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Foirey Swordfish
More than any other aircraft, the Swordfish typifies the heroism of the Fleec Air Arm in WW2. Of course, this fabric-covered biplane torpedo
bomber, first flown in April 1934 and

which came into use with the Fleet AirArm in l936,was outmoded when war brol<e out, but this made its feats all the more notable.The most famous Swordfish exploits are well-l<nown, but worth repeating in November 1940, 2l aircraft - from HMS lllustrious inflicted flying serious damage on ltalian Navy ships atTaranto,while a May


I strike launched from


and Victorious disabled the German battleship Bismorck and rendered its destruction all but unavoidable. February 1942's'Channel Dash' attacl< on German warships, during which all six Swordfish involved were shot down, showed the type's vulnerability, but it continued to prove most effective, especially in the anti-submarine role. Shown here are just four of the 2,392 Swordfish produced, these aircraft, photographed in 1942, hailing from 785 Squadron at Crail.

Supermorine Spitfire
Surely, the Spitfire is the mosr famous British aircraft of them all. Few other fighters can match its undisputed beauty, nor its symbolism, not to mention its service record. The last Griffon-engined F24s produced afterWW2 were very, very different beasts to the initial Merlin-powered prototype that flew from Eastleigh on 5 March 1936, so far-reaching was the development that proved possible of R.J. Mitchell's original design, and the starisrics tell their own story.A Spitfire l, as flown by the RAF early in the war, had l,030hp at its disposal, a top speed of 355mph and weighed 5,3321b; a Spitfire F24 developed 2,050hp, could reach 454mph and weighed 9,900lb.When rhe rype arrived with No l9 Squadron at Duxford during l938,it was far from being the outstanding fighter it later became, but problems were soon ironed out and successive marl<s proved more than a match for the Luftwaffe's Bfl09s and,thanks to further development, Fw 190s. Serving in all theatres, and in roles such as ground attack, army co-operation and photo recce as well as being a fighter, the Spitfire's place in history was assured.The three aircraft pictured on an interception patrol overTunisia in early 1943 are led by the'personal' SpitfireVb (AB502) ofWg Cdr lan Gleed, CO of 244Wing.







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Hqwker Hurricone
At the time of its maiden flight, from
Brool<lands on 6 November 1935, Hawl<er's

Vickers Wellington
At the start

WW2, in the absence of four-engined equipment,

theWellington spearheaded RAF Bomber Command's initial
daylight offensive against Germany.As casualties mounted, it became clear that a switch to night operations was desirable, andWellingtons were able to mal<e a much more effective contribution to the war effort. Notable about the Wellington, the inaugural flight of which occurred in June 1936, was the use of

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new monoplane fighter offered a quantum leap over the RAFs biplanes, but by its service entry with No I I I Squadron in December 1937 (some of 'Treble One's' Hurricanes are shown in the accompanying image from 1938) it was already clear that the Spitfire would surpass its performance. Nonetheless, the Hurricane's conservative construction and excellent flying it was characteristics offered advantages easier and quicker to produce, hence the type's numerical superiority at the time of the Battle of Britain, it could take a lot of punishment,was easy to maintain and proved a splendidly stable gun platform for such roles as army co-operation and ground attack. Perhaps outdated as a day fighter by the end of I 940, Hurricanes then gave outstanding service as night fighters, fighter-bombers and cannon-armed ground attack aircraft. Rarely has an aircraft been more unfairly overlooked in favour of another than the Hurricane in relation to the Spitfire, but this will never diminish the contribution the Hawker aircraft made to the Allied victory.

the geodetic construction method devised by BarnesWallis,the immensely strong metal 'latticework' meaning that the aircraft could survive battle damage that would have downed many other types. Production, which totalled over I 1,000, continued throughout hostilities, and especially notable variants of the basic bomber marl<s (which tool< in aircraft using a variety of powerplants, mainly including the Bristol Pegasus, Rolls-Royce Merlin and Bristol Hercules) included radar-equipped derivatives for Coastal Command.

Short Sunderlond
Short Brothers became famed for its flying boats during the inter-war years. lts C-Class, or Empire, flying boats built for lmperial Airways were designed to linl< Britain and the colonies, carrying passengers and mail, and from the first of them, the S23, was born a new machine for the RAF. Firsr
taking to the air on l6 October 1937 (the aircraft shown here, K4774,was the first prototype), the Sunderland came into service the following summer. lt was a Sunderland that carried out Coastal Command\ first U-boat sinl<ing, and the aircraft performed outstandingly in all its roles anti-submarine warfare, rescue, convoy escort, transport and more. But although remaining Sunderland squadrons were very active in the Berlin Airlift and KoreanWar, the age of the RAF flying boats soon drew to a close.When No 205 Squadron at Seletar, Singapore, retired its last two Sunderlands in May 1959, an era

truly ended.

