Hawker Hunter F.6

After a first order for 112 Hawker Hunter F4s in 1954 and taking into account the problems experienced with Royal Air Force Hunters the Belgian and Dutch governments decided that the second part of their order would be for the much improved Hunter F6 variant. The Hunter F6 could easily be identified by its sawtooth leading edge wings, which made the aircraft easier to control in high-speed turns and preventing the pitch up problem, although some of belgian aircraft were observed with a straight wing. It was powered by the more more powerful Rolls-Royce Avon 203 which gave 10000lb thrust at sea level, whereas the Avon 100s in the Hunter F4 developed 7550lb. Additionally it had the so-called 'flying-tail' which meant that besided its power-assisted elevator it was also equipped with an electrically-operated variable incidence tailplane. The latter was to trim out the changes of stick force with speed. A liquid fuel (AVPIN) starting system replaced the cartridges, resulting in a considerably reduced scramble time. Furthermore,these aircraft could carry wing pylon tanks giving them a greater range.

For the Belgian Air Force the requirement was for 144 aircraft (IF1 to IF144), of which 52 were to be delivered straight from
Fokker, whilst another 92 were delivered as assembly kits for assembly by the Belgian aviation companies Sabca and Fairey at Gosselies.
The first aircraft, IF1, left the Fokker plant on March 3, 1957. On August 30, 1957 the first belgian assembled aircraft, IF-9 left the Avions Fairey plant and on October 2, 1957 it was the turn of IF-8 to be the first Hunter F6 to leave the Sabca line.

The first unit to be equipped with the Hunter F6 was No 9 Fighter Wing with 22 Squadron (code 'IS-') and 26 Squadron (code 'JE-') at Bierset. It had received its first Hunters F4 in August 1957, and the pilots war barely used to their new aircraft when the wing received brand new Hunter F6s in September of the same year and by the end of the year, 25 examples were on

The second unit to receive the Hunter F6 was No 7 Wing at Chièvres, whose first aircraft arrived in December 1957. No 8 Squadron (code 'OV') was the first squadron to be equipped with the aircraft, followed by No 7 Squadron (code '7J') in late 1959. In addition to its air defence role, No 8 Squadron also acted as the Operational Conversion Unit (OCU) for all new Hunter pilots entering the Belgian Air Force. In the early years No 7 Wing operated a mixed fleet of Hunter F4 and F6s. During the course of 1958 all the Hunter F4s from the second batch were sent to Sabca and brought up to F6 standard, although their engines had to remain unchanged as the Avon 200s were too big for the airframe. Just a year later all these modified aircraft were flown to Koksijde and then sold for scrap, a change of Air Force policy meant that there were plenty of Hunter F6s available for No 7 Wing.

During 1958 another 62 followed, which meant that both squadrons had more aircraft on strength then there were letters in the alphabet. For 22 Squadron, the answer was to add a '1' to the individual aircraft letter, but 26 Squadron simply repeated the individual letter.
In 1960, the Belgian Air Force Air Staff decided to disband 9 Wing, its role being taken over by a guided missile unit. After a
disbandment ceremony on February 26, 1960, all Bierset Hunter were flown to eighter Chièvres or to the Koksijde storage facility and on April 30 both squadrons ceased to exist.

In 1960 No 7 Wing was the sole Hunter operator
In 1963 the first rumours appeared that No 7 Wing was to be disbanded and this was confirmed by the disbandment of No 8 Squadron on August 1, 1963 followed by No 7 Squadron on November 4, 1963. All the remaining Hunters were flown to Koksijde for storage. Here at least 93 were prepared for a ferry flight to the United Kingdom after being bought by Hawker Siddeley
Aviation. A large number of them were upgraded and sold on to new users.

The story of the Hunter in the Belgian Air Force is not complete without mentioning its use by the Red Devils demonstration team. In early 1957, Major 'Bobby' Bladt, former leader of the 'Acrobobs' team equipped with Gloster Meteor F8s, was posted to No 7 Fighter Wing at Chièvres, and it did not take him long to realise what a wonderful aerobatic aircraft the Hunter was. So he decided it was time to do it all over again. On June 12, 1957 the new team first performed at the Valenciennes airshow in France. The next year the team trained for 1958 season and the big air display at Bierset which was to mark the Brussels World Fair.
During the 1959 season the team re-equipped with the Hunter F6. On October 10, during an airshow at their own base, a
formation of no less than 9 Hunters was formed, this was topped with a formation with 16 Hunters during the Gosselies air meet.
Although all these aircraft were still wearing standard camouflage, nine of them had their wing inner surface painted in the
national colors.
Unfortunately, at the Air Force HQ in Brussels, some of Air Staff feared that the whole Air Force was to become an aerobatic
team and they decided to disband the team.
Fortunately, the newly-appointed Station Commander at Chièvres, Lt.Col. Jules Kaisin had other ideas and after much lobbying
he succeeded in keeping the team alive.
They would perform with only four aircraft, but with two others in reserve. Then as a pleasant surprise they were to be
painted in a bright red with a white cheatline along the fuselage and the national colours on the tailplane and under the wing. Lt.Col. Kaisin even went to the UK to study the smoke trailing system.
Later the colorscheme was slightly modified, the aircraft received a larger white fuselage band, the red paint leaving only a very thin metal exhaust ring, and there was a red and white checkerboard on the upper wingtips, some of the original schemes were later repainted.
The team continued to perform between 1960-1963, but on June 23, 1963 the team gave their last show at the Chièvres airshow.

Aircraft Details: