Hunter T.7A XL568

Hunter T.7A XL568

XL568 was first flown, as a T.7, in 1958. She was delivered to 74 Squadron and later converted to a T.7A. Continuing to serve with 74, she also passed through the hands of 237 OCU before ending her active duty days with 208 and later 12 Squadron at RAF Lossiemouth, where she was painted in Black Arrows colours in her final years of flying. She was retired to ground instructional duties at RAF Cranwell and in early February 2002 was acquired by the RAF Museum for display at Cosford. Losing her black scheme and being repainted in early training colours, she is now on display in a dramatic pose inside the Cold War Exhibition.


Centurion Tank

This Centurion tank was on display at RAF Cosford.

The Centurion came into service just too late to see combat in the Second World War, but combat use in Korea, Vietnam and the Middle-East Arab-Israeli wars more than vindicated the design.  It was an outstanding success in terms of a well-balanced mix of armament, armour and mobility.

Some 40 years later specialised Armoured Vehicle Royal Engineers (AVRE) Centurions armed with a 165mm demolition gun were still in use in the Gulf War of 1991.

Remarkable for its export success and longevity, some much modified examples of the Centurion were still in service round the world well into the 21st Century (2006).

Centurion Tank Mk 3

Centurion Mk I

Centurion Mk 5 Miniatures Gallery

Centurion Mk 5 Workbench

BAe Harrier GR9A – RAF Cosford

This BAe Harrier GR9A was on display at RAF Cosford.

The Harrier, informally referred to as the Jump Jet, is the famous family of British-designed military jet aircraft capable of vertical/short take-off and landing (V/STOL) operations. The Harrier family is the only truly successful design of this type from the many that arose in the 1960s.

There are four main versions of the Harrier family: Hawker Siddeley Harrier, British Aerospace Sea Harrier, Boeing/BAE Systems AV-8B Harrier II, and BAE Systems/Boeing Harrier II. The Hawker Siddeley Harrier is the first generation-version and is also known as the AV-8A Harrier. The Sea Harrier is a naval strike/air defence fighter. The AV-8B and BAE Harrier II are the US and British variants respectively of the second generation Harrier aircraft. Between 1969 and 2003, 824 Harrier variants were delivered, including remanufactured aircraft.

Historically the Harrier was developed to operate from ad-hoc facilities such as car parks or forest clearings, avoiding the need for large air bases vulnerable to tactical nuclear weapons. Later the design was adapted for use from aircraft carriers.

Following an approach by the Bristol Engine Company in 1957 that they were planning a directed thrust engine, Hawker Aircraft came up with a design for an aeroplane that could meet the NATO specification for a “Light Tactical Support Fighter”. The resultant Hawker P.1127 was ordered as a prototype and flew in 1960.

Development continued with nine evaluation aircraft, the Hawker Siddeley Kestrel; These started flying in 1964 and were assessed by the “Tri-partite Evaluation Squadron” which consisted of British, US and German pilots, and several flew and are preserved in the United States. The RAF ordered a modified P.1127/Kestrel as the Harrier GR.1 in 1966, with most converted to GR.1A and ultimately GR.3 status in the 1970s with more powerful engines. These and new-build GR3s operated with the RAF until 1994, and a number survive in museums around the world as well as frequent use as ‘gate guards’ at MoD establishments.

The British Aerospace Sea Harrier is a naval V/STOL jet fighter, reconnaissance and attack aircraft, a development of the Hawker Siddeley Harrier. The first version entered service with the Royal Navy’s Fleet Air Arm in April 1980 as the Sea Harrier FRS.1, and was informally known as the ‘Shar’. The upgraded Sea Harrier FA2 entered service in 1993. It was withdrawn from Royal Navy service in March 2006. The Sea Harrier FRS Mk.51 remains in active service with the Indian Navy.

The Harrier was extensively redeveloped by McDonnell Douglas and British Aerospace (now parts of Boeing and BAE Systems respectively), leading to the Boeing/BAE Systems AV-8B Harrier II. This is a family of second-generation V/STOL jet multi-role aircraft, including the British Aerospace-built Harrier GR5/GR7/GR9, which entered service in the mid-1980s. The AV-8B is primarily used for light attack or multi-role tasks, typically operated from small aircraft carriers. Versions are used by several NATO countries, including the Spanish and Italian Navies, and the United States.

The BAE Systems/Boeing Harrier II is a modified version of the AV-8B Harrier II that was used by the RAF and the Royal Navy until December 2010, when they were all retired from operational service due to defence cuts in favour of maintaining the remaining Tornado fleet, and stored serviceable at RAF Cottesmore. At the end of November 2011, the UK Government announced the sale of 72 remaining Harrier Airframes to the US Marine Corps for spares to support their AV-8B fleet, with the remaining two others being allocated to museums, including the airframe now at Cosford.

There is a BAe Harrier GR9A at the Imperial War Museum in London.

Folland Gnat

This Folland Gnat F1 was at RAF Cosford.

