Sea Hawk

The Sea Hawk represents the Fleet Air Arm’s entry into jet-age aviation from the decks of aircraft carriers specifically in Suez where carrier-borne aircraft took the battle to Egypt when shore-based aircraft were unable to do so due to range.

Leading Particulars of the Hawker Sea Hawk FGA.6

  • Engine - Rolls Royce Nene 103, delivering 5,200 Ibs of thrust
  • Speed - Mach 0.84 or 560mph at 36,000 feet
  • Range - 300 miles at 30,000 feet, 500 miles with two 100 gallon drop tanks
  • Armament - Four fixed 20mm guns in the fuselage, and provision for ten rocket projectiles and two 500 Ibs bombs below the wings
  • Ceiling - 34,300 feet
  • Crew - Pilot only

Background

Originally designed by the Hawker Aircraft Company, the Sea Hawk F.1 first entered front-line service with 806 Squadron in 1953 (later referred to as "Ace of Diamonds" due to the Ace of Diamonds emblem on the aircraft fuselage).  When the Hawker Hunter was placed on Super Priority order for the Royal Air Force, construction of the Sea Hawk F.2 passed to the Armstrong-Whitworth Aircraft Company under licence.  

The fighter bomber variant, the FB.3, first flew in March 1954 and became the most widely used variant, seeing service with Nos 700, 736, 738, 764, 767, 787, 800, 801, 806, 895, 897 and 898 Squadrons serving both ashore and afloat. The FGA.4 was intended as the definitive ground support version, but suffered from poor engine performance.  In 1954 Rolls-Royce introduced the more powerful Nene 103, about 50 FB.3s being refitted with these engines to become FB.5s and FGA.4s receiving the same treatment to become FGA.6s.

Five Naval Air Squadrons, Nos 800, 802, 804, 897 and 899, flying from the aircraft carriers Albion, Bulwark and Eagle were called to give support to the Anglo-French excursion at Suez in November 1956.  The Royal Navy provided all of the British ground attack effort, and the Sea Hawks (with de Havilland Sea Venoms providing fighter escort) pressed home many attacks against Egyptian shore targets, often in the face of heavy ground fire.  

After Suez, the Sea Hawk's days were numbered and they began to phase out of operational service in 1958, being replaced by the much larger and more potent Supermarine Scimitar.  By 1960 they had been fully relegated to second-line duties with training squadrons and the civilian-run Fleet Requirements Unit used as 'flying targets' for the training of RN ship crews.

The Sea Hawk also saw export success, seeing service with the Marineflieger in West Germany, Dutch and Indian Navies, with the latter only replacing their aircraft as late as 1983.

Sea Hawk FGA.6 WV908

Royal Navy Historic Flight

The Royal Navy Historic Flight's Sea Hawk WV908 was built at Baginton, Coventry, in late 1954 as an FGA.4 variant (Fighter Ground Attack) and assembled at the company's Bitteswell airfield before being delivered to the Royal Navy in February 1955.  She served initially with 807 Squadron and then 898 Squadron embarked in HMS Ark Royal and HMS Bulwark and ashore at the Royal Naval Air Station Brawdy.

After conversion to FGA.6 standard at the Royal Naval Aircraft Yard Fleetlands in 1957-58 she flew with 806 Squadron until 1960 when she was relegated to second-line duties with 738 Squadron at the Royal Naval Air Station Lossiemouth. In June 1962 the aircraft was sent for storage at the Royal Naval Aircraft Yard Belfast before being loaned to the RAF apprentices school at RAF Halton in March 1971 for use as a systems trainer. 

She was then transferred to the Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose in Cornwall (which bears the name HMS Seahawk) in 1976 as a ‘ground runner’, used to train carrier deck personnel.  At this juncture a team of volunteers overhauled her and put her back in the air again, first flying on 23 May 1978, before finally transferring to Royal Naval Air Station Yeovilton in Somerset to fully join the Royal Navy Historic Flight in September 1982.

After a period of storage she re-flew briefly in 1989 before being taken to British Aerospace's Dunsfold works for a complete refurbishment which was completed in 1996.  However an unfortunate split in the jet pipe in 1997 caused damage by annealing a main fuselage frame and grounded her again for major repair by BAE Systems, Dunsfold.  

This problem generated a need to monitor the temperature in the rear engine bay area and an ingenious modern, solid state data gathering system was fitted.  It has far more capability than purely temperature monitoring and the other data it gathers is used to flag up areas of concern and look for trends to help provide vital information to extend the life of the aircraft.

The ejection seat was changed in 1992 to a 2SH Mk1 (mod), more normally fitted in the Hunter GA.11.  Modern radios, Mode S and GPS are fitted to ease pilot workload.

She is now resplendent in the ‘Ace of Diamonds’ markings she wore when serving with 806 Squadron at the end of her front-line career aboard HMS Albion and is currently unique in being the only airworthy Sea Hawk in the World.

Royal Navy Historic Flight

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