard and delivered in 1954. They were subsequently updated to late T.11 standard by CAC and re-designated T.34A. In addition 68 T.35s were built for the RAAF to late T.11 standard by CAC and delivered between 1957 and 1960. All of the Australian trainers had the up-rated Goblin 35 engine which provided 3,500 lbf of thrust.
XH292 was delivered for RAF service on the 10th October 1955. Following a period of storage at Woodford, XH292 was transferred to the museum in 1973.
de Havilland Vampire T.55 (U-1215) [@ RAF Waddington 2004]
The British Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm (FAA) was interested in the Vampire from early on. The third Vampire prototype, LZ551, was fitted with larger flaps, a bubble canopy, a Goblin 2 engine and a vee-style arrestor hook. Designated F.10 it made the first ever deck landings on HMS Ocean on 3rd December 1945 off the Isle of Wight. The F.20 was the production version being a navalised FB.5 complete with the Goblin 2 engine, long-stroke landing gear and clipped wings. The wing was strengthened and the dive brakes and flaps enlarged to reduce landing speeds. The type was generally issued to second-line units for jet familiarisation, although armed with four 20mm cannon. Eighteen were built by English Electric at Preston and the initial deliveries to the FAA were in October 1948. The F.20s was finally withdrawn from service in 1956 and 1957 only to be scrapped in 1960.
Built in Switzerland by the Federal Aircraft Factor U-1215 was delivered to the Swiss Air Force on 30th December 1958. U-1215 finally retired from military service in May 1990 after 1,957 flying hours. During its military career U-1215 served at a number of bases including Emmen, Altenrhein, Sion, and Dübendorf. U-1215 was delivered to the UK by the Swiss Air Force on 28th August 1991 after being purchased at auction in Sion in March 1991 when the Swiss Air Force sold off their remaining 27 Vampires. In the photograph U-1215 is in the livery of XJ771 a T.11 of the Royal Norwegian Air Force which was sold to BEA on 9th December 1968.
de Havilland Vampire T.11 (XH278) [@ York Air Museum]
XH278 was built at Chester and test flown on 13th September 1955. Delivered to the RAF on 25th October 1955 and posted on to RAF Cranwell on 30th December, XH278 finally ended its service career in 1986. Apart from one minor collision with a fuel browser on 8th January 1957 it remained in service until 3rd February 1960 when it went into storage at RAF Shawbury. In 1964, the Vampire was transferred to RAF Upwood for Ground Instruction Training. In 1984 it was moved to Henlow (ATC) and later to RAF Henlow. Sold in October 1992 XH278 was restored during 1992/3 and donated to the museum in November 2001.
The F.21 was another trial variant and probably unique in concept! The idea was that by eliminating the heavy landing gear it would improve fighter performance; the fighter would belly in on a "rubberised deck" composed of heavy layers of rubber on top of a matrix of fire hoses. An F.1 was modified to test this idea performing the initial wheels-up landing test on 29th December 1947 by setting down on a mattress set up on an airfield at RAE Farnborough. The landing was so rough that the aircraft had to be written off. Consequently three aircraft, TG286, VG701 and VT802, similar to the F.20 were built in 1948 but fitted with strengthened fuselages for further wheels-up landings. The trials were conducted at Farnborough and on HMS Warrior between 1949 and 1953. The rubberised deck system seemed a workable idea in the trials but, overall, it was just too much of a nuisance to be adopted as a viable solution.
The production of Vampires ceased in the UK in 1953. While the Vampire saw little real combat action, it provided a valuable stepping stone for the RAF between the piston and jet eras. Over 4,000 Vampires of all types were built worldwide with the last leaving Swiss military service in 1991. The Vampire was a very successful export design and saw service in many countries i.e. Austria, Australia, Burma, Sri Lanka, Canada, Chile, Congo, Dominican Republic, Egypt, Eire, Finland, France, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Katanga, Lebanon, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, Syria and Venezuela.