North East Aircraft Museum      

De Havilland Sea Venom

XG680 was the last production FAW21, but was later converted to FAW22 standard.

It first flew on 21. September 1956 and was delivered to RNAS Stretton on 4. October.

891 Squadron flew its last two aircraft, XG680 one of them, to Abbotsinch on 26. July 1961, two days before disbanding.



The Venom was originally the Vampire Mk8 but differs from the Vampire in the following ways

  • Powered by a more powerful De Havilland Ghost engine
  • A new wing with a leading edge sweepback of 17 degrees (although the trailing edge was straight) and thickness/chord ratio reduced from 14% to 10%.
  • The wing was further stressed to take 340 liter wing-tip tanks in addition to underwing stores. (The wing-tip tanks were optional, but could not be jettisoned in flight)
  • Wing fences to eliminate tip stall on approach to landing.
  • Bullet fairing at junction of vertical and horizontal stabilizers (fins and tail).
  • 160 km/hr faster than the Vampire.
  • Rate of climb greater than the Vampire.
  • Wing root engine intakes modified to take in the greater volume of air required by the Ghost. The rear of the fuselage pod was slightly re-shaped to accommodate the larger engine tailpipe.

It was orginally introduced as an interim replacement for the Vampire fighter-bombers, pending the introduction of the Hunter and Swift. As the Swift proved unsuitable for the RAF and because a successful Hunter ground-attack aircraft did not appear until the FGA9, the Venom had a longer life than expected.

The prototype was flown by John Derry on 1. September 1949 and it was first supplied to the RAF on 21. April 1952, although it did not enter regular service until the August, while some aerodynamic problems were sorted out.

In the early days, other NATO forces were apparently unfamiliar with the cartridge-starting procedures used by the Venoms, and it was not uncommon for them to dispatch emergency services at the sight of flames and smoke from the Venoms.

In 1953, one Venom lost a wing in flight, and in a check of other machines 75% were found to have a similar defect to the one which caused the wing to fall off. (First RAF ejection??). Engine problems also lead to several crashes - this defect only being pinned-down after a stricken aircraft managed to land "safely", the previous crashes having lead to the destruction of the evidence.

Most RAF Venom squadrons were based overseas. Venoms were used in Suez in 1956 (where one was lost) and in Yemen the following year. From 1954-7 they had been fighting in Malaya, where they were also joined by New Zealand, who flew Venoms leased from the RAF).

The 2-seater Night-Fighter variant appeared in 1950, and entered RAF service in December 1953. This variant was also exported to Sweden. The last RAF Venom was withdrawn from service on 27. June 1962. Although the type remained in service with the Swiss Air Force until 1983.

Sea Venom


The Sea Venom was an adaption of the RAF's Night-Fighter NF2, and was a two seat, all-weather day or night fighter. Like the original Venom, it was intended to serve as an interim aircraft, this time between the Navy's piston-engined Hornet and the De Havilland Sea Vixen. It was first supplied to 890 squadron at Yeovilton on 20 March 1954 and was withdrawn in 1961. During that time it saw service in Suez and Aden.

The design team and construction of the Sea Venom was based at Christchurch, Hatfield being pre-occupied with the Comet.

The more obvious new features of the Sea Venom are

  • Upward folding wings.
  • stronger undercarriage
  • V-frame arrester hooks.
Early problems with the FAW20 lead to withdrawal of the type from front-line service. The insufficient strength of the arrester hook lead to several aircraft overshooting the landing strip and falling in the drink. At this time, no ejector seats were fitted.

The FAW21 protype first flew on 21. April 1954, and was fitted with ejector seats.

The FAW22 first flew on 1. October 1956.

On 31 October and 1. November 1956, Sea Venoms took part in the Suez campaign, flying from the carriers Albion and Eagle, one of the squadrons flying the new FAW22. Only one casualty was recorded - an aircraft damaged by flak had to land with undercarriage up, becoming the first aircraft to be saved by the nylon curtain.

1958 against EOKA in Cyprus, flying from HMS Albion.

1960 Yemen (Aden), flying from Ark Royal.

Retirement from the front-line began in 1959 and was completed by 1961 (In France it was 1963 and in Australia it was 1967). It continued in a training role until 1970.



  • Venom

    • FB1 375 built, initially with no ejector seats.

    • FB4 First flew on 29 December 1953. It had hydraulically-operated ailerons to give improved control at high Mach numbers. Could also carry underwing fuel tanks in addition to the wing-tip tanks. Revision of shape of rudder to prevent excessive yaw and possible rudder locking at low speeds.

    • FB50 Export version

    • FB54 Export version of the FB4

    • NF Mk 2 First flew in 1952, but entry to the RAF was delayed until 1953

    • NF Mk 3 the last night-fighter to be derived from a day fighter. In 1956 the specially designed Javelin began to take on this role.

  • Sea Venom

    • FAW20 (50) First production type, first squadron replaced Attackers on the 20. March 1954.

    • FAW21 First flew 22 April 1954, had ejector seats.

    • FAW22

Other Countries


Australia 39 Sea Venoms

France 94 were license-built by Sud-Est Aviation first flying on 31. October 1952, and known as the Aquilon. They were built at Marignare, near Marseille. Served in Algeria 1957-61, and served in the French armed forces until 1965.

Iraq 15 FB50s

Italy Two delivered. A planned license-built version (by Fiat) fell thru.

New Zealand From July 1955, 14 and 60 squadrons of the New Zealand Air Force flew the FB1 from Kuala Lumpur.

Sweden 62 NF51 night-fighter versions which were known as the J33. Powered by locally-built Ghost engines. Remained in service until 1967.

Switzerland126 license-built originally, followed by 124 more, later. The Ghost engine was also eventually license-built in Switzerland. They were withdrawn in 1983, being fully withdrawn by August of that year. It was a bit ironic that the Swiss apparently suffered problems with corrosion of some metal materials but the wooden material apparently caused few problems.

Venezuala 22 FB4s. In service until 1965.

Photo by courtesy of Tony Oliver