No. 899 Navy Air Squadron (899NAS) Hunter service

Six years after the disbandment of the Fleet Air Arm’s last Hunter Squadron, the type made a comeback in 1978. A decision was reached between the Royal Navy and British Aerospace to convert two T.8 Hunters to T.8M standard, to assist in training the new generation of Fleet Air Arm Sea Harrier pilots.
These aircraft would have the Ferranti Blue Fox radar, standard equipment on the Sea Harrier. This was fitted in a similarly shaped radome mounting on the nose, and half the cockpit would also have instrumentation that mirrored the cockpit layout of the Sea Harrier.
A third Hunter T.8, XL580, was later added to the contract.

The first Hunter T.8M, XL602 was first flown in January 1979, and was flown to British Aerospace’s Dunsfold airfield for trials, where it remained until it’s retirement in 1995.
The second converted aircraft, XL603, was sent to the Royal Signals and Radar Establishment at Bedford, also for trials. XL580 was the last of the three to fly, but was the first aircraft released for Fleet Air Arm service at Yeovilton, arriving in August 1981. Four months after the Squadron had reformed as a Sea Harrier Squadron, XL603 was released for Squadron service during 1983.

XL580 and XL603 remained in service until 899 NAS received its full compliment of F/A2 Sea Harriers in 1994. Declared surplus to requirements the two airframes were passed onto the Fleet Requirements and Air Direction Unit (FRADU), who placed them in open store at Yeovilton, thus bringing to an end, the Hunter’s second ‘life’ as a Fleet Air Arm aircraft.

899 NAS Hunter images

At present there are 4 images are available to download.

The first Hunter T8M delivered to 899 NAS, XL580 on the taxiway at RNAS Yeovilton - early 1980s.

[© Richard Parkhurst]

The two 899 NAS T.8Ms on the apron at RNAS Yeovilton - mid 1980s.

[© Andrew March]

T8M XL580 on the way back to FRADU dispersal after a 899NAS sortie. early 1990s.

[© Richard Parkhurst]

Hunter T8M XL603 on display at RNAS Yeovilton's Air Day in 1993.

[© Richard Parkhurst]

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