Royal Navy Jets 1945 to the 1970s

DeHavilland/Hawker Siddeley Sea Vixen

I have particular soft spot for the Sea Vixen, having build my first kit in 1976 (the Frog FAW.2 below) and my most recent in 2021 (the Xtrakit FAW. 2).

Despite an astonishingly long gestation, the Sea Vixen FAW.1, armed with the FireStreak Infra-red Air to Air missile, gave the RN a truly modern and flexible aircraft, which was equally at home in the ground attack role. Although it could be unforgiving to fly, it was popular with pilots (although less so with the Observers, stuck in the dark black hole to starboard).

The Sea Vixen represented the end of DeHavilland's highly successful twin boom family; sadly it will always be remembered for the horrific crash into the crowd of the DH110 prototype at the 1952 SBAC Farnborough Airshow, which led directly to the strict SBAC airshow safety rules against flying over the crowd line, that still apply to all public airshows in the UK.

The more advanced FAW2 added "saddle" fuel tanks over the twin booms and swapped the first generation Firestreak missile for the much more capable Red Top. The Observer's hatch was modified with a frangible perspex canopy allowing him to eject through the canopy if needed (sadly, Sea Vixens suffered from a high rate of accidents).

The FAW1 was the mount of the famous 766 Squadron "Fred's Five" Royal Navy formation display team, a role subsequently taken up by the FAW2 and the "Simons Sircus" formation display team, named after the 766 Sqn CO, Lt Cdr Simon Idiens RN.

Although a capable and effective aircraft, it was never really "state of the art". Retired prematurely as a result of the UK Government's austerity decision to withdraw from "East of Suez" in the early 1970s, it was never tested in combat, although Sea Vixens saw active operations during the 1961 Kuwait crisis, the Tanganyika mutiny, Radfan rebellion, withdrawal from Aden and the Biera Patrol blockade of Rhodesia.

Hawker Siddeley Sea Vixen FAW Mk2 - 899 NAS, HMS EAGLE 1971

Airfix have produced a truly modern "state of the art" kit in their 1/48 scale Sea Vixen. Easy to build (but very large when built!) it is the most accurate Sea Vixen kit available (link to the first of several build pages).

Link to my Sea Vixen Reference Pictures (warning - very picture heavy)

DeHavilland DH110 Sea Vixen FAW Mk1 - 766 NAS, RNAS Yeovilton 1966

This is the old Frog FAW.2 kit (or rather a Russian re-pop), backdated to an FAW.1 with the Magna Resin conversion kit and Model Art decals. Link to Build Page

Hawker Siddeley Sea Vixen FAW Mk2 - 899 NAS, HMS EAGLE 1974

This was one of the last kits issued by Frog; I bought this kit in the very week in 1976 that their demise was announced. A typical Frog kit - chunky and simple, but reasonably accurate. Perfectionists will worry that the forward fuselage is too short and fat. Enthusiasts will simply enjoy the purposeful lines of this truly "different" aircraft. This one has been repainted and re-decaled twice since first built. It remains the all-time favourite of my model collection.

Photoshopped from an original picture by LA(Phot) Owen King Royal Navy

Sea Vixen XP924 "G-FOXY" is a favourite at UK Airshows. Originally sponsored by Red Bull and painted

in corporate silver/blue/red colours, she has recently been repainted in her original service markings.

Here she is at the 2009 RNAS Yeovilton Air Show, where she gave a spirited display, despite the poor weather!

DeHavilland DH110 Pirate / Sea Vixen Mk20 - 1955

This project was a way to use up one of the (now outdated) FROG Sea Vixen kits in my 'stash'. Its booms have been shortened, wing folds removed, nose blunted and a few other bits and bobs changed. (Link to build page)

Development of the DH110 started in 1949 and it first flew 2 years later. In September 1952 at the Farnborough Air Show, whilst maneuvering hard at the end of a supersonic run toward the crowd, the first DH110 prototype disintegrated in the air, killing pilot John Derry and test observer Anthony Richards instantly.

As the airframe broke up, the DH110's engines and cockpit section continued into the crowd, killing 29 spectators and injuring over 60.

After a redesign of the wing structure, flight testing resumed in 1954; XF828, the first semi-navalised prototype (fitted with arrestor hook, but without folding wings), took to the sky in 1955.

