Sea Vixen FAW.2 XJ494 - Bruntingthorpe

The de Havilland DH.110 Sea Vixen is a two seat, twin engined, twin boomed jet fighter. Originally conceived during the early 1950s as an all-weather supersonic missile-armed fighter for service with both the Royal Air Force and Fleet Air Arm, the RAF later withdrew from the project, deciding instead to operate the cheaper and simpler Gloster Javelin. Despite this setback, de Havilland continued with the project and the type entered Fleet Air Arm service in the late 1950s. A total of 96 Sea Vixens were delivered - the FAW.2 first flew in 1962 and 29 were built with a further 67 original FAW.1s upgraded to the improved FAW.2 standard.  Although the FAW.1 began phasing out in 1966, the FAW.2 remained in service with the Fleet Air Arm until 1972; although this was considered by many as a premature retirement, it was an inevitable decision due to an outdated weapons system and the draw-down of the Royal Navy Carrier Fleet.

The Sea Vixen was the first swept-wing aircraft and the first British aircraft to be solely armed with missiles, rockets and bombs. The FAW.1 was armed with four de Havilland Firestreak air-to-air missiles, two Microcell unguided 2 inch (51 mm) rocket packs and had a capacity for four 500lb bombs or two 1000lb bombs. The variant was powered by two Rolls-Royce Avon 208 turbojet engines and had a top speed of 690 mph (1110 km/h) with a range of 600 miles (1000 km). The fitting of cannons was considered for the original DH.110 design, however, experiments with ADEN cannons were carried out and it was found that their firing caused mounting failure due to the force of the recoil. Following numerous trials, the only solution was to use timber to absorb the recoil force - the cannons were soon removed from the design and an all missile armament was adopted. Improvements introduced on the FAW.2 included enlarged tail booms to provide additional space for Electronic Counter Measures (ECM) equipment, increased fuel capacity and the introduction of the Red Top air-to-air & Bullpup air-to-ground missiles.

As you will note from XJ494’s history (detailed below) she operated as a trials aircraft with both the Aeroplane & Armament Experimental Establishment (A&EEE) and the Royal Aircraft Establishment (RAE). An under nose camera mounting exists, in addition to a cable running down to the port boom, leading to possibly a transponder or beacon fairing on the tailfin. XJ494 also took part in Martel missile trials, with a (so far) unexplained Sea Gull marking carried on the cockpit framing.

Plans to restore her to taxiable and fast run condition at Bruntingthorpe are proceeding well, and during the summer of 2008 an exciting project involving Sea Vixen FAW.2 XJ494 and Buccaneer S.2B XX894 was announced - the unique "Royal Naval Pair" will operate together once both jets are fully serviceable in the Spring of 2009. This will result in Bruntingthorpe Airfield being the only location where you will be able to regularly see these classic Naval designs operational at the same time.

Service History - Sea Vixen FAW.2 XJ494 – Construction Number 10021

14/04/1959 - de Havilland Christchurch.

27/04/1959 - de Havilland Hatfield.

28/04/1959 - Aeroplane & Armament Experimental Establishment (A&AEE) Boscombe Down.

15/05/1959 - de Havilland Christchurch.

01/11/1959 - de Havilland Christchurch.

06/01/1960 - de Havilland Propellers; Hatfield.

03/03/1960 - Royal Aircraft Establishment (RAE) West Freugh.

10/07/1961 - A&AEE Boscombe Down.

26/01/1962 - Royal Naval Aircraft Yard (RNAY) Belfast.

19/03/1963 - Royal Naval Air Station (RNAS) Abbotsinch.

16/04/1963 - RNAS Yeovilton.

10/06/1963 - C Squadron A&AEE Boscombe Down.

26/06/1963 - RNAS Lee-On Solent.

07/1963 - HMS Victorious.

14/08/1963 - RNAS Brawdy.

12/1963 - HMS Centaur.

01/1964 - HMS Centaur (Indian Ocean diverted to stand off Zanzibar).

24/01/1964 - HMS Centaur (Aden Operation DEMON).

01/1964 - Tankanyika.

02/1964 - RAF Tengah; Singapore.

07/03/1964 - HMS Centaur.

09/04/1964 - Kai Tak; Hong Kong.

05-06/1964 - Embakasi.

07/1964 - HMS Centaur in the Strait of Malacca; Malaya.

07/1964 - RAF Tengah; Singapore.

07-08/1964 - HMS Centaur.

08-09/1964 - RAF Tengah; Singapore then with HMS Centaur – off east Africa.

09-10/1964 - Kai Tak; Hong Kong.

10-12/1964 - HMS Centaur.

12/1964-04/1965 - RNAS Yeovilton.

09/04/1965 - HMS Centaur.

24/04-14/05/1965 - HMS Centaur/Malta.

04/08/1965 - RNAS Yeovilton.

27/10/1965 - Lilstock Range & RNAS Yeovilton.

16/12/1965 - RNAY Belfast.

08/05/1966 - RNAS Yeovilton.

11/05/1967 - RAF Biggin Hill Airshow Static display.

17/05/1967 - RNAS Brawdy.

03/08/1967 - RNAS Yeovilton.

08/1967 - HMS Eagle.

08/1967 - HMS Eagle - Hong Kong Harbour.

09/1967 - HMS Eagle Indian Ocean, off Gan Island.

10/01/1968 - RNAS Chengi; Singapore.

10/02/1968 - HMS Eagle.

19/07/1968 - RNAS Yeovilton.

21/09/1968 - HMS Eagle.

04/12/1968 - RNAS Yeovilton.

12/1968 - A&AEE Boscombe Down.

13/01/1970 - RNAS Yeovilton.

04/02/1970 - RNAS Yeovilton.

08/10/1970 - RNAY Belfast.

14/12/1970 - Hawker Siddeley Aviation Ltd; Hatfield.

04/01/1971 - Struck off Naval charge.

18/01/1971 - RAE Boscombe Down.

08/1973 - RAE Boscombe Down.

19/02/1974 - Tarrant Rushton.

11/04/1976 - RAE Farnborough.

Total Airframe Flying Hours approx 1030 - port engine 176 hours & starboard engine 226 hours.

02/1999 - Preserved; Trout Lake/Kings Langley.

22/06/1999 - Trout Lake/ Kings Langley to Bruntingthorpe – restoration to taxi run status by 2009.

On-Target wishes to thank Matt, Steven, Colin, Chris, Steve, Dave & Peter – the hard working and dedicated XJ494 Team.

Matt, Steve & Colin are willing to share their knowledge and skills with the owners of other Sea Vixen restoration projects. Please contact for further details.




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© On Target Aviation 2008