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The de Havilland DH.110 Sea Vixen was a twin boom 1950sā€“1960s Britishmarker two-seat jet fighter of the Fleet Air Arm (the air component of the Royal Navy) designed by de Havilland. Developed from an earlier first generation jet fighter, the Sea Vixen was a capable carrier-based fleet defence fighter that served into the 1970s. Initially produced by de Havilland it was later known as the Hawker Siddeley Sea Vixen when de Havilland became a part of the Hawker Siddeley group.

Development

The aircraft was originally known as the DH.110; an aircraft designed for both the Royal Air Force (RAF) and Fleet Air Arm (FAA) as an all-weather, missile-armed, high-speed jet fighter. The Admiralty had published a requirement for a fleet defence fighter to replace the de Havilland Sea Venom. However, the RAF chose the Gloster Javelin, a rival to the DH.110, after deciding the Javelin was a cheaper and simpler aircraft. Despite this, de Havilland continued with the project, and by the late 1950s, the Royal Navy had placed an order and the aircraft entered service with the Fleet Air Arm.



The prototype took to the skies on 26 September 1951 piloted by John Cunningham. The following year tragedy struck while the aircraft was being demonstrated at the Farnborough Airshow on 6 September 1952. Following a demonstration of the aircraft's ability to break the sound barrier, it disintegrated, killing 31 people, including the aircraft's two crew: test pilot and record breaker John Derry and Tony Richards. (See 1952 Farnborough Airshow DH.110 crashmarker.) The failure was traced to faulty design of the end sections of the main spar, which resulted in the outer ends of the wings shearing off on execution of a high-rate turn. The subsequent shift in the DH.110's centre of gravity caused the aircraft to lurch violently, creating forces of over 12 g, resulting in the cockpit and tail sections breaking away and the engines being torn from the airframe. One engine landed safely in an unoccupied car park; however, the second engine ploughed into a crowded spectator area at the end of the runway, causing the majority of casualties. Others were injured by debris from the cockpit landing close to the main spectator enclosures alongside the runway. This incident led to a major restructuring of the safety regulations for air shows in the UK, and since this accident no member of the public has died as a result of an airshow accident in the UK.

Owing to this incident, modifications were made to the other prototype. In 1955, a semi-navalised variant was produced as a prototype for the production version, including change of leading edge profile and strengthening of wing (no folding wings), making its first flight that same year. The following year, the aircraft made its first arrested deck landing on the fleet aircraft carrier . The first true Sea Vixen, the Sea Vixen FAW.20 (fighter all-weather, later redesignated FAW.1), first flew in 1957; and in July 1959, the first of over 100 FAW.1s entered service with the Fleet Air Arm.



Design

The Sea Vixen had a twin-boom tail, as used on the de Havilland Sea Vampire and Sea Venom. The Sea Vixen became the first British aircraft to be solely armed with missiles, rockets and bombs. The Sea Vixen FAW.1 was armed with four de Havilland Firestreak air-to-air missiles, two Microcell unguided 2 inch (51 mm) rocket packs and had a capacity for four 500 lb (227 kg) or two 1,000 lb (454 kg) bombs. It was powered by two 11,230 lbf (50.0 kN) thrust Rolls-Royce Avon 208 turbojet engines; had a speed of 690 mph (1,110 km/h) and a range of 600 mi (1,000 km).

The original DH.110 design (as offered to the RAF) had the fitting of cannons in its prospectus; however, it was found during experiments conducted with ADEN cannons that their firing caused failure of the mountings due to the force of the recoil. The solution was to put a baulk (reinforcing piece) of timber in place to absorb the recoil force. Thus the Vixen was also the last British fighter to use wood in its construction. The cannons were soon removed and an all-missile armament was developed.

The pilot's canopy is offset to the left hand side. The observer is housed to the right completely within the fuselage, gaining access through a flush-fitting top hatch into his position (known in the service as the "coal hole") which had a small window. N.B. "observer" is the FAA term for the navigator/radar operator ā€“ the US Navy's equivalent is the radar intercept officer (RIO).



The Sea Vixen FAW.2 was the successor to the FAW.1 and included many improvements. As well as Firestreak missiles, it could carry the Red Top AAM, four SNEB rocket pods and the air-to-ground Bullpup missile. An enlarged tail boom allowed for additional fuel tanks in the "pinion" extensions above and before the wing leading edge, and there was an improved escape system along with additional room for more electronic counter-measures equipment. However, the changes in aerodynamics meant that the 1,000 lb bomb was no longer able to be carried. Visually the FAW.1 and FAW.2 may be distinguished by the tail booms which extend forward over the leading edge of the wing on the FAW.2.