Blackburn Buccaneer S.1, 801 NAS, HMS ARK ROYAL, 1964

The Airfix Buccaneer kit started life as the NA39 prototype and was subsequently released as the early S1 version. This is the US Craftmaster issue of the kit with various modifications, refinements & Model Alliance decals. (Link to Build Page and barmy box-art)

Blackburn's Buccaneer was an impressively advanced aircraft, with complex aerodynamics and avionics, blown boundary layer control to reduce landing speeds and a strengthened airframe optimised for very low level operation over land and sea. Early Buccaneers were an all-over white anti-flash colour, reflecting their Nuclear Strike role, but this proved impractical in the more prevalent low level attack role, so was quickly phased into Extra Dark Sea Grey (EDSG) topsides, then all over EDSG. Entering operational service in 1962, the DeHavilland Gyron Junior engined S.1 proved badly underpowered and was superseded from 1965 by the Rolls Royce Spey powered S2, but not before 801 Sqn's Buccaneer S.1s saw active service on the Biera Patrol, enforcing sanctions against Rhodesia.

Arming The Buccaneer: In its original form, the Buccaneer was designed as a Naval Nuclear Strike Aircraft, specifically targeted against Soviet Sverdlov Class Cruisers, which, it was deemed, posed a real threat to NATO surface ships. For this role it carried Red Beard, the UK's first tactical nuclear weapon (10-20 Kiloton). Red Beard was a large and unsophisticated fission weapon; it had to be fully armed before launch, clearly not sensible for carrier operations (indeed Buccaneers were forbidden to land on carrying a live weapon), and at an all-up weight of around 1700 Kg, it placed significant limits on the Buccaneer's range. For normal operations the Buccaneer's bombs would be carried in an internal rotating bomb bay, but for Red Beard, a conformal tray was loaded instead, with the single bomb remaining in a position where it protruded into the slipstream, but was relatively protected from the elements and from buffeting.

For the Naval Buccaneer S.2, Red Beard was substituted in the 1970s by the much lighter WE177A weapon, of which it could carry two (link to my S.2 Build).

Supermarine Vickers Scimitar F.1

The last of an outstanding line of Supermarine naval aircraft, leading back through the Seafire to the Schneider Trophy winners of the 1930s, the elegant Scimitar was the first RN aircraft to exceed the speed of sound (albeit in a shallow dive) and also the first capable of carrying a nuclear weapon. Scimitars represented a huge leap in size, technology and complexity for the RN but were not altogether successful operating from the RN's small carriers; of 76 built, an astonishing 39 were lost in accidents.

Scimitars served with four front line Royal Navy squadrons, 800 (ARK ROYAL, EAGLE), 803 (VICTORIOUS, HERMES, ARK ROYAL), 804 (HERMES) and 807 (ARK ROYAL, CENTAUR) , as well as 700X trials Sqn (RNAS Ford, Yeovilton), 736 Training Sqn (RNAS Lossiemouth) and Airwork Services Fleet Reqts Unit (FRU Hurn).

Scimitar F.1 - 807 Sqn HMS CENTAUR 1961 (Xtrakit)

Moulded by Sword and issued by Hannants as part of their Xtrakit series, this is currently the only injection moulded Scimitar kit. Although it has a number of accuracy issues, it captures the sleek and modern look of the Scimitar well. This one has only minor changes, including a pair of Frog (Hasegawa) Bullpup missiles. (Link to build page)

Originally designed as a fighter, armed with internal Aden canon and later with early Sidewinder missiles (a scimitar was the first British aircraft to fire a Sidewinder), its lack of AI radar and the success of the Sea Vixen interceptor meant that it was quickly converted for the low level strike role, where it performed well. Scimitars were equipped to carry a Red Beard tactical nuclear weapon, but inherent safety issues with Red Beard meant that they were not permitted to do so in peacetime. A more normal load included dumb bombs or the famously unreliable ASM-N-7a Bullpup "bridgebuster" guided stand off missile. A reconnaissance variant also served for a short time, equipped with a camera nose.

Scimitar F.1 - 803 Sqn HMS HERMES 1962 (Contrail (Sutcliffe) Vacform)

Going back to the mid 1980s, this was my first ever vacform kit and I think it has held up pretty well as a build; not exactly detailed, but I think the nose and fuselage shape is better than the many recent resin releases. However, the Humbrol Satin varnish (out the tin) that I used at the time had badly yellowed over the years (Link to "before" picture). Since my painting and finishing techniques (and materials) have moved light years ahead since then, I thought that a rebuild and repaint would be in order, with a few added details as well.

Cockpit, pilot and jet nozzles are from an old Airfix Jaguar, drop tanks from my Frog Sea Vixen. Link to Build Page

Scimitars served for a comparatively short time, as technology was moving forward at a rapid pace and the complexity of newer weapons was creating too high a workload for single seat attack aircraft. The aircraft also introduced a great deal of new (and unreliable) technology, such that at one stage it was reputed to require 1000 hrs of maintenance for each flying hour. After seeing active service during the threatened invasion of Kuwait by Iraq in 1961, Scimitars finished their days as buddy-buddy tankers for the Buccaneers and Sea Vixens and with the FRU.

Gloster "Sea" Meteor III. Landing Trials HMS IMPLACABLE, 1947 / 778 Trials Sqn RNAS Ford, 1959.

