De Havilland Sea Venom F.A.W. MK 53

De Havilland Sea Venom F.A.W. MK 53
Type
Carrier-borne All-weather Fighter-bomber
Manufacturer
De Havilland Aircraft Co Ltd, UK
Number Ordered
39
First Delivered
27 February 1956
Length
36 feet 8 inches
Height
8 feet 6.5 inches
Dimensions Wing span: 42 feet 10 inches
Speed 575 mph
Range
705 miles
Crew
2
Engines One 5300 lb thrust De Havilland Ghost 105
Performance
  • Initial rate of climb: 5900 ft/min
  • Ceiling: 40,000 feet
Armament
Guns: 4 x 20 mm (150 rounds per gun), Bombs: 8 x 60 lb rockets
Ships embarked in HMAS Melbourne (II)

The de Havilland Sea Venom 53 was a British designed and built two seat fighter all weather (FAW) in service with the RAN from 1956 – 1966; replacing the piston engine Hawker Sea Fury.   The RAN purchased 39 of these aircraft.

The Sea Venom was the naval version of the Venom NF.2 two-seat night fighter.  The necessary modifications for use on board aircraft carriers included  folding wings, a tail-hook and a modified  and strengthened  undercarriage.  808 Squadron, reformed in the United Kingdom on 23 August 1955, was the first RAN Squadron to be equipped with Sea Venoms which were formally accepted into RAN service on 27 February 1956.   The Squadron embarked in HMAS Melbourne, which had recently commissioned and completed her work up in British waters, in March 1956 and arrived in Australia in April. 

Sea Venoms were also later operated by 805 and 816 Squadrons embarked in Melbourne during exercises in Southeast Asia, while serving as part of the Far East Strategic Reserve and also on escort duties for the fast troop transport HMAS Sydney to Vung Tau Harbour, Vietnam during 1965-66.  The aircraft’s main role was to provide 24 hour fighter protection for the fleet from ‘enemy’ aircraft while on operations.

Flying the Sea Venom required significant skill and ability.  Two 808 Squadron aircrew were killed in the United Kingdom on a training flight in January 1956.  A total of 11 of the 39 Sea Venoms crashed or were damaged beyond repair with nine aircrew killed.  Most of the crashes were at Nowra but two occurred at sea from Melbourne due to equipment failure. A Sea Venom was lost, with both aircrew killed, on 8 August 1956 when the catapult failed to effectively launch the aircraft and nearly ten years later (on 28 April 1966) a Sea Venom crashed into the Philippine Sea, with the observer killed, when the tail hook failed on landing and the aircraft lost power; being lost over the side of the carrier.  Another was lost off the east coast in May 1959 while on a photo reconnaissance training flight and another crashed into Sydney Harbour, on 5 July 1963, following a collision with another Sea Venom during a flypast.

The Sea Venom began to be to phased out of RAN service in mid-1966 and replaced by the US McDonnell Douglas A4 Skyhawk although 724 Squadron operated four as target towing aircraft up until June 1973.  A number of Sea Venoms were sold for scrap or used for firefighting training at Nowra.  A few became museum exhibits.

De Havilland Sea Venom F.A.W. MK 53
Left:  A De Havilland Sea Venom F.A.W. MK 53 on the runway at HMAS Alabatross.  Right:  A Sea Venom launching from the aircraft carrier HMAS Melbourne during the 1960's.