9 August 1952

The flight of four Hawker Sea Furies were in a loose formation, scanning the terrain below hunting for targets of opportunity – opportunity in this case being trains carrying elements of the Chinese "peoples volunteer" army south to fight UN forces.  Battles were still fierce this late in 1952 – even as negotiations are going on at Panmunjom, barely four miles away elements of the US Marines are engaged in heavy fighting with Chinese forces on Hill 58.  These thoughts are not far from the minds of the four RN pilots, recently launched from HMS Ocean as they continue their search for the trains.  A glint of sun on metal from above swings their focus to the sight of eight MiG-15’s.  Adrenaline and throttles surge as the prop fighters meet the jets which outnumber them 2:1.  A tight, twisting, turning fight ensues.  The MiG, in the hands of the Korean, Chinese and Russian pilots, has proven itself a worthy competitor in other air to air engagements, getting the better of prop and jet aircraft of the combined air forces of the UN.  Only the F-86, and even then, only in the hands of experienced WWII vets was making inroads against the MiG-15.  Odds were on the MiKoyan’s side then…

Except today.

Turning inside a maneuvering MiG, a Sea Fury piloted by LT Peter "Hoagy" Carmichael, RN pulls lead.  Taking aim, he fires the four 20mm cannon, destroying the MiG and claiming the only air-to-air kill by a British pilot in a British plane during the Korean War.

Conceived in the Second World War as a fighter, flown in Korea as a fighter-bomber the Sea Fury fell into that same period of transition and trial that marked the path of its counterparts in the US Navy, the Bearcat and F2G Corsair.  Like its counterparts, it would find life long after service in uniform as a racer of some repute on the Unlimited racing circuit. 

On 23 June, 1942, Luftwaffe Pilot Oberleutnant Arnim Faber erroneously landed his Focke-Wulf Fw 190A-3 fighter at RAF Pembrey, apparently having mistaken this airfield for a Luftwaffe channel coast airfield. The British were thereby presented with a working example of the Fw 190 fighter, which had been giving the RAF an extremely difficult time. The Hawker Fury design was a direct result of the examination of Faber’s Fw 190A-3. Examination of Faber’s aircraft was largely responsible for the preparation of Specification F.6/42, which called for a new, high-performance fighter.

The Sea Fury traces its heritage to the Hawker Fury which itself, was an evolutionary successor to the successful Hawker Typhoon and Tempest fighters and fighter-bombers.  The Fury was designed in 1942 by Sydney Camm (Hawker famous designer), to meet the RAF’s requirement for a lightweight Tempest II replacement. Developed as the "Tempest Light Fighter", it sufficiently impressed the Air Ministry such that it wrote Specification F.2/43 around the concept.  Six prototypes were ordered; two were to be powered by Rolls Royce Griffon engines, two with Centaurus XXIIs, one with a Centaurus XII and one as a test structure. The first Fury flew on 1 September 1944 with a Centaurus XII powering a Rotol four-blade propeller. The second, on 27 November 1944, had a Griffon 85 and Rotol six-blade contra-rotating propeller. In 1943, the design was modified to meet a Royal Navy request (N.7/43) for a carrier-based fighter. Again, paralleling what US industry was doing, Boulton-Paul Aircraft would make the conversion for the FAA while Hawker continued work on the RAF design. The first Sea Fury prototype, SR661, flew on 21 February 1945, was powered by a Bristol Centaurus XII engine. This prototype had a "stinger"-type tailhook for arrested carrier landings and lacked folding wings.  The second prototype, which flew on 12 October 1945, was powered by a Centaurus XV turning a new, five-bladed Rotol propeller and had folding wings.

The war ended as the Sea Fury was undergoing carrier trials.  However, as the aircraft showed significant promise over the Seafire, work continued albeit at a reduced inventory.  Boulton-Paul’s work was rtansfered back to Hawker and following further trials and modifications (especially to the tailhook – away from the "stinger" and to a swivel), the aircraft, now designated F.X (Fighter, Mark X) was cleared for carrier service in spring 1947.  The Sea Fury began replacing the Seafire, eventually being assigned to Squadrons 736, 738, 759 and 778 of the FAA.  Not long afterwards, the final, or definitive variant of the Sea Fury, the FB.11 (Fighter Bomber, Mark XI) was built.  A total of 650 would be built and remain the FAA’s primary fighter-bomber until 1953 when it was replaced by the Hawker Sea Hawk and Supermarine Attacker (former and future Flightdeck Friday topics, BTW – SJS)

After leaving active service with the FAA, Sea Furies continued with the Reserves as well as being either exported- or license-produced overseas in Australia, Canada, Germany, Iraq, Egypt, Burma, Pakistan, Cuba and The Netherlands as the F-50.  Cuban Sea Furies saw action during the Bay of Pigs Invasion.

A number of Sea Furies are airworthy today, with around a dozen heavily modified and raced regularly at the Reno Air Races as of 2006 – interestingly enough, most of those are powered by the Wright R-3350 radial driving a four-blade propeller.

General characteristics

* Crew: One
* Length: 34 ft 8 in (10.6 m)
* Wingspan: 38 ft 4¾ in (11.7 m)
* Height: 16 ft 1 in (4.9 m)
* Wing area: 280 ft² (26 m²)
* Empty weight: 9,240 lb (4,190 kg)
* Max takeoff weight: 12,500 lb (5,670 kg)
* Powerplant: 1× Bristol Centaurus XVIIC 18-cylinder twin-row radial engine, 2,480 hp (1,850 kW)

Performance

* Maximum speed: 460 mph (740 km/h) at 18,000 ft (5,500 m)
* Cruise speed: 390 mph (625 km/h)
* Range: 700 mi (1,127 km) with internal fuel; 1,040 mi (1,675 km) with two drop tanks
* Service ceiling 35,800 ft (10,900 m)
* Rate of climb: 30,000 ft (9,200m) in 10.8 minutes
* Wing loading: 44.6 lb/ft² (161.2 kg/m²)
* Power/mass: 0.198 hp/lb (441 W/kg)

Armament

* Guns: 4× 20 mm Hispano Mk V cannon
* Rockets: 12× 3 in (76 mm) rockets or
* Bombs: 2,000 lb (908 kg) of bombs

2 Comments

  1. Beautiful aircraft. I really ought to make it to Reno just once before I die or before the air races become too politically incorrect, whichever comes first. I tend to think it will be the latter, rather than the former.

    Thanks, SJS.

  2. JKN

    Such a beautiful aircraft.

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