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Supermarine 541 / Swift

Swift F.Mk1

The Swift was a single-seat swept-wing fighter powered by a Rolls-Royce Avon axial-flow turbojet engine. During development the engine was changed from the Rolls-Royce Nene to the slimmer Avon. It was too late to change the fuselage, which was fatter than necessary. Flown for the first time in prototype form on 1 August 1951, the Swift appears to have proceeded fairly smoothly through its development period.

On 10 July 1952 the prototype established an international point-to-point record between London and Brussels, covering 320km in 18 minutes 3.3 seconds, representing a speed of 1,071.7km/h. Mike Lithgow piloted the prototype Swift F.Mk 4 to 1183.5 km/h (735,4 mph) over a 3 km course at Idris, Libya, of 24 September 1953. This accomplishment was extremely short-lived, the record standing for just three days before it succumbed to a US Navy Douglas F4D-1 Skyray.




Deliveries to the Royal Air Force got under way during February 1954, the first examples of the Swift F.Mk.1 being assigned to the Air Fight-ing Development Squadron for operational trials. Shortly after this the type began to enter operational service with No. 56 Squadron, but the pure fighter variant was destined to enjoy only a very brief career, those examples of the Swift F.Mk 1 and Swift F.Mk 2 which equipped No. 56 being retired in March of the following year, largely as a result of the type’s poor all-round qualities. Subsequently, most of the remaining Swift F.Mk 2 and Swift F.Mk 3 production examples were passed directly from storage to technical schools, where they served as instructional airframes.

The RAF received a total of about 60 Swift F.1s, F.2s and F.3s, with an Avon RA.7 turbojet engine and two 30mm Aden cannon; four Aden cannon and a new wing planform with compound leading-edge taper; and with an Avon RA.7R engine with afterburner and changes to the rear fuselage respectively. These versions were not used operationally.

The Swift F.4 had an all-moving tail of increased area which finally cured the Swift's pitch-up problems, and an afterburning Rolls-Royce Avon.

Only the FR.5 was used for any length of time and was a fighter-reconnaissance aircraft with a longer nose to accommodate 3 F95 camera, 1 facing forward & 2 facing sideways. AG45 gun camera was also fitted.


Swift FR.5


Deliveries began in 1956. Sixty were flown by the RAF; one further aircraft ordered crashed on delivery and several others were not completed.

All production was stopped in February 1955 after the 176th production machine had been completed. The final 35 aircraft were converted to the tactical reconnaissance FR Mk.5, this serving with Nos 2 and 79 Squadrons from Gütersloh, West Germany. Introduced by No.2 Squadron during February 1956, the Swift FR.Mk 5 remained operational until early in 1961 when re-equipment with the Hunter FR.Mk 10 was completed. The only other noteworthy Swift derivative was the Swift F.Mk 7 which equipped the Guided Weapons Development Squadron at Valley during the late 1950s, being employed on trials work in connection with the Fairey Fireflash guided missile. Following a single prototype, 12 examples of the Swift F.Mk 7 were completed from F Mk 4s, and one of these remained in an airworthy state until about the mid-1960s, at one time taking part in a series of trials relating to braking efficiency on wet runways.

Despite more and more modifications, it was all too late. The performance of the aircraft had been so degraded by the constant increase in weight that its intended role as an interceptor could not be fulfilled. Reheat had to be employed for take-off, climb and combat, which resulted in an endurance of but 25min and a combat radius of barely 50 miles, or virtually nil if a bad-weather recovery was needed. Having been plagued with problems and incidents and being clearly unsuited for its intended role as a day fighter, the aircraft was withdrawn from use by 56 Sqn during March 1955, after barely a year of service. The squadron was re-equipped with the Hunter during the following May.

Only a relatively small number of the 175 or so that were eventually completed actually attaining operational service with the Royal Air Force.




Swift F.Mk.1
Engine: 1 x Avon RA.7 turbojet
Armament: two 30mm Aden cannon

Swift F.Mk 2
Engine: 1 x Avon RA.7 turbojet
Armament: four 30mm Aden cannon

Swift F.Mk 3
Engine: 1 x Avon RA.7 turbojet
Armament: four 30mm Aden cannon

Swift F.4
Engine: 1 x Rolls-Royce Avon RA.7R with afterburner.

Swift FR.5
Engine: 1 x 4287-kg (9,450-lb) afterburning thrust Rolls-Royce Avon Mk 114 turbojet
Maximum speed 1102 km/h (685 mph) at sea level
Initial climb rate 4468 m (14,660 ft) per minute
Service ceiling 13960 m (45,800 ft)
Range 1014 km (630 miles)
Empty weight 6094 kg (13,435 lb)
Maximum take-off 9831 kg (21,673 lb)
Wingspan 9.85 m (32 ft 4 in)
Length 12.90 m (42 ft 3.5 in)
Height 4.00 m (13 ft 2 in)
Wing area 30.44 sq.m (327.7 sq ft)
Armament: two 30-mm Aden cannon
Crew: 1

Swift F.Mk 7
Engine: 1 x Rolls-Royce Avon RA.7R with afterburner.

Supermarine Swift




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