Hawker's Secret Cold War Airfield (Kindle)
Dunsfold: Home of the Hunter and Harrier
In 1948, Hawker Aircraft, faced with new jet projects that could not use their existing airfield at Langley, began the process of searching for alternative accommodation for their flight-testing requirements. It would, however, take three hard years before Dunsfold Aerodrome would be made available by a reluctant Air Ministry and the company was able to launch its first jet aircraft design – the Sea Hawk – into series production for the Royal Navy, closely followed by the superlative Hunter. Hawker Aircraft would go on to produce nearly 2,000 Hunters before other projects came to the fore.
As Hunter production continued in the late 1950s, the company looked to its successor – the Mach 2 capable air superiority fighter designated P.1121, though this would stall before flight in the wake of serious national financial short-falls. With the loss of its premier project, the company came upon a radical new engine proposal and schemed an aircraft around it capable of vertical take-off and landing. While many decried the proposal, claiming it would never amount to anything, the Harrier would go on to prove the nay-sayers wrong as it came into its own during the Falklands War.
Following the Harrier, Hawker Siddeley stepped into the competitive trainer aircraft market with the Hawk for the RAF. After completion of the RAF requirement, Hawk was sold into air arms across the world, including the US Navy, an incredible achievement for a UK design. British Aerospace then brought forth the Harrier GR.5, the UK version of the US AV-8B, a completely upgraded and improved Harrier.
One might expect that this prolific output was the result of some massive industrial plant in the Midlands rather than an isolated aerodrome tucked in the rural hinterland of south Surrey. Surrounded for most of its existence by secrecy, due to the nature of its work, Dunsfold has largely escaped the notice of the general public. This work shines a light on the remarkable work carried out there.
"Christopher Budgen provides us with an interesting and readable account of what happened ‘behind the wire’ at Dunsfold. As such, it provides us with a considerable insight into a world that few of us were ever privileged to witness."Royal Aeronautical Society - September 2021
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The text give equal weight to the airfield itself, to the personalities involved and to the aircraft produced by Hawker and it's successor companies and flown from there.Aeroplane
This is a gripping tale, ably constructed by an author with access to first-hand research material, eminently able and anxious to chronicle the true facts before they decayed through indifference and neglect.The de Havilland Moth Club Ltd
Review by Marco De MontisPanorama Difesa, February 2021
The title of this volume is already explanatory and defines its originality. Rarely does a book describe in such detail the long history of a military airport home to a builder, moreover, masterfully intersecting it with the rapid and enthralling evolution of corporate events, in an era as tumultuous as the second postwar period. The author is among the most qualified for this exciting story, having worked in the Hawker development department.
Review by Richard K. ParkhurstThe International Plastic Modellers Society Portsmouth
The author worked at this previously closed and secretive site for 21 years and has written a highly informative account of the work that has taken place there.
The opportunity to read more about anything to do with Hawker Siddeley is most welcome.Books Monthly
A really interesting read for any aviation historian.Military Model Scene, Robin Buckland
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