The DH110 inherits the twin-boom-tail design layout of the de Havilland Vampire and de Havilland Venom, with major improvements

After World War II, the RAF remained an important air force in the world, carrying out the mission of the British and allied armies. UK engineers created a number of notable aircraft designs during the decades of the Cold War, one of which was the de Havilland DH.110 “Sea Vixen”. Designed by de Havilland in the late 1940s, the Sea Vixen was a twin-engine, twin boom-tailed, two-seat, carrier-based fighter, in service with the Royal Navy from 1959 to 1972. Only 145 built, the Sea Vixen was used to replace the de havilland “Sea Venoms” featuring the same two-seat, twin-boom configuration.

Sea Vixen is operated by a crew of 2: a pilot and a radar operator. It has a length of 55 ft 7 in (16.94 m), a wingspan of 51 ft 0 in (15.54 m), a height of 10 ft 9 in (3.28 m), an empty weight of 27,950 lb (12,678 kg), and Maximum take-off weight is 46,750 lb (21,205 kg). Since the aircraft was designed as a carrier-based fighter, the swept-wing appendages could be folded, allowing for improved stowage of large aircraft on British carriers of the day. The undercarriage is fully retractable, consisting of two wheeled main legs and a single-wheeled nose leg.

de Havilland DH.110 Sea Vixen
de Havilland DH.110 Sea Vixen

The DH110 is powered by two Rolls-Royce Avon 208 turbojet engines, with 11,000 lbf (49 kN) thrust each. It can reach a top speed of 690 mph (1,110 km/h), or Mach 0.91, a range of 790 mi (1,270 km), a service ceiling of 48,000 ft (15,000 m), and a rate of climb of 9,000 ft/min (46 m/s).

As a fighter, the Sea Vixen has 6 hardpoints to carry its arsenal, including up to 4 “Firestreak” air-to-air missiles, or 4 Matra rocket pods for a total of 72 rockets. Like other aircraft of the Cold War era, the Sea Vixen can carry a single “Red Beard” freefall nuclear bomb if necessary. Interestingly, the Sea Vixen was the first British aircraft not equipped with a gun for close combat.

The De Havilland DH110 Sea Vixen was involved in a grave tragedy at the Farnborough Air Show in 1952, when the prototype was being displayed to the crowd with the intention of creating a sonic boom. After taking the aircraft to a supersonic speed in a dive, it suffered a sudden structural break-up during a high G turn. Tragically, the break-up saw the engines continued forward into the crowd, killing 29 spectators and injuring many others.   In addition, Test Pilot John Derry and Flight Engineer Tony Richards both lost their lives.

The aircraft did not take part in any true wars during its career with the Fleet Air Arm though it took part in many operations.  In 1961, President Abdul Karim Kassem of Iraq threatened to annex the neighbouring oil-rich state of Kuwait. Sea Vixen conducted patrols in response to calls from Kuwait, and provided assistance during the instability in Tanganyika during early 1964.

Some of the Sea Vixens were kept in the museum after their retirement in 1972, while some were converted into drones under the name “D.Mk 3”. Rising costs and aging technology eventually affected production, and the Sea Vixens was eventually replaced by the American McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II.


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