History of the Gloster Javelin...

...The First All-Weather British Fighter, from Fonthill Media

Title: History of the Gloster Javelin
Author: Ian Smith Watson

Publisher: Fonthill Media
ISBN: 978-1-78155-374-9


Another classic Cold War Delta from the RAF, this is the story of the Gloster Javelin jet fighter.  The book opens with background on the developing scenarios of WW2 and not only a requirement for a night-fighter, but also in the use of airborne radar to find their targets in the dark.  An interesting element of the story, even including the well known suggestion that eating carrots was good for night vision, whereas really this concealed the use of AI, or Airborne Interception technology.

Though the pressures or fighting the war were removed after 1945 there was then the move to the use of jets rather than piston engine aircraft, though there was still a need for an all weather fighter which resulted in the Air Ministry issuing new 'requirements' for the various aircraft manufacturers to compete for.  This lead to the both the de Havilland design that became the Sea Vixen (DH 101) for the Royal Navy, while the Gloster Javelin was destined for RAF service.  What we have is the development story when the DH 101 famously crashed at the Farnborough airshow in 1952.  Two of the five Javelin prototypes also crashed, though not in such a public environment.  The high speeds, the stresses of supersonic flight were a learning experience for even the highly experienced pilots who had come through WW2.  It's a story of an interesting time in aircraft development after WW2 which translates into an equally interesting story to read.  It entered service in 1956 and still had some issues to be sorted, and variants didn't enter service in their numerical order.  We get the details of the 9 variants, which served in 19 squadrons.  All this is put into context with other events of the period, with the Hunter and the Lightning both coming along at the same time, as well as the V-Bombers, and at a time when so many thought that guided and ballistic missiles might mean that manned fighters would be rendered obsolete.  Add the effect of politicians wanting to save money which reduced the size of the RAF and at a time when many overseas commitments were also being reduced.  The book gives a great description of the Javelin's operational history, along with the Duncan Sandys Defence Review, the Overseas Theatres where they served, including Germany, Malta, Cyprus and the Far East.  Then of course the final days when they served in the reserves before being retired.

Throughout the book there is an excellent selection of archive photos reproduced in black & white,  plus a section of colour pictures as well.  To round things off, the appendices provide the specific details of the different variants, then the different squadrons and where they were based.  Appendix 3 gives a table showing the Fighter Command Order of Battle at 1 September 1957 while another chart in Appendix 4 shows us the Fighter Command Planned Deployment of 30th September 1958, which shows the plan through to 1965.

This will interest the aviation historian/enthusiast for an aircraft that was in service during such an interesting time of the post-war RAF while modellers will also enjoy the reference details provided by the photos along with the text.  A really good read if you would like to know more about this large delta-winged fighter of the Cold War era.

Thanks to Fonthill Media for our review copy.