Fairey Gannet AS.4 (XG849)Fairey Gannet AS.4 (XG849)

Fairey Gannet AS.4 (XG849)  [@ Luftwaffenmuseum der Bundeswehr, Berlin]

The Fairey Gannet, a familiar sight in many parts of the world during the late 1950s, originated in an Admiralty requirement, issued in 1945, for a new anti-submarine aircraft.   Fairey Aviation selected the Armstrong Siddeley Mamba ASMD1 turboprop and suggested coupling two of these engines together, driving a co-axial propeller.   The result was the Double Mamba.  Each half of the power plant could be separately controlled, giving the pilot the option of shutting down one half and feathering the propeller to extend cruise range and lengthen search time.

Originally built for the Fleet Air Arm XG849 was instead diverted to the Bundesmarine as UA110 (UA+110) together with a T.5 so that training could be started before the arrival of their AS.4 order, which they began receiving in 1958.  Based on land at Schleswig (later Nordholz) XG849 entered service with Marinefliegergeschwader 1 (MFG 1) and was used to patrol the Baltic until replaced by helicopters in 1966.  In the photograph XG849 is displayed in the livery of UA+106.

Fairey Gannet T.2 (XA508)Fairey Gannet T.2 (XA508)

Fairey Gannet T.2 (XA508)  [@ Midland Air Museum]

The Gannet prototype, VR546, flew on the 19th September 1949 and made the first deck landing by a turboprop aircraft on HMS Illustrious on 19th June 1950.  This was followed by the second prototype, VR577, on the 6th July 1950 and the third, WE488, in May 1951.  The second prototype was very similar to the first but had the search radar installed in a retractable radome under the rear fuselage.  However the third prototype supported a number of significant changes including a larger weapons bay, to accommodate torpedoes, and an additional cockpit for a dedicated radar operator.

XA508 is on loan from the Fleet Air Arm Museum and is the only T.2 left in the world.  In fact XA508 was the very first T.2 trainer to be received by the Fleet Air Arm on the 7th December 1955 and served with 737 Squadron before retiring in December 1978.

Westland Whirlwind HAS.7 (XM685)Westland Whirlwind HAS.7 (XM685)

Westland Whirlwind HAS.7 (XM685)  [@ Newark Air Museum]

The type was ordered into production in 1953 as the three seats Gannet AS.1 (183 built) and entered service at RNAS Ford in April 1954 with the first operational squadron, 826, forming in January 1955 and then embarked on HMS Eagle to sail the Mediterranean.  The 170th production AS.1 received a more powerful Double Mamba 101 engine and became the Gannet AS.4 (75 built with one AS.1 conversion).  This variant had replaced the five AS.1 squadrons by 1958 and went on to equip the Royal Navyís ASW squadrons until the1960s when it began to be replaced by the ASW Westland Whirlwind HAS.7 [photograph above] helicopters.  However nine AS.4s were converted to the Electronic countermeasures role as the ECM.6 while six AS.4s were converted to COD.4s for Carrier on-board delivery (the aerial supply of mail and light cargo to the fleet).

Fairey Gannet AEW.3 (XL503)

Fairey Gannet AEW.3 (XL503)  [@ Fleet Air Arm Museum]

The T.2 (38 built with one AS.1 conversion) was a dual control trainer version of the AS.1 while the T.4 (11 built with three T.2 conversions) was the AS.4 equivalent.  The last version of the Gannet was the AEW.3 (44 built) early warning aircraft which equipped four flights of 849 Squadron and replaced the Douglas Skyraider.  To accommodate the Skyraiderís AN/APS 20 radar it was necessary to fit a radome underneath the centre fuselage so the second cockpit was removed and the exhausts were moved forward of the wing.  Also a larger tail was fitted to combat the instability caused by the radome.  With the prototype flying in August 1958 trials were carried out with HMS Centaur in November and in December the Fleet Air Arm received the first production AEW.3.  The trials had shown the need for this type of aircraft as it was possible for the new Blackburn Buccaneer strike aircraft to fly under the cover provided by ship based radar.

XL503 entered service at RDU RNAS Culdrose on the 8th May 1961 and was used in various trials including radar and catapult and arrestor trials.  On the 10th May 1966 XL503 was transferred 849 NAS, based at RNAS Brawdy, and then sailed around the world on HMS Victorious, HMS Hermes and HMS Eagle.  XL503 returned to NASU Brawdy on the 26th August 1969 before being transfered to RNAS Lossiemouth on the 9th October 1970 for storage/scrapping. Transferred to RRE Pershore on the 5th October 1971 XL503 was used in the training of the Shackleton crews of 8 Squadron.  Upon returning to Lossiemouth later in the month XL503 was reassigned to 849 NAS until 17th January 1972 when XL503 was transferred RRE Pershore for recording equipment trials.  Upon completion of the trials XL503 returned to 849 NAS on the 12th July 1972 until retirement to the museum on the 26th April 1973.

Fairey Gannet AEW.3 (XP226)Fairey Gannet AEW.3 (XP226)

Fairey Gannet AEW.3 (XP226)  [@ Newark Air Museum]

The AEW.7 was proposed as an upgrade of the AEW.3 but none were built due to government spending cuts which included the proposed Navy's new large carrier CVA-01 and the RAFís BAC TSR.2.  Consequently the Gannets were flown to Lossiemouth to be scrapped but their old radars were fitted to RAF Avro Shackletons for use in the land-based AEW role.

XP226 first flew in March 1962 and joined 849 Squadron before being damaged in a display accident.  It later saw service on HMS Eagle and HMS Ark Royal (1963 to 1978) before being a gate guard at HMS Dryad (at Southwick near Portsmouth).  The AEW.3 variant had two radar operators in the rear fuselage.  The red/blue tactical roundel on XP226 was brought into use on the Gannets in the last years of their lives.  This was unusual considering that the FAA's Phantoms kept full colour roundels and the Sea Harriers introduced soon after the Gannet's retirement also had full colour roundels.  XP226 arrived at Newark in November 1983.

Fairey Gannet AEW.3 (XL502)Fairey Gannet AEW.3 (XL502)

Fairey Gannet AEW.3 (XL502)  [@ RAF Elvington]

XL502 entered service with the Fleet Air Arm on the 29th March 1961 and probably served with 849 NAS on board HMS Eagle, Ark Royal, Centaur, Hermes and Victorious.  XL502 became last Gannet to be in service with 849 NAS and was transferred in 1978 to RNAS Lossiemouth to become a ground trainer.  On the 1st December 1978 XL502 was transferred to RNAS Leuchars to become an instructional airframe.  Struck off Charge during 1986 XL502 was sold on to the private market.  Fortunately XL502 was restored to airworthy as G-BYMP at RNAS Leuchars and flew in airshows from 1987 to 1989, thus becoming the last Gannet to display.  XL502 finally entered the museum in 2005.

In addition the type was exported to a number of other Navies.  The Royal Australian Navy purchased 36 AS.1s and operated from the aircraft carrier HMAS Melbourne and the shore base HMAS Albatross near Nowra, New South Wales.  Indonesia bought a number of AS.4 (re-modelled from Royal Navy AS.1s) and T.5s (re-modelled T.2s) in 1959.  The then West Germany bought 15 AS.4s and one T.5 in 1958 and were operated as the anti-submarine squadron of Marinefliegergeschwader 2 (2nd Naval Fighter Wing) from Jagel and Sylt.  In 1963 the squadron was re-assigned to MFG 3 at Nordholz Naval Airbase until the Gannets were replaced by the Breguet Br.1150 Atlantique in 1966.