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Artefact of the Month

FIRESTREAK AIR-TO-AIR MISSILE

The de Havilland Firestreak was a British first-generation passive infrared homing air-to-air missile. It was developed by de Havilland (later Hawker Siddeley) in the early 1950s and was the first such weapon to enter active service with the RAF and Fleet Air Arm, equipping the English Electric Lightning, the de Havilland Sea Vixen and the Gloster Javelin. It was a rear aspect fire-and-forget pursuit weapon with a field of attack of 20 degrees either side of the target.

The missile was initially code named Blue Jay and was designed with cropped delta wings mounted just rear of the midpoint and small rectangular control surfaces in tandem towards the rear. The first airborne launch of Blue Jay took place in 1955 from a de Havilland Venom – the target drone, a Fairey Firefly, was destroyed. Blue Jay Mk 1 entered service in 1957 with the RAF who renamed the missile Firestreak; it was deployed by the RAF and the Royal Navy in August 1958.

For launch, the missile seeker was slaved to the launch aircraft’s radar (Ferranti AIRPASS in the Lightning and GEC AI.18 in the Sea Vixen) until lock was achieved and the weapon was launched. Once launched, the interceptor was then free to acquire another target.

The Firestreak remained in limited service until the final retirement of the Lightning in 1988.

FIRESTREAK MISSILES CAN BE SEEN DISPLAYED ON THE MUSEUM’S LIGHTNING F53 AND SEA VIXEN FAW 2 AIRCRAFT

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