Warbirds Online continues its series on Australian War Memorial (AWM) exhibits, with a story on Hawker Sea Fury VW232 finished as VX730 on display at the AWM, Canberra.
The Hawker Sea Fury was one of the last active piston engine fighters to see service with the Navies of the World and it was also one of the fastest, most interesting and powerful. The Sea Fury FB.11 was the main variant utilized by the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) and was very well regarded. The high performance of the aircraft and relatively small size of the carriers in the RAN made for an “interesting” time for the types pilots and there were inevitably incidents over the years. The aircraft was powered by the Bristol Centaurus 18, 18-cylinder twin-row radial engine, 2,480 hp (1,850 kW) which was unusual in that it was a sleeve valve design and drove a 5 blade propeller.
In Australian use the Sea Fury entered service in May 1949 and a total of 101 were used by the RAN up until its retirement in 1958. During the Korean conflict the RAN Squadrons operated the Sea Fury from HMAS Sydney and it served well despite being involved in many ground fire incidents.
Several Hawker Sea Fury’s from the RAN survive in Australia and the subject of our story today is FB.11 VW232 coded 100. This aircraft was delivered to the RAN in the UK on 25 May 1949, however shortly after delivery to 805 Squadron it was operating off HMAS Sydney on a gunnery training exercise when it was hit by fire from another Sea Fury and forced to land at RAF Lossiemouth, Scotland. The damage to the aircraft was so severe that the aircraft was deemed to be beyond economical repair and it was converted to a ground training aircraft and transported to RAN NAS Nowra for use as an instructional airframe. At some stage parts of another RAN FB.11, TF925 “110” were used to rebuild VW232.
VW232 spent many uneventful years in storage, firstly at Nowra and then the Australian War Memorial until she was restored by the staff at the AWM as VX730 “109” “K” and placed on display in a diorama representing a Sea Fury on a Carrier deck. The display is very evocative and conveys impression of the aircraft in its operational environment. Components from a number of RAN aircraft are incorporated in the restoration and the aircraft on display is thought to incorporate some parts of VW232,VX730 and TF925. It was common practice in service to swap assemblies from one airframe to another so the hybrid nature of the aircraft on display is not unusual.
The Hawker Sea Fury as a very important aircraft in the early postwar era, bridging the gap between high performance piston fighters and the early Jet fighter era. In excess of 860 aircraft were built and served the nations of Australia, Burma, Canada, Cuba, Egypt, Germany, Iraq, Netherlands, Pakistan and the United Kingdom. Today they are considered the ultimate performance piston Warbird and around a hundred of the type survive. Many are in the USA where they are commonly re engined with American engines and four bladed propellers they also regularly participate in Warbird air races where their speed and agility are well regarded.
A detailed article was prepared by the AWM (written by John Kemister) on this aircraft, its history and its restoration and is a real case study in aircraft archeology and historic research. “Nothing is ever as it appears”. Click this link to go to the article, An identity crisis: Hawker Sea Fury FB11 VX730 to find out more.
We recommend it as a great story of Aviation investigation.
© John Parker 2015