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Supermarine Attacker

Single-Seat / Single-Engine Navy Fighter Aircraft


The Supermarine Attacker was the first jet-powered fighter used by the British Royal Navy aircraft carrier groups.

Detailing the development and operational history of the Supermarine Attacker Single-Seat / Single-Engine Navy Fighter Aircraft.  Entry last updated on 5/10/2019. Authored by Staff Writer. Content ©
By the time of the 1950s, Supermarine had been a longtime contributor to the various British air arms, the Royal Air Force (RAF) and Royal Navy (RN). With the close of World War 2 in 1945, the company followed others into the realm of turbojet-powered forms and went on to deliver several more notable products of which one entry became the short-lived Supermarine "Attacker", a compact single-seat, single-engine design. This carrier-borne fighter went on to see truncated service during the early Cold War period under the flags of the British Royal Navy and Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve forces as well as the Pakistan Air Force where it went on to be retired in 1954, 1957, and 1964, respectively. Total production, including three contracted prototypes, reached 185 examples before the end.

The Attacker has the distinction of becoming the Royal Navy's first jet-powered frontline fighter.

The fighter was born out of Specification E.10/44 written up back during the fighting of World War 2 (1939-1945) in 1944 when it seemed that the prop-driven fighter was reaching its absolute pinnacle and the turbojet was the way of the future concerning combat aircraft. The requirement was for an experimental form to test out the capabilities of the new Rolls-Royce "Nene" turbojet engine. This entry was formed from the work begun with the Supermarine "Spiteful", a high-performance prop-driven fighter prototype considered during the later stages of the war (just nineteen being built). The straight-lined, laminar-flow wings of the Spiteful drove the design lines of the soon-to-be "Attacker" - resulting in the new aircraft being known, at least for a time, as the "Jet Spiteful".

The Jet Spiteful was accepted for further development against insurance for the upcoming Gloster "Meteor" fighter (detailed elsewhere on this site) which was also to rely on the Nene turbojet for its source of propulsion. To secure the work, the British Air Ministry contracted with Supermarine for three complete, flyable prototypes to move the Jet Spiteful program along. This work order arrived in August of 1944 while the outcome of World War 2 still largely in doubt. The aircraft was to stock the inventories of both the RAF and the RN with the first prototype set aside to be built under an RAF standard (i.e. land-based) and the subsequent models serving the development program for a navalized form to be operated from existing British carriers.

A follow-up contract then covered twenty-four pre-production vehicles split between the two services and this arrived in July of 1945 - by which point the war in Europe was over (May 1945).

The Jet Spiteful was to have been a critical stepping stone for British airmen as it represented one of the earliest available forms to be powered by jet technology - which required airmen to understand the nuances of higher-speed flight. However, issues in development of the prototypes, which in turn led to program delays, meant that the RAF quickly moved on from the Jet Spiteful / Attacker, leaving the Royal Navy to continue in its pursuit of its first jet-powered fighter. The RAF eventually settled on eighteen de Havilland "Vampire" jet fighters as these aircraft were "ready-to-go".

In time, the prototype (Type 392) was finally flown for the first time on July 27th, 1946. The navalized form (Type 398) followed nearly a year later on June 17th, 1947.

The resulting aircraft became a strange mix of aviation eras, utilizing the straight wings and "tail-dragger" undercarriage of the earlier Spiteful prop-driven fighter. These mainplanes were situated ahead of midships, as was common in the old monoplanes of World War 2, and a conventional single-finned tail unit was installed at the rear of the fuselage (with low-set, aft-mounted horizontal planes). In addition to the mainplanes, all of the presented tail surfaces relied on straight lines with no sweep to be found. The turbojet engine was buried within the fuselage in the usual way, aspirated by half-moon intakes straddling the cockpit and exhausting through a singular port under the tail. The pilot sat under a framed canopy near the nose, which was short and conical in shape. Each wing member carried 2 x 20mm Hispano Mark V No.3 autocannons as standard armament.

