Hawker Hunter

By Ian Old
20 Sqn., Tengah,
August 1961 to February 1970.

Hunter line

The Hunter was a very successful British single-engined jet fighter which first flew in 1951. Various versions were produced before the definitive F.6 entered service in 1956. The imminent introduction of the English Electric Lightning meant the Hunter would soon no longer be required as a front-line interceptor. Its suitability as a ground attack and reconnaissance machine was explored. In 1958 trials were carried out in Aden with the Folland Gnat and Hunting Jet Provost compared with the Hunter, the latter being declared the winner.

The FGA.9 variant (the “Aden” standard) was the outcome of this competition. It had a stronger wing than the F.6, allowing it to carry a wider range of stores. The inner pylon could carry a 230 gallon drop tank (with an extra strut for support), two 25lb practice bombs, one 500lb or 1,000lb bomb, six 3-inch rockets or a battery carrying 24 or 37 two-inch rockets. The outer pylons was capable of carrying 100 gallon drop tanks or could be replaced by four Mk. 12 rocket rails, each of which could carry three or four 3-inch rockets. In 1967 this was replaced by the SNEB rocket pack, which carried eighteen 68mm individual rockets. The FGA.9 was fitted with a third oxygen tank, increasing flying time when requiring oxygen to 3.5 hours, improved cockpit ventilation and cooling (to cope with the high temperatures in the areas it was expected to operate in), a Marconi AD722 radio compass and a brake parachute, fitted above the jet pipe, to help when operating from smaller Middle Eastern airfields.

In 1957 there was only one FEAF squadron based in Singapore and operating in the ground attack role. This was 45 Sqn. at Tengah, with Venom FB.4s. Later that year it was re-equipped with Canberra B.2s, becoming a light bomber unit and being part of the regional Commonwealth Strategic Reserve. This left 28 Sqn. at Kai Tak, in Hong Kong, flying Venom FB.4s as the only ground attack squadron in FEAF.

20 Sqn. was reformed on 1 September 1961. This was because FEAF was being reinforced due the growing threat to Thailand, Cambodia and South Vietnam from Communist states nearby. There was a perceived gap in the capabilities that FEAF had and adding a ground attack unit to its order of battle was seen to be a sensible response to the new situation in the Far East. 20 Sqn. was to be a deployable asset, with the greater range of the Hunter FGA.9 making rapid change of location a real possibility. 28 Sqn. was re-equipped with the Hunter FGA.9 in July 1962.

The initial complement of aircraft was flown out from St. Athan by 20 Sqn. pilots, many of whom came from 19 and 92 Sqns. based at Leconfield. The first aircraft left St. Athan on 21 August, with the route involving stops at Luqa (Malta), Nicosia (Cyprus), Tehran (Iran), Karachi , Delhi and Calcutta (all India), Bangkok (Burma) before arriving at Tengah. It was planned to involve eighteen hours of flying, over four days. Support for the ferrying was provided by BOAC personnel instead of RAF transports and associated ground crews. Some aircraft actually took seventeen days to reach Singapore. All aircraft had reached their new base by 6 November 1961.

20 Sqn.’s primary role was to be ground attack, with air defence being a secondary use, relying on the four 30mm cannon in this latter role.

As if to justify their presence, 20 Sqn. was required to send some of its aircraft and personnel to Chiang Mei, in northwest Thailand, during May 1962. This was in response to the alleged presence of Laotian forces in Thailand. US, Australian and New Zealand forces were also sent to Thailand. To spread the experience and share the workload, 20 Sqn. pilots were rotated between Thailand and Tengah every three weeks. In November 1962 the foreign forces returned to their home bases. Although the flying was regarded as great by the aircrew as there were few restrictions, the accommodation for all was basic and the personnel were largely happy to go home.

On 10 December 1962 four Hunters were deployed to Labuan, Brunei, 750 miles from Tengah. This was due to the sudden and violent opposition directed against the Sultan of Brunei to the imminent formation of Malaysia, which would comprise Malaya, Brunei, Sabah and Sarawak. Whilst deployed, the Hunters carried out numerous missions at low-level, to intimidate those opposed to the political changes. On only one mission was one aircraft was permitted to fire its cannon but not at people but solely to intimidate. The rapid deployment of British forces was successful and the Hunters were cleared to return to Tengah on Christmas Day 1962.

