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Phantoms on HMS Eagle (1969)

Photo: A still showing a 700P NAS FG.1 on Eagle.


In this week’s newsreel from British Pathé, the Phantoms of 700P Naval Air Squadron conduct at sea trials from HMS Eagle.

While Eagle never carried Phantom’s operationally she did play host to three aircraft from 700P NAS. These aircraft were deployed to Eagle as part of trials
in 1968-1969, and once completed successfully the Fleet Air Arm’s FG.1s were deployed operationally with 892 NAS to Eagle‘s sister, Ark Royal.

Ark Royal was modernised to accommodate the new jet, but the costs associated with refitting Eagle to operate the FG.1 in sizeable numbers were deemed too expensive.

Fitted with the larger and more powerful Rolls-Royce Spey engine, a licence-built radar, and British avionics, the Royal Navy’s FG.1 was faster and more efficient at low-level than its American counterparts, it also had a considerably shorter
take-off run. However, at high altitudes perfomance of both the FG.1 and FGR.2 compared poorly to American models, plus the British variants were considerably more expensive.

With orders for TSR.2 – and its successor, the F-111K – cancelled, the Phantom FG.1 and FGR.2 were originally to be ordered in large numbers to fill gaps and replace obsolete types. It was planned that 140 FG.1s would be delivered to the Royal Navy, however just 48 were actually ordered and only 28 entered service
with the Fleet Air Arm.

An FG.1 of No 892 NAS launches from Ark Royal. (Key Collection)

The other 20 went to the RAF, where they supplemented the Lightning in the air defence role, though the RAF also received 118 of the multi-role FGR.2 and, later, 15 F-4J(UK) interceptors. The FG.1 served from Ark Royal until she was retired in 1978, but the type continued with the RAF until 1990. The last RAF Phantoms, FGR.2s, were withdrawn in 1992.

HMS Eagle was retired in 1972, being scrapped in 1978. Ark Royal was scrapped two years later.

A 767 NAS FG.1. The squadron was first a training unit for the type. (Pete West/Key Collection)

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