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Hawker Fury MK 10

The Hawker Sea Fury was the British Royal Navy's last piston-engined fighter. Although developed during World War II, it did not see operational service until after the War. Many consider it the fastest piston-engined aircraft ever built.

The Sea Fury owes much of its design to a navigational error. In June 1942, Luftwaffe pilot Oberleutnant Arnim Faber landed his Focke-Wulf FW 190A 3 at RAF Pembrey, apparently thinking he was at a Luftwaffe coastal airfield. Quickly pouncing on this intact example of the bothersome German fighter, the British used their windfall to good advantage. Specification F.6/42, for a new high-performance fighter, was issued shortly thereafter, and incorporated lessons that the "boffins" learned from their examination of Faber's aircraft.

At the time, Hawker Aircraft's chief engineer Sydney Camm and his team were developing a lighter, smaller version of the venerable Tempest. In January 1943, Hawker management decided to revise this design to meet the requirements of Specification F.6/42. The project was then called the Tempest Light Fighter, or Centaurus. Two months later, the Government wrote specification F.2/43 specifically for the Hawker project. In April 1943, Camm realized that, with a few minor changes and an engine upgrade, the F.2/43 project aircraft could also meet Royal Navy Specification N.7/43 for a carrier-based interceptor. So the Royal Navy's requirements were combined in Specification F.2/43. After Hawker decided to abandon the land-based version of the Tempest Light Fighter to concentrate on the Royal Navy's requirements, the resulting aircraft was named Sea Fury.

With a Royal Navy contract for 200 Sea Furies soon in hand, Hawker began to bend tin. The first Sea Fury prototype, SR661, flew on February 21, 1945, behind a Bristol Centaurus XII engine with a four-bladed propeller. The second, fully "navalized" prototype, SR666, had a Centaurus XV, a five-bladed prop and folding wings. SR661 took part in naval fighter suitability and deck landing tests beginning in May 1945, and was still in test when Japan surrendered in August. With the end of the War, the Royal Navy cut its Sea Fury order in half.

The first production Sea Fury, a Mk. X, flew on September 7, 1946. After deck trials aboard HMS Victorious, the Royal Navy approved the aircraft for carrier use in the Spring of 1947, and soon equipped five Fleet Air Arm squadrons. The Mk. X was followed by the Mk. XI fighter-bomber, of which Hawker eventually delivered 615 to the Royal Navy. It was the Fleet Air Arm's principal single-seat fighter until the jet-powered Sea Hawk joined the Fleet in 1953.

Sea Furies served extensively in the Korean War, operating from Royal Navy carriers HMS Glory, HMS Ocean and HMS Theseus, and Australian carrier HMAS Sydney. They usually paired with Fairey Fireflies for ground attack missions. The Sea Fury excelled in this role, often proving superior to the enemy's modern jets. For example, on August 9, 1952, Royal Navy Lieutenant "Hoagy" Carmichael, flying a Sea Fury of HMS Ocean's 802 Squadron, shot down a Soviet-built North Korean Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG 15, marking the first such kill by a piston-engined fighter, and the only air-to-air kill by a British pilot flying a British aircraft in the Korean War.

The Royal Navy disbanded its last Sea Fury squadron in 1955, but these popular, versatile aircraft continued to fly for years elsewhere. Canada, Holland, Australia, Iraq and other countries also used this high-performance Hawker aircraft.
Today, many of these historically significant aircraft survive around the world. Recent estimates range to over 68, with about 43 of these airworthy as of 2000. The War Eagles Air Museum's K 253 Magnificent Obsession is one of these.

Magnificent Obsession is not properly called a Sea Fury; more accurately, it is just a Fury, although the sign placed next to the aircraft in the Museum includes both names. This aircraft, delivered to the Iraqi Air Force on November 21, 1949, is one of 55 "Baghdad Furies." For the Iraqi order, Hawker built a "de-navalized" Sea Fury that lacked a tail hook, folding wings and other naval equipment. Iraq used these fighters until well into the 1970s, when a couple of enterprising warbird collectors bought Iraq's remaining 24 Furies and all spares and shipped them to Florida. Four of these ex-Iraqi Furies made their way to Australian warbird collector Guido Zuccoli. Iraqi Air Force Fury number 253 eventually ended up in the hands of Ted Allen, a Queensland earthmoving contractor. He restored the machine and painted it in Royal Australian Navy colors, including black-and-white "invasion stripes" as sported by Sea Furies flying off HMAS Sydney in the Korean War. Its Australian Civil Aviation Authority registration number was VH-HFA.

The first record of this aircraft in the War Eagles Air Museum archives is on June 8, 1984, when a logbook entry documents a major inspection by Darwin General Aviation Pty., Ltd, in Winnellie, Northern Territories, Australia. Estimated Total-Time-In-Service (TTIS) at that time was 2,500 hours—whether or not this corresponds to the actual hours accumulated in the Iraqi Air Force is unknown. Two weeks later, on June 21, the Australian government issued a permit to fly. VH-HFA logged just over another 100 hours in Australian skies until her next inspection on August 15, 1988. Shortly afterwards, in October 1988, the aircraft was disassembled in Darwin and shipped to Long Beach, California. There, on March 14, 1989, the reassembled aircraft was registered to John MacGuire. On May 19, the first flight since arrival in the States took place at Chino, California, and the aircraft later flew in the Chino Air Show. After that, the logbook is blank. Long-time War Eagles volunteers recall that the Fury arrived at Santa Teresa Airport in 1989, piloted by John Mazzala of Chino. After a flyover for aerial photographs, Magnificent Obsession landed and joined the Museum's warbird lineup.

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