During 1963 more routine flying could be carried out and deployments made to Butterworth, Malaysia and Thailand.

In 1963 the Borneo Confrontation began. The Indonesian government was not pleased with the formation of the Federation of Malaysia, which came into being on 16 September 1963. The British Embassy in Jakarta was burnt down as part of the protests. Soon afterwards there were small-scale penetrations into Sabah and Sarawak by Indonesian forces. 20 Sqn.’s first involvement was to be ordered to send aircraft to Labuan only after Indonesian aircraft had been seen close to or over non-Indonesian territory. As the Hunters could not arrive at Labuan in less than ninety minutes, this was a frustrating activity. In 1964 this was changed to having four Hunters deployed at both Kuching and Labuan.

Due to political constraints, offensive operations were controlled to the extent that the only weapons that were allowed to be used, when authorised, were cannons, rockets and rocket pods. This meant that only Hunters and Canberra bombers were involved. 20 Sqn. Hunters opened fire on at least two occasions in West Malaysia. On 23 December 1964 a group of Indonesian personnel landed on the east coast of Johore. 20 Sqn. and 45 Sqn. (Canberra B.15s) mounted strikes in response. The last such mission took place on 31 May 1965 when 20 Sqn. Hunters were again called in to attack Indonesian personnel, this time on the southern coast of eastern Johore.

There were no occasions when Hunters opened fire over Eastern Malaysia, this being in part due to the difficult terrain and the fact that the border incursions by the Indonesians were limited.

The Borneo Confrontation was declared over in August 1966. This meant 20 Sqn. could resume peacetime flying, taking part in exercises and routine training missions. The number of aircraft on strength increased due to the disbandment of 28 Sqn. in January 1967.

20 Sqn. was disbanded in February 1970, holding a joint ceremony with 45 Sqn. Both units had six aircraft in the combined flypast.

There were four Officers Commanding of 20 Sqn. during its time in the Far East, these being in order, R.A. Calvert (from reformation in 1961), Max Bacon (appointed 1964) , Chris Doggett (appointed 1965) and Chris Strong (from 1968), all Squadron Leaders.

Markings:

Squadron emblem on the nose, with the bars either side in the unit colours, (top to bottom) light blue, red, white, green and light blue. The code letter was in white on the fin and in white on the nosewheel door, which itself was painted red.

Frontline RAF Hunter FGA.9 operators

No.

Base(s)

From

To

Remarks

1

Stradishall,

Waterbeach,

West Raynham

January 1960

July 1969

Re-equipped with Harriers.

8

Khormaksar (Aden),

Masirah (Oman),

Muharraq (Bahrain)

January 1960

December 1967

Disbanded. Later reformed with Shackletons.

20

Tengah

September 1961

February 1970

Disbanded. Later reformed with Harriers.

28

Kai Tak (Hong Kong)

July 1962

January 1967

Disbanded. Later reformed with Whirlwinds.

43

Leuchars,

Nicosia (Cyprus),

Khormaksar (Aden)

May 1960

November 1967

Disbanded. Later reformed with Phantoms.

54

Stradishall,

Waterbeach,

West Raynham

March 1960

September 1969

Re-equipped with Phantoms

208

Stradishall,

Eastleigh (Kenya),

Khormaksar (Aden),

Muharraq (Bahrain)

March 1960

September 1971

Disbanded. Later re-equipped with Buccaneers.

Hunter FGA.9 specifications:

Engine: Rolls-Royce Avon 207 turbojet, delivering 10,000lb. thrust
Wing span: 33ft 8in., length: 45ft 10.5in., height: 13ft 2in
Empty weight: 14,400lb., maximum weight: 24,600lb
Maximum speed: 702mph
Service ceiling: 52,000ft
Range: 1,850 miles with tanks
Armament: Four 30mm cannon and up to 3,000lb. carried externally

There were 128 F.6s converted to FGA.9 standard for service with the RAF, in six batches, between 1958 and 1965. Twenty six FGA.9s served with 20 Sqn., ten of these being destroyed in flying accidents. Two examples of the trainer variant, the T.7, also saw service with 20 Sqn.

Individual airframe details:

Serial

Notes

XE582

Converted to FGA.9 in 1960 by HSA. With 20 Sqn. from 10 November 1961 and became ‘J’. Returned to the UK in January 1970. Later sold to Chile in May 1982.

