The Gloster Meteor F Mk.8 was the last and best day fighter version of the Meteor, and equipped the majority of home based RAF fighter squadrons in the early 1950s. The Meteor T Mk.7 two seat trainer had featured a longer nose, added to carry the second crewman, which was found to improved the directional stability of the Meteor. This longer nose was installed on late production F Mk.4s, but produced new problems of its own, causing unacceptably large changes in the centre of gravity as fuel or ammunition supplies were used up.
Part of the problem was traced to the original curved tail assembly of the Meteor. Fortunately an alternative was already available. Since 1943 Gloster had been working on a single engined alternative to the Meteor, which eventually produced three prototypes of the Gloster E.1/44. The aircraft itself was not a success, but it did at least fly, making its maiden flight in March 1948. The tail of the E.1/44 featured straight leading and trailing edges on all surfaces, and the test flights of the E.1/44 revealed it to be better than the original Meteor tail.
After the test flight of the E.1/44 work began on fitting the new tail to a Meteor F Mk.4. This aircraft flew early in 1948, and confirmed that the new tail did indeed improve the stability of the Meteor. The first full prototype of the Mk.8, VT150, made its maiden flight on 12 October 1948 with the E.1/44 tail and the longer nose. The same aircraft was then given the original Meteor tail to compare the performance of the two designs. These tests confirmed that the E.1/44 tail was a clear improvement on the original design. It would be used on all later versions of the Meteor apart from the unarmed reconnaissance PR Mk.10.
Squadron deliveries began on 10 December 1949, to No.1 Squadron at Tangmere. The F Mk.8 was the RAF’s main single seat interceptor until replaced by the Hawker Hunter in 1955. The last front line squadron to operate the Meteor F Mk.8 was No.245 squadron, which gave up its last Meteors in April 1957. It also became the main fighter used by the Royal Auxiliary Air Force, equipping ten squadrons until 10 March 1957, when the RAuxAF was disbanded.
Of the 27 RAF squadrons that had operated the F Mk.4, all but four also used the F Mk.8. Of those four two were renumbered (No.91 becoming No.92 and No.266 becoming No.43) and operated the Meteor 8 under their new numbers, while the other two (Nos.29 and 85) converted to the Meteor night fighters. A total of 30 squadrons operated the Meteor F Mk.8 at some point between 1950 and 1957, with its high point coming in 1953-54 when it equipped 19 front line and 10 Royal Auxiliary Air Force squadrons.
The F Mk.8 was exported in larger numbers than any other version of the Meteor, with a total of 617 aircraft being ordered by eight countries (Belgium, Holland, Denmark, Australia, Syria, Egypt, Israel and Brazil), with a large number being produced under licence by Fokker in Holland.
Engine: Two Rolls-Royce Derwent 8 turbojets
Thrust: 3,500lb/15.6kN each
Gross Weight: 15,700lb
Maximum level speed at sea level: 592mph
Maximum level speed at 30,000ft: 550mph
Maximum level speed at 50,000ft: 530mph
Rate of climb at sea level: 7,000ft/min
Cruise Range at normal load: 520 miles
Armament: Four 20mm cannon in nose and two 1,000lb bombs or sixteen 90lb rocket projectiles under the wing