|THE OTHER FLEET AIR ARM HUNTER SQUADRONS...|
|No. 764 Naval Air Squadron (764NAS)
764 NAS was first formed on 8th August 1940, at RNAS Lee-on-Solent as a Fleet Air Arm Seaplane training Squadron. Equipped with the Supermarine Walrus, Seafox and Fairey Swordfish, it provided an advanced floatplane conversion course for both landplane and seaplane pilots. The Squadron moved to Pembroke Docks in July 1940, and later to Lawrenny Ferry in October 1941. By this time the Swordfish and Seafox aircraft had been phased out, but the Walrus fleet remained in service, along with Curtis Kingfishers from July 1942, until the Squadron disbanded on 7th November 1943.
It’s next life started at RNAS Gosport in February 1944 when it became the User Trials Unit with a fleet of Fairey Barracudas and Grumman Avengers. A ‘B’ flight was formed in September that year at RNAS Lee-on-Solent equipped with Blackburn Firebrands but this broke away to form 708 NAS a month later 764 NAS received examples of the Fairey Firefly on June 1945, but these remained in use for only three months as the Squadron was decommissioned for the second time in September 1945.
Its third stint (!) lasted just over a year, beginning at RNAS Lossiemouth in May 1953 where it became an Advanced Training Unit. It was equipped with Seafire XVII’s, and Fairey Firefly T.1 and T.2 trainers, and these provided Part 1 of the Fleet Air Arm’s Operational Flying School course. 764 NAS moved to RNAS Yeovilton in September 1953, and received three Sea Hawk F.1s to complement its Seafire and Firefly fleet. On 23rd November 1954 the Squadron was disbanded.
It was back in commission in February 1955, at RNAS Ford as a Fighter Pilot Holding Unit and equipped exclusively with jets – 10 Sea Hawks and 10 Sea Vampires. It provided continuous flying to pilots awaiting postings to front line FAA Squadrons, and also converted US-trained pilots to British standards. The Sea Vampire with its dual controls also gave valuable fighter combat and ground attack techniques experience to the Squadron’s pilots. In May 1955, the Unit received two Westland Wyverns and these were used for type conversion for the next two years.
On 21st June 1957, 764 NAS moved to RNAS Lossiemouth, leaving its fleet of Sea Vampires behind at Ford. A change of base also included a change of role within the Fleet Air Arm. The Squadron became responsible for four roles; Air Weapons Training, Commanding Officers and Senior Pilots training course, a Jet Fighter Pool and Target Towing Unit. These were all originally carried out with mixed variants of the Hawker Sea Hawk.
The first examples of the Hawker Hunter T.8 began to arrive at RNAS Lossiemouth in December 1958, and these began to replace the Sea Hawks, the last example departing in July 1959. By the end of August 1959, 764 NAS had a fleet of 12 Hunter T.8s. With the Hunter’s arrival, 764’s main task became Air Warfare Instructor training, and also undertook swept wing conversion to the Hunter T.8. It retained its Commanding Officers and Senior Pilots training course role. In July 1962, 764 NAS began to receive examples of the Hawker Hunter GA11, and these replaced several of the Hunter T.8s. During the mid-1960's three GA11s were sent to Short Brothers, Belfast, and were fitted with three F.95 reconnaissance cameras, becoming Hunter PR.11s. Between March and November 1965 a ‘B’ flight was formed at Lossiemouth to train Airwork pilots to fly the Supermarine Scimitars. The main Squadron received further examples of the Hunter, this time T.8B and T.8Cs in 1968.
On 27 July 1972, 764 NAS with its fleet of ten Hunter GA.11s and four Hunter T.8Cs, disbanded at RNAS Lossiemouth, seemingly bringing the curtain down on the Hunter’s life with the Fleet Air Arm Squadrons. However, 10 years later, two Hawker Hunter airframes would be put back in Squadron service with a very special role in mind
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