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Brislol Beoufighter
as a night fighter,

The Beaufighter's predecessor the Bristol

Blenheim, fought stoically in the early years of WW2 but was really too slow and vulnerable. The Beaufighter addressed both of these shortcomings. lts first flight was on l7 July 1939, and the Beaufighter lf was ready for service entry in the late summer of I 940, taking advantage of

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Hondley Poge Hqlifqx
Production of the Halifax and its supply to squadrons were hastened by the urgent need for four-engined heavy bombers after the outbreak of hostilities. The first prototype's inaugural flight took place on 25 October 1939; it was followed by the first production example just under a year later, and No 35 Squadron received initial deliveries in November 1940. March 194 I saw Halifaxes becoming the first four-engined RAF aircraft to bomb targets in Germany, and, along with the Lancaster, the type was at the forefront of Bomber Command's offensive for the rest of the war, both in Merlin and Hercules-powered versions. However,the Halifax also earned its spurs within Coastal Command and as a glider tug,amongst other specialised roles. In peacetime, ex-RAF examples became civilian workhorses on the Berlin Airlift.

the newly-developed Airborne lnterception (Al) radar and posing a potent threat to Luftwaffe night raiders.Yet it was also effective as a day fighter in theWestern Desert and the Mediterranean, and as a long-range fighter with Coastal Command. The latter later also employed rocket and torpedo-armed BeaufighterVls and Xs to great effect. lt was, meanwhile, in the Far East where the exploits of Beaufighters
gained the type its best-l<nown nickname,

the Japanese dubbing it the'Whispering Death'.A total of 52 RAF squadrons flew Beaufighters; the rocket-equipped aircraft in the accompanying image hailed from No 30 Squadron, Royal Australian Air Force.

Howker Typhoon
The Typhoon got off to something of a 'false start' in service. lntended as a standard fighter, and first flown on 24 February 1940, it tool<

some time for production machines to become available.When they did, initially to No 56 Squadron at Duxford in August-September I 94 I, they or, rather, the type's Napier Sabre engine proved highly troublesome. The advantages of having 400mph performance in an RAF fighter for the first time were negated by the Sabres lacl< of reliability and poor high-altitude performance. But things got better as time went on, and using the Typhoon as a fighter-bomber and ground attacl< aircraft proved far more successful. Typhoons played a substantial part
in theAllied offensive across Europe before and after D-Day, later armed

with bombs of up to 2,0001b and rocl<ets. lt did not last long in service in fact, not beyond I 945 but theTyphoon had proved a classic example of mal<ing a sill< purse out of a sow's ear. Being refuelled and re-armed in the photo is an invasion-striped No 257 Squadron
airc raft.


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de Hqvillond Mosquilo
It is surprising how many great aeroplanes began as private ventures,the Mosquito being one such.An all-wooden light bomber whose speed would be its only defensive weapon might have seemed an odd concept, but the aircraft!
qualities soon struck home when the

first example, which took to the air
from Hatfield on 25 November 1940, was demonstrated. lts Merlin-engined
performance was astounding, and more than .justified the initial RAF order placed earlier that year.Just a year later, No 105 Squadron took on its initial Mosquito lVs. This was a true'multi-role' aircraft before the term entered common usage as a bomber, it tormented the Luftwaffe with its pace and agility at high and low levels, could carry bombs up to and including the 4,0001b'blockbuster', and was famed for the pinpoint attacks it could prosecute, but the Mosquito, of which more than 7,700 were produced, was also an outstanding night fighter, target-marker, anti-shipping strikb platform and photo recce aircraft. ln the photo can be seen two Mosquito lVs of
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Avro lqncoster
Had theAvro Manchester been a success,there mightwell have been no Lancaster. As it was, the twin-engined, Rolls-RoyceVulture-powered Manchester was a disaster, so it was back to the drawing board forAvrol design team headed by Roy Chadwick. With its four proven Merlins, the Lancaster was rid of most of the problems that beset its predecessor, and 7,377 would go on to be built, beginning with a prototype that flew on 9 January 194 l. No 44 Squadron atWaddington became the first Lancaster operator in early 1942, followed by No 97 Squadron, and their low-level daylight raid on the MAN Diesel works inAugsburg that March was the first of the heroic exploits by'Lancs' and their crews.There followed August 19421 first ever Pathfinder Force operation,the attack on the Mohne and Eder dams by No 617 Squadron in May 1943, and the sinking of the Tirpitz in November l944,to name but three. By the end of the war, I 0 Lancaster crew members had been awarded the Victoria Cross, and the aircraft itself had been developed to carry bombs as large as the 22,0001b'Grand Slam'. Some enjoyed a productive second career with Coastal Command, soldiering on until I 954, while the Royal Canadian Air Force kept its maritime patrollers up to 1963.


