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XX281's service history

XX281 was built by Hawker Siddeley, and was first flown from its Dunsfold airfield in Surrey. It was delivered to the Royal Air Force (RAF) on 5th June 1979, and entered service with No.1 Tactical Weapons Unit (1TWU) at RAF Brawdy, where it was operated in a wraparound camouflage scheme with the last three digits of its serial applied on the tail fin. It was used on training duties for the next five years, prior to being withdrawn and sent to British Aerospace (BAe) for modifications in early 1984.
The airframe was subsequently upgraded to T.1A specification, which would allow it to carry AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles and assume an Air Defence role if so required in times of National crisis. It was returned to RAF Brawdy on 23rd October 1984, but within a matter of months had been transferred to RAF Chivenor, where it was to join No. 2 Tactical Weapons Unit (2TWU). Subsequently refinished into a light grey paint finish, XX281 was allocated to 2TWU's component unit RAF 151(R) Squadron (Sqn) and issued with the identity 'O', which it kept for the remainder of the decade.

During April 1992 both 1TWU and 2TWU were disbanded, with its roles passing to the newly reformed No.7 Flying Training School (7FTS) at Chivenor. XX281 was absorbed into this 'new' organisation and was allocated to its component Unit RAF 92(R) Sqn and also chosen as one of the two designated display airframes for the forthcoming airshow season. It was refinished into a black colour scheme, with a large Unit emblem, that was painted white on the tail, and seen at several events throughout the season. The airframe was also used during the 1993 season, albeit with toned down markings but with the reintroduction of its 'O' coding.

Following the closure of RAF Chivenor, 7FTS and its component Squadrons were disbanded, and its training role was passed to No.4 Flying Training School (4FTS) at RAF Valley. Most of its airframes were moved to Valley during September 1994 to join the newly reformed RAF 19(R) Sqn, and XX281 became airframe 'PE' with its new Unit. Aside from a spell with component unit RAF 74(R) Sqn, the airframe remained with 19(R) until the summer of 2002, when it was reallocated to the advanced flying training element of 4FTS; RAF 208(R) Sqn. Its stay at Valley lasted a further year, as it was placed on long-term loan to BAe at Warton airfield, and used as a pilot trainer for pilots that had returned to the UK from overseas deployments.
It was back in service with RAF 19(R) Sqn at RAF Valley during early 2004, gaining full squadron markings in the process, but had returned to BAe Warton by the end of the year, operating as a chase aeroplane for the Hawk T.2 project in addition to its training duties.
Aside from another short spell back at Valley during the latter part of 2006, XX281 remained at Warton, until it was returned to the RAF permanently following allocation to RAF 100 Sqn at Leeming during the summer of 2007. It was issued the code 'CD' but within months it was on the move again, this time to the Royal Navy.

XX281's FRADU career

XX281 was placed on loan to the Fleet Air Arm in November 2007, and ferried to RNAS Culdrose to join the Fleet Requirements & Air Direction Unit (FRADU) fleet. It was immediately put to work on FRADU taskings, receiving special Fly Navy 100 anniversary markings in March 2009. It still retains the remnants of these markings today and when not based with FRADU at Culdrose, could be found on detachment at RNAS Yeovilton with Navy Flying Standards Flight (Fixed Wing) - NFSF(FW) and later with the Yeovilton Hawk detachment.

In June 2013 XX281, along with the rest of the FRADU fleet, officially became a part of the newly reformed 736 Naval Air Squadron (736NAS) at Culdrose, but continues to be used on missions associated with FRADU.

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Post FRADU career

This airframe is the only former FRADU airframe still serving with 736NAS today, and has recently returned to Culdrose following servicing at Valley between December 2018 and June 2019.

- December 2020

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