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Hawker Hunter Daytime Interceptor / Strike Fighter (1956)

Authored By Staff Writer | Last Updated: 7/2/2014

The Hawker Hunter was the longest-serving British jet fighter.

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The Hawker Hunter was the Royal Air Force and Royal Navy jet fighter of choice for decades since its inception, becoming the longest serving British jet-powered fighter of her time. Outwardly, the Hunter was of a most conventional design but the aircraft would go on to prove that she was much more than good looks with a pair of wings. The Hunter was conceived of as a possible replacement for the aging Gloster Meteors jet fighters - post-World War 2 jet fighters whose time had eventually come. Hunters became a popular mount for many British and foreign fighter pilots the world over and, though only 1,972 of the type were eventually produced (in only five major variants no less), the Hunter secured its legacy as a superb legendary aircraft throughout the annals of military aviation history.

Following World War 2, Hawker - along with most other major aviation firms - set about to find capable swept-wing fighter designs to complement the jet age still in her infancy. Specifications passed down by the British Ministry of Supply called for such an aircraft and set a fire in the minds of Hawker engineers - particularly Chief Designer Sydney Camm. Camm set to work and produced an experimental design eventually submitted for review in 1947 as the Hawker P.1052 prototype. The first of two such prototypes flew in November of the following year. The P.1052 bore a strong resemblance to another existing Hawker design - the Hawker Sea Hawk - an early straight-wing, carrier-based jet fighter. The P.1052 was differentiated from her predecessor in that she featured a 35-degree sweep to her wings but she was essentially the same Sea Hawk aircraft. Qualities and capabilities of this new aircraft design were deemed acceptable though no further development was pursued. Instead, Camm took the second P.1052 prototype design and revised it into the new Hawker P.1081 prototype. This particular version featured the same swept-back wings but also made use of sweep across all other winged surfaces on the tail. Like the Sea Hawk, the P.1081 featured a single powerplant (though designed for the newer and smaller Rolls-Royce Avon series over the larger Rolls-Royce Nene used in the Sea Hawk) with a single nose-mounted intake, a conventional tricycle undercarriage and "T" style tail unit all fitted to a tubular-shaped fuselage.

The design was further developed via Air Ministry Specification F.3/48 of 1948. In this revised form, the now P.1067 design sported twin triangular air intakes at the wing roots, a redesigned tail component to combat stability issues and radar-equipped solid nose cone. Production was officially ordered by the Ministry of Supply in 1950. The first of three prototypes initially flew on July 20th, 1951 with the second following in 1952 and the third in November of that year. Each aircraft varied in the choice of powerplant. The first prototype was fitted with an Avon 103 series turbojet of 6,500lbf while the second received an Avon 107. The third prototype was fitted with an Armstrong Siddeley Sapphire 101 series turbojet. The production Hunter F.Mk 1 - fitted with the Rolls-Royce Avon 113 - was airborne in March of 1953 and comprised a series of 20 (some sources state 22) pre-production aircraft to work out the kinks in the new design. Each of these aircraft differed in subtle ways from one another as designs were worked and reworked to counter emerging issues.

Design of the Hunter took on a distinctly 1950's British appearance, complete with rounded edges and smooth contours making for one appealing aircraft. The forward portion was of a conventional design with the cockpit situated at the front of the long cylindrical monocoque fuselage capped by the conical nose. The pilot was afforded a 2H/3H ejection seat of the Martin-Baker brand (Mk.4H seats were used in the two-seat trainers), a requirement of jet-powered fighters required to reach speeds in excess of 700 miles per hour. The days of having a pilot roll off the side of his airplane with parachute in tow were all but over. The two-piece canopy offered up a good all-around field of vision, important to any aircraft considered and effective dogfighter. Dual triangular intakes fed the single powerplant and were situated in special housings at the wing roots with the wings themselves positioned as mid-wing monoplanes. Sweep back was apparent on all surfaces. The powerplant was positioned in the latter half of the fuselage while the undercarriage was of a traditional retractable tricycle design with the main gears recessing inwards under the wingroots and the nose gear retracting forwards into the lower forward fuselage. The empennage was dominated by a single large vertical tail fin and an all-moving tailplane component. The exhaust port for the engine protruded somewhat aft of the tail fin base. Of particular note in the Hunter's final design form was the two blister packs added under the fuselage just aft of the cannon barrels and ejection ports - this was necessitated to deflect spent shell casings from flying up into the intakes. Construction was of all-metal and the aft portion of the aircraft was detachable for ease of maintenance, much like other early jet fighters.

