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.

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