The Provost was designed by Henry Millicer of Percival Aircraft in response to Air Ministry specification T16/48 for a basic trainer to replace the Prentice. Of the 15 companies involved in competition for design approval, Percival had anticipated the RAF’s need and, by providing an early mock-up, were one of the few firms able to meet the time limit specified for delivery. The prototype took to the air for the first time on 24th February 1950 and following competitive trials against the Handley-Page HPR2, the aircraft was selected for production with an initial order for 200 machines being placed in May 1951.
The Provost entered service with the RAF in 1953. It was first delivered to the Central Flying School for instructor training and thence to the Flying Training Schools. Powered by the Alvis Leonides 126 radial engine delivering 550 hp, it had twice the punch of its predecessor, the Prentice, with a higher performance and greater manoeuvrability. A first class aerobatic platform, it was much liked by instructional staff and proved an excellent training vehicle for the ab initio pilot. Such was its efficacy that the Provost enjoyed a lengthy career in service before being replaced by the Jet Provost in 1961.
In addition to the RAF, the air arms of seven other countries employed the Provost, six of them operating an armed version. A total of 461 machines were built with 397 bearing the RAF roundel. At least 5 airworthy machines exist in civilian ownership and a fair number of other survivors are on static display at museums around the world.