XE610

Converted to FGA.9 in 1960 by HSA. Issued to 20 Sqn. on 17 June 1961 and was coded as ‘C’. On 26 June 1969 it crashed 40 miles south of Kuantan, Malaysia, due to engine failure. The identity and fate of the pilot is unknown.

XE652

Converted to FGA.9 in 1960 by HSA. Was with 20 Sqn. by June 1962, when coded ‘A’. Returned to the UK and was sold to HSA in April 1970 for possible resale. It was delivered to the Singaporean Armed Forces in May 1971. Last reported as preserved, at Changi, Singapore and bearing the incorrect serial 501.

XF310 (T.7)

Converted from single-seat F.4 to two-seat trainer variant, the T.7. Served with 20 Sqn. as ‘T’ from 6 November 1961 (after an 18 day ferry flight) to March 1967 when returned to the UK and placed into store. From 1969 it served in the UK until retired in 1993, was sold off in 1997 and was last reported as preserved in a museum, near Melbourne, Australia.

XF414

Converted to FGA.9 in 1960 by HSA. Joined 20 Sqn. in 1965 and was coded ‘E’, replacing XF455. Written off on 20 February 1967 due to engine failure, near Tengah. Its pilot, unidentified, pilot ejected to safety.

XF416

Converted to FGA.9 at 5 MU, Kemble in 1965. Transferred to 20 Sqn. on 5 January 1967 when 28 Sqn. was disbanded three days earlier at Kai Tak. It was assigned the code ‘U’. Returned to the UK on 13 February 1970. Later transferred to Zimbabawe in April 1984.

XF437

Converted to FGA.9 at 5 MU, Kemble in 1965. Issued to 20 Sqn. on 5 August 1966 and became ‘V’. Returned to the UK on 22 December 1969. Purchased by HSA for resale in April 1970 and was sold to the Singaporean Armed Forces in May 1971. Later sold to a private company in Australia, where it still exists.

XF455

Converted to FGA.9 in 1960 by HSA. Transferred from 28 Sqn. to 20 Sqn. on 10 March 1964. On 19 September 1964 it flew into the sea off Changi, in poor visibility, killing the pilot, Flying Officer Douglas Clavering.

XF508

Converted to FGA.9 in 1960 by HSA. Delivered to 20 Sqn. on 6 October 1961 and it was coded ‘D’. On 3 February 1969, due to a false fire warning, it was abandoned, crashing into the sea, near Pontain, Johore, Malaysia. The pilot’s name is unknown.

XG136

Converted to FGA.9 in 1960 by HSA. Failed to recover from a spin, Johore, Malaysia, on 19 October 1964 and was abandoned successfully by Flt. Lt. Heinz Frick. Its code with 20 Sqn. is unknown. (Was it coded ‘M’?)

XG153

Converted to FGA.9 in 1960 by HSA. Joined 20 Sqn. on 11 November 1961 and became ‘L’. Returned to the UK in January 1970. Later sold to the Singaporean Armed Forces, being delivered in June 1972 At present is preserved in Brisbane, Australia.

XG265

Converted to FGA.9 in 1960 by HSA. Issued to 20 Sqn. on 15 September 1961 and was allocated the code ‘K’. On either 1 March or 1 April 1964, it suffered a fire in the rear fuselage when near Labuan, Borneo and the pilot, Flt. Lt. R.A.F. Shield, was killed despite ejecting.

XG266

Converted to FGA.9 in 1960 by HSA. It joined 20 Sqn. on 25 September 1961 and became ‘N’. Later returned to the UK and was sold to HSA for possible resale in May 1971. Delivered to the Singaporean Armed Forces in June 1972. Later sold off and is now in the USA.

XG272

Converted to FGA.9 in 1960 by HSA. Issued to 20 Sqn. on 1 July 1962 and became ‘H’. Returned to the UK on 23 September 1969. Sold to HSA for possible resale in March 1970. Later sold to the Swiss Air Force and scrapped in the 1990s.

XG291

Converted to FGA.9 by HSA in 1964. It was transferred from 28 Sqn. to 20 Sqn. on 5 January 1967 when the former unit was disbanded. Coded ‘Z’. Returned to the UK on 8 January 1970. Transferred to the Chile Air Force in 1983.

