Hunter jets make a welcome return

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Fabled Hunter jets make a welcome return to Yeovilton
27 March 2012

Veteran Hawker Hunter jets have returned to RNAS Yeovilton to help train warships fend off air attack.

Three of the one-time fighters – which were based at the Somerset air station for nearly a quarter of a century – are flying from there in a trial run, working with Hawk jets to test the Fleet undergoing training off Plymouth.

Pictures: LA(Phot) Al Macleod, RNAS Yeovilton

HERE’S a sight to stir the hearts of aviation buffs – and divert the attention of a Sea King aircraft handler.

A Jungly handler is drawn to the rare sight – and noise – of a Hawker Hunter taking off at RNAS Yeovilton as the famous old jets make a welcome return to Somerset.

Three of Hunters are making a reappearance at Yeovilton to see whether they can aid existing Hawk jets in training the front-line Fleet.

Right now the distinctive dark blue Hawks and Falcons of the Fleet Requirements and Air Direction Unit (FRADU) simulate missile and fast jet attacks against Royal Navy and visiting warships going through the rigorous test of Operational Sea Training off Plymouth.

That training is run by the Flag Officer Sea Training organisation, who are now sponsoring a trial to see whether Hunters can also be used to bolster the air-attack experience.

Hawker Hunter Aviation, which owns the jets, detached the three from their base at RAF Scampton (once home of the Dambusters and now home to the Red Arrows) to Yeovilton for the trial, which runs to the end of the month.

A child of the early 1950s when British aviation led the world, the Hunter set the then world speed record back in 1953 (727.63mph). Some 90 of the aircraft flew with the Fleet Air Arm in various capacities from the end of that decade until the mid-90s – and the jets were based at Yeovilton with FRADU from 1972 until 1995.

Since their retirement from the Somerset air station, they have returned occasionally since, most recently in 2009, but not for a protracted trial like this.

“The Hunter is providing fast and realistic training to augment the Hawk on certain exercises,” said Matt Potulski, Managing Director of Hawker Hunter Aviation. “It’s a good thing for the Navy and Fleet training.”

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