Aircraft of the Month
The Fairey Gannet was developed in response to an Admiralty requirement of 1945 calling for a dedicated post-war anti-submarine aircraft. The prototype took to the air for the first time on 19 September 1949 after which numerous changes to the specification took place, thus delaying progress, and it was not until April 1954 that the Gannet AS1 entered service with the Fleet Air Arm. The initial order was for 100 production machines and the first operational squadron, No 826 NAS, embarked on HMS Eagle in early 1955.
The Gannet was powered by the Armstrong-Siddeley Double Mamba (essentially two Mamba turboprop engines mounted side-by-side and coupled through a common gearbox to 2 contra-rotating 4-bladed propellers). It could be operated on one engine to conserve fuel when the occasion demanded. A 2,950 hp engine equipped the AS1 with later models, including a T5 trainer, having up-rated versions producing 3,875 hp. Weapons capability comprised up to 2,000lb of bombs, torpedoes, depth charges and rockets.
In 1958, a version of the Gannet was selected to replace the Douglas Skyraider in the airborne early warning role and this required major modification to accommodate very different equipment. In the mid-1960s, the anti-submarine role was taken over by the Whirlwind HAS7 with the AEW3 continuing in service and some AS aircraft being modified for electronic counter-measures or carrier on-board delivery use through to 1978. A total of no fewer than 23 Royal Navy units operated the Gannet at one time or another; it also equipped the naval air arms of Australia, Germany and Indonesia.
Of the 303 (anti-submarine) and 45 (airborne early warning) Gannets built, some 20 remain on display in museums in the UK and abroad. On 9 August 2013, a privately-owned T5 took to the air in the USA following lengthy restoration and it is understood that an AEW3 is currently being restored to airworthiness.