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Hawker Sea Hawk

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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 Hawker Aircraft and its sister company, Armstrong Whitworth Aircraft. Although its origins stemmed from earlier Hawker piston-engined fighters, the Sea Hawk became the company's first jet aircraft. After successful acceptance in the RN, the type proved to be a reliable and sturdy workhorse and went on to export success abroad.

Design and development

In the final years of the Second World War, Hawker's design team explored jet engine technology, initially looking at "stretching" and modifying the existing Hawker Fury/Sea Fury planform fitting a mid-engine Rolls-Royce Nene jet engine and moving the cockpit to the extreme front of the fuselage, creating the P.1035. With encouragement from the Air Ministry, the design was altered substantially, with the wing losing the elliptical shape of the Fury and featuring wing-root air intakes and short bifurcated jet exhausts (which gained the name "trouser legs"). This redesign culminated in building the private venture P.1040.[1] The unusual bifurcated jet pipe reduced jet pipe power loss and freed up space in the rear fuselage for fuel tanks, allowing the aircraft to have a longer range than many other early jets.[1] The aircraft's fuselage fuel tanks were fore and aft of the engine giving a stable centre of gravity in flight. Initially, the P.1040 was intended for the Royal Air Force (RAF) as an interceptor, even though a top speed of only 600 mph was forecast. When in 1945 the RAF showed little interest in the project[2] because it offered insufficient advance over jet fighters already in service such as the Gloster Meteor and de Havilland Vampire, the P.1040 was offered to the Admiralty as a fleet support fighter, the P.1046.[3]

The P.1040 prototype (VP401), now known as the Hawker N.7/46 after the naval specification flew on 2 September 1947, piloted by Bill Humble.[3]Teething problems including airframe vibrations and tail buffeting led to a redesign of the rear jetpipe fairings and the addition of a bullet fairing on the tail. Other minor issues including high stick forces and windshield distortion were addressed while a long takeoff run was attributed to the low powered Nene 1 that had been not rated for its full power settings.[4]

A fully navalised prototype, VP413 equipped with folding wings, catapult spools and full armament did not fly until 31 August 1948. A third prototype which flew in 1949 incorporated a number of modifications from the second prototype, including the fitting of a longer arrester hook when a number of "bolters" were experienced in the dummy deck trials. After the longer hook was incorporated, the modification was carried though the remaining production runs.[5] The first carrier trials occurred aboard the fleet aircraft carrier Template:HMS that same year. VP401, the first prototype continued in the flight test programme and before being retired, was involved in two significant events. On 1 August 1949, the Royal Navy entered VP401 in the National Air Races, winning the SBAC Challenge Cup Race, beating a Vampire 3 and DH 108. The prototype was later converted into the Hawker P.1072 with the addition of an auxiliary rocket engine, becoming the first British rocket-powered aircraft. After a few flights were made in 1950, the rocket engine blew up during a test and although repaired, the airframe was scrapped.[6]

The third prototype joined a specially-prepared Vampire Mk 21 in testing the feasibility of operating without an undercarriage utilizing a flexible deck. Flying from Farnborough, VP413 successfully completed both catapult launches and "rubber sheet" deck landings, with the undercarriage remaining retracted throughout the flights. Although the system was proved, the project was abandoned in 1950 when more powerful engines precluded the need to radically adapt the design to the concept of combat aircraft without undercarriages.[6]

Over 100 of the aircraft, now named Sea Hawk, were subsequently ordered by the Royal Navy. The first production Sea Hawk F1 was WF143, which flew on 14 November 1951 with 39 ft (12 m) wingspan and a tailplane of increased area.

File:Hawker P1040 - VP401 - Sea Hawk Prototype.jpg
The Hawker P.1040 prototype VP401
File:Hawker Sea Hawk - VP422.jpg
The Hawker Sea Hawk VP422
File:Armstrong Whitworth Sea Hawk FGA.6 WV797 9m07.JPG
Armstrong Whitworth Sea Hawk FGA.6 (serial number WV797) at the Midland Air Museum, England

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, while other contemporary aircraft, e.g. the F-86 Sabre, had adopted swept wings, the Sea Hawk had straight wings. Swept wing versions (P.1052 and P.1081) were built and experience gained with the latter was instrumental in developing the Hawker Hunter design. The Sea Hawk was still a reliable and elegant design though its conventionality meant it would only have a brief career before being superseded by newer and more advanced aircraft.

