The de Havilland DH.110 Sea Vixen is a British twin-engine, twin boom-tailed, two-seat, carrier-based fleet air-defence fighter flown by the Royal Navy‘s Fleet Air Arm during the 1950s through to the early 1970s. The Sea Vixen was designed by the de Havilland Aircraft Company during the late 1940s at its Hatfield aircraft factory in Hertfordshire, developed from the company’s earlier first generation jet fighters.[a] It was later called the Hawker Siddeley Sea Vixen after de Havilland was absorbed by the Hawker Siddeley Corporation in 1960.
The Sea Vixen had the distinction of being the first British two-seat combat aircraft to achieve supersonic speed, albeit not in level flight. Operating from British aircraft carriers, it was used in combat over Tanganyika and over Yemen during the Aden Emergency. In 1972, the Sea Vixen was phased out in favour of the American-made McDonnell Douglas Phantom FG.1 interceptor. There have been no flying Sea Vixens since 2017.
The de Havilland Sea Vixen was a jet-powered fleet defence fighter, equipped with a modern radar and air-to-air missiles for its primary role. When it entered service, it was the first British aircraft to be solely armed with missiles, rockets and bombs; this made it the first fighter aircraft operated by the Fleet Air Arm with no gun armament. The Sea Vixen FAW.1 was armed with four de Havilland Firestreak air-to-air missiles, while the Sea Vixen FAW.2 could also carry the later, more capable Red Top missile. The original DH.110 design offered to the RAF was armed with four cannon before soon being replaced with an all-missile armament. The Red Top homing head was pointed in the direction of the target by slaving it to the AI18 radar, which was operated by the observer.
In addition to its principal fleet-defence role, the Sea Vixen was also used in the ground-attack role for which it could be armed with two Microcell unguided two-inch (51 mm) rocket packs, Bullpup air-to-ground missiles, and four 500 lb (227 kg) or two 1,000 lb (454 kg) bombs.
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Maximum speed: 690 mph (1,110 km/h, 600 kn)
Maximum speed: Mach 0.91
Range: 790 mi (1,270 km, 690 nmi) on internals
Service ceiling: 48,000 ft (15,000 m)
Rate of climb: 9,000 ft/min (46 m/s)
Wing loading: 64.2 lb/sq ft (313 kg/m2)
Hardpoints: 6 with provisions to carry combinations of:
Rockets: 4 Matra rocket pods with 18 SNEB 68 mm rockets each or 4 Rocket pods with 24 or 32 Microcell 2-inch rockets each or 4 6 3-inch rockets
Bombs: Four 500 lb (227 kg) or two 1,000 lb (454 kg) bombs.
The aircraft did not take part in any true wars during its career with the Fleet Air Arm though it took part in many operations. In 1961, President Abdul Karim Kassem of Iraq threatened to annex the neighbouring oil-rich state of Kuwait.