Folland Gnat F1 - RAF Cosford

The Folland Gnat is a British compact swept-wing subsonic fighter aircraft that was developed and produced by Folland Aircraft. Envisioned as an affordable light fighter in contrast to the rising cost and size of typical combat aircraft, it was procured as a trainer aircraft for the Royal Air Force as well as by export customers, who used the Gnat in both combat and training capacities.

The single-seat Gnat F1 fighter was the forerunner of the two-seat Gnat T1 trainer which achieved fame with the ‘Red Arrows’ aerobatic team.

Its aerobatic qualities led to the formation of the Yellowjacks aerobatic team in 1964, leading to the foundation of the world famous Red Arrows the following year. The team flew their red Gnats for fourteen years until they were replaced by the British Aerospace Hawk at the end of the 1979 season.

Designed by Folland’s chief engineer, Mr W Petter, the Gnat represented an attempt to move away from the increasing size and cost of modern fighter aircraft.

The prototype Gnat was built as a private venture by Folland and first flew in July 1955. In test flights the Gnat proved itself to be a highly manoeuvrable aircraft, with a good turn of speed. However, although the aircraft was favourably received by the pilots at the Aircraft and Armament Experimental Establishment, pressure to cut defence spending meant the Gnat F1 was not ordered for the RAF.

Several other Air Forces were attracted to the idea of a low-cost fighter. Finland purchased thirteen Gnat F1s, some of these being converted for reconnaissance work, whilst India bought forty.

FMA IA 58 Pucará

The FMA IA 58 Pucará is an Argentine ground-attack and counter-insurgency (COIN) aircraft manufactured by the Fábrica Militar de Aviones. It is a low-wing twin-turboprop all-metal monoplane with retractable landing gear, capable of operating from unprepared strips when operationally required. The type saw action during the Falklands War and the Sri Lankan Civil War. After the Argentine surrender, eleven Pucarás (four of them in flying condition) were captured by British forces. Six were taken back to the United Kingdom. This is one of those six at RAF Cosford.

FMA IA 58 Pucará

Avro Lincoln

The Avro Type 694 Lincoln is a British four-engined heavy bomber, which first flew on 9 June 1944. Developed from the Avro Lancaster, the first Lincoln variants were initially known as the Lancaster IV and V; these were renamed Lincoln I and II. It was the last piston-engined bomber operated by the Royal Air Force (RAF).

This Avro Lincoln was on display at RAF Cosford.


Consolidated PBY Catalina

The Consolidated PBY Catalina is a flying boat and amphibious aircraft that was produced in the 1930s and 1940s. It was one of the most widely used seaplanes of World War II. Catalinas served with the RAF, as well as every branch of the United States Armed Force, and in the air forces and navies of many other nations. The last military PBYs served until the 1980s. The aircraft continues to fly as a waterbomber (or airtanker) in aerial firefighting operations in some parts of the world. None remain in military service.

This PBY Catalina was on display at RAF Cosford. On one visit it was outside on display.

On another visit it was inside.

I have always found this an interesting plane design. I once had a 1/300th metal model of it, which never stayed together due to the way the wings are connected to the fuselage. That was a badly designed model kit.

This was a Royal Danish Air Force Catalina.

Messerschmitt Me 410 Hornet

Messerschmitt Me 410 Hornet

The Messerschmitt Me 410 Hornisse (Hornet) was a German heavy fighter and Schnellbomber used by the Luftwaffe during World War II. Though an incremental improvement of the Me 210, it had a new wing plan, longer fuselage and engines of greater power. The changes were significant enough for the aircraft to be renamed the Me 410.

Messerschmitt Me 410 Hornet

The last in a series of twin engined ‘destroyers’ manufactured by Messerschmitt, the Me410 was used by the Luftwaffe in a variety of roles.

Mitsubishi Ki-46 ‘Dinah’

One of the most elegant aircraft of World War Two, the ‘Dinah’ was so successful that Germany tried (in vain) to acquire manufacturing rights from Japan. Although fighter and ground attack versions were developed, it was in the high-altitude photographic reconnaissance role that the Ki46 excelled. Given allied codename ‘Dinah’, this aircraft combined high speed with long range and was able to cover the entire Pacific theatre of operations with little opposition.

This Mitsubishi Ki-46 ‘Dinah’ was on display at RAF Cosford.

Having first flown in November 1939, performance trials showed the prototype Ki46-I’s top speed to be 64kph (40mph) lower than the requirement, although at 540kph (336mph) it was still faster than the latest Japanese fighters! Ki46s were first used operationally over China, their speed enabling them to avoid interception by the few fighters available to the Chinese.

Before the highly successful Japanese campaign against the British in Malaya, detailed reconnaissance of the area was carried out by a Ki46 unit. Detachments of Japanese Army Air Force Ki46s were soon deployed to cover most of South-east Asia and their success led to the Japanese Navy operating a small number of Dinahs.

Although Dinahs became vulnerable to fast-climbing Allied fighters towards the end of the war, they still managed to make many reconnaissance flights over the large, well-defended airbases in the Mariana Islands that the Americans were using for massed bomber raids against Japan in 1944 and 1945.