J 34, Hawker Hunter F.Mk.58.
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The Hawker Hunter is a transonic British jet aircraft developed in the late 1940s and early 1950s. The single-seat Hunter entered service as a manoeuvrable fighter aircraft, and later operated in fighter-bomber and reconnaissance roles in numerous conflicts. Two-seat variants remained in use for training and secondary roles with the Royal Air Force (RAF) and Royal Navy until the early 1990s. The Hunter was also widely exported, serving with 21 other air forces. Sixty years after its original introduction it was still in active service, operated by the Lebanese Air Force until 2014
The Hunter saw combat service in a range of conflicts with several operators, including the Suez Crisis, the Aden Emergency, the Sino-Indian War, the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965, the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971, the Rhodesian Bush War, the Second Congo War, the Six-Day War, the War of Attrition, the Yom Kippur War, and the 2007 Lebanon conflict. Overall, 1,972 Hunters were manufactured.
The airframe of the Hunter consists of six interchangeable major sections: the forward fuselage (housing the cockpit and armament pack), center fuselage (including the integral wing roots and air duct intakes), rear fuselage, tail unit assembly, and two individually produced wings. Production was divided up so major sections could be completed individually and manufacturing of the type could be dispersed to reduce vulnerability to attack. Establishing initial full-rate production for the type was difficult, as manufacturing the Hunter required the development of 3,250 tool designs and the procurement of 40,000 fixtures, jigs, and tools.
The Hunter's aerodynamic qualities were increasingly infringed upon by modifications in later production models, such as the addition of external containers to collect spent gun cartridges, underwing fuel tanks to increase range, leading edge extensions to resolve pitch control difficulties, and a large ventral air brake.
On 5 April 1968 Alan Pollock decided on his own initiative to mark the occasion of the RAF anniversary with an unauthorised display. His flight left the soon-to-be-closed RAF Tangmere in Sussex to return to RAF West Raynham in Norfolk, a route that took them over London. Immediately after takeoff, Pollock left the flight and flew low level. Having "beaten up" Dunsfold Aerodrome (Hawker's home airfield), he then took his Hawker Hunter FGA.9 (XF442), a single-seater, ground-attack jet fighter, over London at low level, circled the Houses of Parliament three times as a demonstration against Prime Minister Harold Wilson's government, dipped his wings over the Royal Air Force Memorial on the Embankment and finally flew under the top span of Tower Bridge. He later wrote of the decision to fly through Tower Bridge: "Until this very instant I'd had absolutely no idea that, of course, Tower Bridge would be there. It was easy enough to fly over it, but the idea of flying through the spans suddenly struck me. I had just ten seconds to grapple with the seductive proposition which few ground attack pilots of any nationality could have resisted. My brain started racing to reach a decision. Years of fast low-level strike flying made the decision simple . . ."
Knowing that he was likely to be stripped of his flying status as a result of this display, he proceeded to "beat up" several airfields (Wattisham, Lakenheath and Marham) in inverted flight at an altitude of about 200 feet en route to his base at RAF West Raynham, where, within the hour, he was formally arrested.
Although other pilots had flown under the upper span of Tower Bridge, Pollock was the first to do so in a jet aircraft.
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From Hawker Hunter