de Havilland Vampire F Mk 30 A79-375
In 1946, 80 DH 100 Vampires had been ordered as the first jet fighters for the RAAF, beating the Gloster Meteor into service by a year. Prior to these aircraft being delivered from the de Havilland Australia Bankstown plant, three RAF Vampires were imported from England for trials, none of which entered operational RAAF service. The order for 80 single-seat Vampires set the scene for 190 Vampires of varying types to be produced between 1949 and 1960. The variants included Mk 30 and 31 fighters and fighter-bombers and 110 Vampire Mk 33, 34 and 35 two-seat trainers.
Up until 1960, RAAF Reserve squadrons operated single-seat Vampires before these aircraft were replaced by the Meteor and Sabre. During 1955-56, some 50 Vampires were converted by Hawker de Havilland to act as target-towing aircraft, with the addition of a hook and release mechanism below the cockpit. This extended the service life of the Vampire by some years, and allowed pilots to be trained in aerial gunnery techniques against a fast-moving target.
The Vampire on display is A79-375, an F Mk 30 that was received into RAAF service in October 1950, initially allocated to No 78 Fighter Wing. In April 1952, the aircraft was transferred to No 2 Operational Training Unit (No 2 OTU), and in October of that year, was briefly placed into storage. Retuning to service in early 1953, the aircraft overshot the runway at RAAF Base Williamtown after a gunnery sortie on 18 March 1953, sustaining damage to the nose undercarriage and fuselage. In May 1954, the aircraft was returned to de Havilland Australia for repairs and modifications, and was received back at No 2 Aircraft Depot in December 1954. Returning to No 2 OTU, the aircraft again returned to the manufacturer in November 1955, where it was converted to target-towing configuration with the addition of a hook mechanism below the fuselage. Upon completion of these works, the aircraft served with No 23 Squadron from May 1956, before transfer to reserve status in August of that year. By July 1957, the aircraft had been transferred to RAAF Wagga, and in March 1958 was approved for conversion to an instructional airframe. Along with a large number of other Vampire fighters, the aircraft served as a training aid with the RAAF School of Technical Training. Due to confusion in record-keeping, the aircraft 'took on' the identity of A79-733, and was transferred to the National Aviation Museum collection in 1974, relocating to Point Cook in 1977.
During 2000, after many years of storage and some minor works on the aircraft, A79-375 was restored to display condition by members of the Friends of the RAAF Museum, and was painted to represent A79-876. A79-876 was one of only two RAAF Vampires known to wear this striking target-towing paint scheme designed to prevent the towing aircraft being confused with the target. Incredibly, the engine fitted to A79-375 was last logged as being fitted to A79-876, another training aid aircraft at RAAF Wagga.
History of Vampire T Mk 35 A79-616 (Training Hangar)