Operational history

The first production Sea Hawk was the F 1, which first flew in 1951, entered service two years later with 806 Squadron, first based at Brawdy, then transferred to the Template:HMS. Just over 30 were actually built by Hawker. At that time, Hawker was also producing the Hawker Hunter for the RAF and so production and further development of the Sea Hawk was switched to Armstrong Whitworth Aircraft, part of the Hawker group.[7] The F 1 was armed with four 20 mm (.79 in) Hispano Mk V cannons. It was powered by a single 5,000 lbf (22 kN) thrust Rolls-Royce Nene 101 turbojet. The F 1 had a maximum speed of 599 mph (964 km/h) at sea level and a range of 800 mi (1,287 km) on internal fuel. The second fighter variant was the F 2 which introduced power-boosted aileron controls as well as other modifications, including to its structure. [8]

The next variant of the Sea Hawk was developed into a fighter-bomber, the FB 3 - Fighter-Bomber Mark 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 and weaponry. Its new armament consisted of two 500 lb (227 kg) bombs and 16 unguided rockets. The fourth Sea Hawk was a fighter ground-attack variant, 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 exactly the same as its immediate predecessor, though they were new builds rather than re-engined, with just under 90 built. All Sea Hawks were in service by the mid 1950s and eventually over 500 were built. [9]

Although Australia and Canada both initially expressed interest in the Sea Hawk, to the extent that examples were tested by each country's naval forces, the first export version was the Sea Hawk Mk 50, a ground-attack variant for the Royal Netherlands Navy; 22 aircraft were in service between 1957 to 1964. [10]The next export variant was the Sea Hawk Mk 100, a strike fighter variant for the German Bundesmarine, the Navy of West Germany. The final German export version was the Sea Hawk Mk 101, a night fighter, reconnaissance variant for the Bundesmarine. The Sea Hawk served into the mid-1960s, unil its replacement by the F-104 Starfighter. [9]The last export customer was India who ordered a mix of 24 new-build Sea Hawks and 12 refurbished ex-FAA Mk 6s in 1959, following up with 30 additional reconstructed airframes from West German stocks, among others. [10]

Combat record

The Sea Hawk, as part of the Fleet Air Arm, saw extensive service during the Suez Crisis, initiated by Egypt's nationalisation of the Suez Canal. The United Kingdom, France and Israel took part in the campaign, with the Anglo-French invasion being known as Operation Musketeer, beginning on 31 October 1956. Six Sea Hawk squadrons took part: two were aboard the fleet carrier HMS Eagle, and two each aboard the light fleet carriers Template:HMS and Template:HMS. 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.

File:Sea hawk wv908 frontview arp.jpg
Royal Navy Historic Flight Sea Hawk FGA 6 on static display at Kemble Air Day 2008, England.

The Sea Hawk was a successful export aircraft. In the Royal Netherlands Navy, it served aboard the Dutch aircraft carrier HNLMS Karel Doorman, ex-Template:HMS, 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 in 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 aircraft 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. [11] Aided by Breguet Alize aircraft, the Hawks emerged unscathed, achieving the highest kill ratio for any aircraft in the entire war. The Sea Hawk was withdrawn from Indian Navy service in 1983, being replaced by the far more capable BAE Sea Harrier.


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. Most Sea Hawks in second line service were withdrawn by the mid-1960s. The last operation Royal Navy Sea Hawks were the "black" Fleet Requirements Unit at Hurn that retired the type in 1969. [12]


A number of Sea Hawks survive Template:As of, mainly in a variety of locations in the United Kingdom, though a few are located abroad, including in the Netherlands and India. One Sea Hawk remains airworthy as part of the Fleet Air Arms historic flight in the UK (as of July 2009), although refurbishing of the aircraft including fitting a Nene 103 is taking place.[13]

  • 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, Caernarfon, 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, Militaire Luchtvaart Museum(MLM) Netherlands
  • MS+001 (Sea Hawk Mk 100) is on display at Internationales Luftfahrt-Museum, Villingen-Schwenningen, Germany.


