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Book Review
History of the Gloster Javelin
History of the Gloster Javelin. The first all weather British Fighter
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by: Andy Brazier [ BETHEYN ]

Originally published on:


During the early Cold War years, the RAF was in need of an all-weather high-performance fighter. There were two designs available as prototypes in 1951: the DH110 and GA5 (Gloster), which became the Sea Vixen and Javelin. Neither was a classic or a beauty, but both were operational during the 1950s.

The Sea Vixen entered service with the Navy and the Javelin, on the promise of being available earlier, with the RAF; however, so unready were the first production Javelins, there were no fewer than nine versions entering service with RAF squadrons between 1956 and 1959.

Although the ‘Flat Iron’ met the requirements of range, weapons and all-weather capability, it was underpowered and cumbersome. Nevertheless, the Gloster Javelin was under-rated.

Entering service at the wrong time as Duncan Sandys’ 1957 Defence White Paper unwittingly claimed the end of the manned fighter, the Javelin was also superseded by the English Electric Lightning with its truly supersonic performance. These factors combined to produce a situation that shortened the service life of the Javelin and halted further development.
Info from Fonthill Media.

About the book
The book is bound in a hardcover which measures 238 x 172 mm, has 240 pages and includes 118 black and white and 34 colour photographs.
I didn't spot any spelling mistakes, and most of the photos accompanying the text are relevant to that part.

The book is not a quick read, but is enjoyable and informative.
The first few chapters outline the history of the RAFs attempts at getting aircraft up and fighting during the night and in bad weather. The following couple of chapters get a little political, with the various departments of the Government having their say on what aircraft were needed and what thier role should be, alongside the normal Government cries of "how much!!".
Once you hit the operational parts, the Javelin takes center stage, with a little political insights into the Governments actions into depleting the RAFs ability to defend the British Isles, by axing and amalgamating Squadrons.

Some of the most interesting chapters are where the Javelin was stationed in the Far and Middle East, and the various air show commitments the RAF was, in words of several COs the "crazy month" of air shows, with most hailed as Battle of Britain "At Home" day events. The Farnborough show of 1957 saw 27 Javelins make a fly past, with many temporally based at Tangmere (just up the road from me as it happens). The sound and sight of that must have been unbelievable, especially as the RAF also contributed 100 Canberra's flying at contrail height, (this is not a typo, I did mean one hundred lol).

Most of the chapters have a remark from former aircrews about a particular mission or story and really add to the feel of the book.

Although the majority of the photos are black and white, they are of a good quality and each has a caption underneath. Many of the photos are of the Javelin in flight and show what a huge aircraft it really was. A lot of photos are of several Javelins in formation.

Although this book isn't aimed at the modeller, it is still informative and gives you a nice history of the aircraft types, alongside which squadrons flew it, which will help in any research.

In the book

A quick summary of the chapters -

Chapter 1 - Cats Eyes, Carrots, and Intruders
This chapter delves into the making of the first night fighter squadrons during W.W.2, with the first types of airborne radar and the aircraft that flew.
Although there was no dedicated NF in service for the majority of the war, with most of the NF aircraft that flew were relegated from frontline service during the day as they were too slow, under powered and unmanoeuvrable. It wasn't until the introduction of the Mosquito that night fighter operations really came into their own.

Chapter 2 - Post War to Cold War
After W.W.2, two designs were taken up too cover the NF role with the Vampire and the Meteor both seeing service. An all weather replacement was needed as both previous aircraft were limited in respect of altitude, speed and range. Two designs were submitted the DH110 (de Havilland Sea Vixen) and the and GA5 (Gloster Javelin).
The chapter also goes on to cover the prototypes and the GA5's Farnborough air show debut, as well as the fatal crash of the DH110, which killed 23 spectators.

Chapter 3 - Cold War Night Fighter
The various radars, engines and avionics along with trying to fit the Blue Jay or Firestreak missiles onto later marks are discussed in this chapter.
How many Javelins and how many Squadrons would get them is also discussed along with the political implementations of the fighter units as a whole.

Chapter 4 - Service Debut
The Javelin entered service with No.46 Squadron at RAF Odiham in Hampshire in February 1956.
The chapter also gives an insight to the rather haphazard ways the different marks entered service, with No.46 Squadron having flew three different marks in two and a half years.

