The Hawker Sea Fury was a British fighter aircraft designed and manufactured by Hawker. It was the last propeller-driven fighter to serve with the Royal Navy, and one of the fastest production single piston-engined aircraft ever built. Developed during the Second World War, the Sea Fury entered service two years after the war ended. The Sea Fury proved to be a popular aircraft with a number of overseas militaries, and was used during the Korean War in the early 1950s, as well as against the 1961 Bay of Pigs Invasion of Cuba.
The Sea Fury's development was formally initiated in 1943 in response to a wartime requirement of the RAF for a suitable carrier aircraft to replace a range of increasingly obsolete or poorly suited aircraft being operated by the Fleet Air Arm. Development of the Sea Fury proceeded, and the type began entering operational service in 1947.
The Sea Fury has many design similarities to Hawker's preceding Tempest fighter, having originated from a requirement for a "Light Tempest Fighter"; both the Sea Fury's wings and fuselage originate from the Tempest but were significantly modified. Production Sea Furies were fitted with the powerful Bristol Centaurus engine, and armed with four wing-mounted Hispano V cannons.
The Sea Fury attracted international orders as both a carrier and land-based aircraft and was operated by countries including Australia, Burma, Canada, Cuba, Egypt, West Germany, Iraq, and Pakistan. The Sea Fury performed well in the Korean War, fighting effectively even against the MiG-15 jet fighter.
The Hawker Fury was an evolutionary successor to the successful Hawker Typhoon and Tempest fighters and fighter-bombers of the Second World War. The Fury was designed to meet the Royal Air Force’s requirement for a lightweight Tempest Mk.II replacement; the Tempest, while a successful aircraft, had been viewed as being heavy and oversized for typical fighter duties.
Around 1944, the aircraft project finally received its name; the Royal Air Force's version becoming known as the Fury and the Fleet Air Arm's version as the Sea Fury.
With the end of the Second World War in Europe in sight, the RAF began cancelling many aircraft orders. Thus, the RAF's order for the Fury was cancelled before any production examples were built because the RAF already had excessive numbers of late Mark Spitfires and Tempests and viewed the Fury as an additional overlap with these aircraft. Although the RAF had pulled out of the programme, development of the type continued as the Sea Fury. Many of the Navy's carrier fighters were either lend-lease Chance-Vought Corsair aircraft and thus to be returned, or in the case of the Supermarine Seafire had considerable drawbacks as naval aircraft such as narrow undercarriages. The Admiralty needed the Sea Fury as the successor to these aircraft instead of purchasing the lend-lease aircraft outright.
The first production model, the Sea Fury F Mk X (Fighter, Mk 10), flew in September 1946. With the completion of flight testing at Boscombe Down in 1946, the trials process was repeated aboard the aircraft carrier HMS Victorious. Carrier testing revealed directional stability issues related to rudder effectiveness during landing, and this was resolved by the adoption of a tail wheel lock, which also improved the wheel retraction behaviour. Arrestor hook trials initially revealed the Sea Fury to be prone to missing the wires, this was rapidly resolved by modifications to the hook dampener mechanism.
By March 1947, production Sea Furies were already being produced for the Fleet Air Arm with Hawker Aircraft continuing to develop and refine the Sea Fury Mk X, resulting in the more capable Sea Fury Mk 11
The performance of the Sea Fury was striking; in comparison with the 15 years older Hawker Fury biplane the Sea Fury was nearly twice as fast and had double the rate of climb despite far heavier equipment and greater range. The Sea Fury Mk X was capable of attaining a maximum speed of 460 mph and climb to a height of 20,000 feet in under five minutes. The Sea Fury was reportedly a highly aerobatic aircraft with favourable flying behaviour at all heights and speeds.
Although the Sea Fury had been originally developed as a pure air superiority fighter, the Royal Navy viewed the solid construction and payload capabilities of the airframe as positive attributes for ground attack as well, accordingly Hawker tested and cleared the type to use a wide range of armaments and support equipment. Each aircraft had four wing-mounted 20 mm Hispano V cannon, with up to 16 rocket projectiles, or a combination of 500 lb. or 1000 lb. bombs being carried too. Other loads included 1000 lb. incendiary bombs, mines, type 2 smoke floats or 90 gallon fuel tanks.
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. The first operational unit to be equipped with the Sea Fury was 803 Naval Air Squadron of the Royal Canadian Navy, which replaced Seafires with Sea Furies in August 1947, with 807 Naval Air Squadron was the first operational Royal Navy Sea Fury squadron when it received the aircraft in September that year. The Seafire was ill-suited to carrier use, as the pilot's poor view of the deck and the aircraft's narrow undercarriage made both landings and takeoffs difficult. Consequently, the Sea Fury F Mk X replaced the Seafire on most carriers.
Following the outbreak of the Korean War on 25 June 1950, Sea Furies were dispatched to the region as a part of the British Commonwealth Forces Korea, Britain's contribution to the United Nations multinational task force to assist South Korea following an invasion by North Korea. 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 shot down by a United States Air Force Boeing B-29 Super-fortress on 28 July 1950, all Commonwealth aircraft were painted with black and white Invasion stripes.
The first Sea Furies arrived in theatre with 807 Naval Air Squadron embarked on HMS Theseus, which relieved HMS Triumph in October 1950. Operations on Theseus were intense, and the Sea Furies of 807 Squadron flew a total of 264 combat sorties in October. During a brief rest period at the Japanese port of Iwakuni the catapult was found to be excessively worn, necessitating the launch of Sea Furies with RATOG assistance until it was repaired. 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 performed air patrols. In this role a total of 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.
In 1952, the first Chinese MiG-15 jet fighters appeared. On 8 August 1952, Lieutenant Peter "Hoagy" Carmichael, of 802 Squadron, flying 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.
Australia was one of three Commonwealth nations to operate the Sea Fury, with the others being Canada and Pakistan. The type was operated by 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. Two Australian aircraft carriers, HMAS Sydney and HMAS Vengeance, employed Sea Furies in their air wings. The Sea Fury was used by Australia during the Korean War, flying from carriers based along the Korean coast in support of friendly ground forces. The Sea Fury would be operated by Australian forces between 1948 and 1962.
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