Royal Navy Jets - 1970s to the present

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BAe/Boeing Harrier GR.9 - Fly Navy 100 Anniversary Scheme

Naval Strike Wing (800/809 Sqns), HMS ILLUSTRIOUS, 2009

Airfix, with Model Alliance decals

For the 100th Anniversary of British Naval Aviation, one of the Naval Strike Wing's GR.9 aircraft was painted up in anniversary markings. In addition to its "Fly Navy 100" tail, the aircraft sports the latest overall Medium Sea Grey colour scheme, which is believed to be more appropriate for current operations in Afghanistan.

BAe/Boeing Harrier GR7 - 800 Naval Air Sqn

Joint Force Harrier, Cottesmore, 2007.

This is an Airfix GR7 with the Heritage 100% LERX and Model Alliance decals. The Airfix Harrier II is, in my opinion, the best all round 1/72 AV-8B kit. Its rear fuselage is far more accurate than the otherwise superb Hasegawa kit and most importantly, it includes the very distinctive Harrier air brake and realistic jet nozzles.

The RN reluctantly gave up its FA2 Sea Harriers in 2006; the FA2's payload limitations in hot conditions had become very apparent in the Gulf and Balkans and the cost of upgrading the Pegasus engines to overcome this was unaffordable (similar issues affected the RAF's GR7 fleet).

Instead, the RAF and RN Harrier forces were combined on a single upgraded aircraft type under "Joint Force Harrier", with 2 RN Squadrons and 2 RAF Squadrons operating the GR7, GR7A and more recently, the upgraded GR9, with its improved engine and precision weapons capabilities (primarily Brimstone, Maverick and advanced Paveway LGBs). However, with the GR9's minimal air to air capability, this change left the Fleet without an effective air defence force; a vulnerability that continued until the entry into service of the F-35 JSF in 2020.

Royal Navy pilots of 800 Naval Air Sqn, flying pooled JFH GR7As, spent much of late 2006 and early 2007 in Afghanistan, providing close support to UK & NATO ground forces on Operation HERRICK. They returned to Afghanistan on several occasions since then, combined with elements of 801 Naval Air Sqn, as the "Naval Strike Wing".

BAe Sea Harriers - 1980-2006

See the separate Sea Harrier Pages for details of my Sea Harrier and T-Harrier collection:

BAe Hawk T.1 - Royal Navy

Like the Hunters before them, the RN acquired its Hawk T.1s at minimal cost from surplus RAF stocks.

Flown mainly by FRADU pilots, they were a familiar sight over the south western skies, especially during the weekly FOST "Thursday War" off Plymouth. The Hawk is far smaller than the Hunter and noticeably more difficult to spot at sea (visually and on radar), adding a greater element of realism to training exercises. Several aircraft also operated from RNAS Yeovilton for use as Fixed Wing Standards trainers for RN pilots.

BAe Hawk T.1 - Royal Navy "Fly 100" Hawk Display Aircraft

RNAS Yeovilton, 2009.

In 2009, several Royal Navy Hawk aircraft were painted in a special display scheme to commemorate 100 years of Naval Aviation.

This is the Italeri Hawk 100 with a fair amount of surgery to convert it back to a T.1. The marvellous Fly Navy 100 decals come from Alley Cat.

Link to Build Page

.....and the real thing at Yeovilton:

BAe Hawk T1 - Fleet Requirements & Air Direction Unit (FRADU),

RNAS Culdrose, 2004.

This is an Airfix Hawk I built back in the 1980s, now repainted as a RN aircraft, using Model Art's excellent decals. Always an elegant and balanced looking aircraft, the gloss black scheme suits it well.

.....and the real thing at Yeovilton:

English Electric/BAC Canberra TT.18 Target Tug

FRADU, RNAS Yeovilton, 1987

The old Airfix Canberra B.2 kit had some significant nose shape issues, and the mould was irrevocably converted into a tandem seat Martin B-57 in the early 1980s. Since then, the only way to build a 1/72 Canberra has been to purchase the excellent (but very rare and expensive) Australian High Planes kit, or to modify a B-57. Italeri's B-57 is a good kit and relatively cheap, albeit of variable availability. Unfortunately, the Airwaves resin and white metal conversion is truly superb, but it is not cheap and very difficult to find. Link to Build Page

The RN obtained nine TT.18 Canberra Target Tugs in the early 1970s, for use by the FRADU organisation. All were ex-RAF B.2s, fitted with two air powered target winches, one beneath each wing, and able to carry up to 8 sleeve targets, or 2 Rushton targets with flares or enhanced radar reflectors. These multiple targets, together with the long range and endurance of the Canberra, made it far more likely that a successful mission would be achieved than with earlier single-winch target tug aircraft.

