First flight of the de Havilland Sea Venom

Two years after the first flight of the de Havilland Venom, its naval variant took to the air...

As a naval version of the de Havilland Venom jet, the Sea Venom took to the skies just two years later in 1951 with the aim of operating the aircraft as a carrier-capable all-weather interceptor jet. The Sea Venom operated for nineteen years, retiring in 1970. Over the course of this time, it served in three of the world’s most well-established navies: the British Navy (more specifically the Fleet Air Arm), the Royal Australian Navy and the French Navy.

Unlike the Venom that came before it, the Sea Venom had many further modifications to make it suitable for operation within the navies it populated. The most prominent and well-recognised of these modifications was the addition of the famous folding wing, which was introduced when the monoplane surpassed the popularity of the biplane as early as the 1930s. The design, which by this point was typical of most carrier-based aircraft, allowed the aircraft to take up much less space when not in the air. Further modifications of the Sea Venom included the much-needed tail hook for landing on carriers and a canopy which allowed for pilots to eject from the aircraft while under water.

While the Sea Venom was not particularly more spectacular than the original Venom that it was developed from, it is safe to say that the jet was a well loved aircraft. Powered by a single de Havilland Ghost 103 turbojet engine, it could reach speeds of up to 580mph at sea level. Following the jet’s first flight as a prototype, carrier trials were conducted to ensure the design specifications were not only met, but that efficiency was also taken into consideration.

Five years after the first flight of the de Havilland Sea Venom, in 1956, it was heavily involved in the Suez War – which was probably the biggest conflict it would ever see involvement in. During this time, six Naval Air Squadrons operated Sea Venoms from both the HMS Albion and HMS Eagle. During their involvement in the war, the Sea Venoms launched many sorties attacking Egyptian targets. The jets were also used against Greek Cypriot forces in Cyprus, and in combat in the Yemen.

Most of the de Havilland Sea Venoms were equipped with the same armament that was given to the RAF variant (the Venom). However, some variants were equipped with a different type of radar, and some were even modified to be capable of carrying and launching de Havilland Firestreak air-to-air missiles. Although the Sea Venom may be remembered as fairly unspectacular, it’s worth remembering that those who flew in it and worked alongside it very much appreciated the jet for what it was; that is, it did the job it was supposed to do. Eventually, the Sea Venom was replaced in the Fleet Air Arm by the de Havilland Sea Vixen, which sported a modern twin boom configuration.