The Hawker Sea Hawk is a British single-seat jet fighter of the Fleet Air Arm (FAA), the air branch of the Royal Navy (RN) that was built by Hawker Aircraft and its sister company, Armstrong Whitworth Aircraft. Although its origins stemmed from earlier Hawker piston-engined fighters, the Sea Hawk became the company’s first jet aircraft.
Following the type’s acceptance in the RN, the Sea Hawk proved to be a reliable and sturdy workhorse. A considerable number were also produced for the export market, and were operated from aircraft carriers in both Dutch and Indian service. The last operational Sea Hawks, operated by the Indian Navy, were retired in 1983.
On 2 September 1947, the P.1040 prototype, VP401, sometimes referred to as the Hawker N.7/46 after the related naval specification, conducted its maiden flight from RAF Boscome Down, piloted by Bill Humble. Three days later, VP401 flew to Farnborough to continue trials. A month after the first flight, the existence of the P.1040 was revealed to the general public. Early flight trials encountered aerodynamic-related teething problems, such as airframe vibrations and tail buffeting, which led to a redesign of the rear jet pipe fairings and the addition of a bullet-shaped anti-shock body on the tail. Other minor issues including high stick forces and windshield distortion were also addressed. The long takeoff runs VP401 needed were attributed to the “low-thrust” Nene 1. The Nene 2 intended for production aircraft would provide a higher take-off thrust.
On August 31, 1948, a fully navalized prototype, VP413, equipped with folding wings, catapult spools, and a full armament, conducted its first flight. VP413 was quickly subjected to a series of deck assessment trials using a mockup deck at Boscombe Down. In April 1949, VP413 was transferred to the aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious to conduct general deck and handling trials at sea. These trials revealed the need for the wingspan to be increased by 30 inches, the low-speed handling of the prototype having been found to be lacking. In November 1949, VP413 was re-deployed to Illustrious, performing around 25 deck landings without issue.
On 17 October 1949, the third prototype, VP422, made its maiden flight. Being representative of the subsequent production aircraft, VP422 incorporated a number of modifications as a result of the experiences gained from trials with the second prototype. These alterations included the fitting of a longer arrester hook when a number of “bolters” were experienced during the early dummy deck trials. The longer hook was incorporated on the remaining production runs. Other changes included the addition of fixtures for rocket-assisted take-off gear (RATOG) and hard points plumbed for external drop tanks.
On 22 November 1949, Hawker received an initial production contract for 151 aircraft. The aircraft also received the name Sea Hawk at this point. Throughout 1950, both VP413 and VP422 were used to conduct preliminary service trials.
Interestingly, VP401, the first prototype, continued to serve in the flight test program and was involved in two significant events prior to its retirement. On 1 August 1949, the Royal Navy entered VP401 in the National Air Races, in which it won the Society of British Aircraft Constructors (SBAC) Challenge Cup Race, beating out both a Vampire 3 and de Havilland DH.108. VP401 was later converted into a further prototype, the Hawker P.1072, the principal addition being in the form of an auxiliary rocket engine becoming the first British rocket-powered aircraft. After a few flights were made in 1950, the rocket engine blew up during a test and although repaired, the airframe was scrapped soon after.
Immediately following the receipt of the first order in November 1949, Hawker set about establishing a manufacturing line for the Sea Hawk at their Kingston facility. Shortly after the outbreak of the Korean War, an urgent operational demand for Britain’s aircraft carriers, and thus their accompanying aircraft, had become apparent. In order to cope with this demand, address production shortcomings, and cope with the pressure that Hawker was facing with the development of the new Hunter, it was decided that production would be transferred to a new assembly line run by Armstrong Whitworth Aircraft (part of the Hawker group at Coventry). Prior to the transfer, a total of 35 Sea Hawk F1’s built to the initial production standard, were completed at Kingston. On 14 November 1951, the first production Sea Hawk F1, WF143, conducted its maiden flight possessing a wingspan of 39 ft (12 m) and a tail plane of increased area. The first Coventry-built Sea Hawk F1 made its first flight prior to the end of 1953 with a total of 60 being produced.
While some of the initial batch of Sea Hawks would see operational service, many of the F1 aircraft would be used for various service trials. Amongst these, WF143 would later be rebuilt as the prototype for the Sea Hawk F2, featuring power-assisted ailerons to address a weakness in lateral control leading to instances of oscillation. On 24 February 1954, the first production Sea Hawk F2, WF240, conducted its maiden flight with a total of 40 F2 aircraft produced.
