It is seventy years since the first of Kingston’s last piston
engined fighter types flew from Langley in September 1944 in the hands
of Philip Lucas. It was Centaurus XII powered Fury NX798 designed to
meet Specification F.2/43; next, in November, came the Griffon 85
powered LA610. Two further prototypes were completed: NX802 flying in
July 1945 with a Centaurus XII and in 1947 VP207 with a Napier Sabre
VII, the latter with Hawker project number P.1018. This aircraft is
reported to have achieved 485 mph in level flight and was certainly
Camm's fastest piston engined type.
Sea Fury SR661, with a Centaurus XII and arrester hook, but without
folding wings flew from Langley, in February 1945, followed by the
second, fully navalised aircraft (SR666) with a Centaurus XV, in
October. The third, fully navalised aircraft (VB857), flew in January
1946, fitted with a Centaurus XXII.
The first production FMk X aircraft, TF895, flown from Langley in
September 1946, was similar to SR666 but had the 2480 hp Centaurus 18.
Of the subsequent identical forty-nine aircraft, some twenty were
retained for trials purposes by Hawker and by the Aircraft &
Armament Experimental Establishment (A&AEE), Boscombe Down.
In 1948 the Royal Navy decided that the longer range and greater
load carrying potential of the Sea Fury, relative to the Seafire F.47,
suited it better to ground-attack leaving the interception role to the
last of the Spitfire line. The FBMk11s proved their worth in the Korean
Altogether 615 Kingston-built P.1022 Sea Furies, mostly the
fighter-bomber FB Mk 11, were delivered to the Royal Navy. They were
capable of 465 mph at 18,000 ft, could reach 30,000 ft in 9.8 minutes
and had a service ceiling of over 36,000 ft. Export sales were to the
Royal Netherlands Navy, the Royal Canadian Navy, and the Royal
Australian Navy; land-based versions going to Pakistan, Egypt, Iraq,
Burma and Cuba. Total production was 864 including a few two-seat
trainers for Iraq and Pakistan, and 61 TMk20s for the Royal Navy.
Several Sea Furies are still flying today including
a number of highly modified ‘unlimited’ class racing machines in the
USA, some capable of 500 mph.