Standard armament in the single-seat fighter version consisted of a battery of 4 x 30mm ADEN cannons mounted under the cockpit floor. The armament body (the barrels remained in the airframe) and ammunition packs (150 cannon rounds to a gun) could be easily removed and refitted as needed - another feature in common with the early jet fighters - of note is the Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-15 "Fagot". Cannons were often removed in proceeding Hunter variants not requiring combat proficiency. With the addition of underwing pylons, the armament of the Hunter expanded into rockets, bombs and missiles. Missile types inevitably included the American-made AIM-9 Sidewinder short-range, air-to-air missile and the AGM-65 Maverick air-to-surface missiles. An impressive total of 7,400lbs of external stores could be carried depending on mission parameters. Though initially fitted with four hardpoints, the Singapore Hunters were eventually upgraded to six underwing and one centerline hardpoint for increased lethality at the expense of weight.

Variants of the Hunter included the production fighter models designated with the appropriate "F" naming convention. This constituted the F.Mk 1, F.Mk 2 (Sapphire engines), F.Mk 3, F.Mk 4, F.Mk 5 (Sapphire engines) and F.Mk 6. The F.Mk 1 was the initial production model fitted with the Avon 113 series engines. Its first flight came on March 16th, 1953 to which 193 production examples followed. The F.Mk 2 were Hunters fitted with the Sapphire 101 series engines, with these achieving first flight on October 14th, 1953. Some 45 production examples of this model were built. Armstrong Siddeley Sapphire-powered F.Mk 2 models were supplied to RAF No.257 Squadron.

The F.Mk 3 deserves mention here - though not a true production fighter model - as this particular Hunter was a prototype specifically fitted with a more powerful Rolls-Royce Avon RA.7R afterburning engine of 9,600lbf. The F.Mk 3 was also given a specially-designed pointed nose-cone, revised windscreen and airbrakes to make an attempt on the World Absolute Air Speed Record. This was in fact achieved by Hawker Chief Test Pilot Neville Duke on September 7th, 1953 setting the international bar at 727.63 miles per hour. Less than two weeks later, the Hunter set another (albeit short-lived) world speed record on a closed circuit course, averaging an outstanding 709.2 miles per hour. This particular aircraft, effectively now a historical aviation artifact and national symbol, saw proper preservation with the Royal Air Force Museum.


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Specifications for the
Hawker Hunter
Daytime Interceptor / Strike Fighter


Focus Model: Hawker Hunter F.Mk 6
Country of Origin: United Kingdom
Manufacturer: Hawker Siddeley - UK / Avions Fairey - Belgium / Fokker - Netherlands
Initial Year of Service: 1956
Production: 1,972


Crew: 1


Length: 45.93ft (14m)
Width: 33.46ft (10.20m)
Height: 13.16ft (4.01m)
Weight (Empty): 12,776lbs (5,795kg)
Weight (MTOW): 17,774lbs (8,062kg)


Powerplant: 1 x Rolls-Royce Avon 203 series turbojet generating 10,000lbs of thrust.


