Hawker Sea Fury Korean Operations

Sea Fury1

Sea Fury WE790 [796?] supposedly from HMAS Sydney serviced by USMC mechanics.i

Originally an RAF fighter, the Fury contract was abandoned by the Air Force but pursued by the Admiralty as a Seafire replacement.ii The prototype flew on 21 February 1945.iii The carrier capable prototype flew in October 1945.iv Deck landing trials were carried out on HMS Ocean in August 1946.v

The Sea Fury F10 entered service in August 1947 with 807 Squadron, and the F11 with 802 Squadron in May 1948.vi The Sea Fury was operated by Fleet Air Arm (and RAN) squadrons 801, 802, 803, 804, 805, 806, 807, 808, 811, 871 and 898.vii During the Korean War, Sea Furies operated with squadron nos “802 (Ocean), 807 (Theseus), 801, 804 (Glory), 805 and 808 (Sydney).viii

 Sea Fury2

Sea Fury FB 11, VX642 with ordinance display. Note the two 45 gallon drop tanks which increased the aircraft’s range from 700 to 1040 miles.ix

The aircraft was armed with 4 20mm Hispano Mk V cannons and could carry up to 2,000 lbs of ordinance (1,000 or 500 lb bombs) or 12 76mm (60 lb) rockets.x Empty, the aircraft weighed 9,240 lbs and fully loaded 12,500 lbs. Powered by a Bristol Centaurus XVIIC 18 cylinder twin-row radial engine developing 2,480 horsepower, the aircraft could make 460 mph (400 knots) and ascend to 10,900 meters.xi

 Sea Fury3

Supermarine Seafire.xii

The North Korean People’s Army forced the withdrawal of the Southern government from Seoul on 27 June 1950. Rear-Admiral Sir William G. Andrewes, aboard HMS Belfast, was operating with the carrier HMS Triumph in Japanese waters at the time and moved to respond.xiii Following the UN mandate for assistance to the Republic of Korea on 27 June the commonwealth forces of Australia, New Zealand and Canada joined with the United Kingdom and the United States as the major naval power in the region.xiv USN Vice-Admiral C. Turner Joy assumed overall command and placed Andrewes as commander Task Group 96.8, West Korea Support Group.xv Triumph joined Task Force 77, USN Pacific Fleet, along with USS Valley Forge under command of Rear-Admiral John M. Hoskins USN.xvi The first strikes were carried out on 3 July, and on 28 July the first FAA casualty was suffered when a Seafire from 800 (Triumph) Squadron was mistakenly shot down by a USAF B-29xvii.

 Sea Fury4

A flight of Fireflies and Sea Furies.xviii

The Sea Fury was first used to in combat to support Fairey Firelies on ASW patrols. HMS Theseus arrived in the Yellow Sea carrying 23 Furies and 12 Fireflies from 807 and 813 Squadrons and conducted its first patrols and strikes on 9 October 1950.xix The first Sea Fury strike involved six aircraft (and four Fireflies) carrying mixed ordinance of 500 lb bombs and rockets, led by Lt Cdr Stovin-Bradford against targets at Paengyong-do.xx That afternoon five Sea Furies and four Fireflies attacked the harbour at Chinnampo.xxi Loadouts favoured rockets as the weight of bombs necessitated higher steaming speeds than the Theseus was capable of attaining (21 knots with rockets, 28 with bombs).xxii

 Sea Fury5

A raid in progress on warehouses on the waterfront at Chinnampo in North Korea by Fairey Firefly aircraft from HMS THESEUS.”xxiii

Day two on station, Theseus launched a strike against the Chang-you railway bridge, the flight consisting of Fireflies escorted by a pair of Furies and resulting in significant damage to the bridge.xxiv A simultaneous flight targeting the surrounding area resulted in the destruction of Sea Fury VW628, although the pilot, who ditched the aircraft successfully, was rescued by helicopter.xxv Deteriorating weather on the afternoon of 11 October forced Theseus to leave the area and refuel. Strikes were launched against the Chang-yong area later the following day.xxvi For the next several days attacks were made against targets in the Cinnampo area, including the harbour where the Sea Furies attacked Korean junks believed to be mine layers.xxvii After refuelling at Inchon, Theseus moved to the Sinanju-Chonju-Sonchon area of operations and sortied aircraft on 20 October to attack Chongju.xxviii

Sea Fury6

Source.xxix

By mid-December Theseus‘s Sea Furies were attacking Pyongyang. Weather conditions worsened and snow was regularly cleared from the flight deck.xxx Despite the poor conditions, Sea Fury raids against communications (enemy trucks) were carried out near Chongchon river and the Hangju-Sariwon area.xxxi