With tow wires up to half a mile long, it was necessary to clear a large area of airspace for the Canberra to fly a racetrack over a ship for live firing practice or radar tracking and alignment. Canberras regularly deployed to places such as Gibraltar, to take advantage of the fine weather for gunnery and missile shoots.

FRADU also operated seven T.22 Canberras, converted from ex-RAF PR.7s. These were fitted with radar in the nose, for training Buccaneer Observers. An additional four T.4 Canberra trainers were also acquired.

Royal Navy Canberras were all withdrawn from service in 1992.

The aircraft that I have depicted with this model began its life as a B.2 with the RAF, on charge with 540 Sqn at RAF Wyton. This Squadron was assigned a number of sensitive roles, and some sources suggest that this particular aircraft was one of several specially converted Canberras used in 1953 to conduct secret intelligence gathering flights over the Soviet Union.

Link to FRADU Canberras Website

McDonnell-Douglas/BAC F-4K / FG.1 Phantom

767 Naval Air Sqn, RNAS Yeovilton, 1976

This is the Phabulous Phujimi (Fujimi) British F-4 kit, available in 2 versions, both with superb detail. Generally accepted to be the best British Phantom kits in 1/72, although the 2017 Airfix kit comes close.

Phantoms of the FAA, in the form of 892 NAS based on HMS ARK ROYAL were the pinnacle of British Naval Air Power before the entry into service of the F-35B. Together with the Buccaneer and Gannet, they gave the RN of the 1970s a capability that exceeded many of the world's air forces. The UK Phantom was considerably modified from its US equivalent, with UK avionics and twin Rolls Royce Spey engines, making it the most powerful of the  F-4 family (although not the fastest). Visual differences include enlarged intakes, revised rear fuselage and tailpipe shape, plus rectangular auxiliary air intakes on the after flanks.

The Blackburn/Hawker Siddeley Buccaneer

Blackburn/Hawker Siddeley Buccaneer S.2

800 Naval Air Sqn, HMS EAGLE, Far East,  1971

The Airfix Buccaneer started life as the NA39 Buccaneer 1 prototype, subsequently released as the early S1 version (link to my S.1 Buccaneer). The rather crude mould was reworked and re-issued in the 1980s as a much improved representation of the S2B RAF aircraft, with enlarged intakes, chaff dispensers, enlarged bomb bay and wing slipper tanks. This is a simple conversion back to the Naval S2, with Modeldecal markings.

The Buccaneer remains one of the best British combat aircraft ever produced. Originally optimised for low level naval attack missions, including nuclear strike, it served faithfully with the RN and RAF for many years but only saw combat in its last few months of service, as a target designator and LGB attack aircraft with the RAF, during Operation Granby (Gulf War 1).

Hawker Siddeley Buccaneer S.2

801 Naval Air Sqn, HMS VICTORIOUS, Far East Fleet, 1965

FROG also produced a Buccaneer kit and in some ways this is the better of the two. This one has seen a few modifications, some added photo etch and scratch sprue detail, plus Modeldecal markings for an aircraft of 801 Sqn onboard HMS VICTORIOUS. (Link to build Page)

Hawker Hunter (single and two seat variants)

Hawker Hunter GA11.

Fleet Requirements & Air Direction Unit (FRADU), RNAS Yeovilton, 1987.

The Airfix FGA9 Hunter isn't a bad kit, although the recent Revell issues have far eclipsed it. This one has been converted into a GA11 by a number of simple modifications of nose and tail.

The RN acquired most of its GA11 Hunters at minimal cost from ex-RAF stocks. Initially used to train RN pilots, they ended their days being operated under contract by the FRADU organisation. Flown by highly skilled (and often dare-devil!) ex-military pilots, the Hunters provided highly realistic target simulation for RN aircraft and warships, not least during the gruelling Portland "Thursday Wars" held every week by the Flag Officer Sea Training organisation. Hunters also engaged in more mundane tasks, including radar and gun tracking runs as well as target (Rushton) towing for gunnery shoots; to assist in this role, they received modified nose sections, containing powerful spotlights that made them easier to spot and track at distance.

.....the real thing at Yeovilton:

Hawker Hunter T.8C.

Fleet Requirements & Air Direction Unit (FRADU) 1974.

Until recently, Matchbox's twin seat Hunter was the only kit of this Hunter variant available. As with all Matchbox kits, it builds up nicely, but is not the most accurate or finely detailed example of moulding technology. This kit has been converted into a RN T8C by modifying the nose to represent the large spotlight used for tracking test runs.

The RN acquired most of its T8 twin seat Hunters at the same time as its GA11s. As with the single seater, they were initially used to train RN pilots, then passed on to the FRADU organisation. Flown by highly skilled (and often dare-devil!) ex-military pilots, the Hunters provided highly realistic target simulation for RN aircraft and warships, not least during the gruelling Portland "Thursday Wars" held every week by the Flag Officer Sea Training organisation. Along with RN Canberras, Hunters also engaged in more mundane tasks, including radar and gun tracking runs as well as target (Rushton) towing for gunnery shoots.