Airfix, built out the box, with a fuse wire tail hook and markings from the spares box. Link to Build Page

Two Derwent V powered Meteors were adapted for Carrier trials to investigate issues arising from jet operation at sea. After operating with HMS IMPLACABLE for a short time, they moved ashore to RNAS Ford with 778 Carrier Trials Sqn.

Gloster Meteor T7. Heron Standards Flt, RNAS Yeovilton, 1966.

This particular aircraft is currently part of the FAA museum's reserve collection. This is the Matchbox kit, with a reshaped tail and nose. Link to Build Page

Early jet aircraft were sufficiently different that the RN concluded that a 2-seater trainer would be essential, so the RAF's T.7 variant was quickly adopted to give FAA aircrew shore based experience in jet aircraft handling. T.7s remained in RN service until 1967.

Armstrong Whitworth Meteor TT. 20. 776 Fleet Requirements Unit, Hurn Airport, 1961.

This is also the Matchbox kit, with rather less radical modifications - a scratch built winch and Rushton target! Link to Build Page

From the late 1950s, several surplus RAF Meteor NF11s were converted by Armstrong Whitworth into high speed target tugs for the RN and RAF, towing Rushton, Sleeve and banner targets on 6000ft long cables for air to air and surface to air target practice.

Hawker/Armstrong Whitworth Sea Hawk

See the separate Sea Hawk Pages for details of my expanding Sea Hawk collection:

DeHavilland Sea Venom - 891 NAS, HMS ARK ROYAL, 1956

For many years, the only 1/72 model of the Sea Venom was this Frog issue from the late 1960s. It is definitely one of Frog's better kits, although clearly not up to modern standards and has been reissued by Novo, Chematic and Eastern Express amongst others. The supplied canopy is thick and poorly shaped; this one has an Aeroclub replacement. Link to Build page

As so often has been the case, the Sea Venom was a stop gap compromise aircraft for the FAA, whilst they waited for the long delayed Sea Vixen to become available. As with the Sea Hawk, Sea Venoms saw extensive action during Suez, where they proved highly effective in the ground attack and close support role.

DeHavilland Sea Vampire T.22 - 738 Sqn Fleet Air Arm, RNAS Lossiemouth, 1961

The arrival of the new Vampire T.11 kit in the 2013 Airfix catalogue was a very pleasant surprise and the kit itself certainly lives up to modern expectations, with excellent detail and well planned construction sequence. Fit is good, although there are a couple of minor tricky areas and surface detail is engraved a little too deeply. Decals for two RAF aircraft are well chosen and nicely printed on a comprehensive sheet, although the strong colour demarcations of the suggested dayglo scheme in particular will need the modeller to think carefully about decal translucency where the roundels cross colour. Nevertheless, at the price Airfix are asking, this has to be one of the best bargains of the year and one of the most enjoyable Airfix kits I have built in a long time. Link to Build Page

Although too late to see active combat in WW2, the first flight of the Vampire prototype took place in September 1943, with the first production aircraft entering RAF service in April 1945. Amongst other firsts, the single seat naval Sea Vampire variant (see below) was the first jet aircraft ever to land on an aircraft carrier.

Two seat Vampire trainers remained in service with the RAF and Royal Navy until the mid 1950s and with the RAN and RAAF until the early 1970s.

Seventy three Sea Vampire T.22s were built for the Fleet Air Arm, based on the RAF's T.11 variant with a slightly different naval radio fit. 738 Sqn at Lossiemouth formed the Naval Air Fighter School, operating Vampires and Sea Hawks until the arrival of the Hunter in 1962.

A coven of Naval Vampires and Sea Vampires!

718 Sqn Fleet Air Arm, Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, RNAS Stretton, 1956

This is such a nice kit that I just had to build another. This is a slightly easier scheme to paint, again using a mix of kit transfers, plus some from the spares box, plus some inkjet printed ones. Link to Build Page

Back in the 1950s, the Fleet Air Arm maintained a number of shore-based Volunteer Reserve squadrons. 718 was one such unit, operating as the Northern Air Division from RNAS Stretton (HMS BLACKCAP), midway between Liverpool and Manchester (you can still see the old runways just off the south side of the M56). Along with 767 Sqn, the unit's primary role was to convert RNVR Pilots to "modern" jet aircraft, using Supermarine Attackers and De Havilland Sea Vampires. Trained pilots would then join the operational RNVR Squadrons, 1831 (fighters) and 1841 (ASW) or augment regular FAA squadrons.

The RNVR Air Branch was dissolved in 1957 in the wake of the infamous 1957 Duncan Sandys Defence White Paper; RNAS Stretton closed a year later.

