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Inside The Archive: The Vampire

The de Havilland DH-115 Vampire T.35 joined the ranks of the Royal Australian Air Force in 1946, three years after it flew for the first time for the British RAF. Initial development of the single-seat fighter jet was commissioned by the RAF during WWII, though the jet arrived too late to ever see combat.

Powered by a single de Havilland Goblin engine, the turbojet was considered experimental in its time, due to its use of just one, powerful engine. The plane’s pod-shaped design was constructed out of a mix of wood and metals, and was initially dubbed the “Spider Crab”. It measures a length of just over 9 metres, with a wingspan of 11.5 metres.

The aircraft was later developed into new variants, that included a twin-seat night fighter, a flight trainer, and a carrier-based aircraft dubbed the Sea Vampire. In total, 3,987 de Havilland Vampires were built between 1943 and 1961, and deployed across six countries including Australia.

From 1949, de Havilland Australia built 80 of the single-seat single-engine fighter-bombers at their Bankstown manufacturing factory. The first Australian-built Vampire flew for the first time in June 1949, powered by Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation (CAC) versions of the Rolls-Royce Nene engines, which required a greater intake cross-section than the Goblin. These were the first jet engines to be built in Australia, and done so under licence at the CAC facility in Melbourne.

The de Havilland Vampire forms a part of the RAAF’s Temora Historic Flight. The Temora Historic Flight Vampire - construction number 4139 - was built in 1951 and delivered to the RAAF on 22 May 1958. It was utilised by the Central Flying School at East Sale in Victoria, and was subsequently transferred to No. 1 Applied Flying Training School at Pearce in Western Australia.

The Vampire spent much of the rest of its tenure in the RAAF in the west, until it was ultimately disposed of in January 1970. The aircraft, A79-617, was sold and exported to the USA, where it was stored for many years, before being returned to flying condition and operated privately. A79-617 was then bought by David Lowry in 1998, who shipped the plane back to Australia for extensive restoration and repainting. In February 2001, Lowry donated the Vampire to the Temora Aviation Museum.

It remains the only Australian-built Vampire flying in Australia.

This aircraft is now part of the Air Force Heritage Collection after being donated by the Temora Aviation Museum in July 2019.

15 Comments

  • Tony Griggs

    says:

    I once witnessed the Vampire at the Mangalore Airshow taxi out to undertake a flying display. Arrogantly, I thought to myself, this will likely be a fizzer of a display. When it flew past after take off, I heard the sweetest sounding engine of my life…..I will never forget it. The Rolls Royce Goblin. How wrong could I have been!

  • Eric Chandler

    says:

    I remember these flying low across our farm paddocks during training in the 60s in WA when I was a kid. The brightly coloured red on the tail fins and the noise as they came rushing past us.

  • Kim

    says:

    Was great to see these Mirages doing spectacular barrel rolls over the Woomera Village, in 1969 whilst I was working there.

  • Mike Auret

    says:

    Mirages in their various iterations were extensively used by the South African and Israeli Airforces. The Israelis ‘won’ their air battle against Egypt, who were using a mix of mainly Russian aircraft, using the Mirage 111, and the earlier model. They destroyed the Egyptian Air Force is days!
    South Africa used these, already old and near obsolescent, aircraft in the 30 year Border Wars, along with the lore advanced Mirage F1, culminating in the late 1980’s. This was against the might of the Russian, East German and Cuban cabal, using MIG 21 and 23 model.

  • Bill MacCubbin

    says:

    The FA-18 was in service for considerably longer than the Mirage.

  • Gregory Jarosch

    says:

    Why wasn’t a squadron or two of Mirages kept in flying condition and as display models for more aero and airport museums
    and technology museums around Australia?

  • Gordon Mackinlay

    says:

    I put this item up yesterday morning but it not published, so I repeat.

    I whilst employed as a UN Field Officer flew frequently in a former RAAF Caribou in Liberia (West Africa) 2013, it had been totally rebuilt in Malta to same standard as proposed for the RAAF in the early 1990’s. Turbo-prop engines, new avionics and completely rewired, all panels, flooring etc had been placed on jigs and refurbished.

    The various European pilots and ground crew, all younger than the Caribous that flown there. They considering that it vastly superior to the G-222 which had been rebuilt to the same standard as a C27-J (a former Libyan G.222 aircraft that had been in storage for many years, and had very low hours on the original air frame.)

    Two of the pilots (a Greek and a Italian) had flown the C-27J in their own air forces, and considered the Caribou a superior military tactical transpor. One of the company’s executives stated that it had been considerably cheaper to convert (after buying) the Caribou than to buy a new Airbus C-295, and its operating costs some 35% less than the converted C-27.

    And the great thing about their Caribou, it was really quiet and it did not vibrate. With the late model Pilatus PC-6 Porter fleet, the company could fly into any location in Liberia and Sierra Leone.

  • Alan Hume

    says:

    The article slavishly states “In December 2020, after a distinguished career, the first F/A-18A was officially handed over to the Australian War Memorial … Minister for Defence Industry Melissa Price called its placing there a “fitting tribute” to the aircraft.” Well, of course she would, she’s a politician after all! And one from the same political party as the former CEO of the AWM, Brendan Nelson. This Government is turning the AWM in Canberra from a Memorial to our fallen and the futility of war itself, into a museum glorifying the equipment of war (without referencing the collateral damage they cause), at an exorbitant cost of $500 million of taxpayers’ money against every sage and objective advice to the contrary.

  • Gordon Mackinlay

    says:

    I put the following up twice before, but for some ‘reason’ not displayed.

    “I put this item up yesterday morning but it not published, so I repeat.

    I whilst employed as a UN Field Officer flew frequently in a former RAAF Caribou in Liberia (West Africa) 2013, it had been totally rebuilt in Malta to the same standard as proposed for the RAAF in the early 1990’s. Turbo-prop engines, new avionics and completely rewired, all panels, flooring etc had been placed on jigs and refurbished.

    The various European pilots and ground crew, all younger than the Caribous that flown there. They considering that it vastly superior to the G-222 which had been rebuilt to the same standard as a C27-J (a former Libyan G.222 aircraft that had been in storage for many years, and had very low hours on the original air frame.)

    Two of the pilots (a Greek and a Italian) had flown the C-27J in their own air forces, and considered the Caribou a superior military tactical transport. One of the company’s executives stated that it had been considerably cheaper to convert (after buying) the Caribou than to buy a new Airbus C-295, and its operating costs some 35% less than the converted C-27.

    And the great thing about their Caribou, it was really quiet and it did not vibrate. With the late model Pilatus PC-6 Porter fleet, the company could fly into any location in Liberia and Sierra Leone.”

  • Peter Ricketts

    says:

    Hawker de Havilland at Bankstown also built 100 two seat Vampire trainers.

  • Ray

    says:

    You might want to check your images again, no.3 is a USN F/A-18E and no.6 is a RAAF F/A-18F

  • Gordon Smith

    says:

    Yes a very amazing aircraft! So we started with the C130As what iteration of Hercules model are we up to now in 2021?

  • Gordon Smith

    says:

    Correction to the article on the RAAF Vampire aircraft, I think that you will find that the navy’s carrier based version was not called a Sea Vampire…..but a Sea Venom.

  • David B

    says:

    On the Vampire article, perhaps you mean David Lowy not ‘Lowry’

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