In 1950, it was acknowledged that the Nene 101 engine was to be a transitional power plant until the more powerful Nene 103 was available. The Admiralty quickly ordered that many of its Sea Hawk FB 3 and FGA 4 be re-engined. Accordingly, another two Sea Hawk variants were developed. The FB 5 which was more or less identical to the FB 3, differing by being re-engined with the newer Nene 103 engine. The final Sea Hawk, FGA 6, was a fighter ground-attack variant that was exactly the same as its FB 5 predecessor, although were new-build aircraft rather than re-engined airframes. A total of just 90 FGA 6s were completed.
The first production Sea Hawk was the F 1, which first flew in 1951 and entered service two years later with 806 Squadron. The type was first based at Brawdy then transferred to the HMS Eagle. All Sea Hawks were in service by the mid-1950s and eventually over 500 were built.
During service evaluations of the Sea Hawk, both Australian and Canadian pilots from each of their respective naval services would fly examples of the aircraft, and there were official suggestions they would adopt the type as standard equipment. However, both nations were also interested in new American-built naval aircraft; only a handful of Sea Hawks would be transferred to either nation, notably some would operate from the flight deck of the Australian Majestic class aircraft carrier HMS Sydney, though these did not enter full squadron service.
In 1956, shortly after the termination of the Sea Hawk production line, the Federal Republic of Germany placed an order for 64 aircraft to equip the German Bundesmarine (West German Navy), having determined the type to represent good value for money. Requiring both fair-weather daytime fighter bombers and day time fighters with a bad weather flight capability, these were delivered in two separate variants. The first of these German export variants, for the fair-weather role, was designated as the Sea Hawk Mk 100, while the bad-weather capable model was designated as the Sea Hawk Mk 101. Thirty-two of each variant were ordered. The Mk 101 was equipped with a pod-based EKCO-built search radar for sea reconnaissance. The German Sea Hawks served into the mid-1960s, until being replaced by the F-104 Starfighter.
The Sea Hawk, as part of the Fleet Air Arm, saw extensive service during the Suez Canal Crisis of 1956. During the conflict, six Sea Hawk squadrons took part: two aboard the fleet carrier HMS Eagle and two each aboard the light fleet carriers HMS Albion and HMS Bulwark.
The Sea Hawks were primarily used to perform ground attack missions in the theatre due to the Hawker Hunter’s lack of range and clearance to deliver munitions. Thus, the entire British ground attack capability during the conflict was delivered by Royal Navy Sea Hawks typically escorted by de Havilland Sea Venom fighters.
Sea Hawks launched many attacks upon Egyptian shore-based targets, often in the face of heavy anti-aircraft fire, resulting in several aircraft being severely damaged. The military aspects of the Suez Campaign were deemed successful and all invasion forces were withdrawn by 1957, though the waterway was reopened to Israeli ships. The Suez Crisis was to be the final note of Sea Hawk combat operations with the Royal Navy as a new generation of strike aircraft were introduced in the aftermath of the conflict including the de Havilland Sea Vixen and Supermarine Scimitar.
The Sea Hawk was a successful export aircraft. In the Royal Netherlands Navy, it served aboard the Dutch aircraft carrier HNLMS Karel Doorman, ex-HMS Venerable, including decolonization operations guarding against Indonesian threats in the area. From 1959 they were equipped with Sidewinder missiles significantly enhancing and extending their air-to-air combat capabilities. In 1961, the Sea Hawks that served on her were moved ashore when the NATO mission profile was changed to all ASW aircraft. By October 1964 they had been taken out of service.
In Indian Naval service (beginning in 1960), Sea Hawks were used aboard the aircraft carrier INS Vikrant, ex-HMS Hercules and saw service during the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965 and the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971. The latter war saw Sea Hawks being used by the Indian Navy. These aircraft scored nearly a dozen “kills”, mainly of Pakistan Navy gunboats and Merchant navy ships and cargo ships in East Pakistan (present day Bangladesh) without losing an aircraft in the war. Aided by Breguet Alize aircraft, the Sea Hawks emerged unscathed, achieving the highest kill ratio for any aircraft in the war. The Sea Hawk was withdrawn from Indian Navy service in 1983, being replaced by the far more capable BAE Sea Harrier.
