Hawker Hunter F. Mark 6

The Hawker Hunter F.Mark 6 was the ultimate pure interceptor version of the Hunter, and also paved the way for the later ground attack aircraft that carried the aircraft into the 1960s.

Between 1951 and the summer of 1954 Sydney Camm at Hawkers had been concentrating on the P.1083. This was to be version of the Hunter with a more swept back wing and re-heated Avon engines. This would have been a true supersonic aircraft, although wouldn’t have been able to match the performance of some of its rival designs. By the summer of 1953 work was well advanced on the P.1083, but Hawkers were then informed that the Air Staff favoured the non-reheated large Avon 200 series engine. These produced the same level of power as the smaller reheated engines but without the same cost in fuel consumption.

Hawkers responded by abandoning work on the P.1083 and moving on to the P.1099/ Hunter 6. The first prototype was built very quickly, using the fuselage from the P.1083, a Rolls Royce Avon RA 14 engine and new strengthened Mod 228 wings. This prototype made its first flight on 22 January 1954, and at this stage was well ahead of the Mk.3 or Mk.4, but problems then developed with the engine. In February the aircraft had to make a forced landing, and the same problem would recur. It was eventually traced to fatigue in the compressor blades, and the final Avon Mk.203 version of the engine was limited to 10,000lb of thrust. In 1956 the prototype was sent to Miles Aircraft to have thrust reversal equipment installed, then in 1956 and 1957 it performed a series of displays at air shows.

The new wing would be the key to the future of the Hunter. Know as the Mod 228 wing, it was stressed to carry the normal inner pylons of the F.Mark 4 and either a pair of outer pylons or the mountings for 24 3in rockets (12 on each wing). Over time an increasingly wide range of weapons would be carried on these wings, as would a 230 gallon drop tank.. This was tested out on one early F.6. In total the aircraft could carry two 230 gallon drop tanks, two 100 gallon tanks on the outer pylons and its internal fuel to give a total of 1,050 gallons. On 2 October 1958, with this fuel load, an aircraft flew from Dunsfold to Libya non-stop in 3 hours 19 minutes. In late 1959 the new 230 gallon tanks became a standard fitting on the F.6.

A total of 383 Hunter F.6s were built for the RAF between 1955 and 1957; 296 by Hawkers and 119 by Armstrong Whitworth. Hawkers received five separate contracts, starting with one for seven pre-production aircraft to be built during 1955. The second was for 100 aircraft, built in 1955-56; the third for 110 built in 1956-57 and the fourth for 45 aircraft, built in 1956-56. The fifth contract was originally for 153 aircraft, to be built in 1957, but the defence cutbacks of that year meant that the contract was reduced to one for 53 aircraft. Of these only 21 were accepted by the RAF, while 32 went to India as the Mark 56. Armstrong Whitworth produced 100 aircraft on their own contract, with production ending by December 1956, and nineteen sub-contracted aircraft from the third Hawkers order.

The F.Mark 6 entered service with No.19 Squadron in October 1956, and by 1958 all of the RAF's day fighter squadrons in Britain and Germany were equipped with the F.6. One problem did emerge during this period - a tendency to pitch up at high speeds and altitudes, but this was fixed by adding a wing leading edge extension on the outer half of the wings.

The F.Mark 6 had a short career as the RAF's main frontline interceptor. In 1957 the Sandys' Defence White Paper predicted that the ICBM would soon render manned fighter aircraft obsolete. In the short-term the RAF was to change emphasis, eliminating the gun-armed interceptor and replacing it with short-range anti-aircraft missiles and medium range rocket-armed interceptors such as the English Electric Lighting. The first squadrons went in 1957, and eventually nine of the thirteen Hunter squadrons based in Germany went. The remaining squadrons received the F.6 by mid-1958, but all disbanded by 1962. The last home based squadrons either converted to other aircraft or were disbanded by 1963.

This wasn't the end of the Hunter story. Just as the F.6 was coming out of service the RAF adopted the Hunter F.G.A.Mark 9 as its main ground-attack aircraft. The Hunter production line had already been shut down, and every FGA.9 and FR.10 to serve with the RAF was produced by converting an existing aircraft, most of them former British F.6s. The Mk.6 was also a major export success, being sold to Switzerland, India, Iraq, the Lebanon and Jordan.

Finally Fokker in Holland and Avions Fairey in Belgium moved their licence building programmes from the Mk.4 to the Mk.6. Fokker built 93 aircraft between 1956-58, and they served with the Dutch air force until 1963. Forty seven of these aircraft were then bought by Hawkers and sold on to India, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Chile and Qatar. Avions Fairey built 144 F.6s in 1956-58, of which 96 were bought by Hawkers in 1962-66 and sold to India, Iraq, Chile, the Lebanon and Kuwait.

A number of F.6s were used for trials. XF374 was used to test different shaped drop tanks. XE587 tested a landing parachute. XE588 tested an emergency airfield arrestor hook as later used on the naval T.8s. XG131 was used to test wing-tip fuel tanks that were being developing for the Hawker P.1114 and P.1115 night fighters, but the tanks caused too much buffeting and had to be removed.

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (1 May 2010), Hawker Hunter F. Mark 6 , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_hawker_hunter_6.html

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