Kestrel goes on display at Cosford
27th January 2014
The Kestrel, serial number XS695, is one of only nine built by Hawker-Siddeley and its main role was to evaluate vertical take-off in near service conditions. Fitted with a single Bristol Siddeley Pegasus engine and single seat cockpit, the success of the Kestrel came little more than a year before its successor, the Harrier, made its first flight. The Harrier served successfully with the Royal Air Force until 2011.
During the 1950s, Hawker had been privately developing a vertical take-off aircraft under the code of P.1127. The success of this private venture, and the subsequent service interest, led to an announcement in 1962 that a 'Tripartite Evaluation Squadron' (TES), also known as the Kestrel Squadron would be formed. The Kestrel was a developed version of the P.1127 and nine of the type were ordered for use by the TES during its operations in 1965. The TES was based at RAF West Raynham and included pilots and ground crew from the UK, USA and West Germany. They used nearby abandoned airfields for testing the aircraft on semi-prepared runways and on grass to test its capabilities on unprepared sites.
The Kestrel made its maiden flight in February 1965 at Dunsfold. By November that same year XS695 had flown 153 times totalling 70.44 airframe hours of which 51.04 were on trials work including 141 sorties with the TES. During 1966 the aircraft was assessed for its handling characteristics, used for training and even appeared at the Hanover and Farnborough Air Shows. In 1972 it was allocated to the Royal Navy Engineering College at Manadon, Devon and later used for apprentice training and to simulate aircraft handling and flight deck procedures.
After being transported by road to the RAF Museum Cosford in November 2001, the Kestrel remained in storage until late Autumn 2012 when it was moved into the Museum’s award winning Michael Beetham Conservation Centre. After undergoing a full restoration and repaint in its tripartite colours which include tri national roundels and fin flashes, the aircraft has now been placed on display for Museum visitors to enjoy.
Nick Sturgess, Alex Henshaw Curator at RAF Museum Cosford said:
"We are delighted to finally have the Kestrel out on public display after its time in storage and its extensive restoration. This aircraft is the only surviving example in the UK and represents an important stage in aircraft development. It was used by three nations to evaluate the jump jet concept and wore a unique colour scheme which can now be seen for the first time since 1965. The results from the Kestrel Squadron would be a huge influence in the development of the Harrier. It now sits alongside the Hunting H126 which was also used to experiment with short take off ideas at the same time."
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