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XX234's initial service history

XX234 was built by Hawker Siddeley, and took its first flight from the company's Dunsfold factory airfield. It was delivered to the Royal Air Force (RAF) on 22nd September 1978, entering service with No.4 Flying Training School (4FTS) at RAF Valley and painted in an attractive red and white colour scheme. The last three numbers of its serial was also applied under the cockpit and on the tail fin in white lettering. It was operated on training duties from Valley for the rest of the decade.
During the 1980s, XX234 was officially allocated to the Central Flying School detachment at Valley, before returning to the main 4FTS pool of airframes during 1988.

Following the 1992 options for Change paper and the cuts to the UK Defence budget, the RAF and its aeroplanes subsequently underwent restructuring.
As a result, 1 Tactical Weapons Unit (1TWU) at RAF Brawdy was disbanded and its training role was passed onto 4FTS. XX234, now sporting a blue painted spine and tail fin over its red/white finish, was issued to RAF 234(R) Squadron (Sqn), a former 1TWU 'shadow' unit which had been resurrected at Valley. The airframe received the fleet code 'DV' and was operated on training duties until RAF 234(R) Sqn itself was disbanded once more on 1st April 1994. XX234 did not then immediately join a 'new' Unit, but was instead being placed in short-term store at RAF Valley.

XX234's FRADU career

On 20th May 1994, XX234 became the 7th Hawk to arrive at RNAS Yeovilton, where it was to join the Fleet Requirements & Air Direction Unit (FRADU), on loan to the Royal Navy from the RAF. FRADU issued the call-sign '872' to the airframe, but this was never physically applied as XX234 instead retained its RAF training paint scheme, and its former identity 'DV' on the fin throughout its time in service at RNAS Yeovilton. It was moved to RNAS Culdrose on 30th November 1995, making it the last FRADU Hawk to officially leave RNAS Yeovilton prior to the Unit's official move to Cornwall the following day.
Aside from a two-week loan stint at Boscombe Down in September 1996, XX234 remained in FRADU service in the 'classic' training scheme until April 1998m when it was ferried to RAF Shawbury for long-term storage . It was then later moved to RAF St Athan for an overhaul during the following year.

Return to the RAF

Like most of FRADU's initial Hawks, the aeroplane returned to the RAF following its stay at St Athan, and it was issued to 4FTS' advanced flying training shadow squadron, RAF 234(R) Sqn at Valley, where it was used between 1999 and July 2001.

A second FRADU stint

XX234 returned to FRADU on 23rd July 2001 at RNAS Culdrose, again on loan from the RAF. The lettering ROYAL NAVY was applied on its rear fuselage, as was the Fleet Air Arm wings emblem on the tail. It remained with the Fleet Air Arm, becoming a mainstay of the FRADU fleet until it was returned to the RAF in the latter stages of 2007, as a result of a major airframe shuffle between the RAF Hawk Units and Culdrose.

Further RAF service

The airframe was posted to 4FTS at Valley, but was not officially assigned to a specific unit for several months until finally being allocated to RAF 208(R) Sqn. Employed on advanced flying training duties, full Unit markings were applied on XX234's rear fuselage and nose, and it remained in service with the unit, until the airframe was placed in long-term store at RAF Shawbury on 21st July 2011 where it remains today.

- December 2020

[ Geoff Wakeham]

[ Brian Johnstone]

[ Kevin Slade]

[ author]
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