XG293

Converted to FGA.9 in 1960 by HSA. Issued to 20 Sqn. on 1 July 1962 and became ‘F’. Suffered engine failure whilst inverted on 21 April 1964 during an air test and abandoned successfully by Flt. Lt. Peter Martin over Tengah.

XG297

Converted to FGA.9 in 1960 by HSA. Joined 20 Sqn. on 10 November 1961 and became ‘B’. Transferred to 28 Sqn., Kai Tak, on 25 August 1962. Rejoined 20 Sqn. on 5 January 1967 and was allocated the code ‘Y’ (but see XK138). Returned to the UK on 19 February 1970 but not flown after this date. Sold to HSA in March 1976 for possible resale but was later scrapped. The nose section is preserved at AeroVenture, Doncaster, in 20 Sqn. markings and code ‘Y’ on it nosewheel door.

XJ643

Converted to FGA.9 in 1960 by HSA. Transferred to 20 Sqn. strength on 5 January 1967 upon 28 Sqn.’s disbandment and became ‘W’. Returned to the UK on 20 October 1969. Sold to HSA in February 1970 and delivered to the Singaporean Armed Forces on 24 March 1971.

XJ673

Converted to FGA.9 in 1960 by HSA. Joined 20 Sqn. on 7 September 1961 and was coded ‘XX’ as the OC’s machine. Abandoned whilst on approach to Clark AB, Philippines, on 2 April 1969. It had suffered an engine failure and loss of hydraulic fluid. The pilot, Flt. Lt. K.R. Barley, ejected safely.

XJ674

Converted to FGA.9 by HSA in 1965. Delivered to 20 Sqn. on 11 January 1966 and it took up the code ‘O’ vacated by XK136. Crashed near Tengah, 22 July 1968; when only one main undercarriage leg would lower, due to hydraulic failure. The pilot attempted to fly a circuit in manual condition, after the first abortive approach. It is possible to fly a Hunter in manual mode but it takes a lot of physical effort to do so. When the aircraft rolled to port, the pilot, name unknown, ejected at 800 feet. He survived.

XJ683

Converted to FGA.9 in 1960 by HSA. Issued to 20 Sqn. 15 May 1964 and it became ‘F’, replacing XG293. Later returned to the UK. Sold to Zimbabwe and believed still in existence.

XJ685

Converted to FGA.9 in 1960 by HSA. Issued to 20 Sqn. on 1 July 1962 and was coded ‘R’. Badly damaged on 28 July 1969. The fuselage was purchased in November 1969 by HSA for use in overseas sales and returned to the UK. Rebuilt and sold to the Singaporean Armed Forces, being delivered in November 1970. Later sold to a private buyer and is at present in Australia.

XJ686

Converted to FGA.9 in 1960 by HSA. Issued to 20 Sqn. on 1 July 1962 and replaced XG297 was ‘B’. Returned to the UK on 19 February 1970. Sold to Chile 1982.

XJ690

Converted to FGA.9 by HSA in 1964. Delivered to 20 Sqn. on 31 March 1965 and became ‘G’. Returned to the UK on 19 February 1970 and not flown afterwards. Later sold to HSA in February 1976 for possible resale but this did not happen. The aircraft was scrapped, with only its nose section surviving, which forms part of the Hunter displayed on a pole at Bournemouth Airport.

XJ695

Converted to FGA.9 by HSA in 1964. Issued to 20 Sqn. on 27 May 1965 and it was allocated the code ‘K’, succeeding XG265. Returned to the UK on 19 February 1970. Later withdrawn from use and relegated to fire training at Manston. By March 2002 it had been badly burnt and the remains sent for scrap.

XK136

Converted to FGA.9 in 1960 by HSA. Issued to 20 Sqn. on 8 September 1961 and became ‘O’. Written off on 19 October 1964 due to loss of control whilst in a spin. It crashed into a swamp, 32 miles NNW of Tengah. The name and fate of the pilot are unknown.

XK138

Converted to FGA.9 in 1960 by HSA. Became part of 20 Sqn. on 10 November 1961 and was coded ‘Y’ (but see XG297). Returned to the UK on 10 February 1970. Later sold to Chile in May 1982. In November 2007 it was noted preserved in Santiago, Chile.

