The Hawker Sea Hawk was a British single-seat jet fighter of the Fleet Air Arm (FAA), the air branch of the Royal Navy (RN), built by the Hawker Aircraft and its sister company, Armstrong Whitworth Aircraft.
Design and development
The Sea Hawk
was developed from the P.1040
, a land-based prototype jet interceptor intended for the Royal Air Force
(RAF); however, the RAF showed little interest in the project, preferring other jet fighters such as the Gloster Meteor
and de Havilland Vampire
. The design was unusual in having a bifurcated
jetpipe which freed-up space in the rear fuselage for a fuel tank, allowing the aircraft to have a longer range than many other early jets. Hawker subsequently developed it into a navalised jet fighter and offered it to the Admiralty
who expressed keen interest in the design. The first prototype (the P.1040, VP401) flew on the 2nd September 1947
, piloted by Bill Humble. A fully navalised prototype did not fly until the following year (VP413, 48/8/31). A third prototype which flew in 1949 incorporated a number of modifications from the second prototype. The first carrier trials occurred aboard the fleet aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious
that same year. Over 100 of the aircraft, now named Sea Hawk
, were subsequently ordered by the navy. The first production Sea Hawk F1 was WF 143, which flew in November 1951 with 39' wingspan and a tailplane of increased area.
Unlike its rival the Supermarine Attacker (the first jet to enter service with the FAA), the Sea Hawk had a tricycle undercarriage rather than a tail-wheel, making it easier to land on carriers. It was a fairly conventional design however. Just one of its conventional aspects was that while other contemporary aircraft, eg the F-86 Sabre, had adopted swept wings, the Sea Hawk had straight wings, though swept wing versions (P.1052, P.1081) had been considered and the latter would lead to the Hawker Hunter. The Sea Hawk was still a reliable and elegant design though its conventionality would mean it would only have a brief career before it would inevitably be superseded by newer and more advanced aircraft.
The first production Sea Hawk was the F.1
, which first flew in 1951 and entered service two years later. Just over 30 were actually built by Hawker. At that time, Hawker was also producing the famous Hunter for the RAF and so production of the Sea Hawk was switched to Armstrong Whitworth Aircraft
, part of the Hawker company. The F.1
was armed with four Hispano 20 mm cannons
. It was powered by a single 5,000 lbf (22 kN) thrust Rolls-Royce Nene
101 turbojet. It had a maximum speed of 599 mph at sea level and a range of 800 miles on internal fuel. The second fighter variant was the F.2
which introduced power-boosted aileron controls to the Sea Hawk as well as other modifications, including to its structure.
The next variant of the Sea Hawk was developed into a fighter-bomber, the FB.3 (over 100 built) and differed only slightly from its predecessors. Its structure was strengthened to allow it to carry a wide array of equipment. Its new armament consisted of two 500 lb (220 kg) bombs and 16 unguided rockets. The fourth Sea Hawk was a fighter ground-attack variant designated the FGA.4 with increased weapons capability. The fifth Sea Hawk was a fighter-bomber variant, the FB.5, basically FB.3 and FGA.4s re-engined with the new Roll-Royce Nene 103. The final Sea Hawk was a fighter ground-attack variant, FGA.6, and was the exact same as its immediate predecessor, though they were new builds rather than re-engined, and just under ninety were built. All Sea Hawks were in service by the mid 1950s and eventually over 500 were built.
The first export version was the Sea Hawk Mk.50, a single-seat ground-attack variant for the Royal Netherlands Navy; 22 aircraft were in service between 1957 to 1964. The next export variant was the Sea Hawk Mk.100, a single-seat strike fighter variant for the German Bundesmarine. The final export version was the Sea Hawk Mk.101, a single-seat night fighter, reconnaissance variant for the Bundesmarine.
The Sea Hawk, as part of the Fleet Air Arm, saw much service during the Suez Crisis
, caused by Egypt
's nationalisation of the Suez Canal
. The United Kingdom
took part in the campaign, with the Anglo-French invasion being known as Operation Musketeer
, and which began on October 31 1956
. Six Sea Hawk squadrons took part. Two were aboard the fleet carrier HMS Eagle
, and two each aboard the light fleet carriers HMS Albion
and HMS Bulwark
. The Sea Hawks were used in the ground-attack role, in which they excelled, causing immense damage to a variety of Egyptian targets. The military aspect of the Suez Campaign was a very successful operation, unlike the political outcomes. All Allied forces were eventually withdrawn by 1957.
The Sea Hawk was a successful export aircraft. In the Royal Netherlands Navy, it served aboard the Dutch aircraft carrier HNLMS Karel Doorman, ex-HMS Venerable, including decolonization operations guarding against Indonesian threats in the area. In 1964 the Sea Hawks that served on her were moved ashore when the NATO mission profile was changed to all ASW aircraft. When Karel Doorman was sold to Argentina they were quickly taken out of service.
