The Hawker Hunter is a transonic single seat fighter / ground attack monoplane, with swept-back wings, variable incidence tail plane, powered flying controls and cabin pressurisation. It is powered by a fifteen stage axial flow Rolls-Royce Avon MK 207 turbine engine developing 10,150 lbs thrust. The fuselage is of monocoque construction and manufactured in three main sections. The swept-back wings are two spar stressed skin structures covered with heavy gauge skin thereby ensuring a perfectly smooth finish and providing for the necessary stiffness of the internal structure.
Originally designed as an air superiority fighter in the 1950’s, the Hunter went on to become the most successful post-war British Military aircraft with almost 2000 being produced. Of these, about one third were later rebuilt by the manufacturer to zero time standard, the last leaving the Dunsfold factory in 1976. Aided by its high power to weight ratio, inherent strength and adaptability, the design evolved from the pure fighter in to a superlative ground attack aircraft, the pinnacle of the design being the Swiss MK58 Hunters. This version was continuously updated to accommodate the latest weapons systems prior to being prematurely retired in the mid 1990’s as a direct result of the end of the Cold War.
In 1944, Sir Sydney Camm, Chief Designer at Hawker Siddeley, showed the Royal Air Force the design for the P.1040, a fast interceptor fighter. Little interest was shown in it at first, but a year later the Royal Navy chose the aircraft as a carrier-capable fighter designated Sea Hawk. Almost at the same time, Hawker modified the design from P.1040 to the swept-wing P.1052, which flew for the first time in November 1948. The new P.1081 design was based on it. Resulting from the experienced gained and the flying qualities of the P.1052 and P.1081, Hawker Siddeley developed the P.1067 as an interceptor fighter to combat Soviet bomber formations. The main- and tail wings had a sweep of 40º and at first sight the aircraft looked like a radically altered version of the Sea Hawk. The shooting armament was a 30-mm Aden cannon on floor-mount. The P.1067 took off on 20 July 1951 for the maiden flight piloted by Neville Duke, and on 7 September 1953 the same test pilot flew a P.1067 modified into the Hunter F.3 at 1171 km/hr over a measured 3-kilometre stretch for the absolute speed record. Amongst other achievements the Hunter went through the sound barrier in a dive on several occasions including at air shows.
The RAF ordered two different versions. The F.1 with an Avon 203 engine (3300 kg thrust) accepted into 43 Squadron in July 1954 and the F.2 fitted with the Armstrong-Siddeley Sapphiere (3,500 kg thrust) which joined 257 Squadron in September the same year. Neither remained in service for long, for very soon after acceptance the first weaknesses were seen, for example the F.1 engine compressor tended to stall at high altitude when the cannonn was fired. Fuel consumption of both versions was extremely high and the 1502-litre tank capacity inadequate, which naturally limited the flight endurance. These problems were not cured until the introduction of the F.4 when the wing form was modified and external disposable fuel tanks fitted. The tank capacity was now between 1,884 litres with a further 910 litres in two additional tanks.The shape of the Hunter was aerodynamically favourable so that the aircraft soon became one of the most interesting fighters of its time. The main series model for the RAF was the F.6 with Rolls-Royce Avon 203 engines produced as from 1955. By 1958 all operational squadrons of the Royal Air Force had been converted to this type. Later the F.6 received the improved Avon 207 engine.
The Hunter was one of the great British postwar export successes and was used operationally by over 20 countries: Belgium and the Netherlands even built it under licence. Numerous acrobatic teams also flew the Hunter later, amongst others the legendary British “Blue Diamonds” and the Swiss “Patrouille Suisse”. Even today fifty examples of this elegant machine can be found in private hands, mainly in Australia, Great Britain and the United States.
The Hunter was the most successful of the British postwar fighters, and is remembered as a delightful, capable airplane in every respect. The prototype was first flown on 20 July 1951, and the single-seat Hunter F1 entered service with the Royal Air Force in July 1954. A two-seat variant, the Hunter T7, entered service in 1958. Deliveries of the Hunter continued until 1966, and during its life, the airplane was continually modified and improved, resulting in over 25 variants, including export versions for over 22 foreign nations. All versions were supersonic, and most variants featured increases in armament, power and fuel quantity.
Major variants included the F4 (Avon Mk 115 engine, increased fuel capacity from earlier versions); F5 (Sapphire Mk 101 engine); F6 (Avon Mk 203 engine, increased fuel capacity); T8 (Two-seat Navy version); FR10 (RAF reconnaissance version); GA11 (Royal Navy single-seat attack version; and FGA9 (Greater weapons capacity, increased thrust, strengthened fuselage for ground-attack role.)
Until just a few years ago, almost 20% of all Hunters built were still in service (mainly with the Swiss Air Force, RAF and Royal Navy), but as of 1998, only Zimbabwe’s Hunters are still in front-line service. At least 30 are still airworthy in private hands.
Specifications (Hunter F6):
Engine: One 10,150-pound thrust Rolls-Royce Avon Mk207 turbojet
Weight: Empty 14,120 lbs., Max Takeoff 23,800 lbs.
Wing Span: 33ft. 8in.
Length: 45ft. 10.5in.
Height: 13ft. 2in.
Maximum Speed at Sea Level: 650 mph
Ceiling: 51,500 ft.
Range: 1,400 miles in ferry configuration (Combat radius 230 miles)
Four 30mm Aden cannon
Four underwing pylons for 500 or 1000-pound bombs, 24 76-mm rockets, or fuel tanks.
Number Built: 1,985