A rare example of the Swift arrived at the Solent Sky Aviation Museum this June.
The classic jet fighter was developed by Southampton-based firm Supermarine in the late 1940s and was produced throughout the mid-1950s. Nearly 200 were built and the type entered service with the RAF, first with 56 Squadron, in early 1954. The Swift served as a fighter/interceptor but was gradually phased out in favour of the Hawker Hunter.
While the Swift was known for its teething problems and received bad press after a spate of early accidents, later versions were capable aircraft and the type held a number of records, accolades, and firsts.
In September 1953, a Swift F.4, piloted by Cmdr Mike Lithgow, set a new World Absolute Speed Record, reaching 735.7mph, beating the record set by Neville Duke in a Hunter Mk.3 earlier that month. The Swift was also the first British aircraft to feature swept-back wings. The type performed well at NATO exercises in the photo-reconnaissance role, out-flying comparable NATO aircraft and frequently exceeding 600mph at treetop height.
Solent Sky’s example, G-SWIF (formerly XF114), is the last Swift F.7 and was produced in 1956. G-SWIF was the first British aircraft to be fitted with guided air-to-air missiles, serving as a testbed for the Fireflash missile during trials at RAF Valley. The aircraft retains its control panel for operating the then experimental system.
G-SWIF then was used for training and familiarisation and was also involved in runway aquaplaning trials, before being struck off charge in April 1967.
The aircraft is now on limited display, but Solent Sky is looking for anyone who could help with the restoration process. Anyone who can help is encouraged to contact the museum by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org