by Rick Kent
The elegant Hawker Hunter, with it’s shark-like fin and graceful lines was arguably one of the prettiest aircraft to come out of England. The Hunter also provided RAF fighter force with a transsonic flight capability. Later it was also much used as trainer and ground attack aircraft, and 1985 Hunters of all variants were built in total. The type served in eighteen countries, and Swiss air force retired it’s last Hunters as soon as 1994.
In 1954 Sweden purchased 120 aircraft of the export variant Mk 50, this being comparable to British Mk. 4. In Swedish service, the aircraft had been designated J 34.
Hawker Hunter F. Mk. 1
The following profiles illustrate Hunters with all the units of the RAF which used F. Mk. 1 operationally.
Hawker Hunter F. Mk. 1, 43 Squadron, Royal Air Force, Ser. no. WT580, Leuchars, Fife, 1954
43 Sqn was the first RAF Sqn to get the Hunter in August 1954 as replacements for Meteors, and became for a time the official RAF aerobatic team with them.
Hawker Hunter F. Mk. 1, 54 Squadron, Royal Air Force, Ser. no. WT659, Odiham, Hampshire, 1955
Hawker Hunter F. Mk. 1, 222 Squadron, Royal Air Force, Ser. no. WT615, Leuchars, Fife, 1955
222 Sqn were the third and last RAF Sqn to get the F.1 before it was superceded by the F.4.
Hawker Hunter F. Mk. 1, 229 Operational Conversion Unit, Royal Air Force, Ser. no. WW644, Chivenor, Devonshire, 1956
229 OCU were the main training unit for future operational Hunter pilots, and initially used only code letters as shown. On later marks they had Sqn markings, as so-called ”Shadow” squadrons which would have become operational (flown by instructors) had the need ever arisen.
Hawker Hunter F. Mk. 1, Fighter Weapons School, Royal Air Force, Ser. no. WT614, Leconfield, Yorkshire, 1956
The FWS at Leconfield had the role of teaching gunnery skills to fighter pilots in the RAF. It previously operated as the Central Gunnery School with Meteors.
Hawker Hunter F. Mk. 1, Day Fighter Leader School, Central Fighter Establishment, Royal Air Force, Ser. no. WT617, West Raynham, Norfolk, 1956
The Central Fighter Establishment consisted of a number of different units at that time, one of which was the DFLS. CFE was the only RAF unit to operate every mark of Hunter, including the Sapphire-powered F.2 & F.5. With the introduction of the Lightning they moved to Binbrook in Lincolnshire, and were reduced to only the Air Fighting Development Sqn., West Raynham became a SAM (Bloodhound) base.
Hawker Hunter F. Mk. 1, 233 Operational Conversion Unit, Royal Air Force, Ser. no. WW604, Pembrey, Carmarthenshire, 1957
233 OCU had previously been the unit that trained RAF Sabre pilots. It had a fairly brief life with the Hunter and was disbanded to leave 229 OCU as the main and only Hunter OCU.
Hawker Hunter F. Mk. 1, Day Fighter Leader Squadron, Central Fighter Establishment, Royal Air Force, Ser. no. WT694, West Raynham, Norfolk, 1957
DFLS was divided into two in order to carry out its role – some of the aircraft had yellow markings and others red as this one (friend & foe). For a time on F.6 Hunters the red was replaced with dayglo orange.
Hawker Hunter F. Mk. 4
54 Sqn, as stated before, were the second front-line unit to get the F.1 Hunter. The squadron exchanged their original F.1’s for the F.4 in August/September 1955; then got the F.6 in January 1957, which was in turn replaced with FGA.9 in March 1960. This they operated until September 1969 before becoming a Phantom Sqn. Since March 1974 they have been flying the Jaguar from Coltishall near Norwich in Norfolk.
Note that the style of the Squadron markings on the nose was changed on the F.4’s in comparison to F1’s.
J 34 Hunter
Hawker J 34 Hunter Mk.50, Flygflottilj 18, Kunliga Svenska Flygvapnet, Stockholm, Sweden, ca. 1965
The two fighter wings in Stockholm, F 18 at Tullinge and F 8 at Barkaby, each got 60 Hunters during 1955-57, trading-in their J 28B Vampire and J 29 Tunnan. J 34 Hunter remained an important part of the Swedish air defence until the late 1960’s. It gained a reputation for beeing robust and usable under field conditions.
The launch rails for two Sidewinders were not initially carried, but added as an upgrade later.
Hawker Hunter F. Mk. 6
Hawker Hunter F. Mk. 6, 325 Squadron, Koninklijke Luchtmacht, Leeuwarden, Friesland, Netherlands, ca. 1967
The main differences between the F.6 and earlier marks were, of course, the enlarged jet pipe at the rear for the more powerful version of Avon engine, and the ”dog-tooth” leading edges on the wings (though early production RAF ones did not at first have the latter). 325 were the last Dutch Squadron to operate the Hunter, being re-equipped with F-104G in August 1968.
Scale model kits
Best Hunter kits available, from the left: Academy 1/48 F.6; Academy 1/48 FGA.9; Revell 1/32 FGA.9/F.58
Hawker Hunter used to be neglected by major kit manufacturers during decades. But now, a modeler wanting to add a Hunter to his/her collection has at least two very good starting points. In 1997, Academy/Minicraft started a series of kits in quarter scale, beginning with F. Mk. 6 fighter and FGA Mk. 9 ground attack versions. Also, a new magnificent Revell kit in 1/32nd scale makes for a very impressive model. This kit can be built as FGA Mk. 9 or F Mk. 58 in Swiss markings.
Rick Kent is a modeller, IPMS:er and a productive aviation artist. His speciality are computer-generated aircraft profiles.
This article was originally published in IPMS Stockholm Magazine in October 1998.