Maximum Speed: 715mph (1,150kmh; 621kts)
Maximum Range: 1,839miles (2,960km)
Service Ceiling: 51,532ft (15,707m; 9.8miles)
Rate-of-Climb: 6,000 feet per minute (1,829m/min)


Hardpoints: 4
Armament Suite:
STANDARD:
4 x 30mm ADEN cannons in under-fuselage gun pack

OPTIONAL:
4 x Matra rocket pods with 18 x SNEB 68mm rockets each.
24 x Hispano SURA R80 80mm rockets
4 x AGM-65 Maverick air-to-surface missiles
4 x AIM-9 Sidewinder short-range, air-to-air missiles.
External fuel drop tanks
Up to 7,400lbs of conventional drop bombs


Variants:
P.1067 - Prototype Model Designation


P.1101 - Prototype Designation for two-seat trainer.

F.Mk 1 - Preproduction Model / Initial Batch Production Model; fitted with Rolls-Royce Avon 113 series turbojet; 139 produced.

F.Mk 2 - Fitted with Armstrong Siddeley Sapphire Mk 101 turbojet engine; 45 produced.

F.Mk 3 - Prototype fitted with afterburning Avon RA.7R turbojet engine of 9,600lbf thrust; airbrakes added to fuselage sides; redesigned nose section and windscreen; went on to set several world air speed records for the time.

F.Mk 4 - Increased fuel capacity via additional fuel wing bladders; provision for underwing armament and fuel tanks; blisters added under-fuselage to deflect spent cannon shell casings; fitted with Avon Mk 115/21 series turbojet; 349 produced.

F.Mk 5 - Similar to F.Mk 4 model but fitted with Sapphire series Mk 101 turbojet; 105 produced.

F.Mk 6 - Clear-Weather Interceptor Designation; single-seat; fitted with newer Avon Mk 200 series of turbojet including the Mk 203 and Mk 207 marks; increased fuel capacity; underwing armament capability with four hardpoints; revised wing leading edge ("dogtooth" design); all-moving tailplane; 384 examples produced.

F.Mk 6A - Reinforced wings similar to FGA.Mk 9 ground-attack model.

T.Mk 7 - Two-Seat RAF Trainer; side-by-side seating.

T.Mk 7A - Based on T.Mk 7 model but fitted with Integrated Flight Instrumentation System (IFIS); Blackburn Buccaneer trainer.

T.Mk 8 - Two-Seat Royal Navy Trainer; based on T.Mk 7 but fitted with arrestor hook.

T.Mk 8B - Fitted with IFIS and TACAN; sans cannon; Blackburn Buccaneer trainer.

T.Mk 8C - Based on T.Mk 8 model with TACAN system fitted.

T.Mk 8M - Fitted with Blue Fox radar system; Sea Harrier trainer.

FGA.Mk 9 - Single-Seat RAF Ground-Attack Model; converted from F.Mk 6 models; Avon Mk 207 engine.

FR.Mk 10 - Single-Seat, Tactical Reconnaissance Variant based on the FGA.Mk 9 model but converted from F.Mk 6 models; RAF use.

GA.Mk 11 - Single-Seat Royal Navy Ground Attack Weapons Trainer; similar to the FR.Mk 10 model but converted from F.Mk 4 models.

GR.Mk 11 - GA.Mk 11 conversion models fitted with Harley light and arrestor hook; 40 converted as such.

PR.Mk 11 - Single-Seat Royal Navy Reconnaissance Model; camera fitted.

F.Mk 12 - Single Production Example, Two-Seat Test Platform for the Royal Aircraft Establishment.

F.Mk 50 - Swedish Export Model Designaion of F.Mk 4 fighters; 120 examples produced.

J34 - Swedish designation for Hunter F.Mk 50 (F.Mk 4) export models.

F.Mk 51 - Denmark Export Model Designation of F.Mk 4 fighters; 30 examples produced.

F.Mk 52 - Peruvian Export Model Designation of F.Mk 4 fighters; 16 examples produced.

T.Mk 53 - Denmark Export Model Designation of T.Mk 7 trainers; two example produced.

F.Mk 56 - Indian Export Model Designation of F.Mk 6 fighter; 160 produced.

FGA.Mk 56A - Indian Export Model Designation of FGA.Mk 9 ground-attack fighters.

FGA.Mk 57 - Kuwaiti Export Model Designation of FGA.Mk 9 ground-attack fighters.

