STATUS: Retired, Out-of-Service
MANUFACTURER(S): Hawker Siddeley - UK / Avions Fairey - Belgium / Fokker - Netherlands
OPERATORS: Belgium; Chile; Denmark; Iraq; India; Jordan; Kenya; Kuwait; Lebanon; Netherlands; Oman; Peru; Qatar; Rhodesia; Saudi Arabia; Singapore; Somalia; Sweden; Switzerland; United Arab Emirates; United Kingdom; Zimbabwe
POWER: 1 x Rolls-Royce Avon 203 series turbojet developing 10,000 lb of thrust.
Detailing the development and operational history of the Hawker Hunter Single-Seat Jet-Powered Daytime Interceptor / Strike Fighter Aircraft.
Entry last updated on 4/30/2019.
Authored by Staff Writer. Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com.
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 (and retrofitted to earlier marks) was the addition of two "blister" packs added under the fuselage just aft of the cannon barrels and their ejection ports - used to deflect spent cartridge links from potentially flying up into the intakes or damaging the rear fuselage, an issue common in early use. 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.
Hawker Hunter (Cont'd)
Single-Seat Jet-Powered Daytime Interceptor / Strike Fighter Aircraft
The Hunter F.Mk 1 entered service in July of 1954 with 43 Squadron of the Royal Air Force, replacing their Meteor F.Mk 8's in the process. As promising as the Hunter had been in development, practice readily revealed several shortcomings in her design. The intakes had a tendency to ingest just about anything thrown in front of it (by design of course). This included the gases being expelled from her 4 x cannon battery when fired along with the possibility of spent shell casings being ingested. The gasses were the cause of many a flameout issue and thus the pilots were amusingly restricted to firing their cannons at30,000 feet or lower - quite the comical limitation when one is asking her pilots to defend Britain's airspace from enemy bomber incursion but such it was. Sapphire-powered Hunters were noted for not having this "flame-out" issue being caused by the cannons but Hawker stood by her Rolls-Royce Avon powerplant selection to the bitter end. Another point of fault lay in the poor general air flow characteristics of the Hunter's intakes, possibly starving the engine of much needed air. The engine itself also proved quite thirsty (an issue affecting many of the early jet-powered aircraft) severely limiting the aircraft's operational range - limited to as little as 1 hour of flight time - making early form Hunters nothing more than "short-range interceptors". As the Hunter was intended to operate as a high-altitude interceptor charged with tracking down and engaging enemy bombers, these shortcomings were hugely critical for the design team to overcome should the Hunter expect to have any kind of long-lived - and useful- legacy whatsoever. Despite all these setbacks, the Hunter aircraft, as a whole, still exhibited fine handling capabilities. Modifications to the base aircraft eventually rectified the aforementioned issues.
The F.Mk 4 was a large-scale revision to the Hunter production line and entered service with 111 Squadron in June of 1955, replacing F.Mk 1 models. These were fitted with additional fuel bladders in their wings, increasing overall operating ranges. Additional provisions were made for the use of underwing fuel tanks as well. This production series began with Rolls-Royce Avon 115 series engines as their powerplants but these were later changed to Avon 21 engines. The F.Mk 4 model was the first to feature the underfuselage blisters ("Sabrinas") for spent cartridge links deflection. Strengthened wings and provisions for external stores (bombs and rockets) also complemented this type. First flight of the F.Mk 4 was on October 20th, 1954 and 349 production examples followed.
The F.Mk 5 appeared as 105 production examples and were essentially similar to the F.Mk 4. These were differentiated by having the Sapphire 101 series turbojet engines. F.Mk 5's entered service with 263 Squadron in April of 1955, becoming the first Hunter variant to see combat service against Egypt in the Suez conflict.
The F.Mk 6 emerged from the Hawker P.1099 prototype and achieved first flight on January 22nd, 1954. It was billed as a dedicated clear-weather interceptor fitted with the Rolls-Royce Avon 203 turbojet of 10,150lbf. The type entered service in October of 1956. Performance was improved thanks to the new powerplant, with reports of better handling and an increased rate-of-climb making the promising aircraft that much more exceptional. The wings were revised to incorporate a new leading edge "dogtooth" design to combat "pitch-up" problems encountered in early Hunters while still strong enough to allow for up to four underwing hardpoints. The F.Mk 6 also featured an all-moving tailplane surface and the AVPIN starter system for quicker start-up-and-fly response, replacing the earlier Hunter's cartridge-based system. The F.Mk 6 was built in 384 examples - the largest production block of all the Hunters. The F.Mk 6A was a revised F.Mk 6 model with the same reinforced wings as found on the later Hunter FGA.Mk 9 ground-attack model.