As a naval fighter charged with operating from space-strapped British carriers, the "Attacker" had limited-range "wing-folding" near its wingtips for improved storage. Additionally, its undercarriage and structure were reinforced for the rigors of carrier operations and a tail hook was seated just under the tail.

Supermarine Attacker (Cont'd)

Single-Seat / Single-Engine Navy Fighter Aircraft

Supermarine Attacker (Cont'd)

Single-Seat / Single-Engine Navy Fighter Aircraft

In its short time aboard Royal Navy carriers, the Attacker proved itself solid if unspectacular. There was the glaring issue of its "nose-up" attitude which played poorly in terms of pilot vision - a failing of World War 2-era fighter aircraft. This limited vision during deck-running actions as well as the all-critical action of landing. The jet-powered nature of the aircraft, coupled with the nose-up attitude, also excluded it from being operated from soft-ground airfields as a land-based fighter and its overall performance was generally lacking when compared to the fastest prop-driven fighters of the late-war era. This led to the Royal Navy abandoning the Attacker as its frontline offering as soon as 1954.

The Attacker entered service as the Attacker F.1 and this was based in the Type 398 prototype. Fifty were built to the standard with the final eleven being completed as fighter-bombers, handed the designation of "FB.1" as a result. These particular aircraft were given provision for aerial rockets and conventional drop bombs at hard points situated under each wing. The FB.1's upgraded form arrived in the "Attack FB.2" which now moved on to the Rolls-Royce Nene 102 series turbojet engine offering slightly better performance - 84 were built to this standard.

As completed, the Attacker F.1 held a crew of one and its structure was given a running length of 37.5 feet, a wingspan of 36.10 feet, and a height of 9.10 feet. Empty weight reached 8,435lb against an MTOW of 12,215. Power was supplied by the single Rolls-Royce Nene turbojet engine offering 5,000lb of thrust. This allowed for a maximum speed of 590 miles-per-hour with a range out to 590 miles, a service ceiling up to 45,000 feet, and a rate-of-climb nearing 6,350 feet-per-minute. Standard armament was 4 x 20mm Hispano No.3 Mark V automatic cannons fitted in pairs at the leading edges of each wing mainplane.

The final Attacker entry became the thirty-six "Type 538" models built for, and sold to, the Pakistan Air Force in 1953. These were powered by the "Nene 4" turbojet engine and operated solely as land-based fighter-bombers from prepared airfields.

Eventually, a swept-wing form of the Attacker appeared, this as the "Type 510", and this model was ultimately evolved to become the Supermarine "Swift" jet-powered fighter for the RAF. This aircraft is detailed elsewhere on this site.

For the British, the Attacker ultimately stocked the inventories of no more than four FAA squadrons (of which one was set up as a dedicated training force). Five Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve squadrons then equipped with the type . In Pakistan, the Attacker operated with No.11 "Arrows" squadron for its time in the air.


YEAR: 1951
STATUS: Retired, Out-of-Service
MANUFACTURER(S): Supermarine - UK
LENGTH: 37.47 ft (11.42 m)
WIDTH: 36.91 ft (11.25 m)
HEIGHT: 9.91 ft (3.02 m)
EMPTY WEIGHT: 8,435 lb (3,826 kg)
MTOW: 12,211 lb (5,539 kg)
POWER: 1 x Rolls-Royce Nene 3 turbojet engine developing 5,000lb of thrust.
SPEED: 590 mph (950 kph; 513 kts)
CEILING: 44,997 feet (13,715 m; 8.52 miles)
RANGE: 590 miles (950 km; 513 nm)
RATE-OF-CLIMB: 6,350 ft/min (1,935 m/min)
OPERATORS: Pakistan; United Kingdom

4 x 20mm Hispano No.3 Mark 5 internal automatic cannons.

4 x 20mm Hispano No.3 Mark 5 automatic cannons in wings (leading edges).
2 x Conventional drop bombs mounted underwing.

