A Vampire refitted with a Ghost engine on a trials basis broke the world altitude record in May 1947, and the Air Ministry, impressed, funded development of the improved variant, the "DH.112", originally to be designated the "Vampire FB.8". Two prototypes, conversions of Vampire FB.5s, were built, with the first flying on 2 September 1949, with John Derry at the controls. It was ready just in time to attend the Farnborough air show. By that time, the decision had been made that the DH.112 was such a step ahead of the Vampire that it needed to be given a new name, and was christened "Venom", the original name "Valkyrie" having been rejected.
The second prototype performed its initial flight on 23 July 1950. The first production "Venom FB.1" was rolled out in 1951, but manufacturing dislocations delayed full production until mid-1952. The Venom FB.1 went into service with RAF Germany in the summer of 1952.The Venom had much the same configuration as the Vampire, so much so that the two aircraft could be confused at a casual glance, particularly from the side. The major external difference was the Venom's wing, which was thinner and featured a shallow leading-edge sweepback; midwing "fences"; plus distinctive fixed wingtip fuel tanks with a small horizontal fin at the back outside, as well as a strake at the front on the inside. The tailfins were curved and featured acorn fairings at the junction with the tailplane; the tailplane extended outside of the tailfins.
The new wing was required to make use of the additional power provided by the Ghost 103 engine, which could produce 4,850 lbs of thrust, about half again as powerful as the Goblin while being about the same size and weight. The new engine fit required a small but noticeable auxiliary intake on the aircraft's back.
The Venom retained the quad 20 millimeter Hispano V cannon armament of the Vampire, as well as the Vampire's underwing stores capacity of 2,000 pounds. Typical weapons load was two 1,000 pound) bombs or eight rocket projectiles; a drop tank could be carried under each wing as an alternate payload. The Venom retained the Vampire's agility and friendly handling characteristics, but was faster and in particular had a much improved rate of climb.
The Venom, along with their Royal Navy counterpart, the Sea Venom, also saw service during the Suez War with the Royal Air Force, being operated by No's' 6, 8 and 249 Squadrons flying from RAF Akrotiri, Cyprus. The Anglo-French invasion, codenamed Operation Musketeer, had happened in response to the nationalisation of the Suez Canal by Egypt's leader, General Nasser. The air-war began on the 31st October signalling the beginning of the Suez War. The Venoms launched a number of sorties, attacking a variety of military installations on the ground. The aircraft also saw much action once more in the Middle East, supporting operations against terrorists in Aden and Oman. Venoms also saw service during the Mau Mau insurgency in Kenya.
The RAF retired Venoms from front-line service in the early 1960s though they remained in service through 1983 in the Swiss Air Force. Total production was 1,431 of all variants. The painting depicts two Venom FB1's of 145 squadron during 1954.
Artist Paul Howard.
Available as an A3 size or 20x16 print.