Vote on the Top 10 aircraft of the Royal Navy


We’ve been so busy researching the top 10 aircraft of the Royal Navy that we forgot to ask your opinion. We’re looking to choose 10 aircraft that best tell the story of British naval air power. Write a 250-word explanation of why your choice should be included (in the comments section below) and if selected, your aircraft and writing will be featured in the final piece. Please include your name. We look forward to finding out your opinions.



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  1. Lee Thornton

    I do have a soft spot for the Buccaneer. It was a strange looking aircraft, a bit portly looking from some angles, but curvaceous and graceful from others.
    I had the privilege of watching a few sorties from RAF Lossiemouth in the late 80s but my happiememories are from watching the great Shine On You Crazy Diamond sequence in the BBC documentary, Sailor.

  2. Stephen McParlin

    It has to be the Buccaneer. No other aircraft of it’s time, or later, offered the reach, lethality, survivability and ability to operate from light fleet carriers. At a point where the USN could operate only light attack aircraft from it’s modified Essex-class carriers, the Buccaneer was able to deliver a much heavier payload over multiples of the range, from HMS Centaur or HMS Hermes.

    It’s also one of very few UK aircraft projects in the postwar era to have been developed to time and cost, albeit funded partly by the US. With the avionics fit of the A-6, it would have easily outperformed the latter in a wider variety of roles.

    • Rudeboy

      Never mind the A-6 avionics (although the later TRAM was a very good idea that was ahead of its time).
      How about some of the TSR.2’s internal goodies? The real loss to the UK wasn’t the TSR.2…it was the P.150 Super Buccaneer with decent avionics, it would have outperformed Tornado dramatically and we could have built ACA 10 years earlier and perhaps P.1216.

      • Andy Elms

        CVA-01 with a squadron or two of P.150 Buccaneers would have been something to behold.

  3. philip

    Hawker Seahawk. Elegant lines and it has a kind of innocence that reminds me of the years of hope in rebuilding the world after ww2

  4. Ellice Birnie

    Fairey Gannet – a versatile and enduring asset for the RN in a variety of ASW, AEW and COD roles. Also achieved some export sales to boot.

  5. Andy Elms

    The Westland Sea King

    Prince Andrew had one of those. If not the fastest, most modern or most aggressive piece of Fleet Air Arm kit, then the most versatile.

    Equally suited to finding Russian subs or seasick weekend boaters off Falmouth, the not-a-Sikorsky was also handy for transporting commandos or Airborne Early Warning – the latter sadly coming too late for the Sheffield.

    Growing up in Cornwall, the Culdrose grey whirlybirds were a familiar sight, so to me the HAS will always be King of the Sea

  6. Martin Dice

    The Westland Wyvern
    The original with the maashooosive RR Eagle
    When I worked at the FAA Museum at Yeovilton it was my favourite exhibit because it was so bloody bonkers.
    Huge, mad and dangerous to know..

  7. nzaircraftfan

    It is hard to go past the Blackburn Buccaneer. Blackburn produced some awful aircraft during and the war. But the Buccaneer was a real winner brilliant at low level. I remember watching video of one at a Red flag exercise in the 80’s flying so low that the US army SAM operators couldn’t get a lock on it. The Rolls Royce Spey engines where such a huge improvement over the De Havilland Gryon Junior 101 engines which caused several crashes due it being unpowered, Hence the S2 with it’s Spey engines which made it a such a great naval aircraft . I did have a long service life with the RAF after the Ark Royal was scrapped in 1978. Which was the end of era for the FAA the Buccaneer was also bought by South Africa the only export customer. It’s finest moment was it’s use during the first gulf war dropping paveway laser guided bombs at medium altitude rather than the low level which I was designed for. It was retired in 1994 after some 32 years of service. One of my favorite aircraft

  8. Rick Govoni

    I vote for the mighty Fairey Swordfish. This shambolic looking collection of cables, struts, and fabric, wreaked havoc upon the German and Italian navies, and best exemplified the cunning, sense of humour, and sheer big nuts of Fleet Air Arm aviators. Looking every bit like a comical WW1 anachronism, the Stringbag was used to lull enemy sailors into fits of laughter before unleashing barrages of rockets and torpedoes upon them. Blessed with blistering performance, it was, sometimes, able to outpace a flock of gulls when conditions were favourable. Engineers failed time and again to fashion a successor, so perfect was the Swordfish’s brilliant blend of versatility, toughness, and charisma. And so the Swordfish soldiered on, baffling the enemy and further cementing it’s place in aviation history. A truly legendary aircraft!

