Aircraft of the Month
Towards the end of the Second World War, a Westland project attracted Air Ministry interest and led to Specification N11/44 calling for a single seat long range naval fighter using a Rolls Royce Eagle 22 piston engine but with the ability to take a turboprop engine when such became available. Designed by Teddy Petter, the prototype Wyvern TF Mk1 first flew on 12th December 1946 with Westland chief test pilot Harald Penrose at the controls. At about the same time, production of Eagle engines was cancelled and a specification engine issued for a TF Mk2 to be powered by a turboprop engine. A single prototype powered by the Rolls-Royce Clyde was built and tested in early 1949 but all subsequent TF Mk2s were fitted with the Armstrong-Siddeley Python. Carrier trials began on HMS Illustrious in June 1950.
The Wyvern was armed with 2 x 20mm Hispano cannon in each wing and had the ability to carry either one Mk15 or Mk17 torpedo, 16 x 3in rockets or a bomb load of up to 3,000 lb. The Mk2 and subsequent versions were fitted with ejection seats.
The Mk 4 was the definitive Wyvern with a batch of 50 ordered and a number of Mk 2s converted to Mk 4 status (the Mk3 was a single 2-seat prototype). The aircraft entered service with No 813 Squadron at RNAS Ford in May 1953 but it was not until April 1954 that sea clearance was obtained. Several second-line units received aircraft shortly thereafter and, in September 1954, No 813 Squadron embarked on HMS Albion for service in the Mediterranean – whereupon the Wyvern displayed an unfortunate habit of suffering engine flame-out on launch. A number of aircraft were lost off Albion’s bows before the problem was solved in March the following year. In 1956, No 830 Squadron flew 79 sorties from HMS Eagle during Op Musketeer, losing two machines to Egyptian flak damage.
The Wyvern began being withdrawn in 1957 with No 813 the final unit to relinquish its aircraft in April 1958. In all, 127 were built with 39 being lost together with 13 pilots during its 5 years’ service. A single survivor is on display at the Fleet Air Arm Museum, Yeovilton.