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Fleet Air Arm: Sea Venom

The de Havilland Sea Venom was a British postwar carrier-capable jet aircraft developed from the de Havilland Venom. It served with the Royal Australian Navy, the Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm and with the French Navy. The Sea Venom was the navalised version of the Venom NF.2 two-seat night fighter, and was used as an all-weather interceptor.

Image: Sea Venom WZ931 at the South Australian Aviation Museum Port Adelaide.

The necessary modifications for use on aircraft carriers included folding wings, a tailhook (which retracted into a characteristic "lip" over the jetpipe) and strengthened, long-stroke undercarriage. The canopy was also modified to allow ejection from underwater.

The first prototype made its first flight in 1951, and began carrier trials that same year. Two more prototypes were built before the first production Sea Venom took the designation FAW.20 (Fighter, All-Weather).

It was powered by a single de Havilland Ghost 103 turbojet engine and its armament was the same as the RAF version. Seven FAW.21s were modified in 1958 for Electronic countermeasures (ECM) purposes, with the cannon replaced by the ECM equipment.

These became the ECM.21. 831 Naval Air Squadron, the sole squadron to be equipped with it, was shore-based at RAF Watton from 1963 and disbanded in 1966. Converted FAW.22s were similarly known as the ECM.22.

Image: A de Havilland Sea Venom, with arrestor gear still connected, has just landed on Melbourne

The final Royal Navy variant was the FAW.22 powered by the Ghost 105 engine. A total of 39 of this type were built in 1957–58. Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm operated these aircraft in 16 squadrons and one special unit. Some were later fitted out with the de Havilland Firestreak air-to-air missile.

The Aquilon, a French variant, saw service with the French Navy in two squadrons until being withdrawn in 1963. The specifications of the FAW.22 included a crew of two. Its length was 36 feet 7 inches or 11.15 m, its wingspan was 42 feet 10 inches or 13.06 m, its height was 8 feet 6¼ inches or 2.60 m. Its maximum speed at sea level was 575 mph or 927 km/h.

Its range was 705 miles or 1,135 km. Its service ceiling was 39,500 feet or 12,040 m, and its rate of climb was 5,750 feet/minute or 29.2 m/s.Its armament consisted of 4 × 20 mm (.79 in) Hispano Mk.V cannon, 8 × "60lb" RP-3 unguided rockets and 2 × 1000 lb (450 kg) bombs

Image Sea Venom FAW.20

Thirty-nine Sea Venom FAW.53’s, Australian designation for the Sea Venom FAW.21, saw service with the Royal Australian Navy, in three squadrons, 724 Squadron, 805 Squadron and 808 Squadron.

They replaced the Hawker Sea Fury. The Sea Venom entered service in 1956 and, during its service with the RAN, operated off HMAS Melbourne.

It was taken out of first-line service in 1967, replaced by the American McDonnell Douglas A-4G Skyhawk.

Sea Venom FAW.53 are on static display at the Fleet Air Arm Museum at air station HMAS

Albatross, at the South Australian Aviation Museum in Port Adelaide, South Australia and at the Australian National Aviation Museum at Moorabbin Airport in Melbourne.

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