de Havilland Venom NF.3 (WX905) [@ Newark Air Museum]
TG278, the prototype de Havilland Venom, first flew on 2nd September 1949 as the Vampire FB.8. The Venom FB.1 was similar in appearance to the original Vampire but with a re-designed thinner wing, with new fuel tanks fitted to the wing tips and powered by a more powerful power-plant, the de Havilland Ghost 103 engine which was about half again as powerful as the Goblin while being about the same size and weight. The Venom retained the Vampire's agility and good handling characteristics, but was faster and in particular had a much improved climb rate. Roll rate of course suffered when the wingtip tanks were full. Armament was four 20 mm guns with provision for 2,000lb of bombs or eight RPs and no ejection seat was fitted. De Havilland built 300 with Marshalls (50), Fairey (19) and Vickers (5) contributing to the total.
The first aircraft entered RAF service three years later on in August 1952 with 11 Squadron in Germany. The Venom was more than a match for the Vampire and the F.84 Thunderjet and could probably out fly the Lockheed F.80 Shooting Star. However, the Vampire was still effectively a first-generation jet fighter and it was no match for the second-generation fighters, for example, the F.86 Sabre or Soviet MiG.15. The RAF's single-seat Venoms were operated exclusively overseas, equipping the Far East and Middle East Air Forces as well as the 2nd Tactical Air Force in Germany. Unfortunately there was no air conditioning which made the cockpits very hot in warm climates. Despite initial problems with structural failures and engine fires, which led to some losses and urgent engineering efforts to find fixes, the RAF used Venoms until 1962 when the last were withdrawn from 28 Squadron in Hong Kong.
WX905 was delivered to the RAF on 11th October 1955 and entered service with 23 Squadron in December 1955 at RAF Coltishall before later moving with 23 Squadron to RAF Horsham St Faith (now Norwich Airport). It retired to 27 MU in March 1957 at RAF Shawbury before spending many years stored as part of the RAF Museum reserve collection at RAF Henlow in Bedfordshire. WX905 is one of only three NF.3s to survive and it arrived at the museum in 1989.
de Havilland Venom FB.54 (J-1704) [@ RAF Cosford]
A night fighter variant, the NF.2 (basically a Vampire NF.10 with Venom wings), was built with side by side seating for pilot and navigator and equipped with AI.10 radar. The prototype, WP227, flew on 22nd August 1950 only a year after the Vampire NF.10 which it superseded. Again powered by the Ghost 103 the type entered RAF service in November 1953 and it outperformed the RAF’s Meteor and Vampire night fighters. To counter stability problems later production aircraft, and many earlier NF.2’s, were converted to NF.2A standard. The fin and rudder shape was changed and the dorsal fillet of the Vampire T.11 was added. In addition a clear-view canopy (no frames) was incorporated. In total 91 were built for the RAF by de Havilland.
The NF.3 was an upgraded night fighter and equipped with powered ailerons, a powered canopy jettison system but no ejection seats, and a more bulbous nose to accommodate the American AI.21 (APS-57) radar and improved aerodynamics. Power was provided by the slightly more powerful Ghost 104 engine and the tailplane extension beyond the fin and rudders was deleted. The prototype first flew on 22nd February 1953 with the RAF taking delivery of the first of 130 during the middle of 1955, with the NF.2, NF.2A, and NF.3 equipping a maximum of seven RAF squadrons. However by late 1957 they were being replaced by the Gloster Javelin.
Built under licence for the Flugwaffe (Swiss Air Force) by the consortium member the Federal Aircraft Factory, Emmen and delivered as a batch of 100 starting with J-1701 from August 1956 to replace the aging P-51 Mustangs. J-1704 retired on the 11th October 1978 after a total of 1361.53 flying hours (2,350 flights). On the 8th June 1979 the Swiss Confederation formally handed J-1704, in exchange for a Bristol Hercules engine, to the museum at RAF Cosford. Flown from Dubendorf into RAF Greenham Common, Berkshire, on the 21st June 1979 where on arrival the long nose (a modification containing updated avionics introduced in the late 1960s) and peculiar to Swiss Venoms was removed by Swiss Air force personnel and replaced by the original short nose. Finally J-1704 was delivered by road to the museum.
de Havilland Venom FB.50 (J-1542) [@ RAF Waddington]
Sweden acquired 62 NF.51s between 1952 and 1957. The first 30 were equivalent to the NF.2 while the reminder was equivalent to the NF.2A standard. Upgrade kits were supplied to bring the first 30 up to the later standard. They in service with until 1960 and then scrapped, however, four were handed over to a civilian contractor for use as target tugs with the last being retired in 1971.
The definitive version was the FB.4. It flew for the first time on 29th December 1953 and 150 were supplied to the RAF between 1954 and 1957. The FB.4 was an improved single seat fighter similar to the FB.1 with the Ghost 103, powered control surfaces, a Martin Baker ejection seat and revised fin and rudder. The FB.4 entered service with 123 Wing, Wunstorf, in July 1955 and stayed on in RAF service in the ground attack role into the early 1960s, the last being 28 Squadron in 1962. Most RAF Venom FB.1 units were upgraded to the FB.4 standard and then in turn replaced by the Hawker Hunter variants. RAF FB.4s saw combat during the Suez crisis in late 1956, attacking Egyptian airfields, and they were also flown in combat during the uprising in Oman in the summer of 1957.
J-1542 was built as an export version of the FB.1 and was delivered to the Swiss Air Force in 1952. Struck Off Charge in 1984 J-1542 is shown in the photograph as WR470 (208 Squadron) a Venom FB.4 delivered to the RAF on the 19th April 1955 and S.O.C on the 28th March 1960 as a CAT 5(c) at Eastleigh, Kenya.
de Havilland Venom FB.50 (J-1542) [@ de Havilland Aircraft Heritage Centre]
The FB.50 was an export version of the FB.1 while the FB.54 was the corresponding export version of the FB.4. From 1953 a consortium of three Swiss companies (The Federal Aircraft Factory, Emmen; Flug und Fahrzengwerke at Altenrhein; and Pilatus AG at Stans) built 150 FB.50s (including 24 camera-equipped reconnaissance FB.1R) and 100 FB.54s were built for the Swiss Air Force and they equipped 11 squadrons by 1965; the Ghost engines were built by the Swiss consortium and by Fiat of Italy. Switzerland was the only country to produce the single seat Venom under licence. The Swiss-built aircraft, with continual upgrading, performed remarkably well in the mountain valleys and the last of which served with the Flugwaffe until December 1984. At peak strength 14 Swiss Fliegerstaffeln flew the Venom. Other countries used the Venom including New Zealand, Iraq (15 FB.50s were supplied to Iraq between 1954 and 1956) and Venezuela (22 FB.54s in 1955, where they remained in service into the early 1970s).
J-1790 was built by the Federal Aircraft Factory in Switzerland in 1957. After retirement J-1790 was flown back to the UK, registered as G-BLKA, and operated out of Cranfield on the airshow circuit as WR410 of the RAF. Gradually being restored, J-1790 is slowly re-acquiring the original Swiss markings.