Hawker Hunter: Overview

Development
Variants
Overseas Orders
Service Record

The Hawker Hunter was one of the most successful British jet aircraft, serving as the RAF's main front line fighter in the late 1950s and its main ground attack aircraft in the 1960s as well as winning large scale export orders for Hawkers. 

Development

Sidney Camm began work on jet fighters during 1944 with the P.1040, a straight winged aircraft that would evolve into the Sea Hawk. It soon became clear that the straight wings would limit the top speed of the aircraft, and in 1945 Camm produced the P.1052, a similar aircraft but with wings swept back by 35 degrees. This produced a significant increase in speed, but not enough to satisfy a new Air Ministry specification for a fighter aircraft, F.43/46. During the same period Camm received the first performance figures for a new Rolls-Royce engine, the A.J.65 Turbojet, later to be named the Avon. This engine was twice as powerful as the Derwent engine used in the Meteor, and in 1947 Camm began work on a private venture aircraft, the P.1067, using the A.J.65 to satisfy the requirements of F.43/46.

The first version of the design, the P.1067/1, had the engine intake in the extreme nose and the tail plane mounted on top of the fin. The wings were swept back by 42.5 degrees. It was initially to be armed with four 20mm cannon, although that was soon changed to two 30mm Aden cannon. Early in 1948 Hawkers received a new specification, F.3/48, and modified their design to satisfy its requirements for an aircraft capable of Mach 0.94, with an ejection seat and provision for a radar range-finder in the nose. By this time wind tunnel tests and problems with the original nose had seen the design modified to virtually its final version. The air intake was split and placed in the wing roots, while the tail plane was moved three feet down the fin.

Detailed design work began in May 1948, and in June a contract was issued for the construction of three prototypes, two powered by the Rolls Royce Avon and one by the Armstrong Siddeley Sapphire. During the design process the number of guns was increased to four, with all of the 30mm Aden guns being carried in a single detachable gun pack. When combined with the aircraft's single refuelling point this allowed the aircraft to be turned round between sorties in as little as seven minutes!

Confidence in the new design was clearly very high, for on 14 March 1951 the Ministry of Supply gave Hawkers a production contract for 113 F.Mark 1s, and shorter after this gave Armstrong Siddeley a contract to produce the F.Mark 2.

The first prototype made its maiden flight on 20 July 1951 with Squadron Leader Neville Duke at the controls. He reported that the aircraft handled perfectly, although the fuel consumption was rather high. Two months later the prototype made its public debut, putting on a flying display at the SBAC show at Farnborough!

The second prototype was the full military version complete with the gun pack and gun ranging radar. This prototype was the first to go supersonic, breaking the sound barrier during a shallow dive on 24 June 1952. The third prototype was not far behind, and the Sapphire powered version made its maiden flight on 16 May 1953.

The Hunter was one of a number aircraft to be made part of Churchill's 'Super Priority' system - an attempt to cut delays and speed up development of key weapons. The overall effect of this system is still unclear - to some it speed up the development and introduction of the Hunter, to others it means that it was rushed into service, and was not truly ready for front line service until the introduction of the F.Mark 4 and F.Mark 5.

Variants

Hunter F. Mark 1

The F.1 was the first Rolls-Royce powered version of the Hunter. It suffered from problems with engine surges when the guns were fired at high altitude, and had limited range. It was soon replaced by the F.4

Hunter F. Mark 2

The F.2 was the first version to be powered by the Armstrong Siddeley Sapphire, which didn’t suffer from the surge problems of the Rolls Royce Avon. Only 45 were built before production moved on to the F.5.

Hunter Mark 3

The Mark 3 was the designation given to one machine given an Avon R.A.7R engine with re-heat and that established an Absolute Speed Record of 727.6mph on 7 September 1953

Hunter F. Mark 4

The Hunter F.Mark 4 was an improved version of the F.1, with one pair of under-wing pylons and the ability to carry fuel drop tanks or bombs. It entered service in 1955 and equipped twenty fighter squadrons in 1956.