    • StephenA

      Also what’s the Swordfish and the F-35 got in common? Both should be able to fly from the Queen Elizabeth, so if all else fails LS326 can go back into active service… (So another vote for the Swordfish)

  9. Rudeboy

    Swordfish, Buccaneer, SeaKing or Sea Harrier…one of.

    Honourable runners up…Fulmar, Firefly, Lynx, Merlin, Sea Fury, Gannet, Wessex, SeaHawk, Phantom or Corsair.

    Never to be mentioned…Wyvern, Firebrand, Scimitar, Albacore, Roc and Sea Vixen

    • Duker

      Whats wrong with the Sea Vixen ? yes the USN had by then the supersonic at altitude .- not sea level – F8 Crusader, but that had a tiny ranging radar and a some puny 20 mm cannons and could carry those erratic folding fin rockets. ( later versions had sidewinders) . It was the ultimate day and good weather fighter that was a shocker for carrier landings, likely only a success because of mirror landing sights and the angled deck introduced to USN from the RN. US Navy doctrine was for a point defence interceptor that would wait on deck until carrier radar detected hostiles and then be launched to climb quickly for interception.
      The Sea Vixen had a large radar, two crew and missiles.- why would you need supersonic for a short time only- when the
      supersonic missiles are your method of achieving kills. Maybe the Crusader could chase after its target really fast ( AB was either full on or off) to get close enough to shoot it down – really close if you rely on 20mm
      The Sea Vixen was designed for high altitude loitering on a CAP and using its big radar dish to to the searching beyond the carrier radar horizon. Yes it was delayed a bit but that was because of radar developed into an integrated weapons system combining navigation and fire control. Perhaps with better aerodynamics could have led to it punching through sound barrier on dry thrust only. Maybe an expert analysis could point to some issues as the wing was highly swept. Could also be Avon engine turbine temperature issues at supersonic speeds , later versions in the Lightning could be supersonic with AB of course, and I understand light versions could do it on dry thrust only. For the later UK Phantoms the Spey engine had turbine temperature restrictions from its civil ancestry which limited its top speed to around M2

      • Rudeboy

        It had a very high accident rate, and killed a lot of crew.
        Plus it was all missile, and those missiles weren’t great. Even 1 cannon would have made its actual real capabilities dramatically better.
        But most of all….and it was all missile too initially….Sea Vixen was introduced late in 59. The USN introduced F-4 Phantom in 1960… doesn’t look so good in comparison. Phantom had Sidewinder at least…

      • Duker

        All carrier aircraft of the 50s had a high crash rate Sea Vixen was not really different
        First carrier deployment for F4 Phantom was late 62-63 on USS Forrestal.
        Aerodynamics and engine development and AB could have made Sea Vixen an near equivalent to phantom
        the US navy all weather missile fighter equivalent to Vixen was the F3H Demon

  10. Philip Chamberlin

    Probably the Buccaneer. Or the Gannet? Mmm, maybe the Swordfish? Or the Corsair or Scimitar? Wessex? Phantom? I don’t know…….

  11. Shem Law

    The Blackburn Skua. Forget the Swordfish, or even the Fairey Fulmar. The B-24 Skua was the best Fleet Air Arm aircraft ever produced. Yes, it was slow, yes, it had a huge petrol tank in-between the pilot and rear gunner and yes, it struggled against pretty much any aircraft the Germans put up against it. But it has a list of ‘firsts’ that are hard to ignore. It was the first monoplane of all over duralumin construction, that the Navy flew. It was the first proper British dive-bomber. The first navy aircraft with an enclosed cockpit and retractable undercarriage. It was the first British plane to shoot down a German aircraft in WWII (if you ignore a dodgy French report of an earlier downing in France). And best of all, it was the first dive-bomber to sink a large warship (The Königsberg in Bergen Harbour). Proving beyond doubt that capital warships were highly vulnerable to air attack, so much so that the warships of the Kriegsmarine rarely ventured out from strongly defend moorings for the duration of the war.
    Admittedly, the Skua was also responsible for the first naval airman prisoners of war that Germany captured, (Two Skua’s ditched after an attack on U-30 of the coast of Scotland and were promptly taken on board). The mighty Skua was fairly quickly withdrawn and by 1941, they were serving as trainers and as that most ignominious fate, a military aircraft can suffer, as target tugs. But name another naval aircraft that features in a motion picture (mainly as a shadow), starring Ron Weasly? As it does in Into the White…

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