HAWKER SEA FURY
The last propeller-driven fighter to serve with the British Royal Navy, the Hawker Sea Fury was one of the fastest production single piston-engined aircraft ever built.
Heavily armed and solidly built, the Sea Fury entered service two years after the end of WWII as a replacement for Britain’s mixed bag of carrier launched Supermarine Seafire, Sea Hurricanes and US built, Martins and Vought Corsairs.
The RAF had originally requested a lighter version of the highly successful Hawker Tempest and Typhoons but with the end of the war, began cancelling orders for propeller driven aircraft in favour of further jet fighter development, following on from the Gloster Meteor.
The Fleet Air Arm however were still a long way off from accommodating jet fighters on their decks and saw the Sea Fury as an ideal replacement for their war-weary air fleet and took over the program after the RAF pulled out.
One of the biggest issues plaguing the operation of land-based aircraft on aircraft carriers was the tremendous stresses put on the aircraft's landing gear and airframe. The narrowly spaced undercarriage of conventional land-based aircraft could not take the constant impacts and would often collapse without warning.
Being able to take over the Hawker Sea Fury development program gave the naval chiefs the opportunity to design a purpose built carrier based aircraft and address all the issues that had long plagued the Fleet Air Arm.
The RAF’s Hawker Tempest was considered too heavy and its airframe too large for conventional fighter operations but for Royal Navy, its overbuilt airframe and solid wing sections were an ideal starting place for the development of a superior carrier-based fighter.
Fitted with the powerful Bristol Centaurus engine, and armed with four wing-mounted Hispano V cannons and a number of heavily reenforced underwing ordinance pods, the first production model, the Sea Fury F Mk X flew in September 1946.
Initial flight testing was carried out at RAF Boscombe Down before trials were moved offshore aboard the aircraft carrier HMS Victorious.
Tests were more than favourable apart from some directional stability issues related to the rudder’s effectiveness during landing which was resolved with the installation of a tail wheel lock. The Fury’s tail hook was also prone to missing the arrestor wire so that was modified.
During the testing process the developers also realised that while the Sea Fury had been originally developed as a pure air superiority fighter, its rugged construction and increased payload capabilities also made it an ideal ground-attack fighter.
As well as the original four wing-mounted 20 mm Hispano V cannons, the aircraft was also modified to carry up to 16 rocket projectiles, or a combination of 500 lb. or 1000 lb. bombs. Other loads included 1000 lb. incendiary bombs, mines, type 2 smoke floats or 90 gallon fuel tanks.
Even with all the additional ordinance, the Sea Fury Mk X boasted a maximum speed of 460 mph and could climb to a height of 20,000 feet in under five minutes whilst still retaining its highly aerobatic abilities at all heights and speeds.
The 778 Naval Air Squadron was the first unit of the Fleet Air Arm to receive the Sea Fury, with deliveries commencing in February 1947 to the squadron's Intensive Flying Development Unit, while 787 Squadron, the Naval Air Fighting Development Squadron, received the Sea Fury in May that year.
It wasn't long until the Sea Fury starting attracting international orders as both a carrier and land-based aircraft and was eventually operated by countries including Australia, Burma, Canada, Cuba, Egypt, West Germany, Iraq, and Pakistan.
With the outbreak of the Korean War in June 1950, Sea Furies were dispatched to the region as a part of the British Commonwealth Forces Korea as part of Britain's contribution to the United Nations multinational task force.
Sea Furies were flown throughout the conflict, primarily as ground-attack aircraft, from the Royal Navy light fleet carriers HMS Glory, HMS Theseus, HMS Ocean, and the Australian carrier HMAS Sydney. After a Fleet Air Arm Seafire was accidentally shot down by a USAF Boeing B-29 Super-fortress, all Commonwealth aircraft were painted with black and white Invasion stripes.
The first Sea Furies arrived in Korea with the 807 Naval Air Squadron aboard HMS Theseus in October 1950. Operations were extremely intense, with the Sea Furies of 807 Squadron flying a total of 264 combat sorties in just the first month.