Prototype, three built, one converted into the rocket-powered P.1072.
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 FB 3
Fighter-bomber variant with stronger wing for external stores, 116 built.
Sea Hawk FGA 4
Fighter/Ground attack variant, 97 built.
Sea Hawk FB 5
FB3 fitted with the Nene Mk 103, 50 built.
Sea Hawk FGA 6
FGA4 with the Nene Mk 103, 101 built (86 new-build, the remainder converted from FB3 and FGA 4 examples).
Sea Hawk Mk 50
Export variant based on the FGA 6 for the Royal Netherland Navy, 22 built.
Sea Hawk Mk 100
Export variant for the West German Navy, similar to FGA 6 but fitted with taller fin and rudder, 32 built
Sea Hawk Mk 101
All-weather export variant for the West German Navy, as Mk 100 but fitted with a search radar in an underwing pod, 32 built.


Specifications (Hawker Sea Hawk FGA 6)

Template:Aircraft specification

See also

Comparable aircraft

Related lists


  1. 1.0 1.1 Badrocke 2002. p. 60.
  2. Mason 1991, p. 316.
  3. 3.0 3.1 James 2002, p. 48.
  4. James 2002, pp. 48, 50.
  5. James 2002, p. 50.
  6. 6.0 6.1 James 2002, p. 55.
  7. Brown 1982, p. 287.
  8. Brown 1982, p. 289.
  9. 9.0 9.1 Green 1982, p. 49.
  10. 10.0 10.1 James 1982, p. 66.
  11. Harry, B. "Damage Assessment - 1971 Indo-Pak Naval War v.2.0.", 1 February 2005. Retrieved: 22 July 2009.
  12. James 1982, p. 62.
  13. "We're Still Here! Summer Update.", Royal Navy Historic Flight, 25 June 2009. Retrieved: 22 July 2009.
  • Badrocke, Mike. "Hawker's First Jet: Database, Hawker Sea Hawk." Aeroplane, September 2002.
  • Brown, Eric, Captain. "The Sea Hawk ...Epitome of Elegance." Air International, Volume 23, no. 6, December 1982.
  • Buttler, Tony. Hawker Sea Hawk (Warpaint No.29). Denbigh East, Bletchley, UK: Hall Park, 2001. ISSN 1363-0369.
  • Green, William, ed. "Hawker Sea Hawk": Fighter A-Z." Air International, Volume 23, no. 1, July 1982.
  • Green, William and Gordon Swanborough. The Great Book of Fighters. St. Paul, Minnesota: MBI Publishing, 2001. ISBN 0-7603-1194-3.
  • Hannah, Donald. Hawker FlyPast Reference Library. Stamford, Lincolnshire, UK: Key Publishing Ltd., 1982. ISBN 0-946219-01-X.
  • James, Derek N. "Type History: Database, Hawker Sea Hawk." Aeroplane, September 2002.
  • James, Derek N. Hawker, an Aircraft Album No.5. New York: Arco Publishing Company, 1973. ISBN 0-668-02699-5. (First published in the UK by Ian Allan in 1972)
  • Mason, Francis K. The British Fighter since 1912. London: Putnam, 1979. ISBN 0-85177-852-6.
  • Mason, Francis K. Hawker Aircraft since 1920. London: Putnam, 1991. ISBN 0-85177-839-9.
  • Mason, Francis K. The Hawker Sea Hawk. Leatherhead, Surrey, UK: Profile Publications Ltd., 1966.
  • Ovčáčík, Michal and Karel Susa. Hawker Sea Hawk. Praha-Strašnice, Czech Republic: Mark I Ltd., 2001. ISBN 80-902559-3-0.
  • Taylor, John W.R. "Hawker Sea Hawk." Combat Aircraft of the World from 1909 to the present. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1969. ISBN 0-425-03633-2.
  • Wixey, Ken. "Sea Hawk" Aircraft Modelworld August 1985.

External links

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