105 Squadron.

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Glosiet Meleor
Two'firsts' were achieved by the Meteor it was the RAF's first jet aircraft, and the first (and only) Allied jet that saw accion before the end ofWW2.The experimental Gloster E28l39 had helped prove the concept of a British jet aircraft when it began tests in l94l,though the Meteor would be a very different beast, requiring the extra power of a twin configuration. Numerous powerplants were used, the first of the F9l40 prototypes to fly, on 5 March 1943, using Halford H ls, though the Rolls-Royce Welland I equipped the Meteor ls that entered service with No 616 Squadron in july l944.These aircraft began by being used againstV I flying bombs, downing I 3 of them. From the improved Meteor lll onwards, the Rolls-Royce Derwent became the type's standard engine, this being gradually uprated for the major F4 and F8 production single-seaters, and variants thereof such as the NFI I to NFl4 night fighters. Meanwhile,theTT had become the RAF's first jet trainer upon service entry in I 948, reflecting the onward march of the jet. lt was also flown by l6 overseas nations. The aircraft in the photo is Meteor F8YZ440,the first of that marl< to go to the RAF, specifically No 43 Squadron, in August 1949.



de Hovillond Vqmpire
Although it flew not long after the Meteor, in September 1943, theVampire Fl had to wait until the war was over ro starr irs
operational RAF service, doing so with No 247 Squadron.The F I and F3 variants did not last long before being superseded by the FB5 fighter-bomber,which became the most numerous marl< of all, and spearheaded the growth of the RAF's frontline presence in Germany during the early 1950s. Units based in the Mediterranean, the Middle East and Far Easc also took onVampires as their initial jet equipment.Two-seatVampires started out with the NF l0 night fighter of 1949, theVampire
Trainer, designated T I I by the RAI following in 1950 and heralding a new dawn for the RAF pilot training scheme. Now, pilots would gain their'wings' on jets at FlyingTraining Schools

before moving on to their Operational Conversion Units. Vampires also saw service with l6 other nations, the Swiss Air Force being the last to retire the type, doing so in l990.Two

of its FB6s are shown here.

Vickers Viscount
For a long time, no British airliner proved as commercially successful as theViscount. lt was also a pioneer, being the first turboprop-powered machine to enter commercial service.

The Rolls-Royce Dart-poweredViscount prototype flew for the first time in July l948.This initialType 630 version, which started flying for BEA two years later, was far from
perfect as a 32-seater and possessing less-than-impressive performance, the operating economics didnt work. But the improved Type 700, accommodating up to 53 seats, was far more impressive,the prototype (G-AMAV pictured here) proving fastest in the transport class of the I 953 air race between London and Christchurch, New Zealand,while another stretch produced the 7 I -seatType 800. By then, it was truly a success, even breaking into the US domestic market.The 445th and lastViscount rolled offthe line in 1964 not until the BAe Jetstream beat it in 1990 would another British airliner exceed that total.

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English Electric Cqnberro
There can be no doubt that the Canberra deserves a place in the pantheon of truly great aeroplanes and not just truly great British aeroplanes.The twin Rolls-RoyceAvon-powered jet bomber was a quantum leap over everything that had gone before, being fast, high-flying, agile, versatile and able to deliver an impressive punch. lt was clearly outstanding when the English ElectricAl prototype got air under its wheels in Roland Beamont's hands on l3 May 1949, proved so obviously capable in testing rhar rhe USAF ordered it as an all-weather interdictor even before RAF service entry of the Canberra 82 in May 195 l,and remained a valuable RAF asset right up until the retirement of its last Canberra PR9s in the summer of 2006.Just over 900 were built in the UK, plus 48 in Australia, and the type served with l5 nations as well as the UK and, in B-57 form, the USA. Of course, the Canberra had its idiosyncrasies, but 60 years after its first flight it is still remembered with enormous affection.Those in the accompanying photograph are B6s of Nos I 09 and I 39 Squadrons, based at Binbrook in I 956.





de Hqvillond Comel
The uncharitable might say that few aircraft sum up Britain's lost lead in post-war aircraft development better than the DH 106 Comet.All seemed rosy when the prototype took to the air on 27 )uly l949,thus becoming the world's first jet airliner to fly, and the Comet I's entry into service with BOAC in May 1952 was a matter of considerable pride. But there then followed the series of fatal accidents, the latter two in 1954 the result of metal fatigue, that killed off its hopes.The aircraft leading the formation shown, G-ALYB was involved in the first of the fatigue-related disasters. Not until the Comet 4 came along in I 958 did the type begin to make any

further inroads into
the global marl<et, but by then the Boeing 707 and Douglas



DC-8 had begun to clean up.The Comet
has lived on,though,

in the

RAFi Nimrod


maritime patrol and ISTAR aircraft, and it is incredible that,60 years after the DH 106 prototype's maiden flight, rhe RAF is waiting to tal<e delivery of the latest variant of this line, the Nimrod MRA4.



