The Gloster Javelin was an "all-weather" interceptor aircraft that served with Britain's Royal Air Force in the late 1950s and most of the 1960s. It was a large T-tailed delta-wing aircraft designed for night and bad weather operations. This machine, built at 436 exemplars, was the last aircraft to bear the Gloster name.
In November 1956 the FAW.7, the first mark to actually carry the four missiles specified in the original requirement, first flew. Basically an FAW.5 but with uprated Sapphire Sa.7 engines and powered rudder and extended rear fuselage. By this time so many different marks of the Javelin were in the air it was a wonder anybody had any idea what was happening. A larger number of each mark were being used in various trials on such basic items as the weapons and engine fits, leading one to believe the Air Ministry had handed the RAF over to Gloster as one big Guinea Pig. The FAW.8, an FAW.7 with reheat, appeared so quickly that a full 80 FAW.7s never even saw service, being delivered straight into storage at RAF Kemble, and later converted to FAW.9s.
FAW.9 above Leuchars
29 Sqn FAW.9 above Leuchars, 1962; the late Brian Carroll's collection
(pilot - Brian, navigator - the late John Douglas Boyd)It was not until June 1960 that an RAF Javelin - an FAW.7 - finally fired a Firestreak missile, successfully downing a Meteor drone. The reheat-capable FAW.8 was limited to using reheat only at a
minimum altitude; below that point engaging the reheat actually caused a loss of thrust (to the point where take-off could not be safely accomplished with reheat engaged). This was down to the engine's fuel pump - it fed fuel at a constant rate and only at high altitude was there sufficient excess capacity to allow fuel to be burned directly without causing a loss of cold thrust at the same time. However the FAW.8 did have an improved, drooped, wing leading edge and autostabiliser to improve handling. The FAW.9 was basically an FAW.7 incorporating the FAW.8 improvements, and lastly there was the FAW.9R, equipped with a fantastically ugly and massive refuelling probe, obviously designed by somebody who took the name of the aircraft a little too literally.
In service the Javelin had settled down to do a steady, unspectacular job of guarding the nation against the expected Soviet bomber fleets - and while designed as a medium range bomber destroyer, and subject to many restrictions on how it was flown, could put up a creditable performance against other aircraft of the same time - no contest against the upstart Lightning, but a fairly even match for a Hunter. Ironically the Sea Vixen could outperform the Javelin, having none of the latter's restrictions, but lacked guns so by the time it came to a close-in dogfight, the Sea Vixen pilot would have been helpless to do anything other than try the rarely used rocket pack, or hurl abuse over the radio.
The Lightning replaced the Javelin in the UK and Germany in short order with most being gone by 1965, but the Javelin held on for a few years longer in the Far East, where it gained its only air to air victory - an Indonesian C-130 which crashed while trying to avoid a Javelin that had been sent to intercept it during the Malayan crisis in 1964. But with the increasing success of the Lightning, the Javelin's days even in hotter climes were numbered, and the last Javelin squadron was 60 Squadron, disbanding at RAF Tengah on Singapore, at the end of April 1968.FAW.9s at Kai Tak