XK142

Converted to FGA.9 in 1960 by HSA. Joined 20 Sqn. on 6 November 1961 and became ‘P’. Returned to the UK on 19 February 1970. Sold to HSA in May 1971 for possible resale. Purchased by the Singapore Armed Forces, delivered to them in August 1972 and was lost on 17 November of the same year whilst based at Chivenor for training.

XL619 (T.7)

Issued to 20 Sqn. on 22 May 1962 and was allocated the code ‘S’. Remained with the unit until the disbandment in 1970. Returned to the UK. Abandoned successfully over the sea on 21 October 1981, 50 miles SW of Brawdy, Wales.

Code

1st allocation

2nd allocation

 

 

Code

1st allocation

2nd allocation

A

XE652

 

 

 

N

XG266

 

B

XG297

XJ686

 

 

O

XK136

 

C

XE610

 

 

 

P

XK142

 

D

XF508

 

 

 

R

XJ685

 

E

XF455

XF414

 

 

S

XF310

 

F

XG293

XJ683

 

 

T

XL619

 

G

XJ690

 

 

 

U

XF416

 

H

XG272

 

 

 

V

XF437

 

J

XE582

 

 

 

W

XJ643

 

K

XG265

XJ695

 

 

XX

XJ673

 

L

XG153

 

 

 

Y

XK138

XG297

M

XG136 (?)

 

 

 

Z

XG291

 

Aircraft on strength on 1st January

Code

1962

1963

1964

1965

1966

1967

1968

1969

1970

A

XE652

XE652

XE652

XE652

XE652

XE652

XE652

XE652

XE652

B

XG297

XJ686

XJ686

XJ686

XJ686

XJ686

XJ686

XJ686

XJ686

C

XE610

XE610

XE610

XE610

XE610

XE610

XE610

XE610

 

D

XF508

XF508

XF508

XF508

XF508

XF508

XF508

XF508

 

E

 

 

 

XF414

XF414

XF414

 

 

 

F

 

XG293

XG293

XJ683

XJ683

XJ683

XJ683

XJ683

XJ683

G

 

 

 

 

XJ690

XJ690

XJ690

XJ690

XJ690

H

 

XG272

XG272

XG272

XG272

XG272

XG272

XG272

 

I

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

J

XE582

XE582

XE582

XE582

XE582

XE582

XE582

XE582

XE582

K

XG265

XG265

XG265

 

XJ695

XJ695

XJ695

XJ695

XJ695

L

XG153

XG153

XG153

XG153

XG153

XG153

XG153

XG153

XG153

M

XG136

XG136

XG136

 

 

 

 

 

 

N

XG266

XG266

XG266

XG266

XG266

XG266

XG266

XG266

XG266

O

XK136

XK136

XK136

 

 

XJ674

XJ674

 

 

P

XK142

XK142

XK142

XK142

XK142

XK142

XK142

XK142

XK142

Q

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

R

 

XJ685

XJ685

XJ685

XJ685

XJ685

XJ685

XJ685

 

S

 

XL619

XL619

XL619

XL619

XL619

XL619

XL619

XL619

T

XF310

XF310

XF310

XF310

XF310

XF310

XF310

XF310

 

U

 

 

 

 

 

 

XF416

XF416

XF416

V

 

 

 

 

 

XF437

XF437

XF437

 

W

 

 

 

 

 

 

XJ643

XJ643

XJ643

XX

XJ673

XJ673

XJ673

XJ673

XJ673

XJ673

XJ673

XJ673

 

Y

XK138

XK138

XK138

XK138

XK138

XK138

XK138 XG297

XK138 XG297

XK138 XG297

Z

 

 

 

 

 

 

XG291

XG291

XG291

Total

14

18

18

16

18

20

22 or 23

21 or 22

14 or 15

The uncertainty for the last three years concerns the code allocated to XG297 and indeed confirmation that it did return to 20 Sqn.

Sources

Rickard, J (1 May 2010), Hawker Hunter F.G.A. Mark 9;
http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_hawker_hunter_9.html

Wolverhampton Aviation Group website

www.pprune.org website

Books

Lightning Up, Air Vice Marshal Alan White

Hawker Hunter, In UK and Foreign Service: Serials 1951-2007, David J. Griffin