De Havilland Vampire T 11 WZ550
Design of the Vampire, known initially as the Spidercrab, began in 1941 with the issue of Specification E.6/41 (E standing for Experimental). The twin-boom configuration was chosen to limit the length of the jet tailpipe, thereby minimising power loss. The prototype, first flew at Hatfield in September 1943, powered by a single 2,700 lb thrust de Havilland Goblin turbojet. The airframe was a composite construction, having both wooden and metal components in its structure - the wooden section comprising the nose section forward of the wing root engine intakes. Production of the Vampire was sub-contracted tot he English Electric Company - an initial contract for 120 aircraft was placed on 13 May 1944. English Electric eventually built over 1,000 Vampires for theRAF before transferring to production of its own Canberra jet bomber.
The Vampire was the second type of jet fighter to enter service with the Royal Air Force. Unlike the twin-jet Meteor, the Vampire was too late to see war service, not joining squadrons until 1946. During the early post war years Vampires formed part of Fighter Command's first-line squadrons on home defence, but by 1951 had been replaced by the Meteor F.8 i this role, except for some squadrons of the Royal Auxiliary Air Force.
In May 1949 Vampires were the first jet fighters to enter service with the Middle East Air Force, and they were likewise the first jet fighters to join a squadron of the Far East Air Force in December 1950. By far the majority of Vampire squadrons, however, flew with the 2nd Tactical Air Force in Germany.
In July 1948, 32 Squadron at Nicosia and 73 Squadron at Ta Kali both received the F.Mk.3 to replace their Spitfires and thereby became the first operational jet fighters squadrons outside Europe. Soon after becoming operational, Sqn. Ldr. Boobby Oxspring (On 1 July 1948 he had led six Vampires for the first ever jet crossing of the Atlantic) assumed command of 73 Squadron and in September 1949 had the dubious honour of leading a squadron visit to Italy, when an entire formation of Vampires was lost near Milan.
Other Malta based squadrons to operate the type included No.185 with FB.5 fighter-bommbers from Hal Far and Luqa, No.728 with Sea Vampire F.20s at Hal Far as well as No.14 Royal New Zealand Air Force commenced flying activities from the Island, flying Vampire Mk.9 fighter-bommbers and a T.11 trainer. The Wing was garrisoned on the Island until departure in January 1955.
It was not unusual for post-war aircraft manufacturers to develop a two-seat training aircraft from a standard fighter. Interest in the jet trainer version of the Vampire was shown by the RAF and many countries who had bought the type. To ensure that the two-seat Vampire was attractive to overseas buyers, de Havilland retained the fighter's standard armament and provisions for underwing stores. The first two-seat trainer flew on 15 November 1950.
With the experience gained from their single-seat Sea Vampires and from the success of the Vampire T.11s as advanced trainers with the Royal Air Force, the Royal Navy were keen to obtain their own version of the de Havilland two-seaters. As basic and advanced flying training up to wings standard was provided for all Fleet Air Arm student pilots by the RAF, the Navy envisaged the use of the Vampire trainers for jet conversion and operational flying training which would include weapons, instrument and Aerodrome Dummy Deck Landing (ADDL) circuit instruction. A number served as Admiral Barges. The Royal Navy Sea Vampires trainers were designated T.22s and a number flew with No.750 Squadron (RN Observer School) at Hal Far between August 1954 and March 1964. The final Sea Vampire T.22 to be used by the Fleet Air Arm flew until April 1970.
Vampire T.11, WZ550 on display here was bought by the Malta Aviation Society and arrived from the United Kingdom in a container on 24 October 1996.
The aircraft was kindly donated to the Museum by the Malta Aviation Society from funds generated from the Malta International Airshow.
In the Summer of 2000, the aircraft was overhauled and re-sprayed by Museum members. It now wears the colour scheme of a Hal Far (H.M.S. Falcon) based No.750 Fleet Air Arm Squadron, T.22 trainer.
This aircraft can be seen in the Romney Display Hangar.