Hunter F. Mark 5

The F.Mark 5 was the Sapphire powered version of the F.4. It was produced in smaller numbers and only served until 1958.

Hunter F. Mark 6

The F. Mark 6 was the final fighter version of the Hunter. It was give a second pair of under-wing pylons, and was powered by the larger, more powerful, Avon 200 series engines. It was the RAF's main front line interceptor until 1960.

Hunter T. Mark 7

The T.Mark 7 was a two-seat trainer produced for the RAF, and based on the F.Mark 4

Hunter T. Mark 8

The T.Mark 8 was a two-seat trainer similar to the T.7 but that was produced for the Navy.

Hunter F.G.A. Mark 9

The Hunter F.G.A.Mark 9 was the RAF's main ground attack and close support aircraft during the 1960s, and could carry a heavier payload than the F.6. Most were produced by converting former Fighter Command F.6s.

Hunter F.R. Mark 10

The F.R.Mark 10 was similar to the F.G.A. Mark 9 but with cameras in the nose in place of the normal range finding radar.

Hunter Mark 11

The Hunter GA.Mark 11 was a single-seat version ordered for the Fleet Air Arm and used as a weapons trainer.

Hunter Mark 12

The Hunter Mark 12 was a single two-seat aircraft that was given a large vertical survey camera and a HUD and that might have been the basis of a trainer to work with the ill-fated TSR-2.

Overseas Orders

Mark

Based On

Countries

Mk.50

Hunter F.4

Sweden

Mk.51

Hunter F.4

Denmark

Mk.52

Hunter F.4

Peru

T.Mk.53

Hunter T.7

Denmark

Mk.56

Hunter F.6

India

Mk.57

Hunter F.G.A.9

Kuwait

Mk.58

Hunter F.6

Switzerland

Mk.59A & B

Hunter F.G.A.9

Iraq

Mk.59C

Hunter F.R.10

Iraq

F.Mk 60

Hunter F.6

Saudi Arabia

T.Mk.62

Hunter T.7

Peru

T.Mk.66 & D

Hunter 6 trainer

India

T.Mk.66B

Hunter 6 trainer

Jordan

T.Mk.66C

Hunter 6 trainer

Lebanon

T.Mk.67

Hunter 6 trainer

Kuwait

T.Mk.68 Hunter 6 trainer Switzerland

T.Mk.69

Hunter 6 trainer

Iraq

FGA Mk 70

Hunter F.G.A.9

Lebanon

F.G.A. Mk.71

Hunter F.G.A.9

Chile

T.Mk 72

Hunter 6 trainer

Chile

Mk 73

Hunter F.G.A.9

Jordan

F.G.A.Mk.74

Hunter F.G.A.9

Singapore

F.R. Mk.75

Hunter F.R.10

Singapore

Mk.76

Hunter F.G.A.9

Abu Dhabi

Mk.76A

Hunter F.R.10

Abu Dhabi

T.Mk.77

Hunter T.7

Abu Dhabi

F.G.A.Mk.78

Hunter F.G.A.9

Qatar

T.Mk.79

Hunter T.7

Qatar

F.G.A.Mk.80

Hunter F.G.A.9

Kenya

T.Mk.81

Hunter T.8

Kenya

Service Record

The Hunter F.1 entered service with the Air Fighting Development Unit at West Raynham in July 1954, and in the same month joined No.43 Squadron. The F.2, F.4, F.5 and finally F.6 served as the RAF's main fighter aircraft from then until the end of the 1950s, equipping twenty squadrons at its peak. After the 1957 Defence White Paper the number of fighter squadrons began to be reduced. The Hunter squadrons were either disbanded or converted to the English Electric Lightning.

The Hunter then had a second career as a ground attack aircraft. The F.G.A.9 entered service in 1960-61 and was the RAF's main ground attack aircraft throughout the 1960s, serving in Aden and Malaya, and seeing more combat that any other version of the aircraft. The F.G.A.9 was phased out towards the end of the 1960s. The aircraft was then used at training units throughout the 1970s, retiring from that role in 1980.