Hawker/BAe Hunter T.8M

899 Naval Air Sqn, RNAS Yeovilton, 1987.

Another conversion of the Matchbox twin-seat Hunter, this time into the RN T.8M by modifying the nose to add a Sea Harrier FRS1 Blue Fox radome. Decals come from a mix of sources, with the 899 Sqn winged fist from one of my many Sea Harrier kits. Link to Build Page

Perhaps the ultimate Hunter development, two naval T8s, XL602 and XL603, were modified by British Aerospace and Ferranti as flying test beds for the Sea Harrier's Blue Fox radar and weapons system. They subsequently entered service with 899 NAS (Sea Harrier HQ Squadron) as 2 seat radar and air combat trainers, remaining in service at Yeovilton until the late 1980s.

Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning II

809 Naval Air Sqn, HMS QUEEN ELIZABETH (speculative markings).

This is the Fujimi F-35B kit with a few small alterations and home-made inkjet decals. Link to original Build Page Link to build update page

The F-35B entered service with the Fleet Air Arm and the RAF in 2018 and Initial Operating Capability (IOC) was declared in July 2020.  Four squadrons are planned, 2 naval and two RAF, based out of a centralised facility at RAF Marham.  

All 4 squadrons will be capable of operating from the RN’s aircraft carriers, HMS QUEEN ELIZABETH and PRINCE OF WALES.

Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning II

809  Naval Air Sqn, HMS PRINCE OF WALES (Speculative Markings).

Another Fujimi F-35B kit with home-made inkjet decals, this time trying to portray a more operational scheme and with lift doors closed and jet pipe in the horizontal position!   Link to Build Page

The First two phases of UK Royal Navy F-35B flying trials took place over the summer of 2018 off the eastern seaboard of the United States.  

Aircraft and personnel from the joint F-35B Integrated Test Force and US Marines VX-23 test squadron embarked in early September. The first landing onboard HMS QUEEN ELIZABETH, followed closely by the first ramp take-off, were completed by Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm pilot Commander Nathan Gray, with the first ever Shipborne Rolling Vertical Landing (SRVL), essential to allow effective operation from the carriers, undertaken by BAE Systems test pilot Peter “Wizzer” Wilson.

BAe HS125 600B series

Blue Vixen (Sea Harrier FA2) Radar Trials, 1990

The old Matchbox 125 CC.2 kit makes and ideal basis for the FA2 radar trials aircraft   Link to Build Page

The HS-125 started life as the De Havilland DH125 Jet Dragon, intended as a replacement for the small short haul piston-engined DH104 Dove airliner. First entering service in 1964, it continued in production through a range of variants and developments until 2013, with a total of 1,720 built.

The HS-125 saw extensive UK military service, with the series 2 used as the RAF Dominie T.1 navigation trainer and the 400, 600 and 700 series employed as the transport and communications HS125 C.1, CC2 and CC3 respectively.  

One 600B series aircraft was converted in the early 1990s as an airborne trials aircraft for the Ferranti Blue Vixen advanced multi-mode radar being developed for the Royal Navy’s Sea Harrier FA2.  Fitted with a radar nose and a functioning replica of the Sea Harrier’s cockpit in the starboard seat, it also carried a Sidewinder Acquisition round on a single pylon on the starboard wing.

Link to my F-4 Phantom pages

McDonnell-Douglas/BAC F-4K / FG.1 Phantom

892 Naval Air Sqn, HMS ARK ROYAL, Silver Jubilee, 1977

This is the Phabulous Phujimi (Fujimi) British F-4 kit once more, but in its “Silver Jubilee” form.  Later issues (including the current Italeri issue) have additional detail (such as airbrakes and flaps) and rubber tyres.

892 NAS were the only front-line RN Phantom Squadron.  Originally shore based at Yeovilton, they moved to Leuchars for the last 2 years of their life, co-locating with the growing RAF FG.1 fleet.  

This aircraft bears the special Silver Jubilee markings applied for the Flee Review at Spithead.  Sadly, poor weather prevented the flypast, but a modified form of the marking, with the “77” replaced by the Sqn crest was worn until the aircraft left RN service.

Link to my F-4 Phantom pages

Link to my F-4 Phantom pages

Hawker Siddeley Buccaneer S.2

801 Naval Air Sqn, HMS HERMES, Mediterranean, 1968

Another FROG Buccaneer, this time with Xtradecal markings for an aircraft of 801 Sqn onboard HMS HERMES.  (Link to build Page)

#Canberra #HunterGA11 #HawkFRADU #Seaharriers #GR7 #767 #Bucceagle #Buccviccy #892 #Bucchermes #hs125 #Seaharriers #f351 #f352

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