The Gloster Javelin was the first twin-engine delta-wing fighter to enter service with any air force worldwide.
The aircraft dates from a 1947 Air Ministry requirement for the production of a high performance night and all-weather fighter to counter the threat of nuclear attack by high altitude bombers. Gloster’s design team began work under George Carter with the prototype machine, WD804, first taking to the air on 26th November 1951 with test pilot, Bill Waterton, at the controls. A protracted flight test programme followed in which three aircraft were lost, thus forcing major modifications before the first production machine, the Javelin FAW (Fighter All Weather) 1, flew on 22 July 1954. Several variants followed leading to the FAW7 in 1956, at which point the aircraft entered RAF service with No 46 Squadron at Odiham. At its peak between the years 1959 to 1962, the Javelin equipped no fewer than 14 RAF squadrons.
Initial variants were powered by Armstrong Siddeley Sapphire Sa 6 engines, each developing 8,000 lb static thrust, with the FAW7 and later marks being fitted with Sa 7s producing 11,000 lb thrust. The FAW1 was equipped with the British AI.17 radar and armed with 4 x 30mm Aden cannon in the wings. An American-made Westinghouse radar very soon replaced the AI.17, however, and the armament in later versions was upgraded to 4 x Firestreak air-to-air missiles supported by 2 x Adens.
The nearest the Javelin came to combat was during the Indonesian confrontation of the mid-1960s when aircraft from RAF Tengah, Singapore, provided patrols over Malaysia. It did achieve a ‘kill’ in 1964, however, when an Indonesian Air Force Hercules crashed while attempting to evade interception.
A grand total of 436 Javelins were built and the aircraft continued in front-line service until April 1968. Several survive and are on static display at aviation museums in the UK and abroad.
The Javelin was a frequent visitor to RAF Tangmere; in particular, the airfield served as the deployment base for the three squadrons that took part in the Farnborough Air Show of 1957.