Suez

The F.Mark 5 was the first RAF version of the Hunter to see active service. During the Suez crisis of 1956 Nos.1 and 34 Squadrons flew to Nicosia - their greater fuel capacity allowed them to operate over Egypt from the base on Cyprus. At first the Hunter was used to provide top cover for RAF Canberra and Valiant bombers and Royal Navy carrier aircraft carrying out attacks on Egyptian airfields. It soon became clear that no air-to-air combat was going to take place, and the Hunters were then used as base defence aircraft to protect against any hit-and-run attacks by Egyptian Il-28s. No such raids took place, and the two squadrons returned home without having fired their guns in anger.

Iraq revolution 1958

During the Iraqi revolution of 1958 No.208 Squadron took its Hunter F.Mk 6s to the Middle East, where they were used to escort Beverley transport aircraft that were flying supplies into Jordan.

Iraq threatens Kuwait

In June 1961, in a precursor of later more dramatic events, General Abdul Karim Kasim, the dictator of Iraq, declared that Kuwait was an integral part of his country. An attack was widely expected to come on Iraq's National Day, 14 July 1961. The RAF responded by moving Nos.8 and 208 Squadrons from their bases at Khormaksar (Aden) and in Kenya to Kuwait, but the threat never materialised. The RAF continued to post a detachment of Hunters in Bahrain for the next few years to provide a rapid response force.

Aden

The Hunder F.G.A.9 saw its most intensive combat deployment in Aden, where the British were fighting a low-level war against Egyptian-backed insurgents in the Radfan, a mountainous area on the border with the Yemen. No.208 Squadron was the first to use the Hunter in anger in the Radfan, dropping leaflets and then bombs on the insurgents. The squadron then was then deployed to Kenya while No.43 Squadron moved to Khormaksar, the British airbase in Aden.

On 10 December 1963 a group of insurgents threw a hand grenade at the departing British High Commissioner, Sir Kennedy Trevaskis, killing his assistant George Henderson. This was followed early in 1964 by a series of hit-and-run raids carried out by Yemeni aircraft, which reached a peak with an attack on the village of Bulaq, close to Beihan.

The British decided to respond by attacking an insurgent base in a fort at Harib, on the Yemeni side of the border. On 28 March four aircraft from No.43 Squadron and five from No.8 Squadron fired their 3-inch rockets at the fort, successfully demolishing it. That night a party from 22 SAS dropped close to the fort to prepare the ground for a larger drop of paratroops, but the next morning they came under very heavy attack. The resulting battle lasted for 30 hours and saw Nos.43 and 208 Squadrons fly eighteen sorties and fire 127 rockets and 7,131 rounds of 30mm ammunition. This air support eventually allowed the paratroops to drop into action and end the battle. 

After this battle the British moved onto the offensive. The army attacked the rebel tribes on the ground, while the Hunters were used for a mix of close air support and pre-planned bombing raids on important targets. On 18 November 1964 the last of the rebel tribes surrendered, and the fighting in the Radfan was over. The same could not be said of Aden itself, where fighting continued until the British withdrew in 1967. For most of this period the Hunters were used to escort Egyptian MiGs out of Aden's air space.

Borneo

The Hunter F.G.A.9 was also used during the confrontation between the newly independent Malaysian Federation and Indonesia. President Sukarno of Indonesia was determined to gain control at least of Borneo, and sponsored rebellions in Brunei and Sarawak. As the confrontation escalated Indonesian guerrillas crossed the border into Malaya, and their aircraft entered Malayan airspace.

The Hunter F.G.A.9s of No.20 Squadron took part in the fighting from its outbreak until the confrontation fizzled out. Amongst their various duties were combat air patrols to protect against incursions by the Indonesian air force, one of which saw an acrobatic duel between a Hunter and a MiG-17, won by the Hunter after it performed a rolling pull-out from a high speed dive. The Hunters were also used to make rocket attacks on known groups of terrorists, and on Indonesian troops who parachuted into Malaysia.

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (1 May 2010), Hawker Hunter: Overview , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_hawker_hunter_development_service.html

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