Designed by Hawker as a carrier-based fighter-bomber powered by a single Rolls Royce Nene turbojet engine, the Sea Hawk made its maiden flight on 3 September 1948 and first entered service in March 1953 with 806 squadron, embarking on HMS Eagle later the same year.
As production orders at Hawker's Kingston and Langley factories could not cope with the large orders for both the naval Sea Hawk, and the Hawker Hunter being produced for the RAF, it was decided that all Sea Hawk production would be transfered to Armstrong Whitworth Aircraft Ltd at Coventry.
Sea Hawks saw front line service with the Fleet Air Arm until 1960, operating from the carriers Eagle, Bulwark, Albion and Ark Royal and being used operationally during the Suez Crisis in November 1956 for ground attack sorties against airfields in an effort to cover the Anglo-French landings in Egypt.
The Sea Hawk also proved attractive to some overseas customers. West Germany, India, Australia and the Netherlands all operated the type with Indian examples being retired in 1984.
In all 434 aircraft were produced for the Royal Navy, making it the largest production run for any British naval jet fighter.