The Hunter two-seat trainers were developed from the single-seat version into a dual-seat conversion trainer whose prototype was designated as the P.1101. The P.1101 achieved her first flight on July 8th, 1955. Trainer Hunters were noted with a "T" in their designations. These included the T.Mk 7, T.Mk 7A, T.Mk 8, T.Mk 8B, T.Mk 8C and T.Mk 8M. The T.Mk 7 series consisted of the T.Mk 7 and T.Mk 7A. Both were two-seat trainers for the Royal Air Force and featured side-by-side seating. The T.Mk 7A became a converted training aircraft for future Blackburn Buccaneer RAF pilots and was modified to accept the Integrated Flight Instrumentation System (IFIS).
The initial T.Mk 8 was a two-seat model based on the T.Mk 7 but these being built for the Royal Navy. These were fitted with an arrestor hook consistent with naval operations. The T.Mk 8B was also outfitted with the IFIS system as found on the T.Mk 7A models but were also given a TACAN radio-navigation system. The Ekco ranging radar and her cannon armament were removed from this model. The T.Mk 8C was a similar trainer with the TACAN system fitted. The T.Mk 8M served as a modified trainer for future Royal Navy Sea Harrier pilots. These Hunters were fitted with the Harrier's Blue Fox radar system.
The Hunter FGA.Mk 9 was a dedicated single-seat, ground attack version while the FR.Mk 10 became a single-reconnaissance variant, both versions being utilized by the Royal Air Force. The Hunter GA.Mk 11 was a Royal Navy Hunter used for weapons training. The GR.11 were received from forty or so Hunter F.Mk 4 models were acquired from the Royal Air Force and fitted with arrestor hooks. The PR.Mk 11 became a single-seat reconnaissance platform for the Royal Navy while the Hunter Mk 12 was a single production example, two-seat model built for use by the Royal Aircraft Establishment.
As time wore on, the Hunter became less than capable of fulfilling her initial requirements consistent with the Cold War. The British "V-Bombers" (Avro Vulcan, Handley Page Victor, and the Vickers Armstrongs Valiant) had finally arrived, able to fly higher and farther than the Hunters themselves, negating the fighters use as deterrents for these large machines. The Hawker Hunter, in its fighter guise, was fully relieved of duty in 1963, replaced by the newer and capable high-speed English Electric Lightning. The Hunter lived on though, through its ground-attack (FGA mark series) form until inevitably replaced by Blackburn Buccaneers themselves. By the end of her tenure, the Hunter outfitted no fewer than 19 air forces across the globe with 1,000 Hunters in operational service at one time during the pinnacle of her use. Though still carrying the Hawker name, the aircraft was also in production under license by the nations of Holland (Fokker) and Belgium (Avions Fairey).
In addition to their respectable Cold War exploits, Hunters also proved their effectiveness in full-fledged combat sorties flown by foreign operators in their respective foreign conflicts. The Hawker Hunter was used in anger by the Indian Air Force in the Indo-Pak engagements spanning the late 1960's and early 1970's. As ground-attack aircraft, the Hunter proved her worth against Pakistani targets while still displaying some air-to-air prowess in the downing of a Pakistani Lockheed F-104 Starfighter and several North American F-86 Sabres. Similarly, Jordanian Hunters were credited with successful strikes against Israeli ground targets in the Six Day War.
In the end, the Hawker Hunter became another notch in the long line of successful Hawker products spanning pre-World War 2 and the Cold War thereafter. Like most any other pioneering effort, the Hunter overcame its early deficiencies to become one of the best transonic fighters of her time all the while leaving a legacy of respect and admiration in her wake. The Hunter served many roles in her tenure with the British military and went on to serve many more with other nations as well. To her credit, the faithful design was a long-standing member of many-an-air force around the world, with many operators opting to simply update her than replace her altogether. Such was the legacy of the Hawker Hunter.
August 2015: A vintage Hawker Hunter fighter crashed during an airshow killing eleven.
Our Data Modules allow for quick visual reference when comparing a single entry against contemporary designs. Areas covered include general ratings, speed assessments, and relative ranges based on distances between major cities.
This entry's maximum listed speed (715mph).
Graph average of 562.5 miles-per-hour.
Graph showcases the Hawker Hunter F.Mk 6's operational range (on internal fuel) when compared to distances between major cities.
Useful in showcasing the era cross-over of particular aircraft/aerospace designs.
Comm. Market HI*: 44,000 units
Military Market HI**: 36,183 units