The FAW.2 first flew in 1962 and entered service with front-line squadrons in 1964, with 29 being built and a further 67 FAW.1s being upgraded to FAW.2 standard. The FAW.1 began phasing out in 1966.

In 1972, the career of the Sea Vixen FAW.2 came to an end. It was planned to replace the Sea Vixen with the F-4 Phantom II, with both and to be refitted to take the new aircraft. In the event, due to defence cuts and following the decommissioning of HMS Eagle, only Ark Royal was converted to take the new aircraft.

A small number of Sea Vixen subsequently saw service in the less glamorous roles of drone, being redesignated Sea Vixen D.3. The D.3 variant is the only DH.110 design that was truly capable of supersonic speeds in level flight, thanks largely to uprated engine specifications and removal of many non-essential and military fitments. They were never used in the drone role and only a few were actually converted to the D.3 standard. The last remaining airworthy Sea Vixen was one of these. Other Sea Vixens became target tugs and were redesignated as TT.2.

Operational history

Landing on


The aircraft did not take part in any true wars during its career with the Fleet Air Arm though it took part in many operations. In 1961, President Abdul Karim Kassem of Iraqmarker threatened to annex the neighbouring oil-rich state of Kuwaitmarker. In response to Kuwait's appeal for external help, the United Kingdom dispatched a number of ships to the region, including two fleet carriers. Sea Vixens aboard the fleet carriers flew patrols in the region, and Kassem's aggressive actions wilted in the face of the strong naval presence, thus averting a Gulf War over Kuwait.

In January 1964, trouble flared in the East African state of Tanganyika after the 1st and 2nd Tanganyika Rifles mutinied against the British officers and NCOs who, despite Tanganyika being independent, still commanded the regiment. The mutineers also seized the British High Commissioner and the airport at the capital Dar-es-Salaammarker. The UK responded by sending the light fleet carrier , accompanied by 45 Commando, Royal Marines. The Sea Vixens, flying off Centaur, performed a number of duties including the providing of cover for the Royal Marines who were landed in Tanganyika by helicopters. The operation to restore Tanganyika to stability ended in success. That same year, Sea Vixens saw service once again in the Persian Gulfmarker, this time supporting British forces fighting against rebellious tribesmen in the Radfan, including the launch of air-strikes against the rebels.

Sea Vixens saw further service during the 1960s, performing duties on Beira Patrol, a Royal Navy operation designed to prevent oil reaching landlocked Rhodesia via the then Portuguese colony of Mozambiquemarker. The Sea Vixen also saw service in the Far East. In 1967, once again in the Persian Gulf, Sea Vixens helped cover the withdrawal from Adenmarker. There were a number of Royal Navy warships involved, including the carriers , Centaur and Eagle (carrying the Sea Vixens) and the LPD (Landing Platform Dock) .

The Sea Vixen also took to the skies in the aerobatic role, performing in two Royal Navy display teams: "Simon's Sircus" (sic) and "Fred's Five".

Eight Sea Vixens were used by FR Aviation at Tarrant Rushton airfieldmarker as drone. Among them was XP924, now G-CVIX, the only Sea Vixen to remain in flying condition, which has now been returned to 899 NAS colours. Owned and operated by De Havilland Aviation, G-CVIX can be viewed at their hangar at Bournemouth Airportmarker in Dorsetmarker, southern Englandmarker, or at air shows around the UK. Many other Sea Vixens remain in good condition but do not fly.

Operators

Sea Vixen on Eagle, 1970
Sea Vixen, in sponsored livery, at an airshow in the UK (2004).


Military operators



Civilian operators



Survivors

Only one Sea Vixen is still airworthy:

The following complete airframes also survive:

In addition, a number of partial airframes (principally nose and cockpit sections) survive in private and public collections around the world.

Specifications (Sea Vixen FAW.2)

See also

References

Notes

  1. Test Flying memorial site
  2. http://www.seavixen.org/index.cfm?fa=contentGeneric.uybydmedaorinhjs
  3. http://worldwar2airfields.fotopic.net/c216614_1.html


Bibliography

  • Donald, David and Jon Lake, eds. Encyclopedia of World Military Aircraft. London: AIRtime Publishing, 1996. ISBN 1-880588-24-2.
  • Gunston, Bill. Fighters of the Fifties. Osceola, Wisconsin, Specialty Press Publishers & Wholesalers, Inc., 1981. ISBN 0-933424-32-9.
  • Taylor, John W. R. "De Havilland Sea Vixen". Combat Aircraft of the World from 1909 to the Present. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1969. ISBN 0-425-03633-2.
  • Winchester, Jim, ed. "De Havilland DH.110 Sea Vixen." Military Aircraft of the Cold War (The Aviation Factfile). London: Grange Books plc, 2006. ISBN 1-84013-929-3.


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