Chapter 5 - Duncan Sandys and the Javelin
Duncan Sandys was appointed Minister of Defence in 1957 and quickly produced the 1957 Defence White Paper that proposed a radical shift in the Royal Air Force by ending the use of fighter aircraft in favour of missile technology.
Although the Javelin wasn't severely effected by the report initially, the RAF Fighter Squadrons were cut heavily with some Javelin Squadrons being axed or amalgamated.

Chapter 6 - The Javelin Operational
The biggest chapter in the book, and covers the introduction of the Javelin into the home based RAF Squadrons.
With different Javelin marks being introduced one after the other in a short space of time and various Squadrons getting "hand me downs", this chapter does its best to clear up the rather confusing and seemingly haphazard approach of the various Squadrons Javelins that entered service.
Also this chapter covers a lot of the Air shows that the RAF were committed too, with multiple aircraft needed for flybys and static displays.

Chapter 7 - Overseas Theatre The chapter mainly details the service entry of the German based Squadrons, who had pretty much the "hand me downs" and older marks of Javelin, as the Home based units were considered more important.
Far East Squadrons are also covered as well as any emergency commitments, such as Zambia in Africa.

Chapter 8 - Staying On The Javelin was supposed to be phased out by the end of 1961, but due to slippages in the arrival of the English Electric Lightning a few Squadrons had their Javelins life extended.
Most of the units carried on were based in Germany, The Mediterranean, Middle East and the Far East, which would also see the British Empire in its dying throes.

Chapter 9 - The Last Days The last three Javelin Squadron's were based in Cyprus and Malaya and were from time to time too prepare for action, although no shots were ever fired, as they were found to need too scramble from Tengah in Malaya to intercept Indonesian TU-16s.
No 60 Squadron has the distinction of the last operational Squadron of the Flat Iron, finally being disbanded in April 1968.

Chapter 10 - Javelin Postscript A short paragraph on the authors thoughts on the Javelin's seemingly unremarkable history, with a touching final word from one of the Javelins test pilots.

Appendix I - Flat Iron comparisons A small summary of each Javelin mark, with what engine, radar armament and performance each version had.
Any new features are also told.

Appendix II - Javelin Squadrons and Post History A brief history of all the Squadrons that operated the Javelin, with the Squadron crest and unit colours explained (a picture would have been nice for this part).

Appendix III - Fighter Command Order of Battle as of 1 September 1957 A table showing where each Squadron was based, what aircraft they flew and what sector they were to defend.

Appendix IV - Chart Depicting Fighter Command Planned Deployment as of 30 September 1958 Table shows which Squadrons were to be based at which airbase from 1959 until 1965.

The author
Ian Smith Watson was born in 1960 and served in the RAF from 1977 to 1990 as an Air Defence Radar Operator. He also worked in Saudi Arabia from 1991 to 1993 on contract to the RSAF under the GENA programme and received the FAA Flight Despatch Licence in 1993. His first book was The Royal Air Force At Home.
Info from Fonthill Media.

The Gloster Javelin for all its faults it still saw 9 different marks enter service over a 12 year period, but not one airworthy aircraft is around, and has been consigned to history as one of the most overlooked and least commented aircraft that the RAF flew during the early jet age. This book does give you a remarkable insight into the Javelin, and fills the gap in-between the Meteors and the Lightning which are far more universally recognised and loved.

Please remember, when contacting retailers or manufacturers, to mention that you saw their products highlighted here - on AEROSCALE.
Fonthill Media have released a book dedicated to the Gloster Javelin, the RAF's first all weather fighter, so Andy Brazier has a look at this new book.
  Scale: N/A
  Mfg. ID: 9781781553749
  Suggested Retail: £20.00
  Related Link: History of the Gloster Javelin
  PUBLISHED: Jun 10, 2018
  NATIONALITY: United Kingdom

Our Thanks to Fonthill Media!
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About Andy Brazier (betheyn)

I started modelling in the 70's with my Dad building Airfix aircraft kits. The memory of my Dad and I building and painting a Avro Lancaster on the kitchen table will always be with me. I then found a friend who enjoyed building models, and between us I think we built the entire range of 1/72 Airfi...

Copyright ©2021 text by Andy Brazier [ BETHEYN ]. All rights reserved.


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