In 1948 the government issued a tender for a replacement for the Meteor. Hawker’s design P1067, known as the Hunter, first flew in July 1951 but the first aircraft did not arrive in RAF service until 1954. The aircraft flew in all theatres of operation including home, Germany and the Far East, with some aircraft taking part in the Suez Crisis.
A little known fact was that one aircraft, XF442, an F6, was unofficially flown down the Thames and between the spans of Tower Bridge on 5th April 1968.
Two Squadrons set up famous display teams. These were 92 Squadron, the Blue Diamonds, who flew 16 royal blue coloured aircraft, and 111 Squadron, the Black Arrows, who flew all black aircraft and once looped 22 aircraft in unison.
The Hunter was retired as a fighter by the RAF in 1963, but carried on in secondary roles until the last aircraft, a T7 two-seat trainer, retired in the early 1990s. The aircraft was flown by 20 countries worldwide, and the last military Hunters retired in 2014 when the Lebanese Air Force finally retired their fleet.
The museum’s Hunter, WT746, is a MK4, which first flew in March 1955. It did not see Squadron service, moving from 5MU (Maintenance Unit) to the Air Fighting Development Squadron (AFDS) for trials work at West Raynham. It was then used as a ground instructional airframe at RAF St Athan and RAF Halton, before being retired and acquired by the museum in 1999.
The aircraft is currently outdoors being repainted.