The Sea Hawks in Fleet Air Arm service began phase-out from first line service in 1958: the same year the Supermarine Scimitar and de Havilland Sea Vixen entered service. The last front line Sea Hawk squadron, No. 806, disbanded at RNAS Brawdy on December 15, 1960. Sea Hawks in second line service were withdrawn by the mid-1960s. The last operational Royal Navy Sea Hawks were FGA.6’s flown by the Airwork Limited managed “black” Fleet Requirements Unit based at Bournemouth (Hurn) Airport, which retired the type in 1969.
Thirty-six complete Sea Hawks (plus eight cockpit sections) are known to survive as of 2011 mainly in a variety of locations in the United Kingdom, though others are located abroad, including Germany, Malta, the Netherlands, and India. One Sea Hawk, WV908, remains airworthy as part of the Royal Navy Historic Flight in the UK, although refurbishing the aircraft including fitting a Nene 103 took place in 2009.
(Edited from Wikipedia)
The DeHavilland Sea Hawk is one of the more aesthetically pleasing aircraft from the early period of straight-winged jets. I’d wanted a Sea Hawk on my shelf for many-a-year and stored my Classic Airframes Sea Hawk in ye olde stash until I had accumulated sufficient experience with limited-run kits to give it a go.
This is no “shake ‘n bake” kit: far from it. Construction required continual test fitting and modification of multiple parts to achieve a good fit. The result however gave me a real sense of accomplishment and produced a pretty eye-catching model right out of the box. The result was worth the wait 🙂
Assembly starts with the pilot’s office, which is provided as a hefty resin cockpit tub and seat. The details are beautifully rendered on all of the cockpit components and really popped with a bit of careful detail painting.
Prior to detailing however, the resin parts and styrene fuselage halves were sprayed with Vallejo Primer shot straight from the bottle at ~15psi with a few drops of Liquitex added per 2ml paint cup. Liquitex Flow Enhancer will decrease tip dry, dry over-spray, and provide a smoother final finish (see Note 1: Diluting and Spraying Vallejo Primer, below).
The cockpit components were sprayed with LifeColor Black Lightened ~5% with White. This was diluted to ~40% Paint and sprayed at ~12 psi with H&S Infinity fitted with a 0.2mm tip (see Note 2: Diluting and Spraying LifeColor and Vallejo Paints, below). The various levers and switches were picked out with LifeColor acrylics carefully applied with a small hairy stick.
The seat, in particular, was well molded and nicely detailed and looks convincing under paint and a little panel wash to bring out details. The blue Eduard seat harness was added from the spares box and it really ties the cockpit together; does it not 🙂
The fit of the cockpit tub into the lower and upper halves of the forward fuselage required very little adjustment. The same can’t be said for the resin main wheel well plug, which required appreciably thinning in order to fit. This was shot with Tamiya Silver straight from a can, as were the parts for the nose wheel bay. These assemblies were then glued into the lower fuselage halve with CA glue (Bob Smith).
Nicely molded resin plugs are provided for the engine intakes as well as the exhausts and once in place the fuselage halves were glued together and the first little challenge of the build presented itself: the intake vanes. The three small vanes within each intake are provided as PE parts as are the mounting plates that hold them. The issue was that the vanes were too short. Rather than changing the height of the PE mounting plate I opted to replace the kit vanes with ones scratched from a thin sheet of clear acetate.
With the intake vane issue solved I moved on to assembling the aft end of the fuselage, which is provided in styrene halves with a two-piece horizontal stabilizer/elevator. Here is where the second little issue of the kit became apparent. The profiles of the front and rear sections of the fuselage don’t quite match. In addition, there are no tabs or pins to stabilize the join between the sections beyond a butt-join.
Small tabs of plastic were installed on the inner aspects of the rear fuselage thereby beefing up the structure, which was then attached with liberal amounts of CA glue (Bob Smith).
When dry, steps between the front and rear sections were filled and blended with a mixture of CA glue and talcum powder set with a bit of accelerator. I like using CA and talc for a filler as you can control the density of the resulting “putty” by varying the ratio of talc to CA glue: more talc produces a softer filler. Most importantly, when dry, CA/Talc can be scribed much easier than can dried CA (too hard) or conventional putty (too soft).
