History and development of the Hunter

Sidney Camm became Chief Designer of Hawkers in 1926, and remained in that post until his death in 1966. By 1948 Hawker and its Chief Designer found that they had time on their hands. The end of the war had reduced the pressure on aircraft development and budgets were cut to a tiny percentage of their wartime levels.

By this time the jet age had arrived, and the RAF was flying 2 main types of jet fighter, the Gloster Meteor and the De Havilland Vampire. Although both the Meteor and the Vampire were excellent machines, they had started to show definite limitations. This was most noticeable particularly in performance terms and especially when compared to the latest American fighters. These aircraft had been developed with the aid of German wartime research. The Meteor had a top speed of about 580 mph, if it flew faster compressibility became a problem as Mach 1 was approached.

Camm and his team set to work, and the new design, given the company designation Type 1067, took shape in late 1948. Metal was cut for the first prototypes in late 1949, the first aircraft being finished in July 1951. The first flight of the Hunter, as this aircraft was now named, was on 20th July 1951. It flew from Boscombe Down with Hawker's new Chief test pilot, Sqn Ldr Neville Duke, at the controls.

Hunter F.1

The Hunter F Mk.1 entered service with the Air Fighting Development Squadron at West Raynham in July 1954.

Hunter F.2

was fitted with the Sapphire engine, only 45 of these excellent aircraft were produced, equipping just 2 squadrons, Nos. 257 and 263, both based at Wattisham.

Hunter Mk.3

Only one Hunter Mk.3 was built, this was WB188, the first prototype Hunter. It was rebuilt with aerodynamic refinements, and a reheated Avon engine. This engine, the Avon RA7R, developed 7,130lb of thrust dry and up to 9,600lb of thrust with the afterburner lit. On 7 September 1953, Sqn Ldr Neville Duke took the Mk.3 to a new World Absolute Speed Record of 727.6 mph, off the Sussex coast at Rustington. This unique aircraft is still in existence, at RAF Cosford aerospace museum.

Hunter Mk.4

The Mark 4 was the first really successful version. Aircraft were produced initially as modified F Mk 1s, and later as new build aircraft. 365 F Mk 4 Hunters were produced, the first 156 with Avon 113 engines, and the remainder with Avon 115s. These had modified compressors to alleviate many of the surge problems that bedevilled the Hunter Mk.1.

Hunter F.5

The Hunter F Mk 5 was essentially similar to the F Mk 4, the exception being that it was powered by the Armstrong Siddeley Sapphire Mk 101 engine, as fitted to the F Mk 2. Hunter F Mk 5s served with 5 squadrons of Fighter Command, No.s 1, 34, 41, 56 and 263. Deliveries commenced in 1955, and when the Suez crisis erupted in late 1956, Nos. 1 and 34 were deployed to Cyprus to escort British bomber operations over Egypt.

Hunter F.6

The ultimate fighter version of the Hunter was the Hunter F6, with the Avon 200 series engine and featured wing leading edge extensions which cured the "pitch up problem" . The Hunter F6 featured the ability to carry a wide range of under wing stores such as bombs and rockets and equipped 19 RAF squadrons. However with the Mach 2 English Electric Lightning set to enter service the writing was on the wall for the Hunter as a pure interceptor and the Hunter was selected to replace the De Haviland Venom in the strike fighter role.

Hunter FGA.9

The Hunter FGA9 proved extremely capable in the ground attack role with it's ability to carry a huge selection of underwing stores and served the RAF for many years in this capacity.

Hunter FR.10

To fulfill the need for an armed low level photographic reconnaissance fighter the Hunter FR10 with three camera's mounted in the nose was developed.

The longest serving version of the Hunter, (in RAF service at least) was the two seat Hunter T7 which was used for weapons and advanced training, one example still being used by the Empire Test Pilots School as late as 2002.

Hunter Trainers

The idea of developing a two-seat Hunter started to emerge as a private venture by Hawkers in early 1953, for use as an advanced trainer. The Hunter's performance was sufficiently beyond that of exisiting training aircraft, such as the Balliol and Vampire, to warrant such an aircraft. The layout was a subject of much discussion at first, both tandem and side-by-side layouts were advocated. In the end the side-by-side layout prevailed, and the first of 2 prototypes flew on 8 July 1955. These were essentially single seat Hunters, with a new front fuselage. The first aircraft was a modified F Mk 4s, powered by the types original Avon RA 21. However, all was not well with the trainer variant, the new nose and cockpit caused airflow instability, and a long programme of trials began to develop the shape of the new canopy and the fairing behind it. By the summer of 1956 the airflow problems were solved, and the Ministry of Supply placed a production order for the trainer, now termed Hunter T Mk7.

Even though the second prototype had been powered by the Avon 203 and based on the F Mk 6, it was planned for the production aircraft to be fitted with the Avon 121 engine, not the so called 'big Avon' 200 series. This was because it was intended that some F Mk 4 aircraft be converted to T Mk 7s, although this did cause great problems with spares in later years. Apart from the two-seat nose section and fairing, the only other structural difference between the F Mk 4 and T Mk 7 was the addition of a fairing in the tail for a braking parachute.

Altogether 55 aircraft were new-build T Mk 7s, although the last 10 were built as T Mk 8s for the Royal Navy with arrestor hooks and other associated naval equipment. Several of the Royal Navy T Mk 8s were reconverted in 1980, to become radar trainers for Sea Harrier student pilots. The reconversion included the addition of Blue Vixen radar in the nose for interception training. Deliveries of the T Mk 7s were to most front line squadrons, one apiece, and the remainder to 229 OCU at Chivenor, in 1958. These aircraft served in the advanced trainer role and as weapons trainers for over 20 years.

Hunter T.7
Support Command - No.s 63, 79, 145, 234

Examples also served with - No.s 1, 2, 5, 8, 12, 15, 16, 19, 20, 43, 45, 54, 56, 58, 65, 66, 74, 92, 111, 208 and 216 Squadrons, and No.237, the Buccaneer OCU