DeHavilland Vampire FB.5 Station Flight , RNAS Yeovilton, 1954

This is the old Heller Vampire/Mistral in its 2013 Revell release with some spare decals to depict a Fleet Air Arm aircraft. A nice little kit, beginning to show its age. But still holding its own against more modern Vampire kits. Link to Build page See the bottom of this page for my Sea Vampire conversion of the same kit.

This rather plain Vampire FB.5 was used in the early 1950s by HMS HERON as a station flight aircraft.

Supermarine Attacker - 1831 Sqn RNVR, RNAS Stretton, 1955.

This FROG kit has Modeldecal markings and a Falcon vacform canopy to turn it into an Attacker FB.2 . The kit cockpit consists of a flat deck (flush with the upper fuselage) and a pilot's head, so I dug this one out and hid the horrors with a spare generic seat and pilot !

Early Attacker F.1s were of limited use and were quickly converted to the FB.1 by adding underwing weapons pylons for unguided rockets to give them a ground attack capability.   An up-engined variant with a much more powerful Nene 3 engine became the definitive Attacker and served with front line Sqns until 1954, then with the RNVR Air Sqns until the late 1960s, where it was used to convert veteran RNVR pilots to jet aircraft.   

DeHavilland/English Electric Sea Vampire F.20 - 728 NAS, RNAS Hal Far, Malta 1954

The Heller Vampire has also been released by Airfix and is a good kit, with commendably fine detail. Sadly, however much lead you fill it with, it will still sit on its tail!

This one has been subtly modified into a Sea Vampire by adding an arrestor hook and extended flaps. Link to Build Page

The Admiralty was quick to recognise the Vampire's strengths and quickly sought to use it at sea by adding an arrestor hook and increasing the area of the flaps. As such it became the first jet ever to land on an aircraft carrier, in the capable hands of RN Test Pilot Lt Cdr (later Captain) Eric "winkle" Brown. Although successful, Brown's first landing was a hairy affair, with the aircraft's tail booms striking the deck round-down before the hook had engaged.

Whilst testing showed the Vampire's general handling to be well suited to carrier landings, the poor power response of the early Goblin jet engine meant that it would not be safe to operate at sea, leaving the ungainly Attacker, with its more responsive Rolls Royce Nene engine, as the choice for the RN's first operational jet fighter. Nevertheless, the Fleet Air Arm operated significant numbers of English Electric built Sea Vampires from shore bases, where they provided valuable early experience in jet handling.

DeHavilland/English Electric Sea Vampire F.21 - HMS WARRIOR Trials Ship 1947

This is the FROG Vampire, modified to become another Sea Vampire, in this case one that doesn’t need an undercarriage! Given its age, this is still a reasonable little kit, albeit devoid of any detail.  Its main shortcoming is the lack of engine intake vanes.  Link to Build Page

Perhaps the Sea Vampire's most unusual exploit was its participation in rubber deck landing trials, again piloted by Lt Cdr Brown.

The idea was for the aircraft to land on a soft surface, negating the need for an undercarriage. Brown' first landing nearly ended in disaster, as an excessive sink rate caused him to hit the deck edge, with the arrestor hook bouncing up and jamming in its fairing. The aircraft penetrated through the rubber deck, then bounced back into the air. Brown tried to accelerate away but found that the jammed hook had damaged his elevator, so was forced to cut power and belly flop back to earth, fortunately without injury.

The rubber deck concept was eventually abandoned, as new engines brought greater power, thus reducing the criticality of weight and permitting the retention of suitable landing gear!

DeHavilland Sea Venom - 892 NAS, HMS EAGLE, Suez  1956

This is the same underlying kit , but with the supplied canopy.   Link to Build page

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Hawker Siddeley Sea Vixen FAW Mk2 - 893 NAS, HMS HERMES 1970

Xtrakit and MPM produced this 1/72 Sea Vixen kit in 2008, which can be built as an FAW.1 or FAW.2 .  It is not an easy build, with some disappointing omissions and errors, but can still be made into a fine replica.  Decals are a mix of kit, Model Art, FROG and Xtradecal.

Link to build page

#893 #F1Eagle

Supermarine Attacker F.1 - 800 Sqn, HMS EAGLE, 1951.

Frog's Attacker was one of their earliest kits and indeed may originally have been bought in from another manufacturer. It’s crude and not very accurate (errors in the tailplane and canopy are particularly noticeable). However, until recently, it was the only 1/72 model of this type.

The Attacker was the FAA's first operational carrier based jet fighter. Although the Vampire had made the first jet carrier landings, the Admiralty opted for the more conservative tail-wheeled Attacker design, based around the proven and advanced Spiteful laminar flow wing. Its operational effectiveness was marginal at best, and the undercarriage/jet pipe arrangement caused numerous awkward problems, including deck erosion. Pilots welcomed its replacement by the Sea Hawk with great relief , although it remained in service with RNVR Squadrons for some time after its withdrawal from front line service!