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Howker Hunter
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The most beautiful iet aircraft ever builtlVery possibly.The Hunter certainly looked right, and, after early teething troubles, it flew right,
powered P 067 prototype up for the first time on 20 July 195 I, though the need for further development delayed the arrival of the first Hunter F ls with No 43 Squadron until July 1954, and even then the first mark


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was a troubled machine, unable to fire its gun at high altitudes or high speeds for fear of causing a flameout.As an interim measure





there followed the F2, with an Armstrong Siddeley Sapphire turbojet, but then it in improved was back to theAvon # versions and Hunter marks that could ;$ at last fulfil the design's potential, with good performance and longer range'The . ;v,i.t r'ut .r& main production Hunter for the RAF was ::, the F6, on which were based the ground ,,,:,111:1','.t,": attack FGA9 and fighter/recce FRl0. Two-seatTTs served the RAF from I 958 until l994.The Hunter also proved a great export success, being flown by 2 I




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indeed, Lebanon has other nations just returned - to service! Pictured its is a four-ship of FGA9s from No 208 Squadron, RAF, going vertical with Mount Kilimaniaro in the bacl<ground.

Bristol Britqnnio
The Britannia finally came along with its Bristol Proreus turboprops when airlines were looking for jets for long-range services, endured a protracted development
programme punctuated by various problems, and could have sent its manufacturer into banl<ruptcy.The first Britannia (G-ALBO, pictured in BOAC marl<ings) flew in August 1952, but BOAC service entry didn't take place for anorher five years. ln December 1957, it did however become the first turbine-powered aircraft to operate services across the North Atlantic. Production was propped up by RAF orders and a few small deals with overseas carriers alas, it was never going to be enough.At least the Britannia en.joyed a long life with British charter operators, one of which, of course, even named itself after the type!


Avro Vulcon
The huge public interest in XH558 today proves theVulcan! enduring status as an icon of the ColdWar and of British aviation.The second of the triumvirate of 'V-bombers' to fly, doing so on 30 August I 952, the delta
wing configuration was chosen by designer Roy Chadwick as a means of maximising the aircraft's weapons load, speed and range.That firstAvro Type 698 got airborne initially under the power of four Avons, though production examples, deliveries of which to No 230 Operational Conversion Unit commenced atWaddington in February 1957, would use Bristol Olympus engines. More powerful units were employed on theVulcan 82,which also had a wing of greater span and chord, affording a bigger weapons payload and longer range.The type's role altered substantially over the years, starting out as part of the UK! nuclear deterrent, and finishing up near the end of its service life performing conventional attacks against port Stanley during the Falklands War'Blacl< Bucl<' missions the only time, thanl<fully, Vulcans were ever used'in anger'.The K2 tanl<ers of No 50 Squadron were the last in service, being phased out in 1984. Shown is the first production B I, XA889.

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Blockbutn Buccqneer
Fleet Air Arm requirement (NA39, by which designation the prototypes were known) for a carrier-borne low-level stril<e aircraf! produced the Buccaneer.What Blacl<burn came up with was an innovative design, involving such elements as the use of boundary layer control and a rotating bomb bay. Upon service entry with the FAA in 1962, it was clear that the Buccaneer S I Gyron Junior engines were

To the Lightning goes the honour of being the RAF's first fighter able to go supersonic in level flight


- demanded rigorous that

a level of performance

aerodynamic testing. Roland Beamont made the rnaiden flight of the English Electric PIA prototype, then with two Sapphire engines, on 4 August I 954, though the subsequent P I Bs would be far closer to production configuration the first of thern became the first British aircraft to reach Mach 2, in November l958.The Central Fighter Establislrment at Coltishall got its first Lightning F ls late in 1959, and No 74 Squadron in July 1960 - -a new era for the RAF's fighter force had begun.Thc Lightning's main handicap remained its short range, despite the extra fuel tanl<age on thc latcr F3 and F6 marlcs, but pilots loved its outstanding performance whatever the shortcomings.June 1988 saw No I Squadron relinquishing its last Lightnings at it was a sad day, and the Binbrool< Tornado F3 could never hope to be viewed with such excitement. Pictured here is a Lightning F2 ofNo l9Squadron.



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inadequate, but the Rolls-Royce Speys of the 52, which arrived in 1965, cured this failing and unlocked the type's potential.The RAF decided to adopt the Buccaneer when its F- I I I K order was cancelled, buying some for itself and tal<ing on ex- FAA aircraft. Already deemed obsolescent, the type saw combat with the RAF in the


three 199 I Gulf War years later, No 208 Squadron retired its last 'Buccs'.The aircraft in this shot is an S I about

to be fired from the bow
catapult on HMS Hermes




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