(History notes by Mark Davies)
The Vampire was Britain’s second production jet fighter and first flew in September 1943 although its service introduction was a little too late to see action in WW2. The Vampire used the Goblin engine that was quite powerful for its time, which enabled it to be a single-engine fighter when most designs required two engines. Even so, the Vampire was still underpowered like all early jets. Consequently fitting the much more powerful Rolls-Royce Nene appeared to offer obvious benefits when it became available in 1945.
The Nene-powered Vampire F.2 and F.4 adopted a much simpler if less elegant fix developed by Rolls-Royce. This consisted of two dorsal scoops, referred to as “elephant ears”, to supplement the standard intakes of the Goblin-powered Vampire. The Nene-powered F.2 prototype went on to display the enhanced performance anticipated (especially below 15,000 ft) despite the added to drag of its “elephant ears”.
The RAF ordered sixty F.2s in February 1945 and then reduced the order to 40 aircraft. Then the order changed again to two F.2s and thirty-eight F.4s. Finally, the F.4 order was cancelled altogether in September 1945, leaving only two F.2 aeroplanes. The French also cancelled an order for licence-built F.4s which were to be designated the F.51. Although British attempts to produce Nene-powered Vampires had ended, the Aussies were prepared to pick up where they left off.
In June 1946, the Australian Air Board confirmed the RAAF’s selection of Vampires to replace its CAC Mustangs and that De Havilland Australia would build them. De Havilland had suggested that the Goblin was the best engine choice with its more efficient single-sided impeller (of course it was also a de Havilland product whereas the Nene was not), but the RAAF chose Nene power for its Vampires. These were designated F.30s and were based on the Vampire F.2 complete with “elephant ears”. The Australians placed an order for a hundred F.30s in September 1946. Meanwhile, the RAAF obtained from the British an F.1 in May 1947, an F.2 in August 1948 and an FB.5 in May 1949 in order to gain some jet experience.
The first Australian built F.30 flew in June 1949 and delivery to the RAAF began in September of the same year. Fifty-seven F.30s had been delivered by July 1952, whilst the remaining aircraft in the original order were changed to completed as FB.31s which had clipped and strengthened wings for their fighter-bomber role (it was essentially a Nene-engined FB.5).
The RAAF soon found that their Vampires suffered the same problems as the British F.2s due to the effects of the “elephant ear” intakes at around the aircraft’s critical Mach number, along with elevator problems during dive recovery. The Australian remedy was to shift the “elephant ears” to under the fuselage, which provided nose-up pitching moment at aircraft’s critical Mach number rather than a nose-down one. The trade off was an increased risk of the engine ingesting foreign objects because of the scoops’ proximity to the ground on the low-slung Vampire.
Twenty-four of the original F.30s underwent modification retrospectively to FB.31 standard during 1956. It was to be twenty-eight F.30s for conversion to FB.31s, but four crashed prior to conversion, leaving only twenty-nine F.30s in service once the process was completed. The FB.31s were also fitted with ejection seats at this time, a change the pilots must surely have appreciated, as well as being equipped for target-tug towing. Some of the surviving F.30s were also equipped with ejection seats, but specific detail regarding how many is hard to come by.
De Havilland Australia and the RAAF considered an FB.32 variant using enlarged wing-root intakes, removing the need for ancillary air intake scoops altogether (other changes included air conditioning, re-arranged fuel tanks and detail changes to the airframe). Two aircraft received modified intakes, but the Australians abandoned the project in April 1953. Thus, the French became the only producer of Nene-powered Vampires with wing intakes capable of feeding the engine adequately. They had to modify the wing considerably and called their licence-built product the SE.535 Mistral rather than Vampire.
Colour schemes included in the kit:
1) DH Vampire FB.31, A79-111, No.2 OTU ‘Red Devils’ Aerobatic Team, RAAF Base Williamtown, NSW, circa 1958
2) DH Vampire FB.31, A79-422, No.21 (City of Melbourne) Squadron, RAAF Base Laverton, Victoria, 1961
3) DH Vampire FB.31, A79-550, unit and air base unknown, RAAF, late 1950s
4) DH Vampire FB.31, A79-915, No.21 (City of Melbourne) Squadron, RAAF Base Williams (Laverton), Victoria, autumn 1959
5) DH Vampire FB.31, A79-215, No.21 (City of Melbourne) Squadron, RAAF Base Williams (Laverton), Victoria, 1957