Early British Missile Fighters

In the months following the 1957 Defence White paper, the British Government was repeatedly embarrassed by Soviet recon aircraft overflying UK territory, with a number of flights actually passing over London. Apart from media pressure regarding Mr Sandys' assertion that missiles would replace fighters, it became plain following the numerous failed attempts by RAF nightfighters to intercept the high flying Soviet recon aircraft that the current interceptor aircraft were inadequate to this task, and many of the programmes recently cancelled were necessary after all. One particular lesson was that vectoring an interceptor into sufficiently close range for a gun attack was practically impossible at the speeds and altitudes involved, especially at night or in bad weather, the conclusion being that guided missiles with a range of several miles would simplify this problem.

Given the ongoing embarrassment to the RAF and the UK Government of the overflights, the RAF met with industry representatives, and practically admitted that they would buy virtually anything capable of lifting a radar and toting a missile as long as it could be in service in a matter of months. As can be imagined the RAF was inundated with proposals, but only three were actually translated into serviceable hardware ( the updated Venom proposal from DeHavilland was withdrawn due to their commitment to the Sea Vixen programme ). One was the Saro SR-53B Stinger used as a point defence fighter for the capital ( see separate page ), while the others were the Gloster Meteor NF.15 ( actually built by Armstrong Whitworth ), and the Hawker Hunter NF.7.


Gloster Meteor NF.15

A modification of the semi-obsolete NF.14, the NF.15 was able to carry a pair of Firestreak missiles. AW did the bare minimum of modifications to allow carriage if the missiles, and performance when armed with the fairly large Firestreak was mediocre at best, even though the original wing mounted cannon were removed to save weight.

Built from the Matchbox kit, needed a lot of filler to get even halfway decent.


Hawker Hunter NF.7

Based on the T.66 but with the 200 series Avon from the F.6, Hawker had done some work researching the performance of the then current IR guided missiles and concluded that the 'single shot kill' was a figment of a missile salesman's imagination Consequently the design team decided that being able to ripple fire multiple missiles gave a much greater chance of downing the target. Given the performance limitations of the aircraft, this ruled out the use of the large and heavy Firestreak, Hawker electing to use the Hughes GAR-2 ( later AIM-4B ) Falcon instead with 3 Falcons weighing only 17kg more than a single Firestreak ( or 40kg including triple launcher ).

The NF.7 mounted AI.21 radar in the nose and could carry up to twelve  Falcon missiles on the wing pylons, mounted on triple rail launchers, though six was a more usual load. Most F.7s were converted from single seat airframes, which was a relatively simple task due to the modular nature of the Hunter fuselage design. No attempt was made to make the aircraft compatible with the SARH variants of the Falcon, as it was felt that development of this capability would impose an unacceptable delay to the in-service date.

Built from the Matchbox kit, like the Meteor it took a fair bit of filler.