In Indian Navy service (beginning 1960), Sea Hawks were used aboard the aircraft carrier INS Vikrant, ex-HMS Hercules, and saw service during the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965 and the Indo-Pakistan War of 1971. The latter war saw Sea Hawks being used very effectively by the Indian Navy; these planes racked up nearly a dozen "kills", mainly of Pakistan Navy gunboats and Merchant navy ships and cargo ships in East Pakistan (present day Bangladesh) without losing a single aircraft in the war. Aided by the Breguet Alize aircraft the Hawks emerged unscathed and with the highest kill ratio for any aircraft in the entire war. The Sea Hawk was taken out of Indian Navy service in 1983, being replaced by the far more capable BAE Sea Harrier. The Sea Hawk also saw service with the Bundesmarine, the Navy of West Germany until it was replaced in the mid 1960s by the F-104 Starfighter.
The Sea Hawks in Fleet Air Arm service began phasing out from first-line service in 1958, the year the Supermarine Scimitar and de Havilland Sea Vixen entered service, both of which would eventually replace the Sea Hawk. The last first-line Sea Hawk squadron disbanded in December 1960, ending a very brief career for the Sea Hawk. All Sea Hawks in second-line service were also withdrawn by the mid-1960s. A number of Sea Hawks survive as of 2004, mainly in a variety of locations in the United Kingdom, though a few are located abroad, including in the Netherlands and India. One (VR930) remains air-worthy as part of the Fleet Air Arms historic flight in the UK (as of September 2007).
- Prototype, three built.Sea Hawk F1
- Production fighters powered by a Rolls-Royce Nene Mk 101 engine, 95 built (35 by Hawker Aircraft at Kingston-upon-Thames the remainder and all subsequent production by Armstrong-Whitworth Aircraft at Baginton, Coventry)Sea Hawk F2
- Production fighter with powered ailerons, 40 built by Armstrong-Whitworth.Sea Hawk FB3
- Fighter-bomber variant with stronger wing for external stores, 116 built.Sea Hawk FGA4
- Fighter/Ground attack variant, 97 built.Sea Hawk FB5
- FB3 fitted with the Nene Mk 103, 50 built.Sea Hawk FGA6
- FGA4 with the Nene Mk 103, 101 built.Sea Hawk Mk 50
- Export variant based on the FGA6 for the Royal Netherland Navy, 22 built.Sea Hawk Mk 100
- Export variant for the West German Navy, similar to FGA6 but fitted with taller fin and rudder, 32 builtSea Hawk Mk 101
- All-weather export variant for the West German Navy, as Mk 100 but fitted with a search radar in a underwing pod, 32 built.
- WF219 (Sea Hawk F.1) is stored at the Fleet Air Arm Museum, Yeovilton, England.
- WF225 (Sea Hawk F.1) is on display at RNAS Culdrose, England.
- WF259 (Sea Hawk F.2) is on display at the National Museum of Flight, East Fortune, Scotland.
- WM913 (Sea Hawk FB.5) is on display at the Newark Air Museum, Newark, England.
- WM961 (Sea Hawk FB.5) is on display at Caernarfon Air World, Caernafron, Wales.
- WM969 (Sea Hawk FB.5) is on display at Imperial War Museum, Duxford, England.
- WN108 (Sea Hawk FB.5) is on display with the Ulster Aviation Society, Langford Lodge, Northern Ireland.
- WV797 (Sea Hawk FGA.6) is on display at the Midland Air Museum, Coventry, England.
- WV798 (Sea Hawk FGA.6) is on display at Lasham, England.
- WV826 (Sea Hawk FGA.6) is on display at Ta'qali, Malta.
- WV856 (Sea Hawk FGA.6) is on display at Fleet Air Arm Museum, Yeovilton, England.
- WV865 (Sea Hawk FGA.6) is on display at the Luftwaffe Museum, Gatow, Germany.
- WV908 (Sea Hawk FGA.6) is airworthy with the Royal Navy Historic Flight, Yeovilton, England.
- XE327 (Sea Hawk FGA.6) is on display at Hermeskeil, Germany.
- XE340 (Sea Hawk FGA.6) is on display at the Montrose Air Station Museum, Scotland.
- XE489 (Sea Hawk FGA.6) is on display at the Gatwick Air Museum, Charlwood, England.
- 118 (Sea Hawk Mk.50) is on display at De Kooy, Netherlands.
- 130 (Sea Hawk Mk.50) is on display at Kamp Zeist, Netherlands.
- MS+001 (Sea Hawk Mk.100) is on display at Internationales Luftfahrt-Museum, Villingen-Schwenningen, Germany.
Specifications (Hawker Sea Hawk FGA.6)
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