Sea Fury7

Sea Fury VW546 aboard HMS Glory.xxxii

In 1951 Rear-Admiral Alan K. Scott-Moncrieff replaced Andrewes (promoted to Vice-Admiral).xxxiii HMS Glory replaced Theseus on 23 April 1951 and continued operations with the 14th Carrier Air Group. Glory‘s arrival coincided with the beginning of the Chinese spring offensive.xxxiv Glory was relieved by HMAS Sydney in September 1951 and the latter flew 2,366 sorties over 43 flying days- interrupted by Typhoon Ruth.xxxv Glory returned in January 1952, and was relieved by Ocean in the summer.xxxvi

During these two tours, Glory‘s air group conducted 5000 sorties.xxxvii Between 1950 and 1953 the four Sea Fury equipped carriers were supported by HMS Unicorn which ferried fresh equipment from the fleet base at Singapore the 2,500 miles to the theatre of operations.xxxviii

 Sea Fury8

HMS Theseus leaving Malta after the war in July 1953.xxxix

Some measure of the intensity of operations can be made by examining the sortie record of HMS Theseus from the beginning of hostilities to the end of March 1951.xl Between 9 October and 5 November 1950, Theseus‘s Furies (avg 19.3) made 492 sorties. From 5 December to 26 December, 423 Fury sorties were flown by an average of 19.6 aircraft. From 7 January 1951 to 23 March, 20.8 Furies flew 718 sorties, for a total of 1634 sorties over 98 days of operation (of which 65 were suitable for flying). All told, Theseus launched 3,500 sorties on 86 days during its seven month deployment.xli During the first six months, Theseus‘s air wing dropped 829,000 lbs of explosives and fired 7,317 rockets and “half a million rounds of 20mm ammunition.”xlii In recognition of these efforts, Theseus and the 17th Carrier Air Group was awarded the Rear-Admiral Sir Denis Boyd trophy for 1950 for “outstanding feat of naval aviation”.xliii

Similar feats were achieved by HMS Glory, for example, in September 1951 the 14th CAG set a record for 66 offensive and 18 defensive sorties in a day, and in March 1953 Glory‘s air group set a record for 123 sorties in one day, equal to that of HMS Ocean, and resulting in the destruction of “seven bridges, 28 buildings , and five oxcarts.”xliv Glory saw the most overall action during the Korean War, totalling 9,500 operational sorties.xlv All told, Glory‘s aircraft dropped 3,818,000 lbs of ordinance, in addition to 24,328 rockets and over 1.4 million rounds of 20mm, resulting in the destruction of 70 bridges, 392 vehicles and 49 railways trucks for the loss of 20 crew.xlvi

Sea Fury9

VR943 of 804 Squadron launches from HMS Glory, June 1951.xlvii

Operations in Korea were strenuous. Briefed the night before, a typical day involved waking at 0400 for flights launching at 0500. An average of 50 sorties were flown each day, though 66 or 68 was not unheard of, each sortie lasting two to two and a half hours.xlviii Flights were over mountainous, difficult terrain against targets often heavily defended and camouflaged.xlix The Fury pilots adapted to these missions: for example, pilots of 804 (Glory) and 802 (Ocean) Squadrons developed 45º dive bombing tactics for bridge strikes.l Weather conditions ranged from extreme heat to intense cold. Snow storms grounded operations, while flying in summer heat resulted in cockpit temperatures of 140º.li During the snowy conditions prevailing in December 1950, Theseus, as part of the Sasebo rescue effort, launched sorties against Chinnampo despite the weather.lii

 Sea Fury10

Combat operations rarely stopped for… minor inconveniences such as snow.”liii

Skilfully handled, the Sea Fury was a match for the jet powered MiG-15, the latter faster by 200 mph, as demonstrated by an engagement at 0600 9 August 1952: “four Sea Furies [commanded by Lt Peter Carmichael, 802 (Ocean) Squadron] were flying north of Chinimpo, returning from a raid on railway lines and trains. They were attacked by eight MiG-15s at 3,500 feet… one MiG-15 was shot down and another two damaged.”liv

 Sea Fury11

Sea Fury WJ288 at 2009 Oshkosh Air Show.lv

The Korean experience demonstrated the flexibility and capability of naval aviation in the era of limited war.lvi The skilled pilots of the FAA rose to the challenge and their combat record attests to their esprit de corps as much as the technical qualities of the Seafire, Sea Fury and Firefly aircraft they flew. All told the FAA flew 23,000 sorties between 1950-3.lvii The FAA dropped 15,000 bombs, fired 57,600 rockets and 3.3 million rounds of 20mm. RAN pilots flew 2,366 sorties, dropped 802 bombs and fired 6,359 rockets and 269,000 rounds of 20mm.lviii It should also be kept in mind that this impressive war-time record was amassed by aircraft believed to be obsolete (the Sea Fury was replaced by the Attacker and then Sea Hawk jet fighters after the Korean War), and during a period of significant cost-cutting at the Admiralty.lix After the Second World War it was expected that only 10% of the FAA would be dedicated to strike aircraft.lx