In December 1950, Sea Furies conducted several strikes on bridges, airfields, and railways to disrupt North Korean logistics, flying a further 332 sorties without incurring any losses. At this early point in the war little aerial resistance was encountered and the biggest threats were ground-based anti-aircraft fire or technical problems.
In addition to their ground attack role, Sea Furies also flew numerous air patrols with over 3,900 interceptions were carried out, although none of the intercepted aircraft turned out to be hostile.
During the winter period, the Sea Furies were often called upon as spotter aircraft for UN artillery around Inchon, Wonsan, and Songiin. In April 1951, 804 Naval Air Squadron operating off HMS Glory, replaced 807 Squadron, which in turn was replaced by HMAS Sydney in September 1951 with 805 and 808 Squadron RAN.
The Australian carrier air group flew 2,366 combat sorties. In January 1952, HMS Glory with 804 NAS returned to relieve Sydney following a refit in Australia.
While UN ground forces suffered significant casualties, in the air the Sea Furies went relatively unchallenged.
In mid 1952 everything changed when the first Chinese MiG-15 jet fighters appeared over the Korean landscape out manoeuvring most of the UN aircraft.
The arrival of the highly manoeuvrable swept wing and nose cannon equipped MiG-15 was a big shock to UN joint command and resulted in the US fast tracking their F16 Sabre jet operational rollout to meet the Chinese threat
On 8 August 1952, Lieutenant Peter "Hoagy" Carmichael, of 802 Squadron, flying a Sea Fury WJ232 from HMS Ocean, shot a MiG-15 down, making him one of only a few pilots of a propeller driven aircraft to shoot down a jet.
The engagement occurred when a formation of Sea Furies and Fireflies was engaged by eight MiG-15s, during which one Firefly was badly damaged while the Sea Furies escaped unharmed.
One of three Commonwealth nations to operate the Sea Fury, Australia operated two frontline squadrons of the Royal Australian Navy, 805 Squadron and 808 Squadron; a third squadron that flew the Sea Fury, 850 Squadron, was also briefly active.
The Royal Australian Navy Fleet Air Arm had been formed in 1948 with its first aircraft carrier HMAS Sydney commissioned in the United Kingdom in December of that year. The first 25 RAN Sea Fury’s were embarked in Sydney in April 1949 and allocated to 805 Squadron.
A second Sea Fury Squadron (808 Squadron) was formed in April 1950 and conducted training at sea on the Sydney and from the Naval Air Station at Nowra.
HMAS Sydney carrying the Sea Furies of both 805 and 808 Squadrons, arrived in Korean waters in mid 1951, and flew their first sortie on 4 October. Over the next four months, the carrier launched another 2366 missions
By the close of operations in Korea in January 1952, a total of eight Sea Fury’s had been destroyed or damaged beyond repair with the loss of three Australian aircrew - all from 805 Squadron
The first fatality was Lieutenant Keith Clarkson, DFM, RAN a former WWII RAAF fighter pilot who was shot down on 5 November 1951 while strafing North Korean ground targets.
On 7 December 1951, Lieutenant Richard Sinclair, RAN was killed while bailing out of his flak damaged aircraft, hit the aircraft's tailplane and was killed instantly and his body later recovered and buried at sea from Sydney with full naval honours.
The last to die was Sub-Lieutenant Ronald Coleman, RAN whose Sea Fury disappeared while on a combat air patrol over the Yellow Sea on 2 January 1952. Both Clarkson and Sinclair are still formally listed as ‘Missing in Action’ by the RAN. 808 Squadron was much luckier with only one aircraft shot down by the enemy and its pilot rescued by a US Navy helicopter.
Hawker Sea Furies continued in operation with the RAN until they where eventually replaced by the De Havilland Sea Venom in the early 60’s.
All Hawker Sea Fury Instruments listed below come complete with detailed Scale Model, Mango Wood Stand & Plaque plus printed Fact Sheet featuring photo of instrument in aircraft cockpit.
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