The contours between the front and rear sections were first blended with Alpha Abrasives 400 grit paper used with soapy water. This was followed with some blending with a Flexi-File using first the coarse (tan) strips followed by the medium grit (gray strips). A final buffing was done with 3600 and 4000 grit Micromesh pads and sheets after which inscribed details, destroyed by the re-contouring, were restored using the 001 scriber from UMM-USA.
I decided early on to build my Sea Hawk with folded wings. This decision was based in large part on the very nice resin inserts provided for the inboard aspects of the wing fold as well as the PE pieces intended for the exposed outboard sections: very nice. Attaching these details went as planned except for the inboard resin inserts which required extensive re-shaping to achieve a passable fit.
The method by which to attach the folded wings is rather vague in the instructions. I relied on pictures of the 1/1 version to scratch build additional details of the wing-fold mechanism in an effort to both add to the accuracy of the kit and make a join that would be structurally sound. I achieved the first goal but unfortunately failed on the second. The wing join on the model is rather fragile.
Last in sequence were the landing gear, wheel wells, and gear doors. These are nicely molded and required only a little clean up prior to being shot with Vallejo White Primer. After a coat of Future, decals from the spars box were applied and the gear was washed with Tamiya Panel Liner (Dark Brown). RBF tags (Eduard) were added and placed during final assembly following pictures of 1/1 scale Sea Hawk gear. Of note are the thin supports for the upper nose gear door that project to a collar on the gear leg, which were fashioned from small diameter dental wire.
In preparation for painting the nose and wheel well bays were masked and the assembled fuselage (minus canopy—see below) and wings were sprayed with Mr. Surfacer 1500 straight from the can. This was applied as thinly as possible to retain inscribed details.
The entire model was then wet buffed with Micromesh 4,000 followed by 6,000 grit pads and sheets. This was done with cool soapy water and frequent wipes with a clean tissue to remove sanded debris from the increasingly smooth surface.
With the awesome details provided in the cockpit it seemed a shame to enclose it with a closed canopy. No open canopy option is provided so the sole example provided in the kit was immobilized with a wad of putty on my bench and the windscreen was separated from the sliding portion of the canopy with a carefully wielded razor saw. The canopy pieces were then cleaned up and dipped in Future. After 24hrs the front windscreen was glued in place using Gold CA Odorless Glue (Bob Smith Industries). When dry the seam was carefully blended with a little Mr. Surfacer 1,000 and then buffed in place with Micromesh 4,000.
With the windscreen glued in place and masked and the model primed and buffed, it was time for some paint: my favorite part 🙂
Color and Markings:
The kit decals are beautifully printed with excellent registration. The marking options include a Sea Hawk of the Indian Navy (INS Vikrant) and one that served with the West German Navy (MFG 2) in the early 1960’s. I opted to do the German Mk.101 in part because of the attractive anchor nose marking beautifully reproduced on the decal sheet.
The lower surfaces of the wings and belly were sprayed with LifeColor Sky (#UA-095) diluted to ~40% paint with LifeColor Thinner containing 5% Liquitex (by volume). This was applied at ~12psi with an H&S Infinity fitted with a 0.2mm tip (See below, Note 2: Diluting and Spraying LifeColor and Vallejo Paints). LifeColor paints provide a beautifully smooth finish that is also notoriously fragile. To prepare the coat of Sky for taping the belly and wings were shot with Future floor wax diluted 1:1 with Model Master Acrylic Thinner. This was shot as a dry coat at 15psi with an H&S Infinity fitted with a 0.2mm tip.
When dry, the Sky belly and underwing areas were masked with Tamiya tape and the uppers of the airframe were sprayed with LifeColor Dark Sea Grey (#UA-516) diluted to ~40% paint with LifeColor Thinner containing 5% Liquitex (See Note 2: Diluting and Spraying LifeColor and Vallejo Acrylic Paints, below).
After a protective coat of Future was applied to the Dark Sea Gray areas, the kit decals were applied using Micro-Set and –Sol and. conventional techniques.
When the decals were dry (24hrs later) the model was given a final coat of Future to protect the decals for the upcoming washes of Tamiya Dark Brown Enamel Panel Liner. This was carefully applied using a small brush allowing the wash to fill inscribed panel lines by capillary action. The wash was allowed to dry for ~10 minutes then any excess was carefully removed with a cotton bud moistened with Mona Lisa Odorless Thinner.
The model was then given a light coat of Vallejo Semi-Matte Varnish diluted to ~25% with Vallejo Thinner. This was applied at ~12psi as multiple light misty, dry coats with an H&S Infinity fitted with a 0.2mm tip.
