HAWKER HUNTER GA.11 XE668 -'832'

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XE668's service history

Hunter XE668 was built by Hawker Aircraft (Blackpool) Ltd. at its Lancashire factory, as one of 100 Mk.4 aeroplanes ordered by the Royal Air Force. It was delivered to the RAF in June 1955 at 5MU (Maintenance Unit) Kemble where it was prepared for Squadron service. Its RAF career lasted six years, during which it served with two front-line fighter squadrons, No. 4(F) Sqn as aeroplane 'X' and No. 26(F) Sqn as aeroplane 'A'. The aeroplane was placed in store during 1961, as its role was taken on by the improved Hunter F.6 variant.

Later transferred to the Royal Navy, and subsequently overhauled and converted by Hawker Aircraft Ltd at Kingston-upon-Thames, XE668 flew for the time in GA.11 guise on 11th March 1963. It spent time at RNAS Belfast and with the aeroplane manufacturer Shorts Brothers Ltd, also based at Belfast before it was posted to 738 NAS (Navy Air Squadron) at RNAS Brawdy in August 1964 as aeroplane '787'. It was moved into long-term store with 5MU (Maintenance Unit) at Kemble in January 1968, remaining there until it was ferried to RNAS Lee-on-Solent to be fitted with a Harley light in March 1969. This work was carried out by the Naval Air Trial Installation Unit (NATIU), and on completion of the work five months later, XE668 joined Airwork's Fleet Requirements Unit (FRU) at Hurn (now Bournemouth Airport).

Operated in standard extra dark sea grey and white finish, XE668 used the call-signs '835' and '832', before the latter was permanently adopted and applied on the paintwork as its fleet number in March 1972. The FRU made a move to RNAS Yeovilton in October 1972, and its aeroplanes were operated alongside Airwork's Air Direction Training Unit (ADTU). A formal merger between the two Units took place on 1st December 1972, and XE668 became a part of the new FRADTU fleet keeping its '832' identity but gaining a 'VL' shore code on the tail.
The 'T' (Training) was soon dropped from the Unit's title, and XE668 was operated on FRADU taskings, aside from spells on maintenance (July-December 1975) and store (March 1977 to July 1980), until February 1985, when it was retired from the FRADU fleet and downgraded to a ground instructional airframe as A2733 at RNAS Culdrose.

XE668 lost its VL coding in favour of 'DD' in March 1985, and it was maintained in taxiable condition by the School of Aircraft Handling (SAH) until August 1993, when it was withdrawn from use. It was then moved to the nearby RNAS Predannack airfield where it was used for crash rescue training.

[ Lindsay Peacock]

[ author's collection]

[ Martin Morley]

[ Tristan Barratt]

[ Tristan Barratt]

XE668's civilian life

In September 2007, XE668 was put up for disposal via auction site eBay, and it was acquired by the Hamburger Hill outdoor pursuits company, based at Marksbury near Bristol.
It was moved by road to its new home three months later, and is currently offering shelter to numerous paintball teams with its constantly reapplied camouflaged look.

- December 2020


  • Hamburger Hill:

[ Tristan Barratt]
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