SEA HAWK FB.5
Image: MARK J. CAIRNS
History of the Sea Hawk FB.5
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 transferred to Armstrong Whitworth Aircraft Ltd at Coventry.
Sea Hawks saw front line service with the Fleet Air Arm until 1960, operating from the carriers HMS Eagle, HMS Bulwark, HMS Albion and HMS Ark Royal, 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. The then West Germany, India, Australia and the Netherlands all operated the type with Indian examples only 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.
History of our Sea Hawk FB.5 WN108
The WN108 Sea Hawk in the Ulster Aviation Society's Heritage collection was delivered in September 1954 as an FB.3 variant originally, with stronger wings for external stores (116 were built) and entered service with 897 Squadron in February 1956, embarking on HMS Eagle in April of the same year.
It was then transferred to 895 squadron on HMS Bulwark, and became one of the aircraft to play an active role during the Suez crisis, flying combat air patrols.
In January 1957 the aircraft arrived at RNAY Fleetlands for an upgrade conversion to FB.5 standard with a Nene Mk103 engine (50 FB.3's were converted).
In October 1957 it again joined HMS Eagle flying with 806 Squadron, in whose service it remained until returned to Fleetlands for repair of damage caused by striking electrical cables whilst taking part in a low-flying exercise.
Whilst at Fleetlands the decision was taken to convert WN108 for use by the Fleet Requirements Unit (FRU) based at Hurn, and it was for this task that the aircraft was painted in its current Gloss Black Scheme.
It joined the unit on 2 June 1958 carrying the code 033 and served until 1963 when on 1 August, it was delivered from Hurn to Shorts' Admiralty Holding Unit (AHU) Sydenham, for Long-Term Storage (LTS).
Unlike many LTS aircraft it was saved from the breakers yard and acquired by Shorts for use in their Apprentice Training School. For twenty five years this was to be its home where it was used as an instructional airframe for many hundreds of Shorts apprentices.
Image: MARK J. CAIRNS
In 1989, WN108 was kindly donated to the Ulster Aviation Society by Shorts.
The Sea Hawk finally took to the air again, albeit with the assistance of a crane, when it was lifted through the roof of the Apprentice Training Centre — after 25 years of building development it was the only way of removing the aircraft.
Sea Hawk WN108 currently the only aircraft on display in the UK, preserved in original FRU markings.
Model: Sea Hawk FB.5
UAS Location: Hangar 1
Served with: 897 Sqn, 895 Sqn, 806 Sqn, FRU Hurn,
Maximum Speed: 599mph
Engine: Rolls-Royce Nene 103 centrifugal-flow turbojet engine, 5,200 lbf (23 kN) thrust
Service Ceiling: 44,500 ft
Range: 480 miles (internal)
Length & Height: 12.09m x 2.64m
Wing Span: 11.89m
4 × 20 mm Hispano Mk.V Cannons
20 × RP-3 ROCKETS 60 lb (27 kg) unguided rockets or 16 × 127mm unguided rockets
4 × 500 lb (227 kg) BOMBS
2 × 90 gallon drop tanks
Production: 520, all marks