From the available pictures German Sea Hawks appeared to be well maintained so I kept the weathering to a minimum. I often use pastel chalks (black, brown, red) applied with a small micro brush for subtle smudges and stains and that technique seemed to work well for this application. The slightly rougher surface of the dried matte makes subtle weathering with pastel chalk easier than does a gloss finish.
The pastel weathering was locked in place with a final light coat of Vallejo Semi-Matte applied as described above.
To finish up the canopy was unmasked and glued in place with Gold CA glue and the nicely molded hard points were attached along with the rather large wing tanks complete with “sharks mouth” markings.
I enjoyed building this kit. Classic Airframes kits are the result of limited production runs meaning they require a bit more care and patience to assemble. That said, this kit presented no issue that couldn’t be handled with a little patience and experience and the result is an eye-catching model not often seen at model shows. The Classic Airframes Sea Hawk has been out of production for a while but if you stumble upon one at a model show/meet, pick it up: you won’t be disappointed. Highly Recommended!
Now I gotta go paint something!
–John Kit purchased by reviewer.
Painting Notes and More Sea Hawk Pics Below:
Note 1: Diluting and Spraying Vallejo Primer
Acrylic paints and/or primers lack the “bite” of lacquer-based paints so degreasing the surface to be primed is essential to getting good adhesion of the primer coat. I find Vallejo Primer (#74.600) sprays well at 12-15psi straight from the bottle (neat) with 2-3 drops of Liquitex added per 2ml airbrush paint cup. If you’re using a 5ml cup, 5-6 drops will do the trick. The addition of Liquitex to Vallejo acrylic primer will decrease both tip dry and over spray while providing a smoother finish when dry. Be sure to occasionally (every 2-3 minutes of spray time) wipe the tip/needle of your airbrush clean with a microbrush moist with thinner. This will prevent the accumulation of “primer goobers” that will inevitably fling themselves onto your soon-to-be perfect finish 🙂
Note 2: Diluting and Spraying LifeColor and Vallejo Paints
The performance of Vallejo and LifeColor is greatly improved by the addition of a wetting or flow agent. My preferred flow enhancer is Liquitex Flow Aid. The addition of Liquitex to dilutions of both Vallejo and LifeColor paints drastically reduces needle build-up and rough pebbly over-spray while producing a more smooth, even finish. A lot of people add a few drops of Liquitex directly to the airbrush paint cup and for some applications, that’s fine. I prefer to prepare a large batches (40ml) of both Vallejo and LifeColor thinners to which Liquitex has been added to 5% by volume. This equates to roughly one drop of Liquitex to 20 drops of thinner. I then dilute either paint (Vallejo or LifeColor) in it’s own thinner with 5% Liquitex added. Having a premade mix of the appropriate thinner with 5% Liquitex makes diluting paints easier and more reproducible. In addition, it allows you to spray a little of the Thinner-Liquitex mix through your brush before shooting paint. This helps prevent needle build up and makes clean up easier as well (see Airbrushing Tips and Tricks, Vol. 1).
For average airbrushing jobs, I dilute LifeColor and Vallejo Model Air (not Vallejo Model Color; see below) to roughly 30% or 1/3 paint in the appropriate Thinner-Liquitex. That’s a ratio of roughly 1part paint to 2 parts Thinner-Liquitex (1:2). I spray this at ~12-15psi with a working distance (airbrush tip to model) of 2-3 inches.
For some applications where better coverage is desired, 40% paint might be used. However a mix of ~30% paint is what I more typically use for general painting applications. For fine-line work, I dilute both Vallejo Model air and LifeColor to ~10-15% paint in the appropriate Thinner-Liquitex. Such dilute fine-line mixes are shot at ~8-10 psi often with a distance on only ½ an inch or less from the airbrush tip to the model: very close.
Vallejo Model Color:
This is a much thicker paint than are Vallejo Model Air and most certainly LifeColor. That said Vallejo Model Color sprays quite nicely when diluted appropriately. Since Vallejo Model Color is so thick I often dilute it to ~10-20% paint in Vallejo thinner with 5% Liquitex. This increased dilution is required in order to achieve a comparable viscosity as a 30-40% dilution of Vallejo Model Air. Once diluted, Vallejo Model Color sprays well at ~12-15psi for general work.
More Sea Hawk Pics ↓