iiKev Darling, Hawker Typhoon, Tempest and Sea Fury, Ramsbury, Marlborough: The Crowood Press Ltd, 2003, p 121

iiiDarling, Hawker Typhoon, Tempest and Sea Fury, p 122

ivDarling, Hawker Typhoon, Tempest and Sea Fury, p 123

vDarling, Hawker Typhoon, Tempest and Sea Fury, p 124

viReginald Longstaff, The Fleet Air Arm: A Pictorial History, London: Robert Hale Ltd., 1981, p 124

viiKev Darling, Fleet Air Arm Carrier War, South Yorkshire: Pen & Sword Books Ltd., 2009, Appendix 2, p 330-1

viiiLongstaff, The Fleet Air Arm: A Pictorial History, p 124

ixDarling, Fleet Air Arm Carrier War, p 161-2, 331

xDarling, Fleet Air Arm Carrier War, p 331; Longstaff, The Fleet Air Arm: A Pictorial History, p 125

xiDarling, Fleet Air Arm Carrier War, p 331

xiii David Hobbs, “British Commonwealth Carrier Operations in the Korean War” in Air & Space Power Journal 18, no. 4 (Winter 2004), p 63

xivHobbs, “British Commonwealth Carrier Operations in the Korean War” p 63

xvHobbs, “British Commonwealth Carrier Operations in the Korean War” p 63

xviHobbs, “British Commonwealth Carrier Operations in the Korean War” p 63

xviiHobbs, “British Commonwealth Carrier Operations in the Korean War” p 64

xixDarling, Fleet Air Arm Carrier War, p 159, 161

xxDarling, Fleet Air Arm Carrier War, p 162

xxiDarling, Fleet Air Arm Carrier War, p 162

xxiiDarling, Fleet Air Arm Carrier War, p 162

xxivDarling, Fleet Air Arm Carrier War, p 162

xxvDarling, Fleet Air Arm Carrier War, p 163

xxviDarling, Fleet Air Arm Carrier War, p 164

xxviiDarling, Fleet Air Arm Carrier War, p 165-7

xxviiiDarling, Fleet Air Arm Carrier War, p 167

xxxDarling, Fleet Air Arm Carrier War, p 171

xxxiDarling, Fleet Air Arm Carrier War, p 171

xxxiiDarling, Fleet Air Arm Carrier War, p 168

xxxiiiHobbs, “British Commonwealth Carrier Operations in the Korean War” p 65

xxxivHobbs, “British Commonwealth Carrier Operations in the Korean War” p 65

xxxvHobbs, “British Commonwealth Carrier Operations in the Korean War” p 66

xxxviHugh Popham, Into Wind: a History of British Naval Flying, London: Hamilton, 1969, p 227

xxxviiPopham, Into Wind, p 226-7

xxxviii Ian Speller, “Limited War and Crisis Management: Naval Aviation in Action from the Korean War to the Falklands Conflict” in British Naval Aviation: The First 100 Years, 151–76, Corbett Centre for Maritime Policy Studies Series. Farnham: Ashgate Publishing Ltd, 2011, p 155

xlData compiled from ADM 1/2236/4, National Archives

xliHobbs, “British Commonwealth Carrier Operations in the Korean War” p 65

xlii Speller, “Limited War and Crisis Management” p 155

xliii Popham, Into Wind, p 225

xlivHobbs, “British Commonwealth Carrier Operations in the Korean War” Table 1. Examples of sorties flown from HMS Glory, p 67

xlvHobbs, “British Commonwealth Carrier Operations in the Korean War” p 67

xlviHobbs, “British Commonwealth Carrier Operations in the Korean War” p 67

xlviiiDavid Wragg, A Century of British Naval Aviation, 1909-2009, Pen and Sword, 2009, p 156; Darling, Fleet Air Arm Carrier War, p 162, Darling, Fleet Air Arm Carrier War, p 162

xlixDarling, Fleet Air Arm Carrier War, p 161

lPopham, Into Wind, p 227

liWragg, A Century of British Naval Aviation, p 155

liiDarling, Fleet Air Arm Carrier War, p 170

liiiDarling, Fleet Air Arm Carrier War, p 196

livWragg, A Century of British Naval Aviation, p 156

lvi Tim Benbow, “The Post-1945 Struggle for Naval Aviation,” in Dreadnought to Daring, edited by Peter Hore, 128–142, Barnsley: Seaforth Publishing, 2012, p 134

lvii Popham, Into Wind, p 228

lviiiHobbs, “British Commonwealth Carrier Operations in the Korean War” p 71

lix Tim Benbow, “British Naval Aviation and the ‘Radical Review’, 1953-55” in British Naval Aviation: The First 100 Years, edited by Tim Benbow, 125–150, Corbett Centre for Maritime Policy Studies Series. Farnham: Ashgate Publishing Ltd, 2011, p 127 fn

lx Benbow, “British Naval Aviation and the ‘Radical Review’, 1953-55” p 127

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