Also support for air-to-surface, unguided rockets mounted underwing.
Graphical image of an aircrat automatic cannon
Graphical image of an aircraft air-to-surface missile
Graphical image of aircraft aerial rockets
Graphical image of an aircraft conventional drop bomb munition
Variants / Models

• "Attacker" - Base Series Name.
• Type 392 - Prototype Land-Based Fighter for Royal Air Force; single example produced.
• Type 398 - Initial Naval Prototype Model.
• Type 513 - Second Naval Prototype Model.
• Attacker F.Mk 1 - Initial production fighter variant
• Attacker FB.Mk 1 - Fighter-Bomber variant developed from F.1 model; provision for rocket and bomb armament under wings.
• Attacker FB.Mk 2 - Modernized Fighter-Bomber variant; Nene 102 series turbojet engine; 84 examples produced.
• Type 538 Attacker - Pakistani Air Force export model; land-based version of the Nene 4-powered Attacker; 36 examples delivered beginning in 1953.

General Assessment

Values are derrived from a variety of categories related to the design, overall function, and historical influence of this aircraft in aviation history.
MF Power Rating
The MF Power Rating takes into account over 60 individual factors related to this aircraft entry. The rating is out of 100 total possible points.
Relative Maximum Speed
Hi: 750mph
Lo: 375mph
This entry's maximum listed speed (590mph).

Graph average of 562.5 miles-per-hour.
City-to-City Ranges
Graph showcases the Supermarine Attacker's operational range (on internal fuel) when compared to distances between major cities.
Aviation Era
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Useful in showcasing the era cross-over of particular aircraft/aerospace designs.
Unit Production (185)
Comm. Market HI*: 44,000 units
Military Market HI**: 36,183 units

  * Commercial Market High belongs to Cessna 172.

  ** Military Market High belongs to Ilyushin Il-2.

Altitude Visualization
Small airplane graphic
Supported Roles
Ground Attack
Aerial Tanker
A2A=Air-to-Air; UAV=Unmanned; CAS=Close Support; ASW=Anti-Submarine; AEW=Airborne Early Warning; MEDEVAC=Medical Evac; EW=Electronic Warfare; SAR=Search-Rescue
Commitments / Honors
Military lapel ribbon for Operation Allied Force
Military lapel ribbon for the Arab-Israeli War
Military lapel ribbon for the Battle of Britain
Military lapel ribbon for the Battle of Midway
Military lapel ribbon for the Berlin Airlift
Military lapel ribbon for the Chaco War
Military lapel ribbon for the Cold War
Military lapel ribbon for the Cuban Missile Crisis
Military lapel ribbon for pioneering aircraft
Military lapel ribbon for the Falklands War
Military lapel ribbon for the French-Indochina War
Military lapel ribbon for the Golden Age of Flight
Military lapel ribbon for the 1991 Gulf War
Military lapel ribbon for the Indo-Pak Wars
Military lapel ribbon for the Iran-Iraq War
Military lapel ribbon for the Korean War
Military lapel ribbon for the 1982 Lebanon War
Military lapel ribbon for the Malayan Emergency
Military lapel ribbon representing modern aircraft
Military lapel ribbon for the attack on Pearl Harbor
Military lapel ribbon for the Six Day War
Military lapel ribbon for the Soviet-Afghan War
Military lapel ribbon for the Spanish Civil War
Military lapel ribbon for the Suez Crisis
Military lapel ribbon for the Vietnam War
Military lapel ribbon for Warsaw Pact of the Cold War-era
Military lapel ribbon for the WASP (WW2)
Military lapel ribbon for the World War 1
Military lapel ribbon for the World War 2
Military lapel ribbon for the Yom Kippur War
Military lapel ribbon for experimental x-plane aircraft
* Ribbons not necessarily indicative of actual historical campaign ribbons. Ribbons are clickable to their respective campaigns/operations.

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