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XX301's initial service history

XX301 was built by Hawker-Siddeley Ltd, and was test flown from its airfield at Dunsfold. It was delivered to the Royal Air Force (RAF) on 7th February 1980, and was issued to No.1 Tactical Weapons Unit (1TWU) at RAF Brawdy. Painted in a wraparound camouflage colour scheme with the last three digits of its serial applied on the tail fin, the airframe was used for weapons training until April 1984. It was then grounded and moved to British Aerospace for modifications to allow it to carry AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles.
It was returned to RAF Brawdy in July 1984, and recommenced its training role with 1TWU's 'shadow' squadron RAF 79(R) Sqn.

During May 1986, XX301 was ferried to RAF Chivenor, in preparation for reissue to No.2TWU and its shadow squadron RAF 151(R). Now sporting the RAF air defence grey colour scheme, XX301 was assigned the fleet code 'L', and was employed on combat and low flying training for the next six years with the Squadron. In September 1992, RAF 151(R) Sqn was disbanded as a result of 2TWU being reclassified as No.7 Flying Training School (7FTS), and XX301 joined a new 'shadow' Squadron that had been stood up; RAF 92(R) Sqn. Keeping its 'L' identity, XX301 continued in service at RAF Chivenor until 7FTS itself was disbanded on 30th September 1994. With the demise of its parent Unit, and no immediate need for re-issue elsewhere, the airframe was placed in store.

XX301's first FRADU career - see here for images of this period

With no prospect of further RAF service, XX301 was instead placed on loan to the Royal Navy. It was ferried to RNAS Yeovilton on 9th February 1995 to commence Fleet Air Arm service with the Fleet Requirements & Air Direction Unit (FRADU). Still wearing its grey finish and '301' coding on the fin, XX301 was a regular sight over Somerset, as it and a small number of Hawk airframes gradually replaced the FRADU's familiar Hawker Hunter platforms.
On 20th November 1995, the airframe was ferried to RNAS Culdrose, in preparation for the FRADU's official move to Cornwall the following month. For the next eleven months XX301 remained in service, until its turn for major maintenance and a subsequent re-finish arrived in October 1996, when the aeroplane was ferried to RAF St Athan. Returning to Fleet Air Arm service on 20th February 1997, XX301 rejoined FRADU and was operated by the Unit until October 2001, when it was returned to RAF St Athan to take its place in the Fuselage Replacement Programme (FRP). After some months on the ground, XX301 was declared serviceable again but was placed in store, pending a decision on its next Unit allocation.

Back to the RAF

XX301 was returned to RAF service, and was issued to RAF 208(R) Sqn at RAF Valley in April 2002. Adopting the Unit's blue and yellow markings, the airframe was employed on advanced flying training duties, aside from the mandatory downtime for maintenance and upgrades. It was withdrawn from the RAF 208(R) fleet on 4th March 2008 and ferried to RAF Leeming, where it received the "Mode S" upgrade.

Return to FRADU

During May 2008, XX301 was returned to service but was immediately placed on long-term loan to the Fleet Air Arm, following a major re-shuffle of Hawk airframes between the FRADU, RAF Valley and RAF Leeming. All signs of its RAF Unit markings were gradually removed, as it was re-established as an active member of the FRADU fleet. During February 2009, XX301 was ferried to RAF Cranwell to receive special Fly Navy 100 markings, which were to be applied on the spine and tail fin.

Still sporting the remnants of the markings today, XX301 remained an integral part of the FRADU fleet at RNAS Culdrose when not on loan with the Navy Flying Standards Flight - Fixed Wing (NFSF (FW)) at RNAS Yeovilton, until June 2013, when FRADU stood down to be replaced by 736 Naval Air Squadron (736NAS).

[ Stephen Rendle]

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Post FRADU career

XX301 was used by 736NAS out of Culdrose until July 2017, when it was ferried to RAF Shawbury for storage, where it remains today.

- December 2020

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