This article refers to the Supermarine Scimitar as it appears in "The Empire's Twilight"The Supermarine Scimitar was designed as a twin engined, single seat, high-subsonic day fighter armed with guns only for service with the Royal Navy and the Commonwealth fleets. By the time it entered service however, the aircraft was already past it's prime as a fighter and was relegated to second-line light attack, and reconnaissance duties.
The inability of the Commonwealth's smaller carriers to operate the Phantom FG.1 however meant that the aircraft got a new lease of life with the development of a two seat supersonic all weather version equipped with radar.
First Generation AircraftEdit
The initial production variant was armed purely with four 20mm cannon and relied on either an airborne early warning aircraft or ground control for interception. Its time as a front line fighter with the Royal Navy was therefore short lived and was quickly superseded by the De Havilland Sea Vixen. The Royal Navy's aircraft soon adopted a light attack role.
RAF OperationsEditThe RAF operated a limited number of first generation Scimitars, which were exclusively operated by the Far East Air Force flying out of bases in Singapore and Hong Kong. The RAF versions were designated FGA.2 and were intended to fly in the fighter bomber role, replacing the less powerful Hawker Hunter. The FGA.2 differed little from the Royal Navy F.1 except that the FGA.2 was wired to carry Firestreak AAMs although this seldom occurred. The FGA.2 was withdrawn by 1971. The RAF did employ the FR.6 in the low level tactical reconnaissance role and these aircraft served right up until The '91 Disaster. Like the Navy FR.6s, the RAF examples were later fitted with Blue Vesta AAMs for self-defense as well as operating in the point defense role.
The Scimitar was larger and more powerful than any previous aircraft operated by the Royal Navy and this resulted initially in a high number of accidents particularly on landing. Therefore, a two seat trainer variant was developed. The two seat version added an extra cockpit behind the pilot.
ReconnaissanceEditAlthough not up to the standards of modern fighters of the time the Admiralty saw the potential for an outstanding low level reconnaissance variant. The FR.6 was developed to that end and was equipped a forward facing FP-7 camera and a single FP-9 angled to port (there were no cameras facing to starboard). The FR.6 retained the four 20mm guns giving it a useful point defence role for the carrier (in daytime only). The aircraft was also adopted by the Royal Air Force for service in the Far East Air Force. In the late 1970s the entire FR.6 fleet was upgraded to be able to carry the Blue Vesta all-aspect air to air missile for self defence as well as operating in the point defence role under strict ground control.
SpecialsEditWhen the Blackburn Buccaneer came into service many of the Royal Navy's smaller carriers had not yet been refitted to allow them to operate the large strike aircraft due to the intensity of world wide operations in the 1960s. As a stop-gap a variant of the two seat trainer Scimitar was developed to give smaller carriers the capability to project the Commonwealth's nuclear deterrent. Although designated T.53, which meant they were Commonwealth variants of the T.3 trainer (the aircraft selected were originally scheduled for New Zealand Navy service) they had no training role beyond that of the pilots expected to carry out this deadly mission.
The T.53 (Special) was equipped with a primitive bomb-tossing computer and a more sophisticated Inertial Navigation System. Primary armament was the 156kt Red Sabre nuclear bomb. The aircraft was stripped of it's four 20mm cannons to reduce weight. Operated under the umbrella of 801 NAS, the squadron deployed detachments of three aircraft to Commonwealth carriers not able to operate Buccaneers. By 1970 the need for these aircraft disappeared and they were withdrawn. Supermarine, thinking they already had their foot in the door, proposed a more advanced version hoping to undercut the Buccaneer but it failed to find favour with the Admiralty.
Without a doubt the largest operator of the type was the Royal Navy who flew 221 F.1s and an additional 42 T.3s, 59 FR.6s and 17 T.53 (Specials). They flew from every major carrier in the 1960s. The F.1 was the first variant to be withdrawn starting in 1969. The last F.1s were withdrawn in 1974 but the FR.6s soldiered on serving in the Falklands War and during The '91 Disaster.
The RAF operated 101 FGA.2s, 38 FR.6s and 25 T.3s mostly in the Far East with only training units being based in the UK. Operations with the FGA.2 ceased in 1977 while the FR.6s and T.3s continued on until 1991. A handful of aircraft were 'reincarnated' after The '91 Disaster for a short period.
AustraliaEditThe Royal Australian Navy was the first export customer for the type and received its first F.51 on June 3rd 1962. The aircraft initially operated from HMAS Melbourne only since the RAN's other carriers were thought to be too small but trials proved this incorrect and soon Scimitars were flying from all of Australia's carriers. 56 F.51s were delivered along with 9 T.53 trainers.
South AfricaEditThe Royal South African Navy found the Scimitar more than adequate for tangling with the MiG-17 which in the 1960s was the primary fighter in Africa however they wanted even more of an advantage and so they opted for a version of the RAF's FGA.2 variant which had the capability to launch Firestreak air-to-air missiles. In service the Firestreak proved disappointing but was enough to make any adversary MiG pilot think twice before engaging the South African Scimitars.
IndiaEditIndia (which had yet to join the New Commonwealth in the 1960s) acquired 24 F.51s as a replacement for the Sea Hawk the first being delivered in June 1964. They operated from the carrier Vikrant with 601 NAS during both Indo-Pak wars downing at least one F-86 Sabre in 1965 and an F-6 in 1973. However they lost three to ground fire and replacements were transferred from Royal Navy stocks in 1974. In 1971 they underwent an upgrade program to allow them to fire the French R.550 infra red guided air-to-air missile.
Within the Commonwealth navies that adopted the aircraft many just opted for the Royal Navy's versions and these received export designations Example; The export version of the F.1 was the F.51. Some Commonwealth navies and export services did want their aircraft tailored to specific requirements however.