De Havilland Sea Vampire MK T.22 / T.34

De Havilland Sea Vampire MK T.22
Land-based Pilot Trainer
De Havilland Aircraft Co Ltd, Hatfield, UK
Number Ordered
First Delivered
June 1954
Last Delivered
August 1959
38 feet 10 inches
6 feet 2 inches
Weights 7380
Dimensions Wing span: 38 feet 10 inches
Speed 538 mph
623 miles
Engines One 3,500 lb thrust De Havilland Goblin 35 centrifugal turbojet
  • Initial rate of climb: 4500 ft/min
  • Ceiling: 43,000 feet
Guns: 2 x 20 mm cannon, Bombs: 8 x 60 lb rockets
Operated by
Naval Air Station Nowra

The de Havilland Vampire was the first jet aircraft to enter squadron service with the RAAF/RAN as well as the first Australian built jet aircraft with 190 built under license by de Havilland Aircraft (DHA) Pty Ltd at Bankstown, NSW between 1949 and 1960. These comprised 80 single seat fighter-bombers and 110 two seat trainers.

Developed in the United Kingdom, the Vampire was designed to meet a British Air Ministry experimental specification for a prototype jet fighter with the capability to carry four 20mm Hispano cannons, each with 150 rounds of ammunition, a top speed of at least 480mph (788km/h), a service ceiling of 48,000ft (14,600m) and a combat radius of 300 miles (480km).

The initial single seater prototypes and the first production model aircraft used the Halford (Goblin 1) engine with 2700lb of thrust, with subsequent aircraft fitted with the Goblin 2 engine with 3100lb of thrust. The Royal Navy (RN) showed early interest in the Vampire where, after some modifications, the second prototype became the first jet aircraft to take off and land on an aircraft carrier when Captain Eric ‘Winkle’ Brown, RN performed this feat aboard HMS Ocean in early December 1945. This resulted in the RN ordering 30 Sea Vampires (designated F.20) intended to give pilots experience in jet fighter operations. 

In June 1946 the RAAF announced they would order three British built Vampires, two of these were to be powered by the Goblin 1 engine, with the other being fitted with the more powerful Rolls-Royce Nene engine. In August that year the Australian Air Board approved the local production of 50 Vampires at a cost of £1.722m ($3.444m). Designated the F.30 the announcement specified the Rolls‑Royce Nene engine making the Australian Vampire a derivative of the British Vampire F.2. The Rolls-Royce was also the first jet engine to be built in Australia with the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation (CAC) delivering 114 Nene engines during 1948-1954.

The two-seater variant of the Vampire trainer was developed in 1950 and was intended to provide multi-role capability of advanced flying training as well as gunnery, bombing and rocket firing training. The initial trainers were based on the then current FB.5 but built with the side by side two seat cockpit grafted into the fuselage pod.

In October 1951 the RAAF placed an order for 36 Vampire trainer aircraft designated T.33. The RAN also placed an order for 5 Vampire T.34 trainers (numbered A79-837 to 841). Built to the early Vampire trainer standard these aircraft had framed canopies, no ejection seats, original shaped fins and a lower fuel capacity.

Delivery of the first RAN Vampire trainer took place on 8 June 1954, when Lieutenant Peter Goldrick, RAN accepted the de Havilland Sea Vampire Mk T.34 at the de Havilland workshop in Bankstown on behalf of 723 Squadron. The aircraft was then flown to its permanent home at HMAS Albatross where it was used as a land-based trainer for Sea Fury pilots converting to the soon to be delivered Sea Venom jet fighter.

In the second half of 1955 the RAAF ordered 68 more Vampire trainers and the RAN ordered one more aircraft (A79-842) from CAC which was delivered in March 1957. An additional four Sea Vampires T.22s were imported from the United Kingdom in August 1959; all retaining their British serial numbers (XA101, XA167, XA766 and XG770).

When 723 Squadron was decommissioned on October 1954 the remaining Vampires were transferred to 724 Squadron. Impressions of the Vampire as trainer indicate that conversion training was made more difficult due to the variations in cockpit layout of the ex-Royal Navy T.22s and the original RAN Vampires T.34s, the later now fitted with ejection seats. In short each student had to be kept on the one model type until they had soloed and gained a few hours of flying before they would be able to convert to the other variants of the aircraft.

During their service within the RAN there were four significant incidents which resulted in the loss of aircraft and tragically three crashes resulted in loss of life:

  • A79-839 crashed at Nowra, NSW on 6 August 1956 when the elevator control became jammed immediately after take-off. In the Vampire Trainer the control for the elevator was via a chain. It appears the inflatable dinghy pack clip dropped out and jammed the control and the aircraft crashed about a mile from the end of Runway 26 and the pilot was killed.
  • A79-841 crashed on 9 October 1956 into the sea off Greenwell Point near Nowra, NSW. The pilot, Commander Daniel Buchanan, RAN was declared missing, presumed dead. The wreckage was eventually recovered in April 1974 when it became entangled in a fisherman's nets.
  • A79-837 crashed at Laverton, VIC in October 1967. The cause of the crash was the failure of the engine main thrust bearing at a critical time during take-off. The aircraft continued beyond the end of the runway end and hit a railway embankment which demolished the nose of the aircraft and caused damage to one of the two full drop tanks. Burning fuel sprayed over the two aircrew and they subsequently died from major burns.
  • A79-838 crashed on 15 May 1969 at Nowra, NSW. The pilot Lieutenant Commander Fred Goodfellow, RAN, from 724 Squadron, crashed in bushland just to the west of Runway 26 at Nowra. He was attempting to land before an advancing thunderstorm from the west hit the airfield. The bad wind conditions at the time most likely caused him to overshoot the runway and wind shear drove the climbing Vampire into the ground. The ejection seat operated partially on impact causing severe injury to the pilot.

The last recorded Vampire flight took place on 28 September 1970 and the aircraft were replaced by the CAC Aermacchi MB-326H (Macchi) from October 1970. The remaining six Vampires were sold during 1970-72 with most going to aviation museums.

Left: A de Havilland Sea Vampire on the tarmac at the Naval Air Station - Nowra, with a Sea Fury fighter in the background.  Right:  A Sea Vampire.
Left: A de Havilland Sea Vampire on the tarmac at the Naval Air Station - Nowra, with a Sea Fury fighter in the background. Right: A Sea Vampire at the Fleet Air Arm Museum at Nowra.