F.Mk 58 - Swiss Export Model Designation of F.Mk 6 fighters.

F.Mk 58A - Swiss Export Model Designation of FGA.Mk 9 ground-attack fighters.

FGA.Mk 59 - Iraqi Export Model Designation of FGA.9 ground-attack fighters.

FGA.Mk 59A - Iraqi Export Model Designation of follow-up FGA.9 ground-attack fighters.

FGA.Mk 59B - Iraqi Export Model Designation of follow-up FGA.9 ground-attack fighters.

T.Mk 60 - Saudi Export Model Designation of F.Mk 6 fighters.

T.Mk 62 - Peruvian Export Model Designation of T.Mk 7 trainers.

T.Mk 66 - Indian Export Model Designation of two-seat Hunter trainer; fitted with Rolls-Royce Avon 200 turbojet engines.

T.Mk 66A - Promotional T.Mk 7 model.

T.Mk 66B - Jordanian Export Model Designation of T 66 trainer.

T.Mk 66C - Lebanese Export Model Designation of T 66 trainer.

T.Mk 66D - Indian Export Model Designation of follow-up two-seat trainers; 12 examples.

T.Mk 66E - Indian Export Model Designation of follow-up two-seat trainers; 5 examples.

T.Mk 67 - Kuwaiti Export Model Designation of T.Mk 66 trainers.

T.Mk 68 - Swiss Export Model Designation of T.Mk 66 trainers.

T.Mk 69 - Iraqi Export Model Designation of T.Mk 66 trainers.

FGA.Mk 70 - Lebanese Export Model Designation of FGA.Mk 9 ground-attack fighters.

FGA.Mk 70A - Lebanese Export Model Designation of follow-up FGA.Mk 9 ground-attack fighters.

T.Mk 70 - Saudi Export Model Designation of T.Mk 7 trainers delivered from RAF; 2 examples.

FGA.Mk 71 - Chilean Export Model Designation of FGA.Mk 9 grund-attack fighter.

FR.Mk 71A - Chilean Export Model Designation of FR.Mk 10 reconnaissance aircraft.

FR.T 72 - Chilean Export Model Designation of T.Mk 66 trainers.

FGA.Mk 73 - Jordanian Export Model Designation of FGA.Mk 9 ground-attack aircraft.

FGA.Mk 73A - Jordanian Export Model Designation of follow-up FGA.Mk 9 ground-attack aircraft.

FGA.Mk 73B - Jordanian Export Model Designation of follow-up FGA.Mk 9 ground-attack aircraft.

FGA.Mk 74 - Singapore Export Model Designation for FGA.Mk 9 ground-attack aircraft.

FR.Mk 74B - Singapore Export Model Designation for follow-up FGA.Mk 9 ground-attack aircraft; eight examples.

T.Mk 75 - Singapore Export Model Designation for T.Mk 66 trainers.

T.Mk 75A - Singapore Export Model Designation for follow-up trainers.

FGA.Mk 76 - Abi Dhabi Export Model Designation for FGA.Mk 9 ground-attack aircraft.

FR.Mk 76A - Abu Dhabi Export Model Designation for FR.Mk 10 reconnaissance aircraft.

T.Mk 77 - Abu Dhabi Export Model Designation for T.Mk 7 trainers.

FGA.Mk 78 - Qatar Export Model Designation for FGA.Mk 9 ground-attack aircraft.

T.Mk 79 - Qatar Export Model Designation for T.Mk 7 trainers.

FGA.Mk 80 - Kenyan Export Model Designation for FGA.Mk 9 ground-attack aircraft.

T.Mk 81 - Kenyan Export Model Designation for T.Mk 66 trainers.


Operators:
Abu Dhabi; Belgium; Chile; Denmark; Iraq; India; Jordan; Kenya; Kuwait; Lebanon; Netherlands; Oman; Peru; Qatar; Rhodesia; Saudi Arabia; Singapore; Somalia; Sweden; Switzerland; United Kingdom; Zimbabwe