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Fairey Gannet AEW 31, 814 Squadron, RAN FAA, HMAS Eagle

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Fairey Gannet AEW 31, 814 Squadron, RAN FAA, HMAS Eagle


When the Australian Government decided it was time to replace their Majestic Class Carrier, HMAS Sydney in 1960, after considerable deliberation it was decided that upgrading the Sydney with a angled deck and all the gubbins required to operate jet aircraft was not possible. It was decided that it would be cheaper in the long run to go larger and purchase a more modern carrier with a longer life. Looking around, they turned first to the Royal Navy. It was now 1965. the Royal Navy was in the midst of deciding whether to finish upgrading HMS Eagle.


The Admiralty had originally planned to give Eagle a complete rebuild on the lines of HMS Victorious, but due to high costs, plans to fit new geared steam turbines and a stretched hull were abandoned. Eagle was instead given a more austere but extensive modernisation that provided greater radar and processing capability than the systems fitted to Victorious. The changes included major improvements to the accommodation, including the installation of air conditioning. The island was completely rebuilt and a 3D Type 984 radar was installed, with processing capacity to track and rank 100 targets, twice the capability of the early 984 system fitted to Hermes and Victorious. The flight deck was modified and included a new 2½ inch armoured deck with a full 8.5 degree angle, two new steam catapults (BS5s, 151 ft (46 m) stroke on the port side forward and 199 ft (61 m) stroke in the waist) were fitted as well as new arrester gear (DAX I) and mirror sights. As well as an overhaul of the DC electrical systems, AC generators were also fitted to give additional power.


It was decided that Eagle would have her anti-aircraft guns removed and replaced by the Seacat missile system, though her aft four 4.5 inch gun turrets were retained, and all of her original machinery and equipment would be fully overhauled.


In 1959 Eagle entered Devonport Dockyard to begin this extensive refit, and by May 1964 it was complete. Standard displacement had increased to around 44,100 tons (full load displacement was 54,100 tons) and Eagle was now the largest aircraft carrier in the Royal Navy. Total cost of the refit was £31 million. The refit was intended to extend her operational life for another 10 years, and she now operated Blackburn Buccaneer, de Havilland Sea Vixen, Supermarine Scimitar and Fairey Gannet aircraft, but water-cooled jet blast deflectors (needed to operate the RN Phantom fighters) were not fitted, and therefore the full potential of the ship was not realized.


As a consequence of the British Government’s decision to cut costs, it was decided that Eagle should be retired and become a spares source for HMS Ark Royal. The Royal Australian Navy wished to both move up and keep a two carrier force in being. HMS Eagle seemed to be the ideal carrier for the RAN’s needs. The Royal Navy agreed to the sale and as part of the sale, it was offered that the ship would be refitted, with water-cooled jet blast deflectors and improved arrestor systems and radar systems.


So, in early 1966 Eagle was refitted at Devonport once more and was fitted with a single DAX II arrestor wire (no.3, her other wires were DAX I). She also had bridal catchers fitted to her catapults. Finally, she also had an improved Type 985 3-d radar and improved accommodation and air conditioning systems installed. She was recommissioned in 1968 as HMAS Eagle.


In the end, the water-cooled jet blast deflectors were not needed as the RAN never operated F-4 Phantoms. It had decided in 1966 to instead standardise on A-4 Skyhawks and F-8 Crusaders. When she entered service with the RAN she carried 18 A-4 Skyhawks, 14 F-8 Crusaders, 4 Gannet AEWs, 6 Sea King ASW helicopters and 2 Wessex SAR helicopters.


As part of the deal with the British, the RAN received also Fairey Gannet AEW aircraft. Operated by 814 Squadron from HMAS Eagle and RAN Naval Air Station Nowra (HMAS Albatross), the Gannet AEW added a new capability to the RAN and allowed it to better control the battle space over the carriers, providing early warning of approaching aircraft.









The Model


The model is a mix of a Revell Gannet T.5 wings and tail and an Airmodel Gannet AEW vacuform. She was painted with a hairy stick using Tamiya paints. The decals came from an Xtradecal Gannet set.

Edited by rickshaw

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