Designed to fulfil specification F.3/48, the first prototype Hunter flew on July 20, 1951. The Hunter was popular from the outset because it looked good, was very strong and had no real vices, unlike many of its contemporaries at the time.
The RAF, Royal Navy, Swiss Air Force and many other nations used it. It has served with 19 air forces, and only recently been retired from operational service. One of those airf forces was Singapore. The aircraft you see started its operational career in the RAF as an F MK 6. It was subsequently exported to the Singapore Air Force as an FR.74, then made its way to New Zealand where it was restored for its owner David Phillips
Meanwhile in Britain, priority was given to developing the new Hawker fighter, the Hunter. Designed by Sir Sydney Camm, designer of many classic fighters, the new Hunter featured a powerful axial-flow turbojet, the Avon, four heavy 30mm cannon and swept wings. The graceful Hunter became Britain’s most successful jet fighter, it entered service in 1954 and remained in front line service for nearly two decades. Cold War tensions led to several NATO nations, as well as India and Singapore, buying Hunters.
And in each crisis over the next decade the RAF invariably deployed Hunter squadrons: Suez, Lebanon, Confrontation, Kuwait and Aden for example. By the 1990s it still remained in operational service in Switzerland and Singapore. The Hunter on display was previously one of the Singaporean fighters. Today (with the demise of the Air Force Skyhawks) it is the fastest aircraft in New Zealand. Sadly, the British did not develop the Hunter to its full potential; in contrast both the American F-86 and the Russian Mig 15 fighters were further developed, eventually into the supersonic F-100 Super Sabre and its Russian equivalent, the Mig 19.
However continued ‘limited wars’ such as Vietnam meant that even a jet trainer, the two seat Cessna T-37 could be adapted for combat. The A-37 Dragonfly (also to be displayed at Wings over Wairarapa) was ideal for ground attack in a limited war with no enemy air threat. The three jet fighters on at Hood Aerodome this month illustrate the evolution of fighters from 1945 to 1970. The jet engine also transformed commercial aviation. An RNZAF Boeing 727 jet transport at the air show will show off the power and elegance of today’s jetliners.