In this newsreel footage from British Pathé, 29 of the then new Hawker Hunters take part in an aerial demonstration of the type.
Initially, the Hunter filled the role of day fighter-interceptor but despite frequent improvements and enhancements in the early 1960s the introduction of the supersonic English Electric Lightning saw the Hunter replaced in this role. However, Hawker’s pioneering jet continued to operate as a capable ground attack aircraft until 1971, serving with distinction in Aden and the Radfan amongst other Cold War hot spots.
The newsreel commentary makes reference to the Hunter’s early troubles. The fitted Rolls-Royce Avon 115 engines often surged, or cut out at high altitude, and there were occasional issues when the guns were fired (the links from the 30mm rounds for the ADEN cannon could enter the engine intakes). However, these problems were quickly resolved. The Avon 121 engines that replaced the earlier powerplant had no such problems at any altitude, and blister containers – nicknamed ‘Sabrinas’ after a prominent model and actress of the time – were installed that caught spent links.
These modifications allowed the Hunter to be realised as the state-of-the-art, highly capable jet it was intended to be. A fantastic account on flying the Hunter can be found inside the upcoming issue of Britain at War magazine (on sale 27 September 2018), where former Hunter pilot Group Captain Nigel Walpole gives us a first-hand account of squadron life as he and his fellow 26 Squadron pilots honed their skills in large aerial exercises. Group Captain Walpole served on Hunter F.4s in Germany in the mid-1950s.
The widely-exported Hunter was one of the great aircraft of the early jet age and was in service with some air forces until as late as 2014. The RAF withdrew the the last of its Hunters – which had been kept to train Buccaneer pilots – in the early 1990s.