The Hunter was the main RAF front-line day fighter during the 1950s. It was also delivered
to 23 nations.
Designed by Sidney Camm, the designer of the war-time Hurricane, the Hunter incorporated the
swept wing design and replaced the obsolescent Meteor and Vampire in RAF service.
Camm, with great foresight, had originally refused to consider the swept-back wing because
it was German.
The stages which eventually led to the Hunter are as follows :
- P1040 developed from Sea Fury. This was a straight-wing aircraft, which developed
into the Sea Hawk.
- P1052 which had a swept-wing but unswept tailplane. Flew 19 October 1948. Later
fitted with sweptback tail.
Two were built, the second being converted later to a P1081.
- P1081 with an Avon engine, new back fuselage, all swept lift surface and
with a single jet pipe (instead
of two on the side). It was itended to permit installation of re-heat.
- P1067 (which eventually became the Hunter)
The Hunter prototype, it first flew in 20 July 1951 from Boscombe Down, piloted by
Neville Duke, the Chief Test Pilot for Hawker Aircraft.
The first prototype (WB188), designated of type Mark 1 flew
with Rolls-Royce Avons, as did the second prototype WB195.
The Mark 2, the third prototype WB202, flew with Armstrong-Whitworth Sapphires engines.
Its first confirmed supersonic flight was on 24 June 1952 (it had been breaking the barrier
before then but its flight instruments were too unreliable to actually confirm this), and its first public
supersonic flight occured on 10 July 1952 at Melsbroek, Belgium.
Its first public demonstration in Britain was at Farnborough in 1952, where the new concepts of supersonic flight
were greatly marred by the death of John Derry while flying a De Havilland aircraft, causing the death of
several spectators, as well.
The first production aircraft flew in May 1953 and
the type was introduced into the RAF in August 1954. However the F1 did not become fully
operational with the RAF straight away because the engines had a tendency to surge
when firing its guns. This feature was apparently absent from the Sapphire-powered aircraft -
nevertheless the problem with the Avon was solved and this engine powered the vast majority of Hunters.
Initial problems with the early marks
lead to the introduction into service, in 1955, of the Mark 4 (with Avons)
and the Mark 5 (with Sapphires). Originally the Mark 4 supplied 21 squadrons and the Mark 5 supplied
In 1956 the Mark 6 was introduced and this and
all further Hunters flew with Avon engines.
In 1960, it changed from being a fighter to being a ground attack aircraft, taking over the
role played up till then by the Venom. Significant numbers were converted
to FGA9 standard.
Its last major use was as a trainer with No 1 Tactical Weapons Unit, RAF Brawdy.
After this was ended, TMK75 Integrated Flight Instrumentation System RAF Honington (used as Bucaneer trainers)
A fully supersonic version, the P1083, had been planned, but this was cancelled on 13 July 1953.