The Hawker Hunter was developed in the 1940s and 1950s as a transonic fighter for the Royal Air Force. Entering service in 1954 and served as Britain's frontline fighter until the mid-1960s. When faster and more advanced fighters arrived on the scene, it continued a successful career as a fighter-bomber and ground attack aircraft. With almost two thousand built and serving with more than 21 other air forces, the Hunter was arguably one of Britain's most successful as well as most elegant-looking jet fighters and one of the classic designs of all time.
The Hunter and BigglesEdit
The Hawker Hunter which Biggles flew in Biggles in the Terai was probably the only fast jet fighter Biggles ever flew in any of the novels.
The Hunter was well-known to Johns' readers of the 1960s. They might have seen the Hunter as part of the RAF "Black Arrows" aerobatic team. The team, for example, executed a world-record breaking 22-aircraft formation loop in 1958. Featuring the Hunter in a novel was therefore certain to attract young readers. Children in many other countries which were using the Hunter as a frontline fighter at that time would also have been drawn to the book. The highly energetic 1975 Knight Books cover which shows Algy's Hunter going down in flames would have been particularly effective. It would have tempted John's readers to open the covers, offering as it did, the prospect of Biggles being involved in fast jet combat.
Besides that, using the Hunter was also realistic--in the mid-1960s when Biggles was in India, the Hunter was just about the only fighter he could lay his hands on. The Indian Air Force was then one of the world's largest operator of the aircraft type. (John's might also have tried using the Gnat).
In the book, Algy had borrowed a Hunter because he needed an armed aircraft to deal with an unidentified gold-smuggling aircraft which was also armed. Algy's Hunter was however sabotaged and caught fire and crash-landing in the Terai. Biggles, who came out to India with Bertie looking for Algy, also came to the same conclusion about the need for some "teeth" and borrowed a second Hunter which he used to shoot the gold-smuggling aircraft down. The air combat sequences did not make much of the Hunter's manoeuvrability as Biggles easily outmatched his adversary. He simply swooped down from high altitude onto the tail of the other aircraft and, after a warning shot and meeting returning fire, delivered the coup-de-grace.
In derivative worksEdit
In many of the Action comics stories, the De Havilland Vampire was the standard aircraft Biggles and Ginger used for a rapid transit from HQ to the jump off point for their mission. In the story China Mission, however, they appeared to use a T2 two-seat trainer version of the Hunter to travel to an airfield at Tainan on Taiwan island.
- Crew: One (two in the trainer version)
- Length: 45 ft 11 in (14.00 m)
- Wingspan: 33 ft 8 in (10.26 m)
- Max. takeoff weight: 24,600 lb (11,158 kg)
- Engine: 1 × Rolls-Royce Avon 207 turbojet, 10,145 lbf (45.13 kN)
- Maximum speed: 715 mph(1,150 km/h) at sea level
- Combat range: 445 miles (715 km)
- Service ceiling: 50,000 ft (15,240 m)
- Guns: 4× 30 mm ADEN cannon in a removable gun pack with 150 rpg
- Hardpoints: 4 underwing hardpoints with a capacity of 7,400 lb (3,400 kg) for a range of bombs, rockets and Aim-9 Sidewinder missiles or drop tanks for extended range.