Gate Guardian Hunter
Type: Hawker Hunter F6
Owner / Operator: Royal Air Force
Aircraft Registration: 8680M
Codes / Other Marks: XF527 / 70
Construction Number: S4/U/3373
Location: RAF Halton (EGWN), UK - England
Letter received from the Air Historical Branch (RAF) dated 16 September 2011
Details on the history of Hawker Hunter XF527: a copy of its entry in “RAF Gate Guards” by Jim Simpson and Kev Darling, and a copy of the RAF Form 78: Aircraft Movement Card. You’ll notice that not all of the details agree.
RAF Gate Guards
Hawker Hunter F6 XF527
Since losing its last gate guard in August 1970, Spitfire XVI RW386, RAF Halton had remained unguarded. This position was reversed with the installation of Hunter F6 XF527 in June 1986.
XF527 began life at Baginton, Coventry, where it was built under licence by Armstrong Whitworth Aircraft Ltd as part of Contract SP/6/9818/CB7(a). It was the last Hunter in production by Armstrong Whitworth, and was built without the leading edge extensions and gun blast deflectors (which were fitted later). It was initially issued to No 33 MU, RAF Lyneham on 27 July 1956, from where, after a short period of storage, it was delivered on 17 October 1956 to No 19 MU, St Athan for service preparation.
XF527 first entered service on 30 October 1956 with RAF Linton-on-Ouse Station Flight; this was rather quicker than normal because, at the time, No 19 MU were busy with redundant Hunter FMk4s returning from re-equipping and disbanding squadrons. The aircraft did not stay at Linton very long and on 18 December, it moved to join RAF Church Fenton’s Squadron Flight.
It was on the move again on 12 February 1957, this time to join No 19 Squadron, also based at Church Fenton, who coded the aircraft ‘J’. By May 1958 it had been recoded ‘P’, and in June 1959 it moved with the rest of the squadron to RAF Leconfield where it stayed until December 1959.
In early 1960, XF527 joined No 66 Squadron at RAF Acklington, who coded it ‘S’, and when this squadron disbanded on 30 September 1960, it went to No 111 Squadron at ARF Wattisham, coded ‘F’. It remained with the ‘Treble One’ for only a brief period and it soon appeared on the strength of the Air Fighting Development Squadron (AFDS), which was part of the Central Fighter Establishment (CFE) based at RAF Binbrook; whilst with this unit it was coded ‘T’.
On 14 March 1962 it was delivered to No 5 MU at RAF Kemble for servicing, modification and eventual storage. It did not appear again until 1967 when it appeared on the strength of No 4 FTS at RAF Valley, Anglesey. As part of No 3 Training Squadron it still wore camouflage and was coded ‘70’. The use of Hunters by No 4 FTS was a response to complaints from long=legged pilots about the lack a leg room in the Folland Gnat.
On 5 February 1975 it suffered Cat 3 damage and, because repairs were beyond local resources, it was transferred by road to No 5 MU, RAF Kemble. After repair it was returned to 4 FTS but this time in the new training scheme of red, white and light grey.
XF527 remained at Valley until transferred to RAF Brawdy to join No 1 TWU for use in the weapons training role. After arrival at Brawdy, it was repainted once again in camouflage and given the code ‘36’. It remained with No 1 TWU until 21 September 1979 when it returned to Kemble for servicing and storage.
With the grounding of the Buccaneer fleet in 1980, surplus Hunters were issued as temporary replacements to enable Buccaneer pilots to retain their flying currency. XF527 was one of the aircraft brought out of storage, it was sent to RAF Laarbruch, West Germany, where it was placed on the strength of the Station Flight. By September 1980, the Buccaneer had been returned to flying status and xf527 was returned to Kemble, once again into store.
On 2 November 1981 the aircraft was declared a non-effective airframe; it was transferred to No 1 S of TT at
RAF Halton where it was given the Support Command maintenance serial 8680M. Whilst with the School it was used by the students as a hydraulic system trainer but, in 1986, with the arrival of more modern aircraft in the shape of the Jaguar, Halton began to disperse their Hunters.
At the express wish of Halton’s Station Commander, Group Captain R H Kyle, the airframe trainees of course AAF 151 spent two months refurbishing XF527 to display standard and, resplendent in its old training colour scheme of red, white and light grey, it was placed in the position it now holds